Historically, women were required by law to take their husband’s surname. This is because women had no independent legal identity – they needed to be linked to a man. At birth they would be given their fathers surname and when they were married, their surname would change to that of their spouse automatically.
As time passed and women contested the laws regarding their rights, the rules changed. Now, changing your name is completely optional. The number of women who prefer to retain their maiden name is fast-growing world-wide.
There is, however, a certain feeling of romance and permanence that comes with changing your name as you get married. And of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to change it!
The decision can be difficult to make. It is a very personal decision; one that only you can make for yourself. But to assist you in making the decision, here is a list of pros and cons of changing your name.
– You will have the same surname as your kids
If you decide to have children, they will most likely be given their father’s surname as lineage is typically tracked through male family members. If you opt to keep your maiden name, you’ll be the only one in your family with a different surname. This may cause you to feel a bit isolated. There may also come a time where you have to prove that you are your child’s mother – this is less likely if you have the same surname.
– It feels like a formal beginning of a new chapter
As you start this new chapter of your life, a change may feel necessary. While there are certainly many changes that come with marriage such as your living space and your daily routine, the change of a name is the only one that is bound by law. Changing your name can feel like you’re solidifying the new chapter of your life.
– You will spend less time explaining yourself
If you don’t change your name, you’ll be inundated with questions from your older family members who expect you to change your name and follow tradition. Other people might assume you’re not married, and when they realise you’ll likely be asked to explain why you have a different surname to your partner. Your kids in their younger years might also struggle to understand why their parents have different surnames.
While it is easy to answer all of the questions above and while you don’t owe anybody an explanation for your decisions, changing your name allows you to avoid all the fuss.
– You will feel more connected to your partner
There is a sense of unity that comes with sharing a surname with your partner. It also makes it easier to do things on behalf of your partner, especially if the law is involved.
– Paperwork and admin
The effort you have to put in to legally change your name is enough to put anyone off. The documents are complex and lengthy. You have to remember, you’re not just changing your ID. You’re also changing your passport, drivers licence, insurance, bank cards, and your store accounts or memberships.
The government issued documents are sure to take a while to process. As we know, a trip to Home Affairs is a full-day standing-in-line experience.
– May affect your career
If you’re at a point in your life where you have built a solid professional identity, you may be giving that up by changing your name. Your professional acquaintances may have trouble finding you. People may not vouch for you and your outstanding work when asked about you as they may not know your name has changed and thus won’t know who they are being asked about.
– Separation from your family
You will no longer share a surname with your parents and siblings. This may cause you to feel distanced from them and from your roots. Your individual identity may also be affected as a result.
– You will struggle to access old legal documents
If you need to access legal documents or financial documents from years gone by, it will be much more difficult with a new surname.
– Could feel like you’re opposing your personal politics
If you’re anti-patriarchy and pro-feminism, you may consider the history of the name change off-putting. If you change your name, it could feel as though you’re giving in to the system.
Of course, there are other options than changing or keeping your name. You could hyphenate your old and new surname or even get creative by combining a part of your surname with your partners to create a new one that you can share.
If you’re struggling to make the decision, why not flip a coin? That’s exactly what this couple did.
Regardless of your choice, it is one you have to make for yourself. Any decision is the right decision if it feels true to you.