Q: I’m struggling over whether or not to change my last name to my fiance’s after we get married.  He wants me to, but I’m on the fence.  Advice?

Oh, what a loaded, tricky subject!  To change one’s last name or not to carries such a complicated history.  For a modern-day feminist (and I am one, and I changed my name) the concept of replacing one’s identity, in a very literal sense, is a strange one.  Whether it’s politically charged for you or just simply a preference to keep the name you’ve always had, it’s a very personal decision, and one only you can make.  That doesn’t mean feathers won’t be ruffled and your husband-to-be’s feelings can’t be considered.

Your fiance likely wants you to take his name because it’s what he’s always expected will happen, and that’s more than understandable.  It’s a culturally-instilled “norm,” and as things change (for both women and men) and our choices multiply, it can be confusing for everyone.  If you haven’t had an honest conversation, with room for both of you to express your feelings on the subject, I encourage you to initiate one.  It’s one of many things you’ll be figuring out and sorting through, individually and as a couple, as you blend your lives together.

At its core, this is the most personal of decisions, and has to be decided as such; what inherently feels right for you.  It is your name, the one you’ll identify with for the rest of your life, so it needs to feel like you.  Whether that means keeping the name you were given at birth, or having the same name as your hubby, or using both last names, the choice ultimately needs to align with what feels right in your gut.  (Keep in mind, you can always change your mind down the road.)

If you’re still struggling over the decision, here’s an exercise you can try. Pretend you’ve decided 100% you’re keeping your last name.  Imagine that it’s a done deal and see how that decision feels.  Picture your name on your mail, your driver’s license, on the door of your office, etc. and see what that feels like.  After you’ve “lived” that, imagine changing your name and give that the same sensory detail.  Imagine being called by your new last name and note what you experience as you try on that choice.  After you’ve had time to imagine both possibilities, your decision will likely be clear.

I hope this helps!  I’d love to hear from other brides and grooms about the process of deciding to keep or change your name.  Was it an emotional decision?  Did you decide on it together?  What helped you gain clarity on which choice you wanted to make?