There seem to be quite a few women who regret changing their names when they got married. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time, but as time went on, it became clear that becoming a Smith when they'd spent their whole lives as a Jones was not the way to go. The thing is that there's no way of truly knowing how you'll feel about changing your name until you do it. Also, there are unpredictable pieces of the puzzle — one gal shared that she and her wife hyphenated their last names only to discover that a dash in a last name is a computer system nightmare.
"Name change is a huge decision with many personal ramifications," says Danielle Tate, founder and CEO of MissNowMrs.com, an online name-changing service. She created an eight-question quiz, The Married Name Game, that "uses key life factors and the bride's personal style to suggest the best name change option for her (there are eight, including not changing her name)," Tate says.
The quiz, which has a patent pending on the algorithm behind it, is one way to go — but sometimes good old-fashioned advice passed down from those who have already had the experience is the best way to go. Here are six women who changed their names when they got married — but wish they hadn't.
1. Cori, 31
My wife and I hyphenated our names when we got married last year, and now we really regret it. It seemed safer to have the same last name, just in case we ended up in the ER or some other situation where we'd want to be able to quickly demonstrate our ability to make decisions for each other.
As we quickly learned, the hyphen breaks computer systems. We've had endless hassles at airports, etc., because computer systems remove the hyphen and then our documents don't match our legal IDs. Renting a car or shopping online has become a huge hassle. We travel frequently, so not being able to use anything with automated kiosk adds a lot of time to every trip. It's a big reminder that most major computer systems are running off of cobbled-together code from the 60s. Thankfully Porter Airlines allows the hyphen, and they're the airline we use most often.
The hyphenated name also confuses every doctor's office, doorman, etc. I thought hyphenated names were pretty common, but apparently they're not. It seems especially absurd that this is such a problem in New York City.
If we could do it over again, we wouldn't have changed our names.
2. Jennifer, 27
I changed my last name after I married my husband, and often regret it. At first I was on such a high from being newly married that the name change didn't hit me right away. Now, after three years, I miss my maiden name and often feel like my family's heritage gets lost. People assume I am Irish because my new last name is Gallagher, when in fact I am Danish. I chose to change my last name because it is a long tradition in my family (my parents, sister and grandparents all changed their last name) and a romantic gesture. Plus, now that my husband and I have a son together we are all three tied together with one last name. If I could do it again, I would keep both my last name and my husband's last name with a hyphen, so it would read Jennifer Jensen-Gallagher.
Advice I would give women thinking about changing their name: If you are hesitant at all, then you will probably regret it later on. I suggest either hyphenate the two last names or change your middle name to your maiden name. Another alternative would be to change your last name legally but keep your Facebook name, Instagram handle, business cards, etc. with your maiden name. Best of both worlds!
3. Marilyn, 72
When I married in 1964, I changed my last name from Barnicke to Belleghem. Twenty-six years later my husband left me, and I had gained many friends, my educational degrees and all my professional reputation with his last name. It would have been professional suicide to revert to my maiden name. I started using my maiden name with my married name, and all sorts of people found me who never would have known who I was without doing this. Now, many years later, I am remarried and didn’t change my name. I suggest all women keep their maiden name, as life is a long time to lose your identity.
4. Erin, 44
I did not get married until 2002, when I was 30 years old. By then I had a career, a cat and a house. Unlike colleagues 10 years older, I did not want to have a hyphenated last name; it was either keep my own or take his. My then-fiancé worships his ancestors, and at that point in my life, I did not feel a particular kinship (pun intended!) with my own heritage. So I chose to go with his name.
So much has changed since the wedding, including going through a life-saving stem-cell transplant to keep me in remission from my 2011 leukemia diagnosis. In March 2014, my husband asked for a separation. I am now using my maiden name again for my work (as a writer) and my yoga teaching, but our divorce is not final. Therefore, I still have to sign all official documents with my married name, all my credit is in my married name, etc. If I had to do over again, I would keep my single name and identity. So much simpler than changing it (and changing it again). Today, a woman has no need to change her name after marriage and, for career and financial reasons, shouldn't.
5. Katherine, 49
Like most of my peers, I changed my last name to my husband's at marriage. That's tradition — it's simply what one does — or did. From that moment on, I felt like property of his — and branded! Goodbye maiden name identity; hello new label. And as it turned out, that particular label depreciated in value and meaning immediately, and continued on the decline for the next few decades. My name was not associated with someone else's misdeeds before marriage, but that changed and I was stuck with it. I had built an academic and professional resume using that undeserving name (plus my children had the name), so I got rid of the husband and kept the name. I still flinch at writing it as part of my signature. I always have. It doesn't look, sound or feel like me! And when someone asks about my heritage (after hearing the name), I simply state that I was not given the name at birth, but rather cursed with it through marriage.
6. Pam, 62
I married for the fifth time in 2013, and did not change my surname to my new husband's name, although I had done so four times before. Having grown up in the South and marrying for the first time at age 18, changing my name to my husband's gave me a sense of security and union with my partner. Each time I was divorced and remarried, I continued the cycle of taking my husband's name as that was a pattern I was accustomed to and always gave me a sense of belonging.
In retrospect, taking my husband's name each time affected my independence and personal identity. And, since I unintentionally turned out to be a multiple marrier, changing my name created a paper trail I can never get rid of — creating complications along the way.
When I recently married for the fifth and, hopefully, final time, I actually kept my fourth husband's name, which had been my name for almost 20 years. My new husband didn't mind at all, because he believed the decision to change my surname was my choice and not his, which is one of the reasons I believe this will be my final marriage.
My advice is to take into consideration your partner's feelings about changing your surname to his, but ultimately make your own decision depending upon what's important to you. Assess your lifestyle and how you feel about your identity and personal brand. It's your choice! Because at the end of the day, you are the one who has to carry that name.
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