Why I Chose to Hyphenate my Name (After 6 Years of Marriage)
Choosing what to do about last names when a couple gets married is often a stressful
situation. Whose name will you pick? Will you hyphenate? Will this become a competition for
“best name”? Is it even worth potentially fighting over it? For me, it wasn’t an easy decision.
When I got married, I took my husband’s last name with no discussion, that was a mistake. But
after six years of marriage, here are the reasons that I finally decided to hyphenate:
It Symbolizes How Our Marriage Should Be
I wanted our last name to symbolize what marriage should. For me, marriage should be a symbol
of coming together as one, in every way. I was not given to my husband, he does not possess me.
I am who I am and he is who he is and we have decided to join ourselves together, our names
should symbolize that togetherness.
It’s a Good Example for Children
If my husband and I ever decide to have a child, I want our name to be an example to our
children (or other people’s children) that women are just as important as men and gender roles
are silly. A woman giving up her name when she gets married is completely okay if she wants
to. But to me, it felt more like having to say goodbye to the life I had before him in exchange for
becoming part of his family in exchange for mine. Of course, it never literally meant this, but I
still felt split away from my family for no good reason. I love my husband more than anything
and I absolutely want to be part of his family, but I also want the same thing for him. I want him
to be part of my family and I won’t give up the feelings of connection I feel towards my family
for no good reason. Plus, I want our children to feel just as connected to my family as they do to his.
It embarrasses me to admit, but it took me almost 4 years of marriage to finally think, “why
should I have to give up my name?” Don’t get me wrong, I love having my husband’s last name.
It feels like a symbol of starting our life together. It’s probably why I did it in the first place, for
the romanticized fantasy of being “Mrs. Bernard”. But just because I want his last name doesn’t
mean I must give up my own. Marriage should be as equal as possible, in all aspects. I shouldn’t
have to give up my name, especially considering I never wanted to. Ever since I was a child I
wanted to stay a Bradley. If only that little girl who felt doomed to have to give up her name if
she ever wanted to get married had known that she didn’t HAVE to do anything.
Because Traditions Shouldn’t be Mindlessly Followed
Approaching my wedding day, my husband and I used to joke about him taking my name
because we spent so much time with my family and we were close at the time with one of my
“Bradley cousins”. He already was feeling like part of the family so it kind of felt natural for him
to take my name. I ended up dismissing it and mindlessly going along with tradition because I
was afraid that I would offend my husband or his family if I didn’t take their name (or even if I
hyphenated). But upon changing my name in the weeks following, I never even second guessed
myself before I mindlessly started signing “Bernard”, even when it felt wrong. It was wrong to
make the decision purely based on making my life easier by not “tussling any feathers”. What I
want matters and it was wrong to not stand by that. Sure, it was so romanticized in my head that
I felt all giddy when I changed my name on Facebook, but it still felt like I lost something.
It’s stupid, I know. What’s in a name? Not much. But, to me, it meant something and if it’s really
“just a name”, I’m going to have the one I want.
Because I Don’t Give a Sh-t
When I first started contemplating adding my maiden name back on, I had all sorts of anxious
thoughts. What would people think about the status of my marriage? Will my husband be
offended? Would I be labeled a “crazy feminist”? Would his family be offended? Would the
women in my family who didn’t hyphenate be offended? Would my family be happy or judge
me for doing things differently? But, in the long run, I asked myself the biggest question- who
gives a shit? It certainly wasn’t me. I wanted this for my identity, my marriage, my connection to
my family, and for the refusal to stand by traditions rooted in sexism. In the long run, it’s more
important for the individual to be happy with their name than for others to be comfortable with it.
By Nicole Bradley-Bernard