Getting Married: Should I Change My Name?


Dear Robin:

My dad forwarded me your blog and I have to say wow!  I love it!  I’ve been reading it since right before the holidays and it’s been a joy everyday!  I haven’t had any serious issues going on in my life because work is great (I’m a mechanical engineer) and I’m in a wonderful relationship.

My boyfriend proposed to me on Valentine’s Day and everything since then has been a whirlwind of preparations because we want to get married in September!  Last weekend, he brought up the subject of me changing my name, assuming that I would.

Robin, I don’t want to change my name!  It’s an unusual name and I am an only child with no cousins, meaning my family name will die with me.  In fact, I was hoping he might consider taking my name and our kids too so we could continue my family name!

This was Saturday afternoon and we got into a big fight about it.  I am writing you this on Monday night and as of yet he still hasn’t apologized for yelling at me during our talk, even though I asked him to three times!

So, what do I do?  He said he would be “embarrassed and humiliated” if I didn’t take his name and that there was “no way” his kids would not have his name.  Should I just go ahead and do it, or stand my ground?

Modern Woman in San Francisco

Dear Modern Woman:

Thank you for your email and for the text exchange this morning.  I wanted to know a couple more details about you and your fiancé before giving you my advice.

You are 27 years old and have been dating Nick the Neanderthal since your junior year in college.  Your career is still in its early stages but already you have received several promotions and are really on your way.

Nick is finishing law school.  That’s not directly pertinent to your issue except lawyers can be assholes, so keep that in mind.  Seeing as I used to be one (a lawyer; I’m still an asshole), I am speaking from personal experience, and most certainly not about Mr. Patience and Understanding.


Nick comes from a high-conflict family and your arguments often end in his use of personal attacks and offensive language.  In other words, he stole my playbook.  Please ask him to return it to me because I’ve started being really nice at home and it confuses the people I live with.

OK, that’s the background.  Let’s talk about the apology first, before we dive into the nitty gritty.

Are you joking?  I’m not trying to be mean, but why would you ask for an apology and then be angry you didn’t get one?


(not you, but the apology)

An apology that is worth anything is one given from the heart without demand or reservations.  Come on, Modern Woman, you must know this deep down.  If you want him to apologize for yelling at you and actually mean it, you can’t insist he do so.

If he relinquishes an apology after you place your order for one, you can be pretty sure he doesn’t think he did anything wrong and he’s just saying he’s sorry so he can get into your cookie box later.

Now let’s address the name change issue in particular, then your relationship in general.  Should you give up and change your name?

You signed yourself “Modern Woman” and I assume you meant it.  You told me your department is 85% men and you are slated to be managing it in the next few years. Despite your excessive use of exclamation points, you are actually wicked smart and went to college and graduate school almost exclusively on scholarships.

You are indeed a Modern Woman, and I salute you.  You should no more take this man’s name than you should quit working once you get married (and I know you intend to maintain your career after having kids).

Gone are the days when women should be expected to assume a man’s name upon marriage.  I see no reason why you should be expected to do so, and his insistence that you take his name raises some red flags.


More on those flags in a moment.

You have a great career in a field dominated by men and your surname is unusual enough to stick in people’s minds.  Professionally, I think changing it (particularly when your fiancée’s name is very common) is a bad idea, especially since you’ll probably get divorced and need to change it back anyway…

Sorry, but my penchant for telling it like it is demands I make this observation.  Let me list for you the reasons why I think you will get divorced, and therefore why you should strenuously reconsider your engagement to your Cro-Magnon betrothed:

1. He has a bad temper and despite your urging him to fight fair, he never does.
2. He has a deep and unreasonable jealous streak, even of your girlfriends.
3. You mentioned he seems jealous of your success.  He isn’t getting good grades in law school and will graduate in May but as yet does not have a job offer.
4. In the same conversation Saturday, he said he expects you to stop working when you have kids and not go back until the youngest is in middle school.
5. Speaking of children, he wants 3 or 4.  You want 1.
6. He wants to move back home to Illinois after the wedding; you want to stay in San Francisco.  He has been applying for jobs in Chicago (but none in San Fran) despite your protestations.


Modern Woman, I got all this information out of you in a 30 minute text conversation, meaning as bad as all that stuff is, there is likely much more to worry about.

If you marry this man, I will hunt you down and kick your ass.  You have almost nothing in common – your very core principles and life goals are diametrically opposed and while you are an independent and ambitious young woman, he wants to put you in a domestic cage and slowly starve you to death by denying you the things that feed your soul: your work, your time with friends and your autonomy.

