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I took my husband's name & feel weird with it
I got married two years ago and took my husband's name. My original last name is now my middle name; my real middle name has completely disappeared today. My husband didn't give a damn about anything. He was flattered that I would take his last name; but he wouldn't have cared if I hadn't. I wanted to. My mother had, and I had always expected it for myself. It wasn't until about a month after our wedding, when I had to renew my driver's license, that the name change suddenly became very real. As I filled out the paperwork, I began to doubt. Why am I actually doing this? Is that anti-feminist? The imminent change of name did not make me feel closer to my husband, but rather as if I was shrinking. I felt like I was burying part of my own identity - and for what? To take on a surname that brought with it a story I had no relationship with at all? I spoke to my husband about how my view of this had suddenly changed, and he encouraged me to just let go of the whole name change. But I didn't want that. My list of arguments for the name change seemed to overshadow my new doubts. I wanted us - and any future children - to have the same last name. Part of me also wished to build a bit of distance between myself and my original last name in order to symbolically start a new chapter in life - one that focused on the family that I was building with my partner. I also found his last name more beautiful than my own, and he had a much deeper relationship with his name than I did (after all, I had always assumed that I would have to say goodbye to mine sooner or later). I don't think he would have taken my name, although I never asked him seriously. But my discomfort remained. I now have the same surname as my husband, and I like it - but I also miss my old one, and mostly in very specific ways. For example, I always liked the way my middle name (with a “B”) rounded off my initials nicely. "MBK" has now become "MKZ". Also, I don't know how to spell my old last name on the phone and say "F F like Frank Frank" like my mom always does - and that made me think of her every time. And even though I love my in-laws, it feels weird to share a last name with them; that binds me to her in a way that I wasn't fully aware of before. I also wonder if it was wrong to follow a thoroughly patriarchal tradition that I could have avoided relatively easily. This last worry doesn't come from anywhere. When I asked around people what people think of women taking the names of their husbands after a wedding, many mentioned the sexist roots of this tradition. Renée Warren, CEO and founder of the business coaching company We Wild Women, explained her decision to keep her name after the wedding: “I'm a feminist and also had to build a small brand around my own name. Changing that after the wedding not only felt somehow wrong to me, it also felt like it was throwing feminism back a few years. ”Sabrina Beaumont, 40, CMO of Passion Plans, agrees. “The practice of taking one's spouse's name fuels deeply ingrained sexism in our society. If anything else was behind it, 50 percent of all couples would take the woman's last name, but that's not the case. Without meaningful justification, it is a tradition that we should abolish. ”Anyone who thinks that the tradition is no longer so widespread is wrong: In Germany only six percent of all married couples choose the name of the woman and three quarters of the name Man. Almost half of all women in Germany would describe themselves as emancipated and self-confident. That means that there are many people out there who - like me - call themselves feminists and still participate in this patriarchal tradition. (By that I mean the name change, not the marriage as such.) A large proportion of the respondents felt that it was a sign of the respect women have for their husbands, and I didn't like that answer at all. When I think about how much I've racked my brains over the subject, I am surprised that so many seem not to give it a thought. In a small study from 2013, in which students were asked about name changes, it was found that half of the respondents thought the practice was not a big deal. The majority saw the name change as a family expectation, an honorable tradition, a way to reunite the family, or simply as "easier". Very few respondents felt that tradition was there to give a man power over his wife - but a large proportion of respondents felt that it was a sign of women’s respect for their husbands, and they liked the answer not me at all. If the respondents stated that they were not entirely enthusiastic about the name change, it had less to do with their attitude towards patriarchy than with their self-awareness. You talked about losing part of your personal, professional and, in particular, family identity by giving up your name - and that's how the people I talked to about it saw it too. Iqra Mehrin Azhar, for example, told me: “As a woman with Pakistani-South Asian roots, I know from my culture that women usually take the names of their husbands. In my youth, however, I identified myself very strongly with my religious identity, that of a Muslim woman. And as a proud Muslim woman, I know that God does not require a name change in Islam, ”says the 33-year-old marketing clerk. "If I had taken my husband's name, it would have felt like leaving my family and past behind." Rayna Weiss, 35, was more concerned that it might be culturally inappropriate to use the Colombian name of hers Mannes - Londoño - because she is not a Colombian herself. She also agreed with her husband that the Latin American tradition of adding a “de” plus the name of her husband to the name of a married woman was chauvinistic and possessive. She didn't want to be Rayna Weiss de Londoño - basically "Rayna Weiss from the Londoño family" - so she kept her original name. For others, however, it is precisely the family history of their own surname that motivates them to discard it. The