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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

Changing my name

Our wedding is in three weeks! O my gosh, in three weeks. It feels like the year and a half-ish, since we became engaged has passed so quickly.

**Authors note - Time is in fact passing so quickly that the wedding is now in less than a week - finding time to sit, think, write and post is sparse at the moment!

There are a lot of wedding related things happening at the moment; though hopefully we have planned and booked everything we need to… hopefully! There is more happening in this final week to process as well, with all things covid and 2021, I suppose that was bound to happen. But that’s for another day and another post. In this moment and this post I want to focus on something very specific; my name.

It continues to be common place in our society, when seeing a male and female marry, to ask if or what the female partner will be changing their name to. Will their name remain the same, will they take their husband’s or maybe double barrel it? My understanding of the historical context/ focus on the female partners name and it’s expected change comes from a father passing ownership or responsibility of his daughter to her new husband; and while we believe we live in a somewhat evolved society today, many historical practices and expectations, such as this metaphorical handshake at the alter (leading to a name change) remain.

I believe the practice of expecting a new wife to take their husband’s name is extremely outdated, but still very present.

I know a number of couples who have double barrelled names, or who have both kept their ‘pre marriage’/ maiden names.

However, even while these occuranses (of double barrelled and separate names) are increasing, it is still the female partner that is asked "and what will your name be?" It is very rarely, if ever asked of the male partner.

The idea of ‘family’ is very important to me. I was raised with stories, like many 90’s children, of the ideal family being the two parents and two children. The idea of closeness, trust, love and compassion. These were the families I saw on tv, in books and cartoons.

I say ‘family’ (with the apostrophes) because there is a difference between concept, or an ideal, and the actuality. I grew up as a teenager in what I would now describe as a modern or blended family. Though I would not have described it as that then. It felt more conflicting and challenging at the time. It sometimes still does; and I’ve learnt as an adult that this is a very common family environment.

Saying that I feel it’s important to also mention; I know both my parents love and did their best to raise us. I can never know what the experience of raising my sister and I was like for them, in their situation and with their life experiences.

I distinctly remember a few occasions that were very difficult for me and also ones where I was horrible following my parents divorce. I remember after my mum remarried and changed her last name, I once shouted to her “you are not my mum anymore” because she had a different name. That was one moment of my life I deeply regret. If I was on the receiving end of that comment, it would hit me hard.

When I asked Laura to marry me I had no expectation that she would take my name. In fact I had given it no thought. There were far more important and emotional thoughts running through my head at that time. Since then Laura has spoken a couple of times about her desire to keep her last name. It’s so lovely to hear someone speak so very proudly about their passion and connection to their family name and it’s history. While Laura was open to the idea of a double barrelled surname, her preference was clearly to keep her last name.

For me, maybe, probably because of my life experiences, I really want us to share a family name. I believe that’s part of us being the family I/ we want. Of course you can be a family with different last names, I just want ‘my family’ with Laura, to have that shared identity and bond. Because that’s the marriage and family I would like.

I should add here very quickly after we discussed last names, we both agreed neither of us liked our names double barrelled. So that removed one option.

Knowing all those things there really is only one option for us both to have what we want, and that is for me to change my last name.

Coming from a family of divorce, of arguments and split homes and having experienced my own divorce, I think I’m slower to trust and to let someone in (I definitely am). I have to consider many things before taking action, to be able to adjust and negotiate the changing terrain. I expect the change, the withdrawal, the loss and the end.

My relationship with Laura is different. In her I see a future, a chance for happiness, for connection, for love, for belonging, for home, for family.

I feel I have an idea how rare this opportunity is. To find someone who shows you compassion, understanding, love for who you are and who you share a bond with. I really do think that’s pretty flipping rare.

So basically, I’m saying I’m all in! Keeping my name and having separate names now would feel like having a prenuptial agreement and be preparing for it to go wrong (sorry if your prenuptialed, if it works for you great, it’s just not for me).

I’ll be sad to change my name, the name I’ve had all my life, the name my parents gave me. It’s the name my sister and my nieces have. But the most difficult thing is that it’s the same name as my dad. I love that I have his (last) name that I am somehow marked as being related to him and he to me. It is honestly something I’ve never really thought about before this year. But I’m so proud to have his name and to be his son.

This has been a more conflicting decision than I’d initially thought, but every time I consider or discuss it I always return to the same ending. I want to start a family with Laura and I want us to have the same name. For me it is not about ‘joining Laura’s family’ it is about starting our own.

I understand this could be a super difficult thing for some family members and maybe even friends to understand. But at some stage in life you have to make certain decisions. If you truly want or believe in something you have to commit to and put faith in it.

I’m putting my faith in us.

**Authors addition. I am not sure I have worded this post as well as I would like, but when it’s from three or four separate attempts to sit down and write it‘s hard to get a consistent flow in your writing. Hopefully it provides some insight to my experience and hopefully it shows it‘s ok for the male partner to change their name. It doesn't have to just be the female partner that considers this choice/ change. I didn't find a way to weave this in, but, my current last name isn't just going. It’ll be moving over and become a new middle name, so it’s still part of ‘me’. This was a way harder decision than I initially thought it would be, but I am so delighted to be making it. I am so excited to be becoming a (those that know know) and sharing Laura’s last name.

Not long now!


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