Earlier this year, after four years and four months of marriage, I changed my last name back to my maiden name. The name that appears on my birth certificate is my legal name once again.
It should be obvious since it took me so long to write this post, but no, I have not separated from my husband. I just wanted my name back.
I’ve wanted to do this for years, but the timing lined up when I decided to leave one job and start another. I wanted my new colleagues to know me by my maiden name.
Not everyone agreed with my decision (my divorced parents expressed mutual dissatisfaction with my choice). Whereas my mother-in-law — someone I expected to be opposed because I would no longer share the same last name as her son — was fully supportive. She even joked about changing her last name after 40 years of marriage because she prefers her maiden name, too.
Friends have expressed surprise — even audible gasps — at the news, but everyone seems to get it once I launch into my explanation.
The only person I consulted in advance was my husband. Everyone else found out after the fact; I didn’t ask for advice or solicit opinions.
Paul was not thrilled with the idea initially, and I get that. If the situation were reversed and he had changed his last name to mine, then changed it back four years later, my feelings would be hurt. But I like to think if he had good reasons for doing so, I would understand and support him. That’s what happened in this situation. It’s been almost six months since I reverted back to my maiden name and he’s gotten used to it. I told him I wasn’t changing my name because I was trying to distance myself from him, and our relationship is exactly the same as it was before.
What’s the biggest reason I decided to reclaim my maiden name?
For my entire adult life, whenever I’ve come across an article written by a woman keeping her maiden name, I’ve read it with interest. Whenever a friend gets married and decides to keep her last name, I cheer a decision that to this day, only about 20% of women make. (Around 80% of females change their names when they get married.) Since I support these women so wholeheartedly, I knew I needed to rejoin their ranks.
Why did I change my name in the first place?
I got caught up in the whole marriage thing. It’s the only explanation I’ve got, because Paul never put any pressure on me either way. Changing my last name was never a given like it is for many others; I knew I’d have to give it serious consideration. I really struggled with the decision in 2013, and ended up making the decision to change my name on the spur of the moment, the day we went to get our marriage license.
I knew pretty soon that my new name didn’t feel right, but I went through with the name-change process anyway: social security, bank, credit card, driver’s license, passport. But as the years passed, my married name still felt foreign, and, well…I wanted my old name back. It’s really as simple as that.
If you want to change back to your maiden name (outside of marriage or divorce, in which case you only need to produce your marriage/divorce certificate to make a change to your name), you must fill out a name change application at a courthouse and appear before a judge. At least that’s the way it works in Washington, DC, where I live.
I filled out the application, paid a nominal fee (about $60), and about four weeks later I received my approval. I had to replace my driver’s license, passport, NEXUS card, etc, but in total the process cost less than $300.
I am 100% happy with my decision. I wish I’d never changed my name in the first place — it would have saved me a lot of time and trouble — but now that I have it back I know I’ll keep it forever.
Interested in reading more? Here are some articles I found helpful:
Cosmopolitan: In the Age of the Internet, Changing Your Name When You Marry Is a Terrible Idea
Changing your name means a loss of a life-long identity. It’s a loss that comes at a substantial cost. It upholds a social norm that puts significant pressure on other women. And it’s something in a more egalitarian world, women wouldn’t do.
Salon: Ten Years Into My Marriage, I Took Back My Maiden Name
XO Jane: After 9 Months of Marriage, I Want My Maiden Name Back
A Practical Wedding: I Changed My Name When I Got Married and Then I Changed It Back
Huffington Post: Why I’m Returning to My Maiden Name
Elle: Why I Went Back to Using My Maiden Name Even Though I’m Still Married
Mama Mia: “I want my name back,” writes Kellie Connolly (now Sloane)
MM LaFleur: I Changed My Name When I Got Married—and Now I’m Changing It Back