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Did you take your husband’s name?

Last names, bank accounts, personal files.  What do you do when you get married? Change your name?  Keep it?  Jen and Barb talk to Dr. Sheri Meyers, marriage and family therapist, about the need for personal identity and the debate around changing your name.

26 Responses to “Did you take your husband’s name?”

  1. Andrea says:

    As someone who is married and did NOT take her husband’s last name – I related well with Barb. My husband’s only comment when HIS parents brought it up was “I don’t want to change my last name, so why should she?”. We have been married for over 4 years and we still get passive-aggressive comments and mail addressed (purposely) incorrectly by people we have spoken to about the fact that I am not Mrs. Husband’s last name. I never realized what a big deal it was until I got married and didn’t change my last name. I realize that this is “tradition” but why cannot we not all accept each others’ choices? I have friends who changed their last names and others who hyphenated theirs – they get a lot of criticism – I happily celebrate their choices. I only ask that people celebrate mine. We have actually been shunned by a few people because they do not agree with our family’s different last names!

  2. Pedro says:

    Here in Puerto Rico, we all use both last names, and the wives rarely change their name for their husbands. It works out beautifully and flawlessly. My wife has never called herself with my last name. My kids use both. Of course, it could be argued that there is no reason in 2012 to necessarily follow any rules regarding which one goes first. In our case we never had the argument, but i would have welcomed it. If it works perfectly here, i don’t see a reason other than the huge clerical issues that may arise not to use them both in the case of the children, and the spouses their own whenever they choose. And, please keep religion out of it.

  3. toyeen says:

    Though biblically speaking,one should go by the spouse’s last name by the reason of marriage, but
    personally, i don’t think having one’s spouse’s name has got any big deal other than for you to be respected.
    Keeping a marital or maiden name won’t determine one’s success in life, its just a mind set and cultural orientation of individual.
    People should just wake up from all these primitive way of life of having to tag-along about choosing a spouse’s name all in the name of marriage.
    To me i have always prefered my maiden name even before separation from my ex husband.
    Your spouse’s is ok to whosoever desire to be known by it.

  4. Mariana says:

    Well, I’m not married yet, but I’m in a commited relationship to a man I really love for 7 years. When I get married, I do not plan on taking his name.
    It’s not about being independent (because I’ll be either way), nor about making it easier if I get divorced (because if I was thinking about getting divorced, I wouldn’t even consider getting married).
    I just don’t really see the point. I’ve had this name all of my life, everyone know me by it and I really like it… why should I change it? I’m pretty sure my kids won’t be confused by this situation (I really think that’s pretty stupid) and we won’t be less of a family.
    Everyone talks about unity and such… so why don’t both of you (husband and wife) take both names? Why not do it in alphabetical order or something like that? That would be just. I don’t get why is always the wife to get the husband’s name… It’s only a cultural matter.

    • Ryan says:

      I have been in a serious relationship for 3 1/2 years. I am not married yet, but plan on marrying her. She constantly tells me how excited she is to take my last name. I understand the independence issue and how there is an ownership connotation there. But if someone goes into a marriage thinking well I want to stay independent, I want to do my own thing, why are you getting married? Marriage is a team effort. I feel like now days marriage has turned into an over used ceremony and that we can all just divorce later? Its a huge commitment and I approach it as such. It is also the ultimate way of showing love and devotion. For me personally deciding you want to keep your last name contradicts this idea that you want to completely devote yourself to the other person. I would happily take my girlfriends name if she asked, but she says she wants mine. I do not necessarily agree with it only being the guy whose name gets passed on, but I think it helps unify a marriage rather than going into worrying about how not to be over involved with your new spouse? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Changing your name does not change who you are, it changes your name! You can’t be independent in a marriage, or it wont last. Each side equally depends on the other.

