Did you change your last name?

After 10 months of marriage, I am considering changing my last name to Gray.


There are a few reasons I have not changed my name after re-marriage:

1. I never changed my name during my first marriage. Why? Honestly, after all of the green card and INS paper work I couldn’t bear the thought of more forms. And, as my long-time readers know, I realized only ten days in that my first marriage’s days were numbered. So why change my name? 

2. As a feminist, the idea of changing my name to my husband’s surname has always rubbed me the wrong way. I am just as proud of my family name as Seth is of his. So, why shouldn’t he change his to mine? The entire practice seems archaic. It seems that as women, when we give up our name we are giving them ourselves and losing our autonomy.

3. I am extremely independent and self-sufficient by nature and, well, I’ve made it this far (to the ripe age of 33) without changing my name.

4. Above all, I am concerned that if I change my name to Gray, Benjamin will be the odd man out, the only one in the family with a different last name. Right now he finds comfort in the fact that we both have different last names. Benjamin wants to change his name to Gray, but his “real” dad won’t allow that.

Fortunately, Seth is giving me major breathing room on my decision. I can tell he would prefer it if I officially become a Gray. It’s a guy thing, I’m sure. Because I don’t want him to become a Shearer. I also don’t lie awake at night worried about our last names being different. I seldom think about my choice.

The reason I’m considering a name change now is simply because we will be married forever. This is totally morbid, but I keep picturing our tombstones with different names on it and that just seems wrong. Ha! I also have become a part of his family and my name should reflect that. And, I love his last name. Hard to resist a name like Gray.

Where do all of you stand?

Did you change your last name when you were first married?

I know I am in them minority and that for most women this is a no-brainer. Here’s some back up from Huffington Post. 

In March, the wedding website TheKnot.com surveyed nearly 19,000 women who got married last year. Of those women, 86 percent took their husband’s name. The practice of women keeping their last names, first introduced in the U.S. by suffragette Lucy Stone in the 1850s, adopted by members of the Lucy Stone League in the 1920s and popularized during the Women’s Rights Movement of the early 1970s, peaked in the 1990s at 23 percent. By the 2000s, only 18 percent of women were keeping their names, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality. Now, according to TheKnot, it’s at just 8 percent.

What about after your divorce? Did you change your name back to your maiden name?

Leave a comment and let’s start talking.



38 Replies to “Did you change your last name?”

  1. I’m one of those who took his name and kept mine, which resulted in me having the longest, most-misspelled name ever. I never know where my name will be in alphabetical order and it usually doesn’t fit on forms.

    As much as I love my husband and his family history, I regret my decision to add his name to mine. So fortunately you aren’t considering that option.

    I would change my name back to maiden but the forms! Without a recent marriage or divorce, it’s even more difficult to change your name and I can’t see adding that complication to my life.

    So I guess my recommendation is to be very sure you want to change it because the thought of changing back is overwhelming.

  2. Legally, I took his, but I teach/publish/present as Elizabeth Maiden-Married. I’ve never had a problem with that, even depositing checks to the bank. Definitely do what you feel comfortable with!

  3. I took my ex’s name when we got married, knowing we would have kids and I wanted our last names to all be the same. It is a long, oddly spelled polish name and my maiden name is very simple and one that I loved. Now that we have been divorced for a a few years, I have repeatedly considered changing my last name back to my maiden name but haven’t yet, mostly for the sake of keeping it the same as my two daughter’s. I go back and forth on doing it all the time and can never decide what to do!

  4. I changed my name for my first marriage. I didn’t like my name & couldn’t wait to take his. When we divorced, I could not wait to take my name back & I learned that I LOVED it.

    I just got divorced last month for the second time & kept my name during that marriage. I know the 2nd husband wanted me to change it, but I just couldn’t. I still LOVE my name & I’m keeping it.

  5. I changed my name when I got married to his but when I got divorced I changed it back as part of the divorce process and I will never change it again. I am not remarried nor plan to remarry — ever; life on my own is just too sweet. I love my maiden name – it’s who I am. My children have their father’s name and they have my permission to change it to mine when they hit 18. We’ll see if they do. So many people and their children have different last names so it’s not so much of an oddity as it used to be.

  6. When I married the first time I changed my last name. I kept my ex-husband’s name after our divorce. My girls didn’t want us to have different last names at that point, and honestly I don’t feel any sort of connection or loyalty to my last name. As time went on I decided to keep my ex’s last name because I knew that I would eventually remarry, and change my name again. I just wanted to avoid all the confusion and paperwork involved with too many name changes!!

    At this point I’m planning my second marriage this summer and can’t wait to change my name to his. My girls are fine with this now, at their ages. I personally like the idea of having the same last name as my husband, just as a personal choice. Though I totally understand and respect anyone’s decision not to change it.

