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I’ve told all this to my fiancé several times and mentioned that maybe I’ll hyphenate or have two last names (“Molly Marie Fitzwilliam-Smith” or “Molly Marie Fitzwilliam Smith”). At first, he kept saying it was a bad idea, because our names together sound scarily close to “Frankenstein.” But after we talked about it more, it became obvious that he was upset that I don’t want to change my last name to his. He doesn’t mind if I keep my last name as a middle name, but he really wants me to be Mrs. Smith, NOT Mrs. Fitzwilliam-Smith or Mrs. Fitzwilliam Smith. He said if I don’t change my name, it seems like less of a commitment – like it’ll be easier to back out of our marriage, which is not how I think about it at all! He even went as far as to say that it seems disrespectful if I don’t change my name because I’m not considering his feelings.
Changing my name is not a nice little favor I can do to make him feel better, like making him cookies or giving him a back rub. And whether or not I change my name, I’m the one who has to live it. Other than a few occasions here or there, it won’t really affect him much. On top of that, it makes me kind of angry that if I add his last name, it’s still is not enough for him – he actually wants me to drop my last name.
Since both of our opinions come from very emotional places, I don’t know how to find a compromise. Has anyone else gone through something like this? And if there are any guys reading this, I’d really appreciate your opinion, since it’s much harder for me to see this from a man’s perspective. — What’s in a Name?
First and foremost, changing your name (or not) is your decision to make and no one else’s. You should keep your fiancé’s feelings in mind, but you shouldn’t let him be the deciding factor, especially since the arguments he’s giving you for dropping your name and taking his are sexist, disrespectful, and, frankly, oppressive. If he truly fears that you not taking his name is a sign that you aren’t committed to him, what he’s really saying is that he needs outward evidence that you belong to him. He wants ownership of you and that means branding you with his name. He argues that you’re being disrespectful of him because you aren’t considering his feelings, but what about your feelings? Isn’t he being disrespectful of YOU for not considering YOUR feelings about changing YOUR name?? Or do your feelings just not matter as much as his because you’re a woman and therefore not as important?
There are plenty of good reasons that a woman would want to take her husband’s name: she likes the tradition; she doesn’t like her birth name; she doesn’t like her father and would rather not be tied to him by name; she wants to share a family name with her husband and children. And there are plenty of reasons why a woman would choose to keep her name upon marriage: she’s anti-patriarchy; she loves her last name; she’s built a career/reputation around her name; she doesn’t like her husband’s name or doesn’t like the way it sounds with her first name. Those are all perfectly fine reasons for changing or keeping a name. What isn’t so fine is: being pressured by a husband who thinks his feelings matter more. I’m sorry, but fuck that noise.
You want to compromise? Great. Here’s a good compromise: you keep your name and he keeps his name. Or, you keep your name but agree to give future children his name. Or you can hyphenate your name. Or you create a new last name for both of you so you each change your name. Or you keep your name legally, but take his name socially. Or, if taking a spouse’s name is such a crucial part of commitment, he can take your last name. And if none of those options works for your fiancé and he’s still accusing you of disrespecting his feelings, don’t marry the guy because he sounds like a sexist asshole and you can bet this won’t be the last time he wants to dictate your choices.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.