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Monday, May 18, 2015

Changing Names - Complicated Considerations for Remarriage

Any woman who marries faces the decision about which name she will take as she moves forward in life.  Her decision reflects the age at which she marries, the notoriety she has with her current name, the feelings around family names and perhaps her own professional reputation.  I do not believe there is a right or a wrong and have friends who have made various choices: keeping original name, hyphenating last names, taking the spouse's last name and/or moving maiden name to a middle name.  Marrying again, brings more factors to consider.

I am proud of my maiden name and in my small circle, it was recognizable.  My father was prominent in our community and I had a sister.  We were well known and I liked belonging to my tribe.  I enjoyed being connected to my people.  I was comfortable with my history and proud of my heritage.  But, I never seriously considered keeping my maiden name when I married for the first time.

I anticipated the further combining of my identity with my spouse and it seemed like a tangible way to solidify our new family unit.  I was within a year of entering my career field and had just begun establishing a "name" for myself.  I remember even ordering new business cards prior to the wedding and already being introduced with that new last name.  

When that marriage ended in divorce, I contemplated returning to my maiden name but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the confusion.  For me, it was reflective of the person I had become as a wife and mother, even if one of those roles no longer applied.  Having consistency as a mother with the same last name as my children was also part of the decision making process.

As I anticipated marriage a second time, I thought about once again changing my name.  It's such a personal thing, so very much part of my identity.  I felt very strange to imagine being someone other than who I was at the time.  I wondered how my children would view me having a name different from theirs.  I talked with Mr. Wonderful about his thoughts.  I revisited my own assumptions from earlier days when I changed my name without hesitation.

First, I no longer wanted to carry name of my first husband.  From that name I felt betrayed, deceived, disrespected and I just did not want the connection.  I was no longer proud to be connected to his name.

Secondly, I did want to fully embrace my new husband.  I loved feeling connected to him, to his family and his reputation.  I am honored to wear that name and embrace the role I get to have as his wife.  I wanted others to know I was with him.

However, I would then no longer share a family name with my children?  When I asked them, it did bother them, and they were a bit confused.  One child then assumed that he would also get the last name.  Another child asked if I would still be his mother if I took a different name?  Another child didn't seem phased in the least and acted like the whole thing was no big deal anyway.

Ultimately, I decided to take a new name when I married Mr. Wonderful (Mr. Robinson).  After two years, I feel good about my decision still.  Yet, I have remained flexible and the name has been fluid in many ways.  When my friends of my children speak to me, they often call me Mrs - (the last name of my children).  I don't correct them, I just accept the association.  Sometimes teachers make the same mistake - no biggie.  Sometimes greater clarity is needed, but most often it has all worked out for us.

What would you choose?  Have you needed to make this decision?  Do you have a different last name from anyone in your family?  What does a name mean to you?