Whenever I write or talk about why I kept my last name after marriage, I’m always prepared for the negative flood of comments and opinions, and in fact, I do enjoy it to an extent. I think it’s important to talk about topics with people who don’t necessarily understand or agree with you, because honestly, if we all knew everything and thought exactly the same way, how boring would life be?

As an educator and lover of learning, I embrace these discussions and am always open to hearing different points of views as I understand that my perspective is just that – mine. It’s not right, wrong, better, or worse – it’s just mine.

I often talk (or write) about a memorable quote from a favorite high school teacher: “Different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different.” I strive to live and remember this every day, though for some reason when the topic arises of keeping your last name in marriage, many people are unable to respond in the light of this illuminating quote.

God Doesn’t Care About Your Last Name

The hypocrisy of religion

Unfortunately, one of the main criticisms comes from a religious view point; actually, it’s not religion itself that criticizes me but those who disparage me in the name of religion – a very important distinction.

It’s interesting and topical at the moment because in my high school English class, we’re discussing the hypocrisy of “religious” characters in Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes. Just last week we deliberated what constitutes a “good” and “bad” Catholic – who is the judge of that? How do those people come up with their criterion? Is their measure for goodness and badness of others on the religious scale justified and legitimate? This book illustrates hypocritical characters who are “devout” members of the church or even authorities in the church itself.

I believe judgement is ultimately left up to one being, and if I believe in the same God and religion as my critics, then why do I receive so many ridiculing, sneering, superior comments?

My opposition to my religious critics

I do read all comments, even ones clearly written with a malicious intent, because I try to see things from other points of views. Here is my take on the main arguments from my religious critics.

1. The Bible says nothing about last names: People in biblical times were not identified by their last names. Often times, people were characterized by where they lived (Mary Magdalene) or by their familial associations (Mary the mother of James and Joseph). The Bible doesn’t state anywhere that a woman needs to change her last name in marriage because there weren’t even last names in those times.

This is a Western tradition, and it’s interesting because when one of my posts on this topic went viral on the Huffington Post, it attracted readers from all over the globe. I learned that America is one of the few countries that even has this tradition; it’s purely a cultural custom. Christians and Catholics from all over the globe who live in societies that do not practice this tradition didn’t understand why this was even an issue. Does that make American traditionalists superior to most other religious people across the globe?

2. Man and woman become one flesh: The Bible says that upon marriage, man and woman become one flesh; one way we see this notion in Catholic ceremonies is with the symbolic lighting of the unity candle. Sharing a life, your body, your soul, your joys, sufferings, and dreams are all a part of becoming one with your spouse. To me, my soul is not housed in my name – the passing of names (and surnames themselves) are cultural constructs, not a God-given part of my soul. My relationship with my husband is built on solid values and principles that the church teaches, and our relationship is between us and God.

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3. The husband is the head of the wife: Of course there is the bit about submission in marriage: “For the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

This is always a critic favorite, but here is my take. Why is it assumed that a husband wants and requests his wife to submit to him in the way of taking his name? It seems a little pompous and perhaps even silly to self-impose Western views in this interpretation. If my husband is “loving his wife” and “gives himself up to her” just as Christ did for the church, and if his choice is to allow me the freedom to choose what I want, then I am submitting to him.

wedding

I understand people will view this submission differently, but also keep in mind that not every man wants his wife to A. submit at all or B. submit in the way you believe is right. There is always more than one point of view, and after all, different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different.

And it’s not all about submission because “husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” The way my husband loves and cherishes me may be different from yours or what you would expect, but that doesn’t make your way right and ours wrong.

4. Man leaves family: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” If the man is leaving his family to be united with his wife and start a new family unit, why would he keep his family name that he’s meant to leave? If scripture says that a man leaves to establish a new family unit, he shouldn’t be clinging on to his former family name anyway.

family

5. Lifelong commitment: “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth.” Critics say that changing your name shows this permanent commitment to your husband, one by which you’re inseparably linked to him. But my goodness, if your name is what’s linking you forever to your husband, I have far bigger concerns about the state of your relationship – although that’s not my place actually – who am I to judge? 

