Love & Relationships

Published on January 22nd, 2011 | by thevyne

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What’s In A Name?: Reflections From A Newlywed

By Bethany Gardner

I had never given much thought to changing my name before I got engaged. Sure, I’d tied my first name to various boyfriends’ surnames to test out how they sounded, or to make sure they wouldn’t cause our future progeny to be teased at some later date, but once the relationship ended, the idealizations I’d created did too. However, a couple of months after my then-fiancee and I became engaged, he broached the topic with me- would I consider taking his name after we married?

Well, now. That long-ago sweet daydream had metamorphosed into my current real-life dilemma. In my head, I could always add and subtract my partner’s name at will, never seriously reflecting on what it meant to take on another person’s name. I hadn’t thought about it too deeply before, but my name was more than just the last name of my father and his father before him. I’d imbued it with all of my accomplishments, my professional reputation, my personal achievements. When someone referred me to someone else, my name stood for something. It was my personal brand, as much so as the swoosh logo is Nike’s, and I had spent the last 30 years making sure that brand stood for something strong, passionate, and indomitable. Converting to another name basically meant I’d be starting over from scratch, and I had serious doubts that I could, or even wanted, to do this. Who would Michael have been if he had changed his last name when he left The Jacksons?

These are the thoughts that kept me up at night… and ultimately what led me to change my last name to that of my now husband’s. Relinquishing my last name, my very identity for the entirety of my life, became my way of putting “skin in the game”. I was giving my future husband the very best of who I was, to let him and even myself know that I’m in this for the long haul (for those of you who have become reacquainted with wait times at the DMV, Social Security Office, local bank, etc.- you know that this process is not for the easily deterred). My marriage wasn’t something I was doing on a lark, or because it seemed like a good idea at the time…until it didn’t. I felt this relationship to be pre-destined by God, and consecrated, which ultimately was enough of a confirmation for me. It shifted my mindset away from what I might be losing, to focus on what I was actually gaining- a new start, a fresh beginning, and a wonderful partner with whom to share the journey.

There are still days that go by when I miss my old name- accidentally using it when I introduce myself to new acquaintances, signing it, then scribbling it out on checks or credit card receipts, or writing it on Christmas cards to my brother and his family, the only ones left who still retain my family name (my mother remarried when I was a teenager). But when I use my new name, I feel like I’m building something special, something greater than myself. Changing my name wasn’t an easy decision, but I’ve learned over the years that nothing worth doing ever is. I think even MJ could co-sign that.

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One Response to What’s In A Name?: Reflections From A Newlywed

  1. Ruth J. Conrad says:

    This thoughtful article impacted me in two ways. First, because I faced the same dilemma 16 years ago and secondly, because the author is my daughter. When I married her father, I kept my maiden name and hyphenated his. Computers hated my forward thinking! Strangers butchered the spelling. When I divorced and remarried many years later, I made a conscious decision to take my husband’s simple to spell and pronounce Scottish surname. All of my profession and personal achievements are in this adopted name. Shakespeare said it best,”A rose by any other name…”

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