What’s in a name?
Quite a bit actually…
One of the first things I did upon separation was to take my maiden name back. I was trying to take back a piece of myself I had left long ago. In hindsight I realize it may have been too soon. I may have pissed off a few people and failed to get my divorce off on the right foot, if that’s even possible.
I had a right to take back my name but it appeared as though I was cold hearted, uncaring and letting go too quickly, symbolically speaking. I am happy that I did it but my timing could have been better. What I learned in the process is the power of a name change.
Why go back?
So, should you go back to your maiden name? It’s your right. It’s who you are. It may even be crucial to your true identity.
Should you do it the minute you (or he) walk out the door, maybe not. It’s a personal decision though, so what I or anyone else says ultimately doesn’t matter. What does matter is what feels right for you, including timing.
An important consideration is your children. If they’re old enough, talk to them about if before you change your name back because they could take it the wrong way. Explain that it is a piece of yourself that you want to claim back and it doesn’t change anything between you and them. You’re still a family.
That’s what I should have done because years after the fact, my son confessed to me that at the time he didn’t understand why I changed my name. I felt terrible. At least when I explained it to him at that point, the light bulb went off and he said “Oh, I get it now.”
Logistically, it isn’t a problem having a different name than your children. Schools, institutions, insurance companies etc. see it all the time and don’t question it. Some children have different names than their mothers at birth, after all.
Why did we take his name to begin with?
Historically, the woman takes the man’s name and they become a family unit in preparation for breeding. No one wants to cause confusion when it comes to naming their child. It’s the equivalent of saying, we are a family and we want the world to know it. It makes sense.
In biblical times and medieval times where the marital unit was mostly a practical arrangement, the woman was deemed the man’s ‘chattel’( an item of tangible, movable or immovable property). I know, it sounds terrible but at that time, it was the primary reason behind taking his name. She becomes ‘his’.
Is it still relevant today then, to take your husband’s name? No and certainly not by Medieval standards, yet many women still do. Because it’s not necessary, plenty of women opt to keep their own names upon marriage.
When we take our husband’s name we feel closer to his family. We become a part of a new family. It makes sense then, upon divorce we would want to negate that, depending on the situation. We may want to put some distance between our own identity and his family. Not everyone would agree with me for example, I have a friend who divorced 17 years ago and still has her ex-husband’s name. She remarried and even then, kept her first husband’s name. I know part of the reason for her was continuing to have the same name as her two children. They’re grown now but at the time it was important to her that her role as their mother not be viewed differently by anyone.
I know other women who have divorced but kept their married names simply because they don’t like their maiden name. In one case, a nasty childhood kept her from going back to that earlier self, if only in name. Some women will keep her ex’s name even though they are not on speaking terms.
On the flip side, after a bitter divorce some men wish their ex-wives would give back their name. If he re-marries, often the new wife would like her to give her husband’s name back X3. Maybe that’s enough to keep a woman from going back to her maiden name? Perhaps a little spite mixed with identity crisis… but I digress…
On the other hand, I have spoken with many women that say taking their maiden name back felt like a relief. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Many of them felt empowered and more independent. It was the final step to freedom.
You can rankle, anger and hurt people by taking back, keeping or not returning a name. There is emotion tied up in a name. There is power in a name. There are symbolic ties in a name long after a union has ended.
Juliet would beg to differ. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”- Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
There are many reasons for a divorced woman to take back her maiden name. There are also reasons she may want to keep her married name. Bottom line is it’s a personal decision. Regardless, you are still you, no matter what your name change.
Will you take back your maiden name and reclaim a piece of you, your birth right OR will you retain your married name because it’s a part of you now and represents your motherhood? In the end, it’s your decision. What matters is what’s in a name for you personally.
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