This subject has been a sore one for me, but maybe I should rethink.
When my wife and I got engaged, she said she was going to be proud to change to my last name. She had kept her maiden name during her first marriage. Closer to our wedding day, she said she was going to hyphenate.
A few days before the wedding we went to get our marriage license and she had completely changed her mind. She said that her maiden name was her name, it is who she was and who she had always been, and she didn’t want to change it.
My first reaction was that I had been lied to; then I decided, no, she meant it when she said it, but just didn’t feel as strongly about me anymore; then ended up with, no, this is not about me, it is her. So, I thought, I have a choice – do I go through with the marriage or not? I decided “yes”, but as all three of our daughters have gotten married since then and taken their husbands’ last names – including one who’s now divorced – I’ve wondered what it would be like to be married to a woman who loves me to such a degree that she actually wants to have my name.
Then, to complicate matters, my son, who gender cross-identifies as a woman, wants to use a new name, but that new name includes a new last name. So no one in my family wants my name. Although my ex-wife still has it, for what consolation that provides.
(Come to think of it, I blog under a pseudonym, so the argument can be made that *even I* don’t want my name. So there’s that.)
I love my wife and I know she loves me. I told her recently (when this exact subject came up) that I accepted her desire to keep her name back then because I felt her name meant more to her than I did; and if I said, “either change it or we don’t get married,” she would have chosen the latter. She said that wasn’t true; that she would have changed her name if I had insisted.
I also told her the big issue I had wasn’t the choice she made, it was telling me the opposite before we got married. She really had nothing to say to that, although she did say that our girls are more traditional than she is in regards to the name changing thing.
I have tried to keep in mind, over the sixteen plus years since then, that her choice wasn’t about me. She has been mortally offended at the suggestion that her choice in any way means she loves me less than other women love their husbands. “It’s just a name,” she says.
“Then why didn’t you change it, if it’s just a name?” I think, but do not say.
(It’s been a tremendous pain, by the way, when we travel internationally, as no one believes we are married with different last names, and we have to carry copies of our wedding license wherever we go. Insurance companies don’t seem to understand it, either.)
Well, here we are years later, and the world has not ended. It has not been a way of her hiding the fact that she’s married. It has not been what I had feared: the verbal equivalent of men taking off their wedding rings in bars. It has not been just a precursor of other broken promises to come: she’s kept them all since then. So it is just something she wanted that I could give her; and, after all, what is love without sacrifice?
Plus, having lived together now all this time, I can see it almost kills my wife to throw out an old toaster… getting rid of a perfectly good name would be perilously close to the abyss.