How do I get my mother-in-law to stop addressing things to my non-existent married name?

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My husband and I have been married for six years now and most of the family is fully aware of the fact that I kept my last name — actually, I’m sure my in-laws are well aware of this. But my mother-in-law keeps addressing mail and checks to me as if I had changed my name.

We’re pretty sure she’s just passive-aggressively expressing her dislike of my bucking tradition. How do I address this issue in hopes of getting her to quit without being confrontational? We have a good relationship otherwise and I’d like to keep it that way!

Thanks in advance! -MonicaBerry

Comments on How do I get my mother-in-law to stop addressing things to my non-existent married name?

  1. Understanding the reasons why you kept your name may help her realise that you’re not doing it because their family name isn’t good enough. Various members of my family-in-law also conveniently forget that I kept my name, and because I love them I also wanted to ask them to use my correct name while not making them feel that I was rejecting them by not changing my family name to theirs.

    I explained that I kept my name as a way of staying close to my family. My husband and I made the decision to live in his family neighbourhood and we see the in-laws several times a week. My family live hours away and I only get to see them a few times a year. When we have children (hopefully next year!) they will have my husband’s family name and his parents will enjoy being grandparents who can pop over and see their grandchildren whenever, mine will not have that closeness.

    Other reasons are because all my 30 years of personal achievements have occurred with this name, and it has become such a part of my identity.

    Once she understood that I kept my name because for positive reasons – rather than rejecting their family name for negative reasons, she was more accepting.

  2. I think this is confusing for people of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, even when their intentions are good. I changed my middle name to my maiden name, and my husband did the same. So we’re both “FIRST NAME – WIFE’S MAIDEN – HUSBAND’S LAST”. Our daughter has the same configuration.

    I use my full name all the time, especially professionally, and I receive mail to every possible variation of my name. They’re trying to get it right but it confuses people. I always just let it slide because I know I’ve made an unusual choice.

    If you think the inaccuracy is the result of a larger issue (ie: she doesn’t respect your lifestyle choices), then by all means address it. But keep in mind that most older adults have no idea how to handle these situations. She might be doing it because she wants you to feel like you’re a member of the family, or she might be insulted because she feels like you don’t want to join the family fully.

    My advice? Tread lightly.

    • That’s what I did too! It seems to really perplex some people. I got some pretty hilarious configurations from my work for the first couple of months, (including misspellings, leaving my old middle name and combining my maiden with my last name, switching the two names, etc.), resulting in lots of trips to HR to explain, “Nope, this is still not my name.”

      • Haha, my work was funny too. I took his last name as a middle name, but otherwise I’m just Jamie MyLastName. I didn’t change my name tag at work, my business cards or anything, yet my boss/coworkers still stumble with they introduce me to people, ESPECIALLY if it’s a social thing where my husband is there too. They try to say it like I hyphenated. Nope…same name as I was before, thanks.

  3. My mother in law loves to send us mail, and even though she had asked me three or four times if I changed my name and I told her I had not, packages started appearing with the wrong last name. I didn’t say anything about it, until I tried to get a package at the post office which i couldn’t retrieve because the name was not the name on my ID. So I told her I had to refuse the package because they wouldn’t not let me pick it up, because, you see- the name is wrong. She finally let it go.
    Oh and other people assumed as well, I was having my thesis exhibition near the wedding and all the labels for my work hyphenated my husband’s last name onto them. No one had asked me at all. I am hoping it was meant to be cute, I tried to take it as such.

  4. I try to laugh it off. My in-laws are great, it’s my step-mother who has trouble. She’s addressed things to me as Kelly Hislast, Kelly Hislast-Mylast, and Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast.

    The last configuration I actually do find funny, because since he’s a PhD, neither of those people exist -it should be Dr. Hisfirst Hislast and Ms. Myfirst Mylast.

    Usually I roll my eyes about it and grumble to family members. Though I’m always tempted to address things to her using her previous last name to see how she likes it (especially since her previous last name is her ex’s)

  5. I didn’t read all the comments but this situation has happened to me more than a couple of times.

    When I receive a card or some other mail wrongly adressed to me with my husband’s last name, I send an email basically saying “Hi, thank you so much for your thoughtful card. PS: it’s really lovely of you to make me a “Husband’s Last Name”, but I really care about my last name since it was my late father’s name, so both of us kept our own family names. Love you”

    In my particular situation, mentioning my late father usually shuts people up. I try to remain nice the first time I adress this situation (and I do adress it every single time), but tend to be more aggressive if I have to raise the issue twice.