  5. Amy says:

    Wow, this therapist upset me so much!!! My mom never changed her last name because it is a tradition from when the women lost her family and became part of the husband’s family. I have my father’s last name and I never felt like my mother was an outsider at all. I can’t believe a therapist would say that. There was never any question who was my mother and I never felt confused. I was always proud of my mom that she kept her last name and stood up for maintaining her sense of self. My parents always worked as a unit and I never felt like there was any division. They always worked hard to compromise as parents and as a couple. They worked as partners with neither being subservient in anyway towards the other and I think my mom keeping her last name is very symbolic of their commitment to being married as partners and equals and not having one be the head of household, etc.

    • Barb says:

      Amy,
      Sounds like your parents are an amazing couple! It is so nice for me to hear this coming from an adult who came from a household like the one my husband and I have created. As a mom, I am always trying to be the best I can be and do the right thing for my children. I recently asked my kids how they felt about me not having the same last name as them and like you they are totally fine with it. They see my husband and I as complete equals and we strive to be like your parents are. So with that said, I will not be changing my name:) barb

  6. Daphne says:

    To say that women who take their husband’s last name are “wimpy” is passing a huge judgment on people you know nothing about. I felt pretty offended by that opening statement. I do not consider myself a weak person. I feel I am a strong woman, but I have no need or desire to “prove” it to anyone. If you know me well, then you’ll know that I am. My taking my husband’s last name was not because I got pressured into it by society or tradition, but a conscious choice. I do not feel I lost my identity by doing so. Women who want to keep their maiden name shouldn’t judge those who don’t, and vice versa.

    I think Barb may have kept her last name for the wrong reasons. She says she wants to prove to herself/others that she is a strong, independent woman and she doesn’t ever want to become dependent on anyone. By default, marriage means you depend on someone. Period. Not necessarily financially, but emotionally. Who do you depend on if not your spouse, whether you’re a man or woman? To say that you do not depend on your spouse is either a lie, or it means you are detached from the relationship. Humans are social creatures, and we will always depend on others (for companionship, love, etc.) because it’s our nature. I understand and respect women who keep their maiden names for the sake of honoring their roots. I think the bigger issue is that Barb may feel a bit insecure about herself and have a pessimistic view of the world, and she’s afraid of being hurt. Yes, a lot of marriages end in divorce. But a lot don’t. It all comes down to where you place your trust. You can choose to trust only yourself, or trusting yourself AND others. You may end up getting hurt but you open up your relationship to a different level. This doesn’t necessarily mean changing your last name; but accepting that you depend on someone does not make you a weaker person.

    • Barb says:

      Daphne,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I really enjoyed your opinion and in no way intended to offend you. I am confident you are a strong person just from reading your text. You bring up very good points, especially that by default marriage means that you do depend on someone and I mention that in the episode. What you don’t know about me is a grew up with a single mom on government assistance. You see after 12 years of marriage (without kids) my dad became a substance abuser and after five years of trying to help him she had to make a decision between him or my sister and I. I have seen what dependency without independence brings. So me keeping my last name was not about my roots quite the opposite it was about earning my success and accomplishments on my own and that my father’s choices in life had nothing to do with the person that I was. So there you have it. barb

  7. John Adair says:

    Barb, I understand how important your name is to you. It is a very special identifier. And the Bible says in Proverbs 22:1, ”A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”

    But, I have to disagree with your desicion because I believe that you have started with a wrogn premise. You say that you “worked hard for my last name.” Actually, you were born with that last name. So, you don’t have your last name. You have your father’s last name.

    You also said, “I was a woman who had life experiences, a career, friends, an established identity. I wasn’t a girl going from her parents house to her husbands.” Well, my wife was 28 when she married me, and she had all those things you had, yet she took my last name and kept all of those other things, too. My wife was born with a first, middle, and last name. But when she married me, she now has four names, yet she only uses three for official documents and two when identifying herself. She IDs herself with her first name and our (my) last name. You see, it’s not about her anymore, but about us. It our future together, as a team who are all for one, and one for all. It about where we are going together. It’s like Ecclesiastes 7:1 says, “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” The future is more important than how you started.