Nick needs to go visit a sorority house and find himself a nice young gal who went to college for her MRS degree and who does not want to think for or support herself.


Unfortunately, there are still lots of gals like that around, and since Nick is handsome and comes from a wealthy family, he won’t have trouble finding a domestic prostitute.

“But Robin, I love him!  Aren’t you even going to recommend we get pre-marital counseling and postpone the wedding until we can find some common ground?”



One of the biggest mistakes people make when they get married is ignoring deep and troubling issues in their relationship and pinning their hopes on changing their partner.  If you marry someone and expect them to change in order to suit your needs, you are a fool.

Poor Mr. Patience and Understanding thought he could turn me from the ruffian that I am into a woman who can be brought to things without embarrassing him.  After several years of marriage and three “incidents,” we now laugh at the notion of taming a shrew like myself.


As a couple, you don’t need counseling.  Counseling would be as helpful to your relationship as throwing a thimbleful of water on a house fire.

But you, Modern Woman?  You might look into it.  You should at least take some serious navel-gazing/introspection time thinking about what led you to stay in a long-term relationship with and accept a proposal from a controlling and angry man who wants you to be someone fundamentally different from who you actually are.

You are young, attractive (I saw your Linkedin page), successful and smart.  You have plenty of time to get out there and meet your equal: a man who will champion your endeavors, split parenting duties equally and agree that of course you should keep your name.

Thank you for writing to me.  PLEASE keep me posted on what you do.  I cannot imagine you will have a fulfilling and long-term marriage with Nick.  Then again, I could be wrong.



This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Mark

    ¨I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND KICK YOUR ASS.¨ PERFECT! Yeah, you blasted this one out of the park. I wish this woman well…and hope that she stays true to her goals and values.

  2. Seagypsy

    Modern Woman – Listen to Wise Robin – she is right on the money with this one. If he really loved you, he wouldn’t want to change what makes you “you.” He sounds like a selfish ass that is threatened by how fabulous you are!

  3. raftman

    Spot On !!! – I married a modern woman. She kept her maiden name for very similar reasons. While at times it has been awkward, it’s mostly been fine. It’s shocking and amazing that in this day and age we still run into situations where people don’t think we’re married just because of this one detail. Regarding your arguments against marrying this troglodyte, #s 4-6 are hyper-critical and speak to just how troubled this relationship is underneath the surface. Child rearing is hard enough, but it’s so crucial you agree on how you’re going to do it because if you don’t, the ones who suffer are the children when the inevitable fights ensue. She can do so much better than this – and deserves better than this. He deserves a swift hard kick in the pants out the door!

  4. Tamsen

    Nope, you’re not wrong Robin. I’d bet (and I’m not a betting person) that you’re absolutely right. And coming from someone (me) who lives in the San Francisco area, Mr. Asshole must be living under a rock to think that she would take his name. It is MUCH more common here that a woman keeps her name, than that she changes it. That’s probably why he wants to move back to Illinois. I hope she takes your advice, hard as it may sound, because it will save her a lot of heartache (and perhaps the kids a lot of heartache) in the future (not to mention alimony and child support nightmares).

  5. Alex

    This guy sounds like a complete loser! You nailed it Robin. The issue is not really that this guy is disturbed by the fact that Modern Woman doesn’t want to take his name, it’s that he’s completely and utterly wrong for her and she needs to kick him to the curb. She’s obviously got a lot going for her and he feels threatened by it. That’s not a man you want to spend the rest of your life with.

  6. Laura

    It sounds like she knew deep down he isn’t the one, but she didn’t want to admit it. Her mind is screaming No! Don’t marry him! But her heart is saying “Aw, you love him. He’ll change. He’s not that bad”. It’s tough when your mind and heart are at war with each other. She’s doing a very good job making a place for herself in man-eat-man world.I’d hate to see someone messing up or take that away from her. I really hope she takes your advice. I wish nothing but the best for her.

  7. Elvina Bergmann

    Modern Woman needs to listen to the sage advice. Robin is absolutely correct. Do not marry this guy. This man doesn’t respect your feelings about keeping your family name. If he wants the family to have the same name, why doesn’t he just change his name to your surname then? It’s a simple process for him to do that-he hasn’t established himself in his career so taking her name would be a wonderful gift of love and respect for her and her family.

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