author Carol Gee, 71, tells me that it was "just so common" when she took her husband's name 48 years ago - but that there were also doubts about her paternal ancestry and that she used the old name anyway wanted to drop. Others also told me they wanted to get rid of their last names in order to leave an abusive family past behind. In my case, changing my name was mainly about making me feel like my husband and I were building something together - a family of our own. Before we got married, we'd been together for about a decade, and we'd lived together for half of it. Accepting his name was like a tangible step towards a new beginning. Dr. Simon Duncan, Professor of Comparative Social Sciences at the University of Bradford, emphasizes that many women change their names not just to feel like a single family, but to look like one too. "You not only have to be a good family, you also have to be seen as a good family by other people," he explains, adding, however, that precisely this expectation is determined by institutionalized sexism. This pressure hits especially couples who are already often devalued by society - like LGBTQ couples. “I don't know if we've ever thought about it consciously - but I think as a couple we've always tried to adapt to our heterosexual friends,” says Ali Sousa, 31, who married her wife Carly in 2018. “We wish to raise our children in a world in which our family is like any other, only that our children have two mothers. I believe that we all have the same surname, which enhances us in the eyes of heterosexual families. ”Can we always say exactly which roles we have consciously chosen ourselves and which ones we have“ slipped ”into? Carly says that the choice of their common surname was more of a "rock-paper-scissors thing". For Ali, who gave up her name, the change took some getting used to, but ultimately exciting. In Carly, however, the decision sparked different feelings. “It was hard for me not to give up my last name,” she says. “I really struggled getting used to the roles, responsibilities and norms of a homosexual relationship. For me, keeping my last name meant that I was kind of 'the man in the relationship'. That's why I thought for a long time: 'Oh man, so I'm the guy here, it sucks. I don't want to have my pants on. I don't want everyone to think I'm the masculine half. I want to be a beautiful, attractive, feminine woman. I want to be the mother. ’“ Carly was able to bury these fears at some point - but only after she had thought about the roles in their relationship for a long time, including household matters. "I think we've found ways that make Carly feel like the more feminine of the two of us," explains Ali. “For example, I proposed to her. And although we both walked to the altar at our wedding, I went first - that's how Carly had the 'bride moment'. Although these may not be the big, important roles in a relationship, we wanted her not to feel like she always had to play the role of the namesake. ”While I was talking to Carly and Ali about heteronormative role distribution, it clicked in me: My worries weren't just about my name change. This decision to let go of my name had simply shown me how I had to fit into the marriage construct: not as an equal partner, or even just as an independent individual. My husband and I are both feminists and always try to think our relationship through, but gender roles are deeply ingrained. Can we always say exactly which roles we have consciously chosen ourselves and which ones we have "slipped into"? After all, sometimes it feels like the right decision to quietly accept what is being forced upon us. Before we got married, I had always felt comfortable with the roles in our relationship - mostly because I felt like I was still completely independent of my partner. Although we lived together, we were two separate entities, whose lives intersected here and there. After we got married, however, I began to question aspects of our relationship that had never bothered me - although I definitely wanted to align our two lives more parallel to one another. For example, I suddenly refused to do the dishes; a task that we used to share. When my husband asked me if we wanted to open a joint bank account, I hesitated forever. I trust him, his principles and his respect for me - but I'm afraid of losing my independence. I am afraid of becoming “a wife”. Lori Axler Miranda, 41, tells me that she understands the tension between him and me very well. She herself became increasingly uncomfortable with the gender roles in her marriage after giving birth to her first child and most of the work stuck with her. “Whether you plan it that way or not, the gender roles are shifting by themselves. We were suddenly pushed into these very stereotypical roles that we had never been in before,” she says. Lori's attitude towards adopting her husband's name also changed as soon as the children arrived. “It just feels weird to change your own name, which is part of your identity, just because you're getting married. And that's not what men are expected to do, ”she says. "After the children were there, there was even more frustration: I was the one who had carried, born and fed the children - and yet they have my husband's name." After reading my way through so many studies on the subject and talked to dozens of people about it, I know there is no “right” solution here. Everyone has their own reasons for giving up their own name - or not. After taking a closer look at my own reasons, my decision to change my name doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I understood that my discomfort was a symptom, but not the source of my insecurities around the meaning of marriage. But if someone asks me for my opinion today, I would probably suggest: Take a year before you actually put your name off to try it out. Find out how this is making you feel - and then you can still make the switch official. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? 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