    1. So exciting!!! You two are getting married? Happy for you. And yes, I agree that the decision to change your name (or not) is a personal one. Would be unfair to judge anyone on their decision.

  7. I changed my name during my first marriage, but only because I got an enormous amount of pressure from my husband while I was pregnant with my son.

    Changing my name back after the divorce was difficult and problematic (in Utah, it has to be specified in the divorce decree that you can take your maiden name back).

    I won’t be changing my last name again when I get married this spring. My fiance understands and is supportive of this. My last name is part of my identity, especially since I had to fight to get it back.

    1. Wow! I hadn’t even thought about what a pain it would be to change it back. Ugh.

      I love that we are now with understanding men who are cool either way.

  8. Hubby really wanted me to change my name, but similarly to you, I have a son from a previous marriage, I did not want him to feel left out. So we compromised and I hyphenated. Though there are people who say things and my name will now forever be mispronounced, I love that I share a name with both my husband and my son.

  9. I didn’t change mine. We aren’t traditional and my husband isn’t attached to his last name (it’s his adoptive name and he is not in contact with his “dad” and his mom remarried, so it’s not even hers). I want us to both change our name to Appenzellar, which is his grandparents last name and I love it, but he’s not sure if he wants to go through that. My name is always misprounced anyway, so I’m not worried about that.

  10. I never changed mine. I’m a Dr., so although my ex argued hard about it, I always had a good reason not to change it. I most likely never will. Now I am part of a blended family, both of us has one son, and I explain it to them like this; in our culture the most common custom is for children to have their father’s last name. So I have my dads, each of the boys have their dads, and if we have a new baby some day (fingers crossed) then he or she will have their dads.
    The biggest problems come with my step-son. People just don’t seem to get that I’m married to his dad but I don’t have the same name? For some reason with my own son it’s not a problem? Weird.

  11. I changed my name for my first marriage and out of pure laziness didn’t change it back to my maiden name legally. However, I went by my maiden name – except on legal forms. Another reason for not changing back to my maiden name is because shortly after my divorce I met “the one” and knew I’d be taking his name soon (so why go through all the hassle 3 times!?) I don’t have children so I know my situation isn’t the same – But knowing that my now husband is it – forever – I couldn’t wait to have his name. It never mattered to me before but knowing we will grow old together made me excited to take his name.

    Is “real” dad against a hyphenated name?

  12. When I turned 18 I changed my name to my mothers maiden name (which was also her married name) she never married my real father & I absolutely hated his last name. I refused to have it printed on my diploma! I married my husband a year later & took his last name. 3 names in 19 years is enough for me! I’m 26 now & glad I took my hubbies name.

  13. When I married, I took my ex’s name as it was important to him but the feminist in me screamed. My maiden name was often the butt of many sexual innuendos though (Seamans) so I went along with his wish. We divorced after creating two children who share their dad’s last name. My current partner(whom I dated prior to my marriage) would love to see me bag my married name and go back to my maiden. I haven’t done so because 1.) i am connected to the name via my children and 2.) it is the name I have used for most of my professional career. If my partner and I marry, I would think I would take his name but I also would struggle with my children not having the same last name as me. I understand and appreciate your concern regarding Benjamin being the “odd man out” in this scenario as I would never want my kids feeling like second fiddle. What to do…what to do?!

  14. I’ve been married for 13 years and just changed my name this past October. I fought it for a long time because I really did like “my” name; first AND last. But we have two kids together, and it really started to feel weird as they got older. What finally did it for me was that the school started sending me things with “Mr. MarriedName and Ms. MaidenName” and I felt like they didn’t realize we were still married. Obviously nothing wrong with that as plenty of kids have divorced parents, but it was that last grain of sand that broke the camel’s back.

    Aside from that, though, I felt like the odd man out, as you say you fear Benjamin would feel. I think that’s a valid concern, but have you talked about it with him? Maybe it’s not something that would bother him. Maybe your ex could let him hyphenate it so at least he’d not “stick out” that much? Tough call. For me, personally, I’ve been so happy being Mrs. MarriedName and I laugh that I waited so long. It makes me feel that much more connected even though it’s “just a name”.

  15. Great topic! I actually meant to comment on your previous post as well. My parents split when I was four (I’m now 30) and I lucked out, as my step-dad is an incredible father figure and dad to me as well. He rocks! I call both of them Dad in person. Although, I spent over 90% of my time with my stepdad, so normally it was my stepdad as “Dad” and my other dad, “My real Dad.” Although, it hit me as a teenager that there is a subtle jab in referring to someone as real vs. not real. My stepdad has been just as (and even more!) of a father figure to me, so I started referring to them as Dad and “Bio Dad” in conversation. I know that sounds weird, but it works better for me.

