The Name Change Discussed

Last month I explored my feelings about the decision of married women to change their last names. It resulted in quite a lively discussion with many readers weighing in through comments and the survey. We heard from different cultures, different generations and of course, heard lots of differing opinions. As promised, I’m sharing the results of that survey among some of my favourite comments.

  • Of the women who responded to the poll, 63% changed or plan to change their name. Over half of those women said it didn’t even cross their minds to keep their names or they thought it was best for a family.
  • 10% of the women hyphenated their last names or were still undecided.
  • 27% of the women polled said they did not, or will not change their last names. Half of these women said they were keeping their last name because they were too attached to change it. One-quarter of the non-changers kept their names because they were “too lazy” or didn’t like the sounds of their partner’s name, and the remainders thought the practise was sexist.

The results of my informal survey actually fell in the same distribution as a much larger survey conducted in 2011. Generally, about two-thirds of North American women still prefer to change their names. A connection to the personal identity one feels with their name and the professional reasons for keeping one’s name were the most cited reasons for not changing to your partner’s name.

Some of my favourite comments from your responses to my post included:

“I took my husband’s last name but i added it to my three names because, the way I saw it, marrying him added something to my life and who I am. It didn’t replace who I was and it didn’t trump the me i had been for twenty-three years.”

“In my family it’s not a question of “will you change your name” but “WHY would you change your name?” I have always been very impressed by my mom who didn’t change her name in 1975, when it was still very much expected. And as for your children having a different last name, I can honestly say that it made absolutely no difference in my life, we don’t live in the 1800s, we introduce people by their first names now.”

“I was personally one of those who dreamed of getting married just so I COULD get rid of my last name. It’s not horrible, but I did get made fun of enough to scar me for life. Now I like to say that God was exercising his sense of humor when He matched me with someone with the most generic last name in the country. I love being Mrs. Smith.”

“I was honored to be able to take the hubs last name as my own because not only did it symbolize our union but it provided me with a connection to the hubs father who died two years before mine. That being said, it was just as important and meaningful to me to keep my last name so that I always have that link to my family and of course my dad. I made my maiden name my middle name and took my husbands last name as my last name.”

“I could not answer your poll because my answer was not an option! When we got married my husband decided to take my name. Where we’re from it is not that unusual though the norm would still be to have the woman change her name. For me that was never an option as my surname is unique, which is quite useful in these days of globalization and internet. As it is a very unusual surname it has also been an important part of me growing up and I identify very much with the name as you also did, very often people would just refer to me by my last name – so how could I change that? My husband is a progressive guy (I would not have married him otherwise) and he likes my name also so decided that he changes his surname.”

“There are many reasons pro and con to change your name. Unfortunately one of the biggest reasons people change is to have children that have the same name as you, which really takes a lot of the decision out of your hands. Some couples choose to both hyphenate thereby taking on two new “identities”. Whatever your choice is talk it out with your fiance/husband and come to a decision that you both are most comfortable with!”

“What’s the difference, my dad’s name or my husband’s name? Personally, I think it would be cool to make a new name when you get married, to represent your new oneness. What would you think of Duivtin? Or Marteyn?”

“Here in Switzerland, you have four options of name change when you get married, but keeping just your maiden name is NOT an option unless your husband takes your name, too. Made the decision very simple for me!”

“In the Netherlands, no citizen is allowed to lose or change their birth name, unless under very specific circumstances (of which marriage is not one).”

It was such a relief to realize that other women felt this was a big decision to make as well, not just a “given.” I feel more at peace with my decision to just add his name, without taking mine away. Thank you to all the readers and contributors on this topic, I think it will help many other young millennial women explore this decision.

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If you liked this post, you may also want to check out another naming issue in my marriage: What’s in a Name (or, the Tale of Three Howards)


3 thoughts on “The Name Change Discussed

  1. Thanks for revisiting the survey and I appreciate that you are considering this topic. This millennial hyphenated but only 3 months after I got married because I was still debating (with myself and my husband) what was best.

  2. Wow, great to know I’m not alone! I’ve been married six years now, and I have NOT changed my last name… yet. My main reason for not changing my last name? I feel like changing my last name is giving up my identity! Like one of the pollster’s, I have a kind of unique last name and most times, people just call me by my last name – to change it would be criminal! I am warming up to the idea of changing my last name now, what I’m deciding between is hyphenating or moving my maiden name into the “middle name” slot!

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