I'm a newly married man and agonising about what we should do about surnames.

(252 Posts)
MaleMan81 Fri 10-Jan-14 09:50:35

My wife and I got married a few months ago. She hasn't changed her surname to mine, and I've been saying to her that I'm not sure I agree with the idea of a woman taking a man's name. And that's how we have left it.

I think we both would be very happy with this decision if children were never going to be part of the picture.

However she recently became pregnant, and although we are both thrilled and excited, I have started to think that if we are going to become a family it would make us all feel more united if we both had the same surname as our child. My wife agrees with this.

So the options as I see it are - she takes my name, I take her name, or we do that terribly modern thing of meshing together our surnames to make a whole new name!

Now I would like to think of myself as a thoroughly enlightened man who is a feminist, but the problem I'm having is that her surname sounds a tiny bit silly, and is the kind of name that would be gift to bullies in any environment. I don't want to write her actual name, but a surname that would provoke a similar reaction might be something like "Awkwardly". What is worse is that my first name rhymes with her surname, which would give me a name which would at the very least cause raised eyebrows I imagine.

In comparison my surname is more normal with no real meaning, and is something along the lines of "Bailey".

The only meshed version of our names that really scans property actually sounds even worse than her surname, and not something I would want to saddle a child with.

So that leaves me favouring my own surname simply because it sounds more normal, and works better with both our first names. And to be fair my wife has said that she was a bit embarassed by her surname as she was growing up, although now she is fine with it.

I would like to think that if it was her with the normal sounding name and me with the odd name, then I would be happy to change my name to hers. But I'm worried that subconsciously I am simply imposing my name on her as is "tradition" and automatically favouring my own name.

I am also aware that her taking my name is the "normal" and "expected" thing to happen, and is the easy option in terms of acceptance in society. And I must also admit that I am generally a quiet person who doesn't like to draw attention to myself - which is exactly what would happen if I did what is seen (by society at least) as something reasonably radical like taking my wife's name.

I'm just confused and going around in circles now. What have others done?

LoonvanBoon Fri 10-Jan-14 12:03:39

I ended up taking my husband's surname for very similar reasons to the ones outlined in your OP.

If children hadn't been on the agenda, neither of us would have changed. We felt we wanted a "family" name - I wouldn't have been happy for my children to have a different name from me. I wasn't keen on my own surname because it was a bit unusual & not in a good way! DH's surname was fairly unusual too, but considerably less silly. Meshed versions all sounded weird & the idea of just creating a totally new name didn't appeal to either of us.

I really don't think I was influenced by patriarchal tradition. I'm not sure how readily DH would have taken my name, had the situations been reversed (ie. him with the sillier name!), though, so perhaps he was. Having said that, he didn't try to persuade me to take his name either.

In many ways, years on, I regret changing my name. Not sure what's changed, but I look back much more fondly on my old surname & doing family history research has made me a bit sad that it's no longer my name. Possibly not rational, but I feel this more strongly as I get older.

Also, getting letters & cards etc. addressed to Mr & Mrs husband's initial LoonvanBoon pisses me off & makes me feel that taking his surname was a bit of a slippery slope. Some people - well, ILs anyway, have expressed such shock that I even considered not taking their name, that it makes me feel I did buy into a sexist tradition even though my reasons for doing it seemed reasonable at the time.

I still don't know what we'd have done in terms of which surname to give the children if I hadn't changed my name. They (the kids) think my surname was rather silly too, so does that mean that from their POV we made the right decision? Not sure.

TaraLott Fri 10-Jan-14 12:08:41

DC have partners surname, I have my own, it's never caused even a hint of a problem.
As someone else said, names don't make a family, people do.

StillNoFuckingEyeDeer Fri 10-Jan-14 12:13:31

I'd ask your wife how she feels first. It sounds like your surname is the best of those three options, but maybe you could invent a new surname or use your wife's mother's maiden name (for example).

SooticaTheWitchesCat Fri 10-Jan-14 12:17:36

I use both my maiden name and my married name for work, on my bank account etc. although officially my name is my husband's surname.

For school I always use my married name only so that we all have the same name as a family.

She can actually just keep her name if she wants and be known as Mrs whatever your name is.

It's amazing how often people say that women's surnames sound a bit silly in this situation.

