Is No Name Change a Game Change in Marriage?

Hi Sarah, 

Just a quick background. I’m five months into a very passionate relationship with my former best friend, now girlfriend. We talk openly about the future, about what we both want, etc.  

I’m afraid we’re in a bit of a stalemate regarding her taking my last name when we make that leap.  She wants to keep her last name. No hyphens, just hers.  She takes a lot of pride in it. I feel a little hurt that she isn’t excited at the idea of bearing my name with the same pride, especially given that it’s not about women’s independence or a liberal or fem agenda with her.  (In fact, she’s quite traditional and old-fashioned in every other way.)

It’s just that we come from a town where her family is rooted 5th generation or whatever, and she loves the attention she gets when her name is recognized by the occasional person around town.  It’s a little Ron Burgundy, if you ask me.  She thinks her last name is “kind of a big deal”.  Regardless, she has an enormous amount of pride concerning it, and doesn’t want to give it up. 

The ironic part of this whole thing is I’ve always held no regard for the institution of marriage, and always thought it was a joke anyway.  But that was before her.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner with that subject, and would entertain the idea (of marriage) with her.   Other than the wedding, I think a lot of the honor and statement of union that a marriage represents is a little tossed aside when she declines to take my name.

I seriously start thinking…what’s the point then?  Just To have a wedding?  To file joint tax returns? 

Am I completely full of foolish pride here?    (I know a little, but…)


Thank you.


The point of marriage is to form a loving (legal) bond and to prove to each other that you only want to be with each other for the rest of your lives.  The point of a wedding is to prove that same point to your friends and family.  And to spend way too much money.  And to get all of your friends totally loaded on your dime.

So she doesn’t want to change her name.  Yeah, I can see how that might feel like a punch in the gut for a guy.  If anything, I’m assuming it feels a little emasculating and maybe the feeling of caretaker in the relationship would feel somewhat diminished.  Because you see this as a huge pre-marriage hiccup, make sure you guys are 100% on the table with established rules when it comes to all things included in a combined life.  How will you file taxes?  Will the children be taking your name, or will she require them to hyphen it?  Will you dry your face on the “He” hand towel, or will she?

She is going to have a hard time concerning the legalities of not changing or hyphening her name.  A lot of gift checks will be addressed to Mr. and Mrs. (same name), so she’s going to be carrying that marriage certificate around with her everywhere she goes.  Or, when you’re in Tijuana, Mexico and she gets arrested for letting her “husband” do tequila shots off of her at the donkey show, she may have to sit in the cell eating Chupacabra a little bit longer until she can prove that you are, in fact, her husband.  (What did I just write?)

Now, I completely understand a woman keeping her own name for professional reasons, but I guess I’m old-fashioned, because otherwise, I do believe in taking the man’s name.  I love my maiden name, and I take pride in it, but how did I get that name?  Because generations of men in my family passed it down, and because their wives took that last name.  It’s still a huge part of me, but making my husband a part of me was a little more important.

Has your girlfriend always known that she wanted to keep her last name, or did she decide this when she saw the attention she was receiving?

I’ll leave you with this:  Don’t look past the fact that you’ve met someone who has actually changed your entire idea of marriage from a “Hell no,” to a “Yes, I love this woman and want to marry her.”

You’ve found L-O-V-E!

Just because she doesn’t want to change her last name to yours doesn’t mean you guys are at a stalemate.  You’re at a stalemate with the idea of your wife introducing herself using her maiden name.  Sure, it might be a big deal, but you guys can push through it. Don’t let it prevent you from proposing to her.  This is only a taste of the sacrifices you might have to make in marriage.






  1. It is really confusing matter. In mongolian custom, we women never change our last names,period. That’s much easier, with everything including legal papers and adjusting to new names(especially, nowadays, so much divorce rate). Why women needed to change their last name was directly connected to the last centuries’ lifestyle, in which women were housewives and beneficiaries. Now men and women are both breadwinners, and everything has been changed in modern world, including women’s mind, human integrity.

  2. Thoughtful insight indeed! Well She came around to the idea. Especially after hearing what her parents had to say on the subject. It’s a good thing, too, that would have been a tough one to explain to my dad.
    Thank you Sarah!

  3. Easy idea. She can drop her middle name and use her last name as her middle name and add your last name. A lot of people do that. Or she could probably even use your last name as her middle name. I think you can do anything you want really.

  4. I would definitely feel disappointed, but it’s my conservative parents I’d be mostly concerned about. They’d have a hayday with this situation!!!!

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