Post-marriage name change: to be Mrs. X, or not to be Mrs. X

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Thank you to Eighty Eight Photo for the beautiful photographs!

While getting married naturally creates new identities for both partners, the pressure for a woman to change her name to her husband’s adds to the stress of the identity change.

Despite an increasing trend in women maintaining their maiden names, deciding not to take on your husband’s name makes you “one of those women” (Yes, someone has said those exact words to me, inflection and all).

As a woman who has been through a divorce, reclaimed (and rebuilt) her identity, and is now newly married, the process of going through another name change is not an appealing one. Not only is the process a right pain in the ass, but as someone with a professional life to consider, a name change disconnects me from much of my previous work and reputation.

Personally, I advocate for taking the happy couple’s surnames and smashing them together to create a new name. If I am expected to change my name, my love should as well. All name change bitching aside, I will happily go by the last name Terplay. And I will give you a hug if you call Nick by that name, too. Down with the patriarchy!

Barring name-change equality, I have decided to (eventually) add my lovely’ husband’s last name as a second last name. Yes, you can do that without hyphenating. This allows me to use whichever last name is suitable for the situation. Professional? Maiden name it is. Parent-teacher conferences? You get the idea.

Contemplating name change? Here are the major factors behind my decision.

1. Name-change process

I’ll be honest— I really, really do not want to have to haul my butt downtown and deal with the Social Security office name change process; or the BMV’s; or work’s; or the utility departments’; or the insurance companies’; or the bank’s; or the other bank’s; or the other bank’s. Why can’t there be one button to push to make this easy?

2. Identity rebuilding

Going through a divorce definitely gives you a new respect for your own identity—and you don’t realize just how much your married name becomes part of who you are. Long after the dust settled, I faced the struggle of rebuilding what defined me. It took a while, and quite a bit of hard work, but eventually a substitute teacher who hadn’t seen me in the 18 months since the divorce approached me, gave me a hug, and said that she felt like she was seeing the real me for the first time. Talk about some serious positive affirmation.

3. Professional concerns

Careers as a writer, a high school educator, and an emerging English professor are tied to my current name. Connections and publications are linked to it; if I change my name (again), I’ll have to rebuild those connections.

4. (Future) children

My career is important to me, but so is having the same name as my future children, and the likelihood of becoming the Terplay family is looking mighty slim.

5. Spouse’s opinion

Though unwilling to change his name to Terplay (I really don’t understand why), my lovely man is completely supportive of concerns 1-4. Nonetheless—I know how important forming our family unit is to him. If marriage isn’t a place for compromising and the balancing of values, I don’t know what is.

Ultimately, I settled on the compromise of going through the arduous process, but of balancing our names to expand my identity. I hope you found my thought process helpful, and I wonder: what factors are you considering or did you consider in your name change decision?

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