I’ve been married for two months. Woot! It seems like I’ve been through so much since then, but the biggest issue has been changing my name. I had a really difficult time with it.
I was not prepared for having a new name. I love my husband, and I love being married, but I had no idea what sharing a name with someone really meant. I won’t get into the arguments for changing or not changing your name when you get married. We could debate that forever. But I will say that it was a very difficult decision for me, and though I chose to give up my last name in favor of his, I had a full blown identity crisis in the months after the wedding. I found myself constantly saying, “Nobody told me about this.” Here are a few things that I discovered, just to further inform those of you who are contemplating the “big switch.”
1. You will have to relearn your signature
Seems obvious, right? I had never even thought of that. You spend years learning how to sign your name until it becomes a reflex, and suddenly you have to think about how to write your letters. It’s not easy.
2. It’s okay to ask people to call you by your first name
A lot of people embrace their married names. I cringed at mine. It didn’t feel like me. Every time somebody delightedly addressed me as “Mrs. Fox,” I wanted to go hide somewhere. But it’s ok to say, “Please, [First Name] is fine.” You have every right to be called by a name you’re comfortable with, and you deserve some time to get used to this adjustment before diving in headfirst. Just be polite about it — people are generally happy for you and don’t mean any harm.
3. This is frustrating as hell
I have never heard anyone speak about the myriad pains-in-the-ass of changing your name. It’s “just something you do.” But you will wait in long lines at government offices, you will pay money, you will make a dozen phone calls to credit card and insurance companies, you will mess up checks because you signed your old name, you will introduce yourself incorrectly multiple times. You may curse your decision to change your name (more than once, in my case). You might feel a sense of loss for your family and your heritage. You may wonder “Who am I?” If only one of you is changing your name, you might cry about how it’s so unfair that you have to do all of this and your partner doesn’t. All of this is normal, and you’re not alone.
4. You need to talk to your significant other
If they’re not also taking a different name, they won’t truly understand what you’re going through. It’s a major thing. Your name is WHO YOU ARE, and you just up and made it something else. But you can’t bottle that up! It only leads to resentment. Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling, but don’t be surprised if they’re initially a little hurt. They may take it as a rejection of their name, and possibly a rejection of them. Be reassuring, and let them know you need some support during this process, and your spouse will have your back. You’re in this together, after all.
5. It gets easier
Seriously, it does. The more you say and write your new name, the more natural it becomes. If you’re having trouble, remember why you chose to change your name in the first place. Remember all of the love and happiness of your wedding day, and remind yourself that this experience is, in a way, a form of expression for those emotions.
These were the experiences of a woman taking her husband’s name — for those of you in different situations, we’d love to hear the lessons YOU learned. What’s it like when both partners change their names? What are the challenges when your partner takes YOUR name?