I have a Naming Issue question I hope you and your readers might be able to discuss.
My fiancé’s last name is hyphenated. His parents chose to keep their respective surnames (they are still married) but hyphenated their names together to form their children’s surname, MaternalSurname-PaternalSurname. I see why they made this choice, but now it is complicating my future naming plans and I am getting a little frustrated.
I like my full name and its flow and always just assumed I would tack on my partner’s name to the end of my name, First Middle Maiden Married. Adding in the extra name because of the hyphen makes keeping my original surname seem impractical. If you are still following me on this one, my name would then become First Middle Maiden Married-Married. My own surname is short but has two syllables and sounds like a common female first name but is spelled in a non-traditional way. I would consider dropping my middle name and putting my surname in the middle name slot, but then I would feel like my maiden name would become an embarrassing middle name rather than my surname. This would also imply that my husband and I hyphenated our surnames together and I don’t really want to add that implication (not that I don’t approve of that idea).
I feel like the simple solution is to keep my name and he will keep his, but I would really like to share a surname with any future children. I would like for the whole family to share a surname as our “family name.” He would prefer the same but is by no means insistent that I take his name at all. I’m also worried about any future children’s names having to match with this hyphenated name created by his parents. I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on.
We have discussed my fiancé dropping his middle name to become First MaternalSurname PaternalSurname and then my name becoming First Middle Maiden HisPaternalSurname, but his mother seems to be annoyed by this idea. I don’t want to exclude my future mother-in-law or make it seem like I am starting our marriage by taking her further away from her son. I think that him changing his name makes it seem as though I do not like her and do not want her to be a part of my newly created family when that is certainly not the case. I’m currently at a loss of what do to, but the wedding is May 28 (!) and I would very much like to decide on a surname for myself and future children BEFORE that date!
I think in every conversation I've ever heard on the topic of hyphenating names, someone has always said, "Yes, but what about when their children get married?" Which seems so far off, and always seems like more of a jokey remark ("They'll be Harrington-Smith-Mortons-Jones, har har har!"), and the feeling is usually "Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof": when it comes to that point, the children will tackle their own naming problems. But here we are, in that future, and here we have one of the possible outcomes to tackle.
Especially riveting to me is your mother-in-law's reaction and this statement of yours: "I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on." Yes. This is the problem. I wonder if your husband could present the problem to his mother in that way: explain it exactly the way you did, and ask if she has any ideas for resolving this very tricky name situation. My guess is that she will be stymied---but that she may come away with a better understanding of the situation and more sympathy for whatever you decide.
I agree with each point you brought up: if you take his name, it implies that the one of the two hyphenated names is your original surname; if he drops his mother's surname, that sounds like it's going to create political problems in his family.
I suggest another option: he could drop his father's surname. That seems so much more shocking than dropping his mother's, and yet it's exactly the same: he drops one of his two parental names. He would be First Middle Maternal, and you would be First Middle Maiden Maternal, and your family surname would be Maternal.
This, of course, puts you right back into the patriarchal naming system, but it spares your mother-in-law's feelings. It does lend a certain futility to the whole endeavor: why go through all these complicated naming situations if the entire effect is to change the paternal surname to a different parental surname? Well, indeed.
Another possibility is for your husband to take your surname, dropping both his parents' names. This has the appeal of simplicity.
Another possibility is to hyphenate your surname with his mother's, and both of you take that name. First Middle Maiden-Maternal.
Another option is to create a new surname, either by combining parts of all three surnames (or four, if you want to add your mother's maiden name for balance), or by choosing another name from the family tree (wouldn't it be nice if you both had the same surname somewhere in your trees?), or by choosing something entirely new.
But you said that what you wanted was First Middle Maiden Married, so ALL of these options thwart what YOU wanted for your name, which is indeed frustrating: we make a big deal about each woman getting to choose things her own way, but then we get one of these situations where it's not going to work out that way. I go around in circles: just now I thought, "Wait! She CAN be First Middle Maiden Married-Married! It's just that it will be a VERY BULKY name, and that's okay!"---and then I remembered the problem of it looking, then, as if your hyphenated name includes your original surname, which to me would be significant: if I'm going to go through the hassles of hyphenation for me and for my children, I want it to be because my own surname is in there, not because our family now has TWO patriarchal surnames to carry.
Well. I think we need a lot of input on this. Commenters, help us with this difficult situation!
Name update! Caroline writes:
I have obviously thought long and hard about what to do with our naming situation. I’ve been weighing all of the options listed in the comments and by Swistle over and over. I don’t think my husband quite realized how serious this whole thing was to me until I presented him with the Excel spreadsheet I had made of all the various name combination options we had to work with. Like many people mention when naming babies, I wanted to find a solution that both my husband and I felt strongly about, not one that I really liked and he was only kind of okay with. We sat down with the spreadsheet and we agreed on the options that we liked best. This weekend we had a family dinner with his parents and mine and my sweet fiancé spoke with his mother about my dilemma. She warmed to the situation (she has Asperger’s syndrome and can be quite socially awkward) and understood our dilemma. I don’t think that she minds that I don’t plan to take both names; apparently her misgivings were about him dropping the hyphen and theoretically dropping her name with it.
Our official decision is for him to drop his hyphen and become First Middle Maternal Paternal and for me to take his paternal surname, becoming First Middle Maiden Paternal. He doesn’t feel that making her surname one of two middle names will really change anything about the way his friends and family feel about him, his identity, or his name. They will still call him by this name, he will still use it, he will still feel attached to it. We both really like the idea of giving our future hypothetical children either his mother’s or my surname as a second middle name but we will be keeping any baby names a secret until the child is born and named (awesome suggestion, readers/commenters!).
My husband has suggested we give any future children hyphenated double first names (i.e. Anna-Claire or John-Michael) as an homage to his mother and father… I’m glad the man has a sense of humor! Can’t wait to marry him this weekend and to see what name people chose to write on cards/monogrammed items!