    In a preventive measure, I always send emails with a signature mentioning my full name, just in case.

  6. You may very well have to confront her – tell her that from now on everything not addressed properly will be sent back unopened. And do so. Either she will stop sending you sutff or she will start using your real name – either way, problem solved.

  7. Not only am I in the “kept my last name boat” and no one in the family – my side and his – accepts this fact. But I work at a financial institution and deal with the bull shit that this kind of issue causes for our members.

    In my experience – we can work around a name issue on a check (w/propper documentation) a couple of times BUT it does become suspicious if it happens often, especially if the checks are written by the same people. Which could result in a suspicous activity report with your name and account tagged. Just be aware.

    I would nip it in the bud sooner than later.

    • A quick “my mother in law is a complete stick in the mud, nin-com-poop” explanation might deal with the flagged account situation, but a “my mother in law is senile and can’t remember how many times we’ve corrected her” definitely would.

      I’m starting to wonder, since my partner is putting his last name as a middle name, whether there will even be any legality issues when his mother simply refuses to use his new last name (as we are expecting, since we haven’t announced yet).

  8. My work does this to me. MY WORK!!! I merely added my hubby’s last name to mine, so while my new last name is long, it’s mine. I haven’t quite figured out a way to say, hey I know you guys think that my last name is my middle name, but it isn’t…

    • I did the same exact thing with my husband’s last name- added it on to mine. (It seemed the perfect compromise between erasing mine and representing our future together- for ME!) Tell people the hyphen is silent. That makes them think, helps them to recognize that they are both your last name and not your middle, and is usually memorable enough so that they remember it.

      I had to go through HR TWICE to change my name because someone changed it back. They just replaced my last name with husbands last name. You can find me by searching either my maiden name or the combo name, but not only by my husbands last name. I missed important emails and almost got in trouble until I figured out what was going on, went around to all the offices AGAIN, and told them, no really. Look at my license. This is really my name.

  9. I know it’s probably a little late for this, now, but to nip this in the bud I sent out our wedding announcements with a return address label with both of our full names on it. SO far so good, although we did elope so it’s also possible that a lot of my family still doesn’t really think of us as married, since they weren’t there. Not to mention, quite a few of them have yet to even meet my partner. 🙂

  10. Funny, my friends and cousins (who should all know better) address me by my husband’s last name. I don’t correct it because we didn’t get checks, but when they do send us stuff (like for our wedding.. lots of checks there), it’s a pain in the A. It’s been two years and people are starting to catch on.. but I can tell it weirds out some members of our family.

    Even my husband makes comments as if he thinks I’m betting we’ll get divorced someday. It’s really not that at all. I just didn’t feel a strong enough conviction to change it. Really, I don’t see the big deal with changing it or not.. but I guess that’s a generational thing.

    As my sister-in-law once said, “constant vigilance” is usually what pays off. Don’t get upset about it. Hopefully they will eventually grow to acceptance. Or they won’t. And either way, at least you tried. Glad to know we’re all experiencing the same thing. 🙂

    • Well, the thing about “generational things” is that it makes it easier for the next generation. My mom getting a dog instead of a diamond engagement ring and my grandmother wearing a pale pink wedding dress made it easier for me to make nontraditional choices!

    • I’m not sure this is an issue of generations. Not changing your name was something my MOTHER’S generation put into motion — my mom didn’t change her name when she got married in 1974… and yet somehow almost 40 years later, it’s still being chalked up to being generational?

      Personally, I’d say it’s more regional. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve had maybe 5 people in 9 years assume I took my husband’s name.

      • I kept thinking the same thing about chalking it all up to generationality (word?). I’m on the opposite side of the country and my parents’ generation in my own family has examples of the three “traditional” options for name making after marriage.

        My aunt took my uncle’s name; mom my hyphenated and my other aunt kept hers.

        I think there’s more going on than just generational difference. I think she’s being passive-aggressive or clueless (or both) about something.

        • Totally agree! It’s not a generational thing, and it’s really interesting what Julie G says about the commitment/divorce thing. (I hope he’s just teasing!)

          My mom changed her name, then changed it back after the divorce.
          My first stepmom hyphenated, then changed it back after the divorce.
          My second stepmom has also changed her name, and she and my dad have been happily married for four years now.

