Dear Wendy: “My Girlfriend Refuses To Take My Name If We Marry”

I’m 26 and my girlfriend is 28 and we’ve been dating for a little over seven months. We both want the same things in life — marriage, kids, close ties to family on both sides, prosperous careers and a house in the ‘burbs. Things have been terrific, the best relationship either of us has been in, we love each other very much and recently moved in together. The thing is, my girlfriend has made it clear that if we marry, she feels like she would be losing a part of herself if she took my last name. It’s very important to me that a family unit share the same last name, though. I’m not a hard line traditionalist and certainly not a macho, domineering type — but I feel like something would be missing, or like I would not be totally and completely loved if my wife rejected that part of me. Likewise, hyphenated names do not sit well with me. We’ve discussed this and I’ve made it clear I will not marry or start a family with someone who will not accept my last name (which, by the way, isn’t something odd or off-putting like, say, “Latrine”). I did not deliver this to her as an ultimatum, rather, as part of a well-mannered conversation in which I also made it clear I would stay with her forever without marriage. I worry, though, that this difference has set an expiration date for our relationship. Am I being unreasonable? — Name Withheld

You’re not a hard-line traditionalist or a domineering macho type? Good! Then you shouldn’t have a problem with taking your wife’s name if you feel so strong in your convictions that a family unit should share the same surname. Maybe your girlfriend would even be open to creating a new last name you both take when you marry. Still feel like it’s the woman’s job to take the man’s name and you’re not going to marry any woman who disagrees? Well, maybe that traditionalist macho label fits a little more snugly then you’d like to admit.

Does that mean your relationship has an expiration date? Pretty much! If you both want kids and you’re refusing to have them with a woman who won’t take your name, obviously this isn’t a relationship that will last much longer. Maybe it’s time for you to open your mind a little and ask yourself why a name-change is the only way you can feel “totally and completely” loved by a woman. If you aren’t willing to change your name, does that mean you don’t totally and completely love your girlfriend, hmm?

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