Since you ask - if you were my husband, I'd be irritated and think you should take my name since you're trotting out arguments that are a bit of a cliche. But that is because I am a horrible nasty feminist and if you were my husband, you'd know that. grin

Talk to her, but it's not very nice to tell someone their surname is mockable, so let her be the one to bring that issue up. She might feel as you do anyway, it's not really something strangers can sort out for you.

Thurlow Fri 10-Jan-14 12:20:06

Another one where I have my surname, DP has his and DC has DP's surname too. It just sounded better with their first name than my did. I wouldn't have taken DP's surname had we decided marriage was for us. So far no problems at all and I certainly don't feel less of a family for having a different surname to DC, though I do respond to "Mrs DCsurname" if called it (it's really not worth having a political/feminist debate at a football class!)

I do sometimes wish I had given DC my surname as a middle name, but they already had 2 middle names and my surname doesn't quite scan as a middle name. It's only a minor wish, though. Would you or your wife be happy with that?

If we have a 2nd DC, I will insist that we make a decision again on surnames based on what goes best with our chosen first name.

What does your gut say? And have you thought of first names, of what surname might go best?

Also, I suppose it depends on how much you want to explain the surname. In my experience, it's becoming more common for one parent to have a different surname to their child, but I have yet to meet a man who has changed his surname either to his wife's or to a brand new surname. I personally think that's a great idea if you are both happy with it, I just imagine it would take more explaining that say my situation, where no one bats an eyelid when I say "DC is Jane Smith, but I'm Mary Thurlow" (for example)

KerryKatonasKhakis Fri 10-Jan-14 12:21:59

I've kept my surname (FairPhyllis I what you mean about it coming from my father but I reclaim it! It is my name; I've had it from birth), H kept his. DS has H surname because mine is difficult to spell and pronounce and caused (and still causes) trouble for me with teasing, misspelling etc. (university finance dept. spelled my name wrong and when I corrected it they set up a whole new account but kept the first one thus presenting me with 2 bills..and then threatening court!).

However, I regret it now, we are becoming more multicultural and an odd, forrin' surname won't stick out as much now.

Having parents with 2 different names has caused absolutely no problems whatsoever. It doesn't make us any less of a unit or any less committed hmm hmm

Thurlow Fri 10-Jan-14 12:26:53

Also, do you know why your wife didn't change her name? I suspect there are various reasons for not changing a name.

Some women won't change because they see taking their husband's name as patriarchal and old-fashioned and choose to keep their own name from principle.

Some women (such as me) wouldn't change just because the idea seems weird - I'm me, I've been Thurlow for 30-odd years, the idea of suddenly having a different name seems bizarre. Thus I'm not bothered by what my DC's name is, as it's as unique/individual to them as my name is to me and I don't see it as being a weighted political statement.

Amongst my friends who haven't changed their name it's about 50/50 between 'principle' and 'can't be arsed' grin

The reason why your wife decided to keep her name might have a big influence on what surname you give your child.

mostlyharmless Fri 10-Jan-14 12:30:41

You don't actually seem to have asked your wife what she thinks - surely this would be a fairly natural progression from the conversation where you agreed it would be nice to all have the same name now you have children?

It's pretty hard to advise without knowing how she feels about it.

gnushoes Fri 10-Jan-14 12:34:21

Never took husband's surname and have no problem having a different name to the rest of the family. Registrar was a bit hmm when we registered dd1 (18 years ago) because did not think it was legally possible for me to have not changed my name!!!

mostlyharmless Fri 10-Jan-14 12:34:40

KerryKatonasKhakis I agree, my name is my name, as much as my father's name was his name rather than his father's - you could go on forever with that argument.

I didn't want to change my name. My children have my surname as a middle name and DH's name as their surname. This is an imperfect solution, but one that works for us, double barrelled wouldn't have. I definitely don't feel less of a 'unit'.

Thants Fri 10-Jan-14 12:44:24

I think each keep your own names and then give child both you surnames. A double surname.

curlew Fri 10-Jan-14 12:54:04

Ii've commented before on the strange phenomenon of "women's last names". It's amazing how often they are ugly, difficult to spell and pronounce, or are just somehow ""not as nice" as men's last names.........

tribpot Fri 10-Jan-14 13:04:25

I fundamentally disagree with the idea that you all need to have the same surname to feel like a family or to feel united. I come from a large, blended family where some members don't even use the same first name with everyone, never mind the same surname. And conversely some members have exactly the same name as other members, I mean first, middle and surname. Weird but true. Anyway, none of it makes the slightest difference to how anyone feels about anyone else, or whether or not we feel like a family. So my number one suggestion would be not to worry about this being an essential component of starting a family.