          On the other hand, my aunt and uncle each kept their own (and my cousins have two last names), and they have been going strong for 18 years. One day I hope to emulate both their marriage and probably their last name choices, since there really are so many other things that factor into the health of a marriage.

      • I totally agree with you Ariel about the generational and regional thing. My mom is 70 and she kept her name. Her generation fought to keep their names and I never imagined that I would have to deal with the same problems. And in Canada (where we live) I don’t have to. Most people I know kept their names too. But in the UK, where my husband is from, it’s a totally different story. Not just from the older generations but from his friends too.

  11. Thankfully, most of my relatives seem to have (at least grudgingly) accepted that I kept my birth name. My wedding photographer (a cousin) has sent things to Mr. & Mrs. HisLastName….but so far everyone else has been on board. Somethings have just come addressed to his and my first names only, while many things from his side of the family are just addressed to him. Of course…it’s only been one year, and for most of that year most of our mail was sent to his parents’ house because we were moving around so much….Now that we have our own place and our own address, I’m curious to see how thins are addressed. I’m OK with being called Mrs. HisLastName since I took his last name as a 2nd middle name so that TECHNICALLY calling me by his name would still be accurate….I just prefer my own. Because it is an awesome Polish name.

  12. I kept my last name, mostly out of lazyness because it was too much work to get everything changed over. I get loads of stuff from my family and his address to me with his last name. I just don’t let it bother me. The bank has always been good about cashing checks they write to me too.

  13. My father in law refuses to understand/acknowledge that my husband and I both changed our names to, hislastname-mylastname.
    It really bugged me for about the first year and a half, but then one day it just clicked: he sees me as part of the family. That’s what he was trying to say/show. So instead of it bothering me, I see it as his way of showing me he has accepted me into his family (it is his name after all).
    Maybe I’m completely wrong, and he just doesn’t care, but at least, when I look at it this way it doesn’t bother me that much.

    It does however bother me when my doctor calls me by my husbands last name, or the hospital. I don’t know why, but that irks me more then it should.
    However the worst thing, I find, is the Dutch government will not allow our children (if we’re lucky enough to have children) to have both our last names, they automatically get just my-husbands-last-name, which makes me so mad, that I want them to have just mine. I’ve always felt bad for the mothers name, even when I was a kid. I mean, she the one having the children (a lot of times anyway), so she should be able to pass her last name to them, without it being weird or a big deal!

    • You’d think that the mother’s name would be the default, especially since the mother often gets custody in the case of a divorce. Or…you know, the paternity of a child could be called into question, but the maternity almost never is.

  14. I sympathise, I’ve had this problem. My MIL is sweet but formal. She sent us a couple of cards addressed to mr and mrs his first name, his last name. I don’t even have a first name anymore!

    I really hoped I had it covered. When I realised she was getting upset about it (before the wedding) we had a really good chat about why it was upsetting her and my reasons for not wanting to change my name. I thought I had addressed her concerns and that she was ok about it. We sent out thankyou cards with both our full names on too.

    In the end my husband mentioned to her that it was weird for me and she stopped doing it. I think part of the problem was she felt like that was just the formal way addresses should be written. She gets upset if my husband sends her a mothers day card addressed to ‘Mum’!

    But I think she is still a bit unhappy about it too. For now it’s a happy truce, but if we ever have kids I think it’ll become a problem again!

  15. This reminds me. For some reason the realtor who helped us buy our house keeps sending us mail addressed to: Mr and Mrs. Husbandfirstname Husbandlastname and Ivriniel Ivriniellastname.

    Apparently they think we’re in some sort of polyamorous relationship. 😉

    • My given middle name is “Ann,” and when we got married, I took my maiden as a second middle, and took his last name. And then my new car title came to my house as “Melissa AND Mylast Hislast.” I had a joint car title with myself. Ugh.

  16. As a lesbian and a feminist, I have mixed feelings.

    On one hand (feminist): WTF year is this?! Women are property? Put your name on us?
    On the other hand (lesbian): I wish my future FIL wanted me to have his name (because I’m taking my wife’s name anyway, damn it). I wanna be oppressed the same way straight women are! LOL

    The whole situation’s screwed.

