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To Keep or Change Your Name

Photo: Shutterstock

Phase One: Our Engagement

Holly: Jack and I got engaged in a little vacation cabin in the middle of nowhere (read no cell phone reception). So as soon as we drove back into civilization, I was on the horn calling friends and family to break the news. I can't remember whom I was talking to, but they asked if I planned to change my name postwedding. I was all, "Hmmm, I don't know," and Jack (who was driving) screamed out, "Yes!"

Until then, he had given no indication that this was something he wanted or even cared about, and truthfully, it wasn't something I had thought much about either. Over the next few weeks we started to discuss wedding plans. He suggested eloping; I wanted a full-on event. Months later, we sent out invites to 150 of our nearest and dearest -- Jack's nice like that.

As we planned the wedding (which ended up being everything that I wanted), I started to look at changing my name as something I could do to make him happy. He really (really) wanted us to share the same last name, and it was something easy for me to do. Did I worry I'd lose my identity by changing it? Not really. At that point, Jack and I had dated for seven years and lived together for four -- and my independence was still intact. So I wasn't conflicted.

Jack: When we got engaged, I asked Holly right away if she would change her name. I've always felt that there's a time and place for ambiguity, but when two people are married, I like it better when it's obvious. Not changing your name has a certain element of, "Oh by the way I'm married, but I kind of keep it a secret," -- at least it does to me.

I won't pretend that my traditional family didn't influence me, although I would have been fine if Holly had decided to go with a hyphenated last name. But since Holly didn't bring up that option, it never came into play. I should mention that I have friends whose wives didn't change their names and I have no judgment whatsoever; I just wanted my wife to do it.

Phase Two: Postwedding

Holly: When it came time to actually officially change my name, I dragged my feet for years. Is that bad? For the first year, I was sure that it was all about the hassle. Listen, ye who have braved the New York City Social Security office followed by the DMV can cast the first stone. I told everyone who asked that my hectic schedule was to blame and that I'd do it as soon as I had a few full weekdays free. When year two came around, I started to wonder if my subconscious mind was trying to tell me something. Did I have a bigger problem with it than I was willing to admit? I kept asking Jack if it was hurting his feelings and he assured me that it wasn't. I guess he figured I'm such an outspoken person I'd let him know if I was having second thoughts. Truth is, I think I just hadn't had serious enough first thoughts.

Jack: Believe it or not, Holly's procrastination didn't upset me. The thing is, I'm a pretty slow-moving guy, and Holly is often annoyed at how long it takes me to do things. I just looked at this as money in the bank for me the next time she got snappy with me about something I still haven't done, so I never rushed her. Plus, I know what our lifestyle is like. Neither of us has any time to do anything extra. I figured I'd made my preference clear, she'd agreed to it, so I had no reason to get crazy.

Phase Three: After the Switch (Finally!)

Holly: Now that I've done it, I realize that changing my name is actually a pretty big deal. I don't use my married name professionally (something Jack and I agreed upon early on), and I only remember to introduce myself by it in social situations about 15 percent of the time. It's not a conscious decision. It's just that I spent so many years with my maiden name, and I made a professional name for myself with it, made friends all over the world with it, and frankly, got used to the sound of it. Saying my married name still feels strange to me.

Though I know intellectually that it's me, it definitely doesn't feel like it yet. None of these things are terrible, just uncomfortable. We are used to what we're used to. Do I regret changing it? Not at all. Do I wish I'd thought harder about it in the first place so that I wouldn't have acted so wishy-washy? Totally.

Jack: Honestly, the fact that Holly sometimes introduces herself by her maiden name doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that she still tends to say "I" and "my" rather than "we" and "our." That's the stuff that makes me think she feels more alone in her endeavors than she should. The togetherness of our goals makes them more manageable. Together we really are a force. As far as living a bunch of years with your name a certain way and then changing it, yeah, of course that takes some getting used to. But the "me vs we" should definitely have sunken in by now, and I hope it's not an issue by the time we have a kid.

--Holly and Jack, co-bloggers of My Married Life.

Ready to change your name? Check out our changing your name checklist.

-- The Nest Editors

See More: Love & Sex , Newlywed Central