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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?

EdithWeston Fri 10-Jan-14 09:59:37

The important thing here is that you have thought about it, and considered all the options without prejudice, and are jointly tending towards the surname you prefer for aesthetic reasons.

That it coincides with 'normal' and 'expected' doesn't alter your personal reasons as a couple, and being able to choose what suits you for the reasons you think important is the key thing, not the result.

Does it have to be this choice though? Why do you need to have the same surname? If she kept her name as her legal identity, but was OK to be Mrs MaleMan81 socially hen you could have the sense of identity without an actual change.

Or you could decide to start from scratch and pick a totally different surname.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HectorVector Fri 10-Jan-14 10:00:13

I refer to myself as my husbands name for nursery/school, doctors and dentists, passport - things that I'm likely to need or do with DS (because DS was given my DH's name purely because hyphenating didn't work with our names and DH didn't feel he could change his surname as he's the last male in his family and feels the need to carry his surne on of possible). But for everything else, banking, work, insurance, driving license etc... is in my birth surname. It works for us and being known as two surnames for me doesn't seem to cause any issue e.g. On my will it says Hector MarriedName also known as Hector BirthName.

risingsunshine Fri 10-Jan-14 10:04:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

risingsunshine Fri 10-Jan-14 10:05:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HectorVector Fri 10-Jan-14 10:10:46

I don't know what an observation in your passport means but that might be a good idea if such a thing exists, I need to renew it soon. So I'll try to find out. My passport is purely in DHs surname. So far I've not had any ID issues - if I need photo ID in my BirthName I show my driving licence and if I need photo ID in my DHs surname I show my passport. I've not reached any situation where I've needed 2 photo IDs yet so I've never had a problem. I'm guessing if I needed 2 I could take both as well as maybe my marriage certificate?!

mistlethrush Fri 10-Jan-14 10:15:57

I work under my maiden name, but everything else (including Drivers licence etc) is under my married name.

CMOTDibbler Fri 10-Jan-14 10:16:16

I kept my name, and ds is myname-dhname, but if our names hadn't double barrelled, we'd have picked an entirely new name. In our case, a name that belonged to a great aunt/uncle and died out.

But names don't make you more of a family - they are just names, and tbh I think you are overthinking about peoples reactions/attention/bullies too much imo.

Make a decision that your wife and you are happy with, and everyone else can get used to it.

steppemum Fri 10-Jan-14 10:31:20

well I know that lots of women see taking their husband's name as being very patriarchal etc, and I understand that in principle.

But for me, I see marriage as a lifetime commitment, and I wanted OUR family to all have the same name. Otherwise to me it feels as if I am still attached to my family and he to his, but we are not attached together and to our children.

I would have been happy with my name, his name or a brand new name. We looked at the sound of the names (we liked both of ours) and then also at the rest of the family I have 2 brothers who will continue the family name. Dh has one brother and one sister, and dh is the eldest son of the eldest son going back 6 generations or so, and we felt it would be more balanced for us to take his name.

We tell that to our kids, both to affirm our desire for OUR name, and to let them know that it isn't a done deal to take your husband's name.

As long as you are both happy, and doing it as a choice and not as an expectation, then it is no-one's business but yours.

steppemum Fri 10-Jan-14 10:36:36

sorry - just read that back and realise that it sounds as if you don't see marriage is a lifetime commitment if you don't change your name.

Not what I meant. I was thinking about some people I know who see marriage as lasting 10 years or so, and then reverting to their own name and so don't want to change their name.

NK5BM3 Fri 10-Jan-14 10:46:18

At work I'm known as my maiden name. At school for the kids and doctors etc I'm mrs married name.

In the drivers licence I'm mrs married name. On my passport it's both names. I have my married name in brackets after my maiden name.

Kids have dh's surname.

We have friends who have alternated surnames with the kids. So kid1 has his mad, kid2, her name, kid3, his Name.

Other friends have double-barreled so kids are Jane her name-his name. Or they don't hyphenate it but it's seen as a middle/third name so Jane Mary her name his name.

ZingChoirsOfAngels Fri 10-Jan-14 10:54:27

I took DH's surname, it didn't occur to me not to.
And now my initials are VIP!grin

WitchOfEndor Fri 10-Jan-14 10:56:30

Pick a completely new surname that you both like?

IrisWildthyme Fri 10-Jan-14 11:06:23

either use an anagram of both your names, which gives you much more options than trying to mesh half-and-half. or pick a new name, she's ms awkwardly-newname, you are mr bailey-newname and the children just have newname - this is a system sustainable for generations.

FairPhyllis Fri 10-Jan-14 11:11:45

I don't think it's really a true choice between "feminist" and "non-feminist" courses of action. If you think about it, your wife's name isn't her name - it's her father's name (and father's father's father's etc name) that she had imposed on her by the convention of a patriarchal society. So if it's more meaningful to her to change her name to yours because then you'll be a family, she might as well, because the main alternative is having some man's name anyway.

This is what it means to be a woman under patriarchy - all the choices are bad!

JayEmm Fri 10-Jan-14 11:23:49

I know two couples where the man has taken the woman's name and would have done regardless of the aesthetics of the names concerned. No major problems as far as I know.

If you and your wife aren't comfortable with her taking your name, either pick a new one or take hers, I'd have thought.

birdybear Fri 10-Jan-14 11:25:38

there is nothing wrong with being normal and traditional if that is how you want to be...

Mumof22222boys Fri 10-Jan-14 11:40:18

I have kept my name and the only time I am called mrs dh name is on Xmas cards etc. the boys have DH's name. It is a but of a non issue. I don't particularly love my name but really don't like DH's name - like you OP, it is the kind of name that people snigger about! I am a feminist, but didn't keep my name for feminist reasons...had his name been different I might well have gone for it. Call me shallow grin

curlew Fri 10-Jan-14 11:43:34

Mr Hisname
Ms Hername

Jane and John Hername-Hisname.


Sollers Fri 10-Jan-14 11:46:23

I would make a decision based purely on which name you prefer. My husband took my name, but only because he liked my name better than his and I wasn't bothered either way.
We also moved around the same time, however, so no-one knows what his old name was, so he never got any stick for it.

MrsFeathersword Fri 10-Jan-14 11:47:51

Curlew I really like that - never thought of double barrelling just for joint things!
Have never needed the same name to feel united as part of my dh's and our children's family. We are united in a million ways. I doubt that a mother ever feels it would take a name to make her feel closer to a child she has carried!
For what it is worth our dcs have his surname and mine as a middle name.

RedToothBrush Fri 10-Jan-14 11:48:34

How about using one of your surnames as a middle name? This is actually fairly common historically.

sleepyhead Fri 10-Jan-14 11:58:17

If you're both from roughly the same cultural backgrounds then I bet you wouldn't have to look too far back in your respective family trees to find a joint surname. Otherwise just pick one that you both like or has particular meaning for you both.

You could also keep your birth surnames as middle names.

TheFabulousIdiot Fri 10-Jan-14 11:58:18

What does your wife want to do?

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