    As for taking last names, my mom took my stepdad’s last name when they married. Both my younger brother and I have our bio-dad’s last name. It only made it awkward when people knew my stepdad as my dad and then said “Hello, Mr. BioDad’s name” because they had no idea we had different last names. My stepdad was a champ and just smiled and shook their hand.

    Which comes to your question posed in this post. I’m a strong feminist who believes in people choosing whatever last name they want, but I will 100% take my future husband’s last name so that our kids will have the same name as both of us. Why? Because it was surprisingly hard growing up with my mom having a different last name as me. From the subtle (filling out forms for school) to the major (I was denied taking my driver’s test on my 16th birthday because we needed legal proof that my mom was, in fact, my mom since we had different last names. It was a heart-breaking delay for a formidable teenager over the moon about getting her license).

    In the grand scheme, it really doesn’t stack up to life problems one will face, but cultural assumptions created a lot of weird moments because we had different last names. My mom spent many parent-teacher nights at school with a printed nametag of my bio-dad’s last name and then crossed out and handwritten her new last name. Or asked which child was hers because they didn’t connect us by name. I know things are different than the 90s, but still it was surprising the number of times people assumed we had the same name, and then needed to be corrected or a printed document fixed.

    I also remember hating that we were the “Stepdad last name/Biodad last name” family as kids. I just wanted us all to be one family name on the family Christmas cards, voicemail message, etc.

    In the end, I think you could go either way and everything will be fine. It comes down to what Benjamin feels the most comfortable with and having a sense of humor to deal with different last names as life’s little moments make assumptions of it all.

    Just my two cents!

  16. For my first marriage, I took my husband’s last name. I liked it, and it was Irish and fit with my first and maiden name:) To maintain some “identity,” I made my maiden name my legal middle name. When we divorced, I kept his name for the sake of our daughter; I just thought it would be easier than having to explain to teachers, doctors, etc. on every form I filled out why we had different last names. Now I might be getting married again and I DEFINITELY plan on taking his last name, since my ex-husband’s last name doesn’t really have much meaning to me anymore. Yes this will mean explaining on forms, etc. but I am willing to deal with it this time around:)

    In the end, it’s a personal decision and to each her own:)

  17. My ex and I chose our last name together and I still love it. Our kids also have the name we chose. In the process of the name change I changed my middle name to my maiden name. I hated thinking about losing that historical part of myself. I was also an athlete and often referred to by my last name. So you could consider using the name you share with your son as your middle name. And in all honesty your son can use whatever name he wants if it’s not official documents. My stepsons mother was mad at his dad when he was born and gave him her name. As he got older he just started using his fathers last name at school and when he told people what his name was.

    1. Laurie,

      LOVE the idea of changing my middle name to last name. That’s so interesting. But I love my middle name. Hmmm… now, to clarify, Benjamin and I have diff last names now. So, we are united in our varying last names. ; )

  18. My mom remarried when I was young, but my dad was and still is a part of my life. She was worried about us all not having the same last name (I am one of three) so she did DadsLastName-StepdadsLastName. For the most part it worked for her, but she did get called Mrs. DadsLastName a lot of the time growing up by our friends. Now that we are all older and out of the nest, she has for the most part dropped the first half and simply goes by Mrs. StepdadsLastName. My dad is a really volatile guy who has openly disliked my mom in the near 20 years he’s been apart from her, despite remarrying, and my stepmom is also awful, so I have no real attachment to my name and would change it in a heartbeat if I got married. But if I never do, eventually I will change it to the same as my mothers, DadsLastName StepdadsLastName, to honor my awesome other dad.

  19. I married at 26 and was quite adamant I was going to keep my last name. So just added his to the end. No hyphen. Now been married over 20 years and don’t regret. Kids have ‘his’ last name but I retained mine. To each their own 🙂

  20. It took me 6 months to change my name as well. The reason it took me awhile was because like you, I wasn’t ready to give up what I felt was a symbol of my “independence,” and being proud of my family and my heritage was my biggest concern. This was MY NAME. But I compromised and shifted MY last name to my middle name, so now I officially have 2 middle names. I could not hypenate as we both have 10 letter names.
    I can see where the issue would be with Benjamin having a different last name.
    I think you should do what makes you feel comfortable and happy. Good luck!

  21. When I married I was proud to take his name but inside and secretly sad to lose my own. We were together for 7 years before marriage and 7 years in marriage. I certainly thought it was forever. After many things that went wrong and made our marriage not made in heaven I left him which was huge as neither of us had divorce in the family nor believed in it.