  17. I can’t stress enough for this most part ASSUME INNOCENCE my cousin is in the keep the last name club but she addressed us as Mr and Mrs because she didn’t know better. She was glad to get the support because many of us feel like we are the “only one” like Ariel said its very regional.
    Now for the poster: blaming the bank is a lovely and factual argument to start with. My MIL was good but I also asked her to not pass out our contact info ( like for family weddings) so that I could be sure everyone addressed ours properly. Which was an extra hint.

  18. You know what’s fun? Getting Mr. and Mrs. hisfullname when we’re not even married. And not even like, we had a commitment ceremony, but are legally unmarried, but like we’ve never even hosted a joint dinner party. We’ve gotten a few Christmas cards like this from his family. I thought was funny but I didn’t say anything to them. I just laughed and said “Well I guess we don’t have to invite them when we actually get married, since they think it already happened.”
    Though the real cherry on top–I was invited to a bridal shower (women only) as “Mints hislastnsme”

    • I’ve been getting the same from his family since about two years in when we moved in with his parents to take care of them after his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was like I was instantly his wife–which came with a lot of mixed feelings, because we’d consciously postponed an official engagement & spent our wedding fund on moving, and because my mother had tried to convince me to break up with him instead of moving with him so I had to explain that as far as our commitment was concerned, marriage was just a piece of paper & a party. I recognized it as his family trying to acknowledge/honor that commitment, and welcome me to the family, so I was more tickled than anything. OTOH, they ended up treating me like crap in all sorts of subversive ways, and his parents were very emotionally abusive toward me, so I ended up deciding I want nothing to do with that family name. Now that we’ve had that ceremony & once we make any decisions and subsequent announcements about name changes, I really want them to honor our commitment to the decision too. It’s a bit of a pickle.

  19. “Hey, could you please resend me this check? You accidentally wrote my name wrong and I can’t deposit it. Yeah, my last name is spelled B. E. R. R. Y. That’s also how you should spell my name on cards. Thanks!”

    It directly confronts the problem, but is passive aggressive enough to give her an out and avoid discussing why she’s gotten it wrong.

  20. I’m sorry your mother in law is being disrespectful. I think you’ve gotten some good advice on this. One thing I will say, with the headache of not changing your name is having a baby. We had a NICU baby, and the particular hospital I was using referred to him as “baby kelly” (my last name.) They never called him by his first name or his last name. My husband had the hardest time seeing him if I wasn’t with him. We had to go to a hospital administrator and get a supervisor to make my husband a special bracelet that he could use to get in and see the baby if I wasn’t present, despite the fact that it was HIS child, and that they weren’t even calling the baby by the correct last name. It was an ordeal.

    • We had this problem when my son was born. Everything was ‘baby mylast’, including his discharge papers. When he later had some problems and had to be taken back to hospital we had registered him with my GP under ‘hisfirst daddylast’ but they for some reason didn’t think to ask if he had been previously in the hospital under a different name. It took a good hour of yelling at the receptionist before she would look at the discharge papers, birth certificate and GP registration I had my grandmother pick up and bring and accept that the baby was the same one. I suppose it’s easy for them to automatically put on a name bracelet ‘baby mumname’ because then you know which baby belongs to which lady, but when that name is going to be dramatically different from the child’s real name (especially when a baby is discharged with the potential for problems needing re-admittance) they should ask what name to put on important documents.

  21. I would have initiated a discussion six years ago. It’s a bit late for that now IMO.

    Personally, I would put both full names on the mailbox (mine has three last names – mine, my older childrens’ and that of my partner and our child) and have improperly labeled mail to sender. When she mentions it, just casually state that your mailman has the name of both occupants and won’t deliver to nonexistent residents.

  22. Why is it “confrontational ” to correct people who are calling you the wrong name. It wouldn’t be confrontational to correct a client or new friend who called you by the wrong name. This woman should care about you – correct her. (should)

    Be clear, tell her that this is your name (do not say “I prefer you use” say this IS your name and that honetly you find it hurtful that she cant remember. Treat it the same as if she forgot your first name. (if you want to be a bit P/A yourself ask her why she thought it was a decision you didn’t care about)

  23. My parents gave me a hyphenated last name and BOTH sets of grandparents basically refused to acknowledge it and would only call me by my father’s last name.

  24. My *awesome* plan is to get as far as I can in life without my MIL (or anyone else in the super-gossipy group of bullies I am now related to) discovering that I didn’t change my last name. God forbid I do something they don’t approve of! -_-

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