OPEN THREAD: Is keeping my ex-husband's last name disrespectful to my fiance?

Updated Jan 13 2016
Mrs and Mr WHAT!??? Photo by Whitney Lee.
I married young and divorced my first husband over five years ago. After the divorce I retained his name out of convenience and also because after five years, it felt strange reverting back to my birth name.

Now, I am getting ready to re-marry.

The problem I am encountering is that most of our relatives assume that I will change my last name to my current fiance's last name. I feel greatly conflicted. I would prefer to retain the name that I have had for the last decade, even though it is my ex-husband's. I feel like I would be changing my name to make others happy. My fiance supports my decision.

How do I respond to others who feel that retaining my current last name is disrespectful to my fiance?

-Conflicted Bride

Have any of you faced this conundrum? If so, how did you handle it?

  1. I'd suggest a conversation flow something like this (responses for OP in quotes):

    So (when) are you changing your name to Fiance's?
    "I'm not going to change my name."
    Really? Don't you think that's disrespectful to Fiance?
    "We've discussed it. He doesn't feel it's disrespectful and neither do I."
    *Further nagging*
    "This topic isn't open for discussion. Fiance and I have made a decision that's right for us. Please change the topic."

    And if they won't stop nagging after that, WALK AWAY. Even if it's your mom. :p Eventually people will get the point.

  2. I think it is completely up to you so with that said I'd like to put in my thoughts coming from someone who is newly engaged to someone who was married young and his ex wife kept his last name. I would by lying if I didn't say I look forward to the day she is remarried and stops using his last name because before reading this I never considered she might keep his last name forever. Again this is a personal choice and I think discussing it with your future husband is the most important thing you can do. Good luck!

  3. My mother kept her last name when very few women did. (My parents were married in the early 80s, so the trend was just starting.) So I grew up around answering that question. I think you should tell people the tried and true reason for not changing your name, regardless of if you once did (plus this sounds more sophisticated that I'm too lazy): the person you are is (your current name). Since you say you married and divorced young I imagine you feel much more adult, mature, and confident in who are you are now. It just so happens that this person and identity you grew into had a different last name than your birth name. You are not being disrespectful to your fiance, you are holding onto who you became in your early adult years. The marriage and divorce made you who are and your fiance loves who you are. Plus, ex-husband does not have a lifelong hold on that name, legally and in all senses it's yours too. Own who you have become with that name!

  4. So my mum was maiden named Butcher, married her first husband (my biological dad) and was Mrs Baker, then divorced and remarried and is now Mrs Candlestick-maker (How I wish these names were true!) I was born Sarah Baker but changed my name to Candlestick-maker not by adoption (my step dad didn't adopt us) but by deed poll so we all had the same name.

    I changed my name because my identity as my now family unit was more important to me than the identity link to my dad, but at that point I'd not established my name as my own (I was 13) like the original question asker. If the original question is asked by someone who has children, this might be something they'd consider.

    One thing I will point out is generally speaking its easier to change name by marriage certificate than deed poll (at least in the UK). Change your name by deed poll and you'll spend the rest of your life explaining at interviews, CRB checks etc why your birth certificate doesn't match your passport. Its not terribly difficult to actually change your name, but those sorts of questions do become annoying. So if you decide to change your name by marriage is easier, although do check if when you sign your legal marriage certificate you can sign with any new name that you choose not just Mrs Hisname.

    That said, you can change your name at any point in the future for any reason you choose, other than to escape the law. So maybe you're not ready to change your name just yet but in five, ten, twenty years you might and you can.

    • Also, if people do get curious/annoying, my go to is "it's my name and I'll do what I please with it" although maybe not in an interview!

  5. I have no idea why people feel that your name choice is any of their business at all. You don't have to justify or explain the reasons why you do or do not change your name. When people asked me I always told them I already had a name and left it at that. I didn't get many follow ups. You already have a name. Whether you want to change it or not where you got the name is irrelevant. People are so weird about these things.

  6. I went through this exact thing, except I had a son with my first husband, and kept his last name after our divorce to have the same name as my son. Honestly, unless you have used your current last name for a professional designation as part of your career, I'd change it. If it was your maiden name, it would be one thing, but to carry another man's name into a new marriage seems like bad juju.

  7. I think that because you're asking this question you're still unsure.

    You're future is with this man you're about to marry so my advice would be to simply let go of the past and take his name as yours. If you were getting married for the first time would you still keep your maiden name and not change it to your new husbands name?