    I’m a teacher and therefore all my students save those I had the first year knew and know me as Mrs. exh’s name. So it was tied into my identity a great deal. My son also carries his father’s name. I now have a daughter by another mistake (not married to him) so gave her my maiden name for her last name as that man left when I was 6 months along. I then decided to gain back some of my identity and go back to my maiden name. It was never discussed with my ex and honestly his opinion to me did not matter. However I’m sure his family is happy that I am no longer carrying the name. I am also the last person in my family to carry the name, save my daughter so it meant a lot to me. I’m not sure I will ever be able to get married after the last marriage and lies but if I do it would take an amazing man and I’m not sure I would be able to take a new name, although I am very traditional so it could happen.

  22. My biological father wouldn’t allow my last name to be changed either, but I still used my Dad’s last name! My family used the name for everything (activities, church, doctor, etc…), and I, on my own, starting writing my Dad’s last name on my school work. I was still in elementary school and I remember a teacher asking me about it and explained that I was my Dad’s daughter but my “real” father (I remember even then saying that with a smirk and lots of eye roll! I also shortly after stopped using the term “real” to describe him, I would just say my Mom was married to a different man when I was born), wouldn’t let me change it even though I never saw him and he never helped with anything (I was opinionated even then!), she crossed out my given last name and had me spell my Dad’s – I was THRILLED! Every year through high school when the 1st of the year attendance was taken, they would call my name using my biological father’s name and I would say I go by Dad’s last name and that was that! Some teachers knew in advance and changed it on their own. My high school diploma even has the last names hyphenated (which was a compromise I worked out with the administrative office due to legalities). As an adult I changed my last name on my own to my Dad’s and then gave him the paperwork as a Father’s Day gift!

  23. I changed my name back to my maiden name upon divorce. My daughter’s name also became hyphenated to my name-his name. Now that he has left the country and has had no contact with us in 18 months, I’m going to go to court to legally change her name to mine alone. I already go by that socially but she is about to start Kindergarten in the Fall and I want it to be official. I worry that the courts will be reluctant to change her name. We will see!

  24. I changed my married name back to my maiden name after my divorce. I have two boys and it was so hard thinking of having different last names (it took me a few months after the divorce was final to go back and change it). But, I gave both boys my maiden name as their middle names. So, now we do have a name in common. Hyphenating seemed cumbersome.

  25. I changed my name, idealistic girl that I was, when I first married. I gave changing back some thought during my (two-year long) divorce process…but ultimately kept the same name as the kids, to avoid confusion.

    In a recent relationship I was told that I would not be expected to change my name if we married. It was a comment that caught be by surprise, and my immediate response was “why would I keep another man’s name when I married you?” This conversation included the confusion that it would cause at school, the awkwardness of being called by the wrong name (this man’s child had her mother’s maiden name, not his, so he had some experience), and the fact that I had professionally used the name for years. It made me think, certainly…then it became a moot point. However, I still think I would have changed my name. I like the thought of being a pair with the person who holds my heart.

    And I think this is a heart thing…here’s why: I know young ladies, in two different families, who legally changed their last name to their step-father’s as soon as they turned 18. They both told me “he’s my dad,” in every way that mattered, and they wanted to honor that.

    No matter what, it’s great that you are all happy and doing so well, no matter what your name is!

  26. It took me a year but I changed mine. I have never felt a major attachment to my last name and didn’t really like the feeling of “different” I felt signing forms with my maiden name during my first year of marriage. What took me so long to do it was more laziness than anything else. I didn’t want to have to go into the DMV because it is such a hassle.

  27. When my ex and I got married, we both changed our last names to a new name that held meaning for the both of us. When he got re-married, his new wife took our last name. That feels kind of weird to me, but at the same time, it also shows that we have created a new family tree. Kinda cool. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I were to meet someone and get re-married. Would they be okay with taking my last name?

  28. My situation is different since I have a son born out of wedlock. I gave him my last name. I had a feeling his “dad” would not stick around, so there was absolutely no way I was going to raise this sweet baby by myself and have a different name than him. I do think about what I will do if I ever get married. I think I would change my last name but not my sons. I would let him decide when he was old enough. Our last name would have ended with me and my sister if I did not give it to him, so it would be wonderful if he passed it on! It’s up to him. I’m just taking things one day at a time…

  29. Mine is a late comment but I wanted to share as I just stumbled across your fantastic blog today. Im going through a divorce, final stages and want to rid myself of my married last name and change it back, even though it of course will be different from my kids. BUT my first name is Jessica and my maiden name is Simpson. OK when i was growing up (im 45) but now?…Um….not so professional. So I have decided to take up my mom’s maiden name which is a lot simpler and still ties me back to my family. When I told my mom recently, she got extremely teary!

Leave a Reply