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Ask Ellie: Sharing surname doesn't make or break marriage

A wife decided to keep her last name when she married. Now her husband, disappointed by her decision, is involving their four-year-old daughter in the issue

Dear Ellie: I’ve been married for 11 years and we have a four-year-old daughter. At the time of our wedding, I’d told my husband my desire to keep my last name.

I felt changing it would cause an identity crisis and being an only child, I didn’t want my parents’ lineage and history to end then and there. It was a part of me.

I was also established in my industry and didn’t want to change my name if it limited me when I’m ready for my next career move.

It wasn’t what he was expecting. He’d assumed I’d take his last name but he agreed grudgingly. I did say that if we had children, they’d be named after him as I didn’t want kids to deal with hyphenated last names.

I grew up with a hyphenated first name and that itself caused enough administrative issues which resulted in important documents with my name cut off and having to be corrected.

Today, now that our daughter’s learning to write her name and is piecing her family tree together, she constantly tells me that her and her father have the same last name but I don’t.

It bothered me a bit but I figured she was just being a child stating things as a matter of fact. Today, I overhead my husband telling her that only they share the same last name, but Mommy doesn’t.

I asked him why he’s saying that. His response was “Because it’s true. You didn’t want to take my name.” I told my daughter when she grows up, she can keep her name if she wants to, if she decides to marry one day and left it at that, given that she’s only age four.

I feel like my husband is still sore about me keeping my last name all these years later, and is trying to make me feel bad about it now that I don’t share the same last name as my daughter.

I don’t want to change my name all these years later. I want to be a role model for my daughter to be able to choose what she does with hers if one day she’s faced with the prospect of changing it.

Should I confront my husband about his behaviour or do I just let it go?

My Name Matters

Never “just let go” an area of obvious discord between yourself and your husband (or anyone that’s important in your life) to just fester and grow deeper discomfort and misunderstanding.

You were clear about why you wanted to keep your name when you first told your husband. It was part of your family heritage that mattered to you, and part of your self-worth within your career profile.

You two need a calm, non-blaming, and private discussion about why this still matters to you for those earlier stated reasons… and further discussion why having your own name still bothers him.

Your young daughter should not be placed in the middle of this discussion, at all.

The solution won’t come from your “confronting” your husband. That step would just signify the kind of power struggle he’s likely imagining regarding the name issue.

It’s time for you both to respectfully and with affection, mention all that’s good and working in your relationship, and family life, and to agree that the individual names are not an issue, only an established fact.

It’s loving each other that matters. That’s what your daughter needs to hear.

Reader’s commentary regarding the “other side” to “The Response of Nothingness” to a man’s texts/dating invitations (Dec. 27):

“That response seems to be endemic in the female population. It’s happened to me many times over 10 years.

“I always write multi-sentence and respectful initial messages. Some 95% of them are unanswered.

“I’ve even added this: “…if this isn’t the right moment for you to consider an exchange of messages with me, please invest 13 key-strokes to reply ‘No, thank you.’” Even that strategy failed.

“Women almost never write the first message. On rare occasions when they do, the messages contain the same two words — “Hey, there.” Uninspiring!

“By now, I’m loathe to write an initial message, because I no longer find that necessary quantity of ego willing to suffer rejection.

“I’ve developed negative impressions of the women on these dating sites, and discovered that these negative feeling are bleeding over to women in general.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Couples can easily remain a proudly-bonded team regarding their marriage, despite having separate last names.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.