    Thanks for doing the mom life. I think it’s cool.

    • Barb says:

      John,

      First I love the Proverbs so thanks for sharing. I agree with you that it is our future together that we are a team all for one. If that is true then why is it that a husband does not take his wife’s last name? That is where I am confused, why is it assumed that the last name has to be the mans? Where is the team in that? barb

  8. Diana says:

    Yws, I took my husband name only because it was my name when I married him, but to explain this I was married to his brother for 38 yrs, but he died. But five yrs later we happen to get together, and it has been eight yrs, but I feel that a women should take her husbands name, as that what is says in the Bible and what God would want, but no we did not put our money together.We both have our own income , and that works for us, he pays all the bils for everything , I pay nothing . But that works for us and what we want. So it is all up to that person.

    • Lillian says:

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  9. Jessica says:

    Interesting discussion with good points on all sides. It seems that, though, the only real positive attributed with taking a husband’s last name is in benefiting the family unit, specifically the children. I’m not married, so I can’t claim to have any experience with this, but I guess my opinion on it is that everyone, every marriage, and every family is unique, so do what works for you.

  10. Mary says:

    I love how this show is always referencing real life situations. I believe in taking the husbands last name. It signifies a union, a new life that you are both going to build together. If you are married, you are a Mrs, and it wouldn’t make sense if you are using your maiden name.

    • Brandy says:

      I agree. Once you are married you become Mr. and Mrs. .. One in union and spirit.. I wasn’t quite 21 when I got married, I couldn’t wait to take my husbands last name, been happily married for almost 8 1/2 yrs with 1 kid and 1 more on the way (due in 3 weeks).. In my opinon taking your husbands last name is the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way I was raised my parents have been married for 39 yrs this year, my family doens’t have too many divorces in it, but my husband’s family is full of divorce. We have outlasted his brother and sister and working on outlasting his dad’s marriage he was married to my husband’s mom for almost 10 yrs. when she left.

  11. marie says:

    i am strong and independent AND married!! i did the hyphen- not because i needed to hang onto some idea of who i was before my husband; but because i think that with our powers combined we’re that much better. and I don’t think Barb should take her husbands name; it seems really important to her and she can explain her reasons to her kids and family!

  12. Shaniqua says:

    As long as we’re sharing the bank account I’ll take whoever s last name!

  13. Kay says:

    Some great opinions here. I do not think Barb should change her last name because it seems really important to her that she does not. It was brought up to not take your husband’s last name because “you might get a divorce”. I think that is a terrible thing to say. Don’t get married then, if you are expecting divorce. I think it is important to be independent and not “count 100% on someone” as Barb said though. I also like Jen’s quote about being “both feet it”. I am not married but I plan to take my husband’s name when that day comes.

    • Barb says:

      This episode has brought up so many issues from my childhood (my parents were divorced) and the way I was raised (to depend on yourself because people leave) that I didn’t expect. I fear that the issue may not be changing my last name but completely trusting anyone. After 12 years of being happily married I may need to change my name to prove something to myself.

  14. Amparo says:

    I couldn’t wait to change my last name and I am a strong, independent woman! I love my family name and I love my family, but I was very excited to start my own family and take my husbands last name.

  15. Charlie says:

    I think it has less to do with ‘male ownership.’ Clearly your husband, Barb, puts no pressure on you, and you don’t feel the internal pressure. But perhaps for identity’s sake – you should maintain your own identity AND consider taking your husband’s name as well. But just consider it. Has it been an issue so far that you have a different name from your children? Would you be changing your name for your children or for you? At this point changing it for your husband is not even a factor.

    • Barb says:

      It has not been an issue for my children because I use my husbands last name for anything that relates to them (school, sports etc…) I think if I do change my name it is going to have to be for me. I was 31 when I got married and I feel I worked hard for my last name. I was a woman who had life experiences, a career, friends, an established identity. I wasn’t a girl going from her parents house to her husbands.
      This is such a great conversation and everyone has great opinions it really has me thinking….

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