It is one of those things you just don’t think about when you say “yes” or plan your wedding. You certainly don’t think about it when you sign your name for the first time once you are married. In fact, that first signature is what keeps that new marital fire burning once the nuptials are out of the way. It is the idea of changing your name that adds to the excitement of getting married, especially if the name is one of prestige or status. Your new married name feels almost like you’re unwrapping a fresher version of you.
And then the you-know-what hits the proverbial fan, hell has frozen over and you are staring down the dark barrel of divorce. As the post-nuptial details are deliberated you decide to keep the marital name despite termination of the unit that name once branded.
If you kept the married name you likely did so for multiple reasons: your children, your career, the hassles of changing back to your maiden name, the desire to not bring back the maiden name (especially if it is a “unique” one that yields an “OMG; THAT was your maiden name?!”) While your ex, and likely his soon to be bride, would prefer you drop the name because it’s “not yours” yet you maintain it as your own because you didn’t have to take it when you married the man. You worked to make it your own and therefore you don’t have to give it up.
And I would agree with you as much as the law would agree with you. You don’t have to give it up but you might take a few moments to think through your ultimate decision.
What was it that Shakespeare said? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?”
There is a great deal of truth to the late playwright’s romantic testimonial. Would the rose be any different if given a new name? Would it be deemed a lesser symbol of love? Would be any less expensive???
No, likely not; but, we aren’t talking about a plant here. We are talking about a name that we have to live with day in and day out. We are talking about a name that distinctively identifies who we are. Our name is that number one personal element in defining the person we are and to change it means we must change ourselves, right?
Eh, not really. I mean, you could think that way but then you might be overthinking the name thing.
So, what has me rethinking that firm argument I used to keep the old married name when I divorced? Why am kicking myself in the tush for holding on to his name?
1. I kept my name from both my marriages (that is why my legal last name is hyphenated) as a means of staying connected with my kids. Who knew that connection is paper-thin! No one needed me to have the same last name as my children to connect us. That happened naturally by focusing on our relationships and our natural familial ties. The name never did connect us emotionally and never will. Our efforts to be connected are through our decisions to be a family and accept one another for who we are.
2. The hyphenation. My legal name is hyphenated and it seemed fine at the time. Well, what used to be “no big deal” has now become a chore. So, what makes it a chore now versus when I made the decision? Repetitive signatures and my desire to be lazy. That blasted dash has become more of a self-imposed mental writing cramp than a designer accessory to my name. I am better off writing a scribble than toying with that wretched little line.
3. Professionally I am known by one name for convenience. I did try to use my hyphenated name when I first got it but realized quickly the inconvenience of having to spell out my two last names for others and then detail as to whether or not the hyphen was necessary. I found it was much easier for me, and my career, to just to use one last name. Turns out, when you wear a wedding ring people don’t care about the last name.
4. I took his name not as much to honor him but to identify us as a unit. It was never a consideration to keep my last name when we married nor did it bother me to let go of my maiden name. My obligation to me honoring us as a unit has expired and the unit is legally dissolved. I don’t really see it as my “married name” anymore – just my awkwardly hyphenated last name. Ugh.
5. Time since divorcing has revealed that no one really associates me with my exes. I have always created a name for myself or developed my own reputation (good, bad and ugly). No one sees me as “So-and-so’s” ex-wife or “baby momma”, at least not that I am aware of. I am “me” and those who know me personally, casually or professionally identify me as an individual and not an extension of another person or as a remnant of an extinct relationship.
The reasons for keeping a married name or changing it are all personal. There are no “right” or “wrong” reasons. There are personal reasons that are rationalized with various factors in our life at the time of the divorce. You will have influence as to what to do with your name from all sorts of people. In the end, you are the one who has to live with the name.
You are the one that can change it, at any time. So, maybe you keep it for now and then change it next year. Maybe you never change it. Bottom line, think through your rationalizations and talk with those that may be impacted by you changing your name. In the end, you are likely going to find that those who are putting your needs first are going to give you the “thumbs up” no matter the decision you make because the name doesn’t define you. You do.