Saturday, April 20, 2013

Change my name?

There’s a commercial playing on the radio right now where a woman’s voice says, (and I’m paraphrasing so I don’t get sued), “I just got engaged! I’m so happy! I wonder if I should change my name?”

I’m sure if I did massive amounts of research, I could list the social reasons some women in some cultures change their last names to match their husband’s, but that wouldn’t be my point of this blog.

I, personally, am a huge fan of marriage. I’ve known people who have had marriages end in less than pleasant experiences. It breaks my heart. After all, when you get married to someone, there is a huge amount of trust required. If a marriage ends, for any number of reasons, I’m sure there is a pretty powerful feeling of betrayal.

It may be oversimplifying things when I state that in order for a marriage to work, both people involved have to be 100% committed. That means a lot of compromise. Sometimes people see some of the compromises as surrendering their freedom, or giving up things they don’t want to part with. I get that. But I also think that what is gained from a successful marriage significantly outweighs any perceived losses.

As I stated before, it takes two people to make it work. I’ve seen friends that try and try and try to keep a marriage alive, but the other person, by either action or inaction, make that impossible.

When I worked in banking, I often helped couples who had just gotten married with their accounts. On many occasions, the couple stated they wanted three checking accounts: a joint one, and personal ones for their use only—you know, to keep the money they earned away from their new spouse. I would have to bite my tongue because I didn’t (and don’t) agree with that thinking.

Sometimes marriage is called “becoming one” or you’ll hear a person refer to their spouse as “their better half.” That’s important. Successful marriages are when two people work hard toward a common goal. I’m not suggesting that they have to agree on everything, or even like every little thing the other person does.

I’m sure there are those that will disagree with me, but I think a woman should change her last name when she gets married. Sharing the same last name is a symbolic gesture—that the couple is in this together. It helps with the mindset of “Okay, I’m willing to give up part of me to be committed to the marriage.”

Now, the name change may seem sexist, but I think a husband should actually give up at least as much as their wife, and probably more. He needs to be open with his feelings. He needs to let her have complete access to all the finances—made by both people. He needs to be willing to give up a chance to watch a ballgame to instead spend time with his wife. He needs to find out what is important to her and do all he can to make sure she’s happy—just as she does all she can to make him happy. To be clear, these sacrifices and compromises are only of value when they help the couple grow together.

I read a book where a husband and wife got married. She didn’t change her last name. They had triplets. They gave two of their kids his last name, and one of the triplets her last name. He agreed to do this to “make her happy.” But, in my opinion, it’s only going to cause a division—not only that, but a lot of confusion for the children later on in their lives. So, was that a compromise truly meant to bring the family closer together?

Why should you listen to anything I’ve written here? Well, I’ve had some experience in this field. I’ve been married for over 21 years. It’s not always been easy, and there were certainly growing pains, but it’s been worth it.


  1. Great post, Jason! I was one of those ladies who didn't want to change my name. But it really meant a lot to my husband, so I did change it - and I'm glad I did. It made him happy, and it was the right thing to do as it mattered more to him than it did to me. To me, a name is just a name and what matters most is in the heart, but to him the name symbolized what was in the heart. :)

    We are one of those couples with three checking accounts, though! Not to keep money away from each other, but to each be able to spend and save money for personal items the other might not agree with. All our income goes into the joint account, but then we each get a small monthly deposit into our individual accounts. I tend to drain my individual account on stuff like overpriced coffees and little splurges/trinkets - stuff that, if I spent it from our joint account, it'd really bother my husband. He tends to save his money and spend it on stuff I find superfluous, like that surround sound stereo system. I'd have a problem with him spending our joint savings on that system. In the end, I suppose it all evens out - mochas and surround sound systems - but it's nice to be able to "waste" money on coffee without feeling guilty that I'm spending money my husband would rather be saving! Are you biting your tongue? ;)

    1. Actually, my wife and I do something similar. We each have an “allowance” each month we can spend on whatever we want. My concern with the three checking accounts is that each person would have their direct deposit go to their personal account, and then they would transfer “their share of what they owed” to the joint account. To me, the couple is missing out on the chance to grow together by doing this.

  2. Both parties, or even just the man, could change their last names. It shouldn't always fall upon the woman. A woman's choice to NOT change her name doesn't mean she is not 100% committed. Self-respect and self-identity makes for a happier, healthier person. And, besides, we are past the age of when a woman must become a man's property for her place in society to be recognized.

  3. Thank you for posting your opinion. I agree with you when you state, “A woman's choice to NOT change her name doesn't mean she is not 100% committed.” I’m sure there are cultures in the world where women don’t change their last name. To be clear, I live in the USA where it is tradition that when a couple gets married, the woman takes on the man’s last name. I don’t see it as “a woman must become a man's property for her place in society to be recognized” nor did I even remotely suggest that in my blog.

    I will, however, ask you to consider your statement, “Self-respect and self-identity makes for a happier, healthier person” in light of my point that couples need to be willing to make compromises, and even changes for a marriage to work. I don’t see these compromises or changes as a direct conflict to self-respect or self-identity. Am I the same person now as when I was married 21 years ago? No. Did I makes sacrifices to make my marriage work? Yes. Do I have self-respect and a solid self-identity? Yes.

    Sadly, I’ve seen marriages end because one of the people involved refused to make compromises for fear they would lose their self-respect and / or self-identity. I can only speak for myself when I say by doing all I can to make my wife happy, my self-respect and self-identity has only matured, which is one reason I believe my wife and I are still married.

  4. Great blog Jason. Having been married for 17 year now, I think you nailed it pretty well in suggesting that for a marriage to work, there has to be compromises on both sides. Great answer to the previous commenter's comment. Your response was spot on. We don't have to give up our self-identity or self respect when we get married. We do have to give up a lot of self, however. That's what becoming one is all about. Love is an action verb and requires self-sacrifice to flourish. It means learning how to communicate and thereby understand each other and each other's wants and needs and be willing to give and take as required.

    Great article!