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Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Consider the consequences for marriage name change

By Dear Abby


Like "Standing My Ground in New Jersey" (Jan. 9), I had decided at a young age I had no interest in changing my last name if I were ever to be married. For me, the decision had nothing to do with an established career or a fear of losing myself. I simply never saw the point.

Would you believe that I fell in love with and married a man who asked me how I felt about him taking my last name? When he first mentioned the idea, I told him that he should think it through because a name change shouldn't be taken lightly. Like "Standing," my husband also had no father figure. He's happy to now have a last name that finally "means something" to him. -- ERIN IN EL CAJON, CALIF.


That column produced a wide variety of responses from both men and women. However, most of my readers agree that "Standing" and her fiance have an important decision to make, and they should both step back and examine the options together. Their comments:


Most women around the world retain their names after marriage, and children take their mother's name as their middle name and their father's name as their last. It's only in English-speaking countries that the tradition exists for women to take their husband's last name. It originated from the time when wives were considered property. -- JANE IN FRANKLIN, TENN.


The decision to keep or change one's name is a personal one. In my experience as a judge, I often see women ask for their maiden name to be restored to them upon a divorce. I also saw one case in which the husband in the divorce requested that his former name be restored to him. That couple had used the wife's name as their family name when they married.

I agree with your response to postpone the decision until both of them have discussed the issue more fully. How they handle this decision will foretell how they will handle other decisions in the future. -- JUDGE TONYA IN FLORIDA


By "Standing" not changing her name, which is the cultural norm in this country, she will create years of confusion, hassle, constant explanations and identity issues for her, her husband and her future children. Her husband will also feel a sense of disconnect that is hard for her to understand. -- PATRICIA IN THE SOUTHWEST


"Standing" seems to miss the primary point about entering into a marriage. It's not about standing your ground; it's about meeting in the middle ground. Not once in her letter did she make a reference to the fact that what she and her fiance are doing is forming a new family of their own. I kept my maiden name and hyphenated it, but was proud that my husband, children and I all created the "Smith" family. -- SUSAN IN PORTLAND, MAINE


I was happy to change my name when I married the first time because I had little connection to my father's family. As the marriage progressed, I felt a loss of personal identity. After the divorce, I adopted my grandfather's name. Abby, the name change was also life-changing. I gained an identity and a legacy to continue. I think the name issue is as much about the insecurity of the man as the independence of the woman. -- DR. BETH IN GRANBURY, TEXAS

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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