Why I am Thinking of Changing My Surname Even Though I am Happily Married

Why I am Thinking of Changing My Surname Even Though I am Happily Married - image of two wedding rings on a table

For many, many years it has always been assumed that when a women gets married she will change both her title and surname to reflect her new status as a married woman.

13 years ago, this was something I struggled as my impending marriage drew closer. I had always been known as Laura Summers and always liked being Laura Summers. Even in 13 years times have changed and I know without a doubt if I was getting married today I wouldn’t change my name. But back then it was a bit of a bone of contention – instead I agreed to keeping Laura Summers as my professional name and for all other things change to my new married name. For both names I would change to become a Mrs.

In the past 13 years both my husband and I have changed. Recently he said to me you should change your title to Ms you know, no one has a right to know your marital status just by your name, they don’t for men. And it’s interesting I’m still listed in his phone contacts under my maiden name, in all of these years he has never changed it.

My married name has never truly felt like my name, when people say it, it feels like someone else. Which has recently got me wondering if I should change it. Why should my name change just because I am married?

Why Women are Called Miss, Mrs or Ms

A woman’s title is an interesting one steepled in the history of patriarchal rule and women’s rights. Her title quite simply denoted who owned her. The title of Miss told everyone she was unwed and therefore was the property of her father. The title of Mrs declared her a married woman and the property of her husband.

The title of Ms was brought in 1901 by a feminist woman – Sheila Michaels, although it was not popularly used for 25 years after that.

Why do Women Take their Husband’s Name when they Marry?

As well as changing her title to Mrs a woman was expected to take on the surname of her husband. This was part of them becoming one legal entity and the husband also took on ownership of all of a woman’s wealth and property at the time of marriage.

While this is not the case with money now, this is where the tradition came from. Children also took the father’s name, if a woman was unwed the children took on her name.

My Name Dilemma

Recently, I have been very seriously thinking about changing my name. I’m very happily married to my husband, this isn’t about the status of that at all, it’s about my personal identity as a woman. But at the same time I can’t quite make my mind up.

Even to this day there are connotations about a woman not changing her name. I remember at work, when I was planning my wedding and chatting about whether I was going to change my name or not, a colleague said to me – I used to think that about my ex-fiancé, but with my new one, who I know is the one I have no reservations at all. The implication being that I wasn’t really happy to get married if I didn’t want to change my name.

Stylist recently wrote an article with people sharing their views on the psychology and politics of marriages of people that don’t change their name after marriage. Which is an interesting read.

One of the dilemmas for me now is that I would have a different surname to my children. Which is the real stumbling block for me, if this wasn’t the case I think perhaps I would have changed my name already. I like having the same name as them. There are also practical implications such as travelling with children with a different name too. Every time I travel with them I will need to take additional evidence with me to prove that I am their mother. But this isn’t just a practical consideration, it feels like one of the heart too.

The compromise could be to double-barrel my name. Which is actually what I have done on my Facebook page, as some people know me by my maiden and some by my married name.

There needs to be a modern solution to this, as I know double barrelling can be clumsy. Maybe girls could take their mothers name and boys their fathers? My husband said if we were getting married now the solution would be that we would be that we chose our own surname for our family. But it is not something he wants to do now down the line.

To change my name now I would need to do so by deed poll, which would cost around £36, then I would need to change my driver’s licence and passport which would cost around £72.50. Of course there is the work of changing my name on everything and all documentation too, which is a task.

So, here I am. I’m not sure I ever really wanted to change to my married name and for a lot of my married life have used two different names for different things. As a feminist I particularly dislike the reasons why women change their name and title. If we want to achieve gender equality I think this is something we should move away from. If it wasn’t for my children I would probably have reverted back to it a while ago. But I do like having the same name as them. So what do I do, stay as I am? Change or go double-barrelled?

What did you do? Did you change your name when you got married?

Why I am Thinking of Changing My Surname Even Though I am Happily Married

3 thoughts on “Why I am Thinking of Changing My Surname Even Though I am Happily Married

  1. I sometimes can’t believe how brave and bold I was as basically a kid (I was 19 when my now husband proposed) and I said ‘I’m not going to be Mrs (his name) but I don’t want a different name from our children what are we going to do about it’ and left him to think about it.
    Our solution was to choose a new surname together to mark our going forward, luckily our surnames were
    Monosyllabic and went together well without sounding odd so instead of double barrelling we made one new word. I saw it as a way of marking him choosing me and choosing him.
    He changed his name by deed poll 6 months or so before the wedding and mine was able to be changed of course by marriage (ridiculous isn’t it that a woman’s name can convert to his on marriage but not vice versa!).
    All these years later I don’t regret a thing, I’m so glad I put it out there and talked about it with him and he doesn’t even register how big a deal it is in comparison to other men even his peers, in fact he much prefers the name we are together.
    I wish you luck with your decision 💜

  2. What a great post Laura.
    I hated my maiden name for a long time because of people picking on me in school. I changed my name by deed poll when I was 18 to my.boyfriends name because I thought it was a strong name. We got married and had 2 kids who have that name.
    Fast forward a few years and he left me. As soon as he left me changed all my stuff back to my maiden name and within a few months legally did it by deed poll not wanting to wait the several years it would take to become divorced.
    I guess I saw the surname as my identity. I liked being mrs B at one point in time and likes having the same name as the kids.
    I now love my maiden name and wouldn’t ever change my name again by deed poll just to match my partner, that has come with age.
    I so dislike I will always have a different surname from the children but there was no way I wanted to keep my ex husbands name, I wanted to shed as much of him as possible.
    I’m the future if I get married again I would take my partners surname. I guess I like the tradition? I couldn’t double barrel because it would be awful.
    My sister will double barrel hers because she doesn’t want to have a man’s name and feel like she’s his property. I get that totally.
    I hope you come up with something that fits you. If double barrel works go with it, or make a new name for you all haha. Summers is a great surname though I don’t blame you for not wanting to part with it!

  3. I use my Maiden name at work. I never really wanted to take my husbands name and double barrelling it for me just didn’t work. Asked if he wanted to take my name but it was a no.

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