Carolyn Hax: For a loving couple, keeping her name after marriage shouldn’t be a battle

Carolyn Hax
Columnist January 20

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m in a nearly four-year relationship that, while sometimes tumultuous, I am unlikely to leave (the myriad issues would take an entire online chat, but the bottom line is that we have troubles but love each other and are committed to each other). I’ve sacrificed a lot for this relationship, including moving into the exurbs — the ultimate sacrifice, to me!

Lately we’ve had some heated debate about changing my name when we get married (not engaged yet, but saving for a wedding). I’ve built my career on my name and want to keep it professionally, which he objects to, even though I’ve said I’ll change it legally and in every other sense except for work. How do I win this battle? I hate acrimony between us, but this one, I think, is just too important.

Anonymous


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

What have you “sacrificed” that wasn’t “too important”? Besides where you live, that is. Your whole question is a red flag, to the extent that I can’t give you the answer you want.

That’s because the way to “win this battle” in a healthy relationship is to say that it’s important to you and that changing your name legally is as much of a compromise as you’re willing to consider — at which point the person who loves you says, “Of course — all that really matters is that we’re together. And you don’t even have to change your name legally if that would upset you, though I appreciate your willingness to do that for me.” No battle, no winning, just two people working together to take care of themselves and each other in a way that’s fair.

If you don’t have that, then “love” and “commitment” are just chaining yourself to pain under the guise of a lofty purpose.

You’re especially vulnerable because you’ve decided upfront not to leave and to avoid confrontation. That’s a recipe for suppressing yourself and your needs into oblivion in service of keeping the peace. Don’t marry anyone who’s not thrilled when you’re simply being yourself.

Re: This battle:

“I’m not changing my name professionally. I’m sorry you don’t like that, but I’m not discussing this again.”

Anonymous 2

Good for the tree, thanks, but forest still awaits attention. Though that kind of spine and self-assurance is probably the best attention it can get.

Dear Carolyn:

A friend and I were close but drifted apart. We still socialize together within group settings, but we haven’t spent time together one-on-one in probably three years. She is getting married soon and I am not invited, though all of our mutual friends are. I was stung and embarrassed to be excluded. Then, recently, I ran into her by chance and I realized I missed being her friend. Now I am wondering if I should tell her that I miss her or if I should accept the non-invitation as her closing the book on our friendship.

Recoverable Friendship?

Just talk to her. “Hey, after I ran into you the other day, I realized I missed being your friend. Is what came between us anything I can repair?”

Re: Friendship:

Reach out after the wedding. That way, it won’t feel like begging for an invite.

Anonymous 3

Good point, thanks.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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