Before my husband and I married two years ago, we informed our friends and family of our decision to legally change both of our last names after marriage, by hyphenating our birth names. It was a way for us to honor both of our families while symbolizing the new one we were forming.
Our families and friends were supportive, with one exception. My husband’s mother, upon being told, only snorted and remarked “doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.” Our birth names are both one-syllable, meaning the new last name is two-syllables. I should add that it’s common knowledge that we don’t want children, so we won’t be passing this, or any other name, to any grandchildren.
At our wedding, my in-laws presented us with a card addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. We assumed they’d forgotten, but figured our thank you card, printed on stationary featuring our new name, and signed from Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Doe, would serve as a gentle reminder.
Instead, a Christmas card arrived, addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith. My husband reached out to his mom and asked her if she could please use our new name in the future. She told him our name was silly and brushed off his request as nonsense.
I should be able to shrug it off as behavior I can’t control, but every time I get a card or an invitation from them – the most recent, a birthday card addressed to “Mrs. John Smith”–I feel such rage over the deliberate, repeated insult. I feel like my value as an equal partner in my marriage is being attacked.
If I can’t find a way to stop dwelling on this, I’m going to respond to her in a way that is not helpful. I want to mail everything back to them, marked “nobody by that name lives here,” but I can’t bring myself to sabotage my husband’s relationship with his family. What would you do? — Not Mrs. John Smith
Very honestly, what I would do in your shoes is privately rage to close friends, my own family, and periodically my husband any time I felt distracted by the refusal to address me (and my husband) by our new name. I’d continue to sign all correspondences with my new name, send holiday cards from “The Smith-Doe’s,” and hang a freakin’ sign on my front door saying “Welcome to the Smith-Doe’s” that the in-laws would have to see every time they came over. But beyond that, I wouldn’t do much else. What would the point be? Your in-laws are not in charge of establishing your value as a partner in your marriage. No one is except you and your spouse. What they think of you, and what name they call you, is so inconsequential to your worth in your marriage — it’s like arguing that a weed that grows in one garden devalues the worth of a flower that grows in another garden several miles away.
Keep tending to your own garden and don’t let weeds that grow miles away affect you. If you have any concern that your own garden isn’t growing as lovely as it could and should, look within it for a way to make it better. Is it getting enough sunlight? Enough water? Do the flowers and plants have room to grow? Is it time to do some pruning? And if your garden is already thriving, then great — all the more reason to not let some damn weed somewhere else concern you. Sure, you can be sad for the people who have let their garden be overcome by weeds and who aren’t committed to their garden the same way you are, but don’t be sad or mad for yourself. Your garden is still lovely! Celebrate that. Congratulate yourself and your partner for putting in the effort to maintain this expression of joy, this beautiful garden. And then remind yourself: a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.
He wants me to quit my job and do something more corporate that brings in more money. But I love my job so much. Three years ago I left a corporate job because I needed a change, and the years since I started nannying have been the best of my life. I expressed to him that I love him and am willing to do just about anything for him, but I can’t quit my job. We are on a break now because I feel so sad that my other half wouldn’t have my back and compromise financially. I would have his back at any time and I have had. Do you think I’m over-reacting or do you think that, if he doesn’t agree with my career, maybe he isn’t the right man for me? — Feeling Defeated
I think that if your partner would prefer you leave a job where you thrive and feel happier than you ever have because he doesn’t want to pay a bigger portion of the bills (despite your generous offer to take on all the household chores), then, yeah, he’s not the right man for you. He sounds like a dick, quite frankly. It’s one thing to be concerned about finances and to wonder how you’ll make ends meet together and to work on a plan and a compromise that is satisfactory for you both, and to discuss potential future scenarios in which one or both of your salaries might change and how you’ll handle that (because the likelihood of your jobs and salaries remaining unaffected forever is, literally, zero); it’s quite another thing to make a unilateral decision that your current salary simply won’t do, there’s no way to adapt to it, and that the only solution is for you to quit a job you love and find something that pays more. Fuck that noise.
You’ve seen your boyfriend’s true colors and they aren’t pretty. You can bet this is just the tip of the iceberg and if he’s already acting this way before you marry, he would be impossible as a life-long partner. I can only imagine the demands he might put on you, the hissy fits he’d throw when you didn’t bend to his desires and needs, and how uncreative and rigid he might be about adjusting your budget as your lifestyle changed (as it is guaranteed to do over the course of decades together).
I’d take this as a great opportunity to jump ship and dodge the bullet that would sure be tying yourself to him forever. In other words: MOA.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.