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Lasting thoughts

If you leave with nothing else today, please live in the spirit of acceptance, openness, and knowing that different doesn’t mean wrong or bad. After all, Socrates said that “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” So next time you’re feeling superior, judgmental, or all-knowing, take a pause to consider those wise words. 

Everywhere
  • Yes to all of this! I chose to change my last name but it’s totally true, God doesn’t care one bit!

  • I totally feel you on this. People who throw religion into anything really just irritate me. “I see it one way, you’re going to interpret it another. Can we just agree to disagree?”

    As for the name change thing goes – I think everyone just needs to make the decision for themselves. I changed my name and I’m glad I did. For me, it’s tradition. It has nothing to do with religion. As a little girl I daydreamed about what my name might be one day. It was fun for me to think about. And just because I freely and eagerly changed my name after marriage, it doesn’t mean I hated my maiden name or my family. I had a fantastic upbringing and I love my family very much… but I wanted to change my name to my husband’s because I love that tradition. I love the idea of our entire (future) family unit having one last name. And one day when we have a daughter who’s grown and ready to marry, I’ll leave the decision up to her about her last name, just as I had the decision. 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I completely agree with you and, of course, support yours and anyone’s choice to keep their name. It definitely bothers me when people judge me or make nasty comments without understanding where I’m coming from, just as I do for them, and it’s especially bothersome when they do so in the name of religion.

  • Yes, you’re going to get a lot of flack and criticism for this post, but that’s exactly why I love you!!! I”ll admit that I am excited to take Trevor’s last name but honestly, I’ve been thinking lately how weird it is that I’ll never be a Hetzel again. Like, I’ve been Chelsea Hetzel my entire life…it’s been my IDENTITY….and now that is all about to change. It’s frightening because I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself. Don’t give into the haters! Your resilience against negativity and criticism is one of your strongest suits.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oh yes, I never get into the haters and hope those people who have judged me end up reading this post – but I doubt it : )

  • Thanks for sharing this! As my consultancy grows, so does my name and it has become a trademark. People in the industry in Europe, Middle East and India know me as ‘Desai’ and if I marry the mister it will definitely change. I mean I’m throwing branding into this debate. In the Indian culture, you not only change your surname, but even the middle name to your husband’s name! (The future offspring(s) will also adopt the father’s name as their middle name as it helps determine what family you are from and your last name signifies villages.) Brown people problemz. I don’t think changing my last name will make me love my husband more or anything, but for me it’s more of a business decision than anything else.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I totally get it – makes perfect sense. What rubs me the wrong way is when people say they can understand if a woman keeps her name because she has grown it professionally, like a doctor, established writer, or lawyer, for instance. That completely undermines any other woman in my opinion.

  • Lyndsey Piccolino

    Thank you for sharing! If we all lived in a spirit of positivity there would be so much less judgement! Love the Socrates quote!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Socrates was a smart guy : )

  • I can totally see this! It meant a lot to my husband that I take his name (and I never intended to keep my maiden name), so it was just natural for us to go with the flow of how things are done. But if your husband didn’t care, then no one else should. You are right: that has nothing to do with lifelong commitment.

  • These are very interesting points! I never considered *not* changing my last name (mainly because I love my new last name and kept my maiden name as my middle name). Thank you for opening up about this and your point of view! I’m a lot more understanding of it now 🙂

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for sharing what worked for you : )

  • Such interesting points! I’ve never seen it this way, but I’ll definitely give it some thought now!

    Alix | http://www.apintsizedlife.com

  • Heather Gullett Denniston

    Great post and congrats on having great success on Huff Post!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      thanks heather!

  • You are totally right, God doesn’t care about my last name. But, I do! Since my husband proposed to me and put a ring on my finger to show his commitment to me, the least I could do was take on his name to show my commitment to him. I also like that when we have children, we’ll have the same last name to kind of unify under! Plus, I got to move up in the alphabet and after being stuck in the W’s for my whole life, it was super nice to get at the top!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      hahah I like your point about moving up in the alphabet : ) We see things differently, but that’s okay, because different doesn’t mean bad!

