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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.
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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.