    I'm getting married in just under three months and though I don't think my fiance's last name suits me as much as my own last name and though I honestly would prefer him taking my last name and becoming part of my family rather than me part of his (my family and I and him are close his family and him and I aren't) I know that I honestly would regret not taking on his last name, I want everyone to know that I'm his as pretentious as my new name will sound.

    Do you think there's still a smidgin of yourself that might be scared that since it didn't work the first time and you had a new last name to keep that you;re not willing to try it this time because you don't want to go through that again.

    It will take a while to get used to my new name, since my previous one is all that I'm used to but I'm embracing the change because he is my future.

    Also, I recently did flowers for my mum's friend who just got remarried at 60 after keeping first husbands name for around 20 years and she took on her new husbands name, I think it's so gorgeous that even tho for most of her life she has been called something else that she loves this man so much she wants to identify every part of herself as being with him, it was his first marriage at 68, he'd loved her since they were teenagers 🙂

    Anyway, that's my say! I would encourage you to embrace his last name, you're part of a unit now with this guy and wouldn't you rather get into the habbit of calling yourself after this new name than being disappointed that you didn't go into this marriage with everything you've got. A marriage is so special, it's absolutely worth changing something of your identity because now you identify yourself as with this person. If you couldn't live your life without him then show him that 🙂

    You'll get used to it girl!

    Also, if you are perhaps unsure of chaning it because you've built your professional reputation on that name, you can continue going by that name professionally, people do that all the time, or otherwise change it! No one's going to dispute your right to change your name!

    In saying that, it is absolutely your right. But just ponder it a bit more and make a truthful decision. It does matter what we call ourselves 🙂

    • "wouldn't you rather get into the habbit of calling yourself after this new name than being disappointed that you didn't go into this marriage with everything you've got."

      Disagree. We don't accuse the everyday husband (who fails to take his wife's surname) of not giving the marriage everything he's got. Because that would be nonsense.

  8. There's pages and pages of awesome advice, but I thought I'd add in that I've been close friends with a girl who's mother went through something very similar…

    Basically, my friends mother married young, and took her husbands name. The wedding folded pretty quickly but she went on for the next decade or so using her ex-husbands last name. In the meantime she was published in the medical field a considerable amount of times and made a definite name for herself within the medical community.

    Enter her new partner. They decided that marriage wasn't for them, that they would be de facto, but they wanted children. He decided he would be a stay at home Dad, and look after the girls, while his de facto spouse went on and continued with her highly successful career until their kids were old enough to at least babysit themselves.

    First child was born, who's last name do they take?

    So they decided they would take on their mother's surname so that now they all have the surname of a man they've never met before, and who their mother was married to for only a year when she was v. young.

    They're all girls, the 'kids' – and now one of them is getting married. HER future husband really loves her last name, so they're considering both taking it instead if HIS last name.

    So in summation, honestly its really about who and what you identify with and what you're both happy with identifying yourselves as. Because in the end, it doesn't matter where names come from, as long as they're yours. ^^

  9. ****Dear original question asker, I know its late on in the game regarding commments but I really really hope you see this courtesy of my other half****

    "Aren't you being disrespectful to your fiance?"
    "No, he's being very respectful to me"
    Conversation closed and your husband is a hero

  10. I have to say that the only part I would be concerned about is whether or not your fiance REALLY cares. I know that the question stated that he was okay with it, but oftentimes people can be okay with something at first and then realize that they aren't okay with it later. At that point he might be uncomfortable telling you that he would like you to change your name because he had already told you that it didn't matter. You need to make sure that he truly doesn't mind your name as is. His opinion is the only one that matters, but make sure he can express it freely.

  11. My future husband's mother changed her name to her second husband's last name when she remarried. When we got engaged, she told me that she regretted making the second change because she no longer shared the same last name as her son. She said she hadn't thought about it at all, just did it because "that's what I was supposed to do" and now she wishes she had thought about it more.

    Basically, if you have thought about it and talked about it with your future husband, then you are doing what is right for you. I think Laurel made the best point when she said that, after having the last name for a decade, it definitely is YOURS. When we take a name it becomes ours, it doesn't just belong to your partner. If someone absolutely must know why you made that decision, tell them the truth. But honestly, it's most likely none of their business! Best of luck with your upcoming wedding!

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