But your baby does have to have a surname, and so it may be that you want to choose to all have the same surname, rather than the baby have your surname or her surname.

I would pick a completely new surname, following the suggestion of other posters of looking for a common surname within your family trees.

SconeRhymesWithGone Fri 10-Jan-14 13:05:25

I kept mine; DH kept his. The children have his. It has worked for us. We did not all need to have the same surname to be or feel like a family.

JoinYourPlayfellows Fri 10-Jan-14 13:08:18

"So that leaves me favouring my own surname simply because it sounds more normal, and works better with both our first names."

What an amazing coincidence.

We really must do something about this problem of women having such silly-sounding names.

MrsDeVere Fri 10-Jan-14 13:13:18

Join if you had my maiden name (which lets remember was actually my Dad's name) you might not be so dismissive of silly surnames.

My maiden name was a fucking millstone all my life. That is the only reason I took my DH's name.

Juno77 Fri 10-Jan-14 13:13:54

OP - there is nothing anti-feminist about taking your husbands surname. What is anti-feminist, is being expected to take it. If you have discussed it and both agree that you want that to happen, that's fine. The idea is choice.

Would option 3 - a double barrelled surname - not be an idea?

If not, I wouldn't stress. She is obviously happy not having the same surname as you. FWIW my children and I have different surnames, I couldn't give a shit, it has never mattered and it doesn't make us feel any less of a family.

ToffeeOwnsTheSausage Fri 10-Jan-14 13:21:20

I couldn't wait to get rid of mine as my father was a twat. When I was a child I liked having his name as I belonged no where and it made me feel a connection even though I had seen him about twice, and then I didn't know he was a twat.

I took DH's name. His is as daft as mine was. His mother would have needed smelling salts if I hadn't have changed my name but I did it for me.

Kids have his name too.

My maiden name will probably vanish now.

ToffeeOwnsTheSausage Fri 10-Jan-14 13:25:54

Most women with "silly" names will have had names that came from their father...

Chunderella Fri 10-Jan-14 13:40:50

In your shoes OP, I might be tempted to spend some time thinking why it's so important that you all have the same name. There are plenty of us out there who don't, either for political, cultural or blended family reasons and I imagine you don't think our families are less united because of this. If so, perhaps you won't actually feel that way about your own family, if in fact you don't all have the same surnames. Though that still leaves you with the question of whose name the baby gets...

Loonvan unfortunately, keeping your own name is no insurance against being addressed as Mrs DHs Firstname Surname! I get it much more than you'd think, sometimes for reasons of backwardness and others due to twattishness.

scallopsrgreat Fri 10-Jan-14 13:44:14

"Having parents with 2 different names has caused absolutely no problems whatsoever. It doesn't make us any less of a unit or any less committed" <<That

funnyvalentine Fri 10-Jan-14 14:01:41

I'm another one who didn't change my name. DH kept his too, and the kids have that one too. Doesn't matter in the slightest that we have different surnames. Maybe things will change when the kids are older, but surnames aren't used nearly as much as they used to be and it rarely crops up.

Seems the important thing is to decide what name the kids will have, and if you feel later that you or your wife want to change then you can go ahead. You don't need to all change name before the baby is here if you don't want to.

Blistory Fri 10-Jan-14 14:01:53

For those of you with 'silly' surnames, presumably any brothers that you had changed their surnames on marriage too ? No ? Funny that.

I like the Scottish tradition of women retaining their own name throughout their lives. No fuss, no drama. Surely if your surname was that weird, you would just change it - why wait for marriage ?

I will never understand why any woman, particularly those intending to do the majority of child care, give their DC their partner's name. Would be interested in why and when this became the norm.

MrsDeVere Fri 10-Jan-14 14:07:10

I wanted to change my name. It was convenient to do it through marriage as I was getting married anyway.
I think my DB would have been happy to take his wife's name if it had been a 'thing' thirty years ago.

Blistory perhaps women wait until marriage because getting rid of their father's name is a very difficult thing to do in many families. Unless you have the legitimacy of marriage it would be seen as a rejection of your father.

Surnames do not belong to women. They never have.

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