A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost. ~Lucy Stone

I read an article today about the power of a woman’s last name.

Did you know that studies show she’ll get paid more over her lifetime if she retains her maiden name? Something about independence and dependability.

In these shifting times, I think a lot of women are unsure of what to do when they get married. Change it? Keep it? Hyphenate it?

What makes me curious is what you’re supposed to do when (if) you get divorced. Change it? Keep it? Hyphenate it?

This is something I’ve debating since my engagement a few years ago, and it’s actually something I’ve changed my mind on.

Growing up surrounded by traditional family influences, I always looked forward to the day that I got to get married and change my name. Unless of course, my husband’s last name was something ridiculously embarrassing, at which point I would point fingers at my independence in order to spare myself the humiliation.

Now that I’ve come a long way in terms of my own thinking (thinking outside the box, one might say), I’m actually quite keen on keeping my own name.

Perhaps it has something to do with the humiliation I encountered at the break-up of my engagement. I mean, if I ever got divorced I would be faced with enough turmoil to start with, without drawing all of that extra attention by changing it back. It would be like waving a flag in front of a crowd screaming, “I’m getting divorced!”.

I could only imagine keeping my name after divorce for two reasons, if all of my professional credentials were in my married name (they are not and that is also an argument against changing my name in the first place) or if I had children and wanted to keep the same last name as them (this could be a toss up but I believe a child should take it’s father’s last name and I think I would be proud of that regardless of my marital status or initials).

So why change my last name in the first place?

That’s not to say I’m anticipating divorce someday, but I do believe in thinking ahead.

There are other reasons I would want to keep my last name though, aside from the extra income, declaration of independence, and career credentials.

First of all, it’s not so bad. If I’d inherited a really rotten last name then I can see myself being more open to changing it.

Second, my name is my identity. It’s who I am and who I’ve been for my entire life. I feel sort of like giving up my name would be like giving up a part of myself.

Then again, isn’t that sort of what marriage is all about? Opening up your life to another person and moving forward as a unit instead of individuals?

I guess it will suffice to say that I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision anytime soon.

A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost. -Lucy Stone 

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14 thoughts on “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost. ~Lucy Stone

  1. Interesting post! I’ve always assumed I’ll (someday) take my husband’s last name. I was never very fond of my own. You raise some good points though. The only thing at this time that would make me keep my own is that I LOVE my signature. LOVE IT. I have nice handwriting, but an even better signature. At my old job, I was a user of the company acct at a store to get supplies if we ran out and everytime I was there, I’d sign the slip and the cashier would always marvel that my signature looked like a celeb signing :) So maybe one day I’ll be famous and can just use that as my excuse to keep my last name ;)

  2. Now that I’ve gone through it, divorce, changing my name BACK etc., I have thought a lot about this. And I wondered if when I met the ‘right’ one (meaning, M. Because I truly know that he is!) I would change my stance on NOT changing my name again. And ya know what? I think I would keep my name as is for professional and legally, but would maybe add it (not hyphenate, just both last names together) personally. If that makes sense. Because I DO believe my name is my identity now. I am proud of who I have become and not to say I’ll ever lose that, I just think changing your name is part of the tradition of weddings that I don’t like. The going through the motions just because it’s ‘what you do.’ Okay, long tangent, but I basically agree with you ;-)

    • Yeah I think there are a lot of options. I don’t think my last name would sound good hyphenated or added to another last name so I would probably keep mine for professional and legal purposes and use my husbands for social stuff. But if that’s the case then… what do you do on Facebook? *gasp*

  3. Very interesting post! Hubby and I have been married since 1984 and I changed my name. Partly because I wanted to leave behind some of the things that my last name reminder me of. But mostly because it is just what you did then. At this point in my life, I can’t remember much time when being his wife wasn’t what I am.

    One of my sisters, however, did hyphenate her name. She didn’t get married until later and had already started a career that she needed to keep her name she had been using a part of this. Plus, oddly, if she hadn’t kept her maiden name as part of her name, she would have one of those generic names like Jane Doe.

    I now think outside the box. Changing my name to his wouldn’t be the “thing” to do for me now. If I had to contemplate what to do now, as in a divorce or his death, well….off the cuff here, I think I’d keep his name. It is ME by this point. Remarrying? Well, I still think I would keep it for the same reason. It is my identity now.

  4. I think people do themselves a big disservice putting all their identity into just a name. That’s not your identity at all. That’s what people call you by. I’ll admit I did some grieving when changing my name (which a man also gave me) but at the end of the day, I’m still the same person.

  5. thank you for writing this post in a way that doesn’t demean women who do change their names. I have read so many posts like that…argh.

    I can see where you’re coming from. I kind of always knew I was going to change my name though (unless of course it was a last name I didn’t like, haha!). I had a very VERY common last name so there were like a ton of me’s around. Now I can proudly say I am the only girl on facebook with MY name. I absolutely love being unique.

    And not that I ever plan on getting divorced, but if something should happen (because you never know) I think I would still keep my new last name, so it matches my children’s. I just love my new name. haha

  6. There is no right or wrong. I originally took The Ex’s last name. I kept it after the divorce so that my kids’ names and mine would match. I thought I’d keep it if I remarried for that reason, but DH wanted me to take his (he’s pretty old fashioned) and I thought it’d be awfully weird for him to have me with The Ex’s last name…so I took his. I hate changing my name though–such a pain in the ass. I won’t do it again. Period.

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