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  • Writer's pictureWarrick

Identity and the decision to take my Wife's Surname

Hello fellow Protagonists,

On the 18th of May 2022, while sitting on the floor in the lounge opposite my wife, the button was pressed to formally change my surname from what it has been for the last 32 years to my Wife's maiden name.

We have been married for over two years at this point, and although we both took her maiden name as new middle names when married, we did the "traditional thing" of taking on my surname. What this also meant was that on the 18th of May my wife changed her name back to what it was prior to our marriage.

I want to take this opportunity to discuss how this decision was made, and also what were not the reasons for this decision. I feel this is just as important an area.

It essentially came down to realisations about personal identity over time.

When preparing for our wedding, we had discussions on our taken names early on. I knew that my wife had a close connection with her surname and that changing this was a big deal. We had discussed hyphenating our names though both felt it sounded long and clumsy.

At the time I honestly wanted to keep my surname, on it's own or double-barrelled. It was like I didn't want my surname to die and end with me. I do have a brother who also shared my surname at this point. I guess I just felt like I had a legacy to start as well as continue and that somehow I was starting my own branch of the family tree. My brother didn't have children at the time, and doesn't to this day. He may do, he may not, this is ultimately out of my control, but there was a belief that somehow keeping my name was something I could do to ensure it continued.

Essentially I wanted to make my name mean something and any future children would be proud to share it.

So, we can agree something changed greatly over the following two years.

The first realisation is that symbols and labels, including names, are a really poor way of describing anything. They don't really tell us much. Words and labels are useful for us to differentiate one thing from another. For example, It is helpful to have words to learn the difference between Ice-cream and rat poison, or that this person is Steven and that person is Stephen.

The down side of labels are that in order for them to differentiate things they are required to be rigid. Names are so rigid that alone they tell us absolutely nothing about the person, except what to call them. To prove what little names tell us about people let me ask you, what is the first thing you tend to forget about someone you meet? Your brain knows that almost nothing is gained from a name, though you will remember something about them. "You know, that lady who is a designer, who has guitar lessons on a Tuesday afternoon and recently brought hardy perennials for her garden because they are easy to look after and flower each year... what was her name again?"

So my name doesn't really tell you anything about me. So why is it so important that I insist on keeping it the same?

The second realisation is that some day I will die. This was brought on by the passing of a very close member of the family this year. In the nicest way possible I know that eventually I will be forgotten and there is a good chance that even if my surname continued this would only be for as long as my descendants can and choose to keep it. Even then I have to ask myself, to what end? And why is this important? I honestly couldn't give you an answer to this.

The third realisation came from questioning what part of me felt strongly about keeping my surname in the beginning. This boils right down to the concept of self. It is the part of me that wants things to stay the same, to be certain or predictable. This is all fine and good though I know that this is not the case. Nothing stays the same unless it is dead, certainty is a myth, and as much as we like to think, we cannot predict the future.

These three aspects combined came together less than a month ago, when I turned to my wife and said "I think I can change my surname to yours."

My wife does continue to have a connection to her surname. If she does and I do not over mine, then why wouldn't I change my name, except out of stubbornness or a commitment to tradition for traditions sake alone. I am also not saying that my view point is any more important or superior to any others. If my wife has a connection to her surname then so be it.

There are also aspects that are not reasons for me to take this decision, that I also want to share.

This is not a decision based on a rebellion against anything. Not of family, gender roles or of society. I believe that a decision made in rebellion to something is just another way of being under it's control. If it was agreed in a workplace that all staff dyed their hair red and I decided to dye mine green in rebellion, I would not have made that decision if the red hair rule wasn't in place. I would like to dye it green for the sake of dying it green. I will always have a smile though when somebody makes an honest decision they want to make that goes against the norm.

I am not fighting for a cause or for change. I simply wish for people to have the freedom of choice to question and challenge the way things are. You can then decide if it's something you wish to continue or to change.

Maybe there is a person out there who is or has been thinking about this same situation of taking their Wife's name rather than keeping theirs, or maybe a person in a same sex relationship who is unsure about changing their name or which name to take.

My decision is not special and that is the best way for all to see this. If it is not special then you can do it if you want.

I get that there will be people with strong views towards tradition that may find my decision uncomfortable to hear or a challenge to their current view point. Nothing would be more boring than everyone having the same opinion. If you do feel that way, then in a strange sense you probably care more about my original surname than I do, so thank you.

GLHF (Good Luck Have Fun)


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Jun 11, 2022

A personal footnote of support for your decision. You are strong in your identity as an individual and have enormous love and respect for your wife. I applaud and celebrate your name change and am very proud of all you stand for. You are also an amazing husband, father & son ... and that will never change (whatever your name is).

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