  • I’m a practicing Catholic too, so I lovelovelove that you pull that into your stuff regularly, Lindsay! I changed my last name for all the same reasons Chelsie mentioned, because I was thinking of it out of respect for my husband and for a semblance of familial unity, but your reasoning all makes 100% sense and I definitely think it’s valid and good and all solid points. Love that you’re talking about it!

    Coming Up Roses

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for sharing what worked for you, Erica! We see things differently, but that’s not a bad thing – I don’t connect changing a name to respect nor do I see one name unifying a family more than my family, for instance. But that’s the beauty of life – we don’t have the be the same, and we should’t be : )

  • I LOVE this! I did choose to take my husband’s last name. But that was a personal decision, just as every women has the right to make that personal decision for themselves. Though I never regretted the decision, I was sad about it. That was my name for the first 24 years of my life, and it was one more tie to my family that’s no longer there. I will say that getting married young made it a LOT easier to change my name, and had I gotten married ten years later, it would have been a lot harder to do so, professionally and otherwise. It makes me so sad that you get such judgmental comments – I can’t image that still exists today and it upsets me that it does!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      It is sad that we still live in a world where people are so judgmental about this- to each their own, right?

  • Ayanna

    You made some awesome points! I would have never looked at this topic that way. “As for me and my house”- Joshua 24:25 You have to determine what’s best in your house, just as everyone else to determine what’s best in theirs. I know many women how have keep their last names after they got married for many different reasons, and never thought to judge them because of it.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Such a great point, and I love that quote – to each their own, absolutely.

  • I didn’t know taking the last name of your husband was such a big religious deal. I’m Mormon, and religious, but I didn’t change my name because of my religion. I did it because it was what is culturally normal. Also, my married name is shorter and easier to pronounce than my maiden name: Morrell (more-el) vs. Christiansen (chris-tee-ahn-sen)…ahaha! Although, I will admit, going through the legal process of changing documents to the new married name is definitely a hassle!

  • Paige Allison

    I didn’t know taking (or not taking) your husband’s name was such a big deal. Who on earth gives you criticism for NOT taking it? I’ve only ever heard of it the other way around. People roll their eyes at women like Amal Clooney who go and change it when they’ve already made a name for themselves. But I didn’t know people cared that much either way about what someone does, or doesn’t do, with their own name… But, “people” generally have something to say about everything!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I know, people are ridiculous, Paige – you know this. You’d be surprised at all the nastyyyyyyyyyy things people say to me about this.

  • Tiffany {A Touch of Grace}

    I had no idea that changing or not changing your last name was such a big deal. I took my hubby’s last name because I like the tradition of sharing a name and I wanted to have the same last name as my kids. Plus my maiden name was hella confusing and hard to pronounce; never had one person get it right my entire life. But to throw religion into it? I don’t get it. But, like Paige said, people always have something to say about everything. 🙂

  • Thank you so much for this! I didn’t change my last name when I got married for a number of reasons. It’s beyond annoying when people ask me if I’m legally married since I don’t have my husband’s last name. It drives me nuts that people think it’s a reflection of my relationship with my husband.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      hahah yes!! So you can relate!! I have gotten that too – people are confused – how can you be married if you don’t have the same last name? It’s silly.

  • mirinadler

    I’m all for doing what you want with your last name. For me, I wanted to have the same name as my children. Also, no one could pronounce my maiden name, so I was kind of glad to get rid of it. However, when I do see my maiden I get a little sentimental for it.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Maybe something you can do as a small token of your former name is get an engraved bar necklace with that name on it – I have done that for a few of my friends and my mom and they love it : )

  • Esther

    I think it is a personal choice. I’ve always had a different last name than my mom (who re-married when I was 3). For me, I want to (hopefully) remained married and share the same last name with my kids. My aunt didn’t change her last name, but I believe that was a personal choice for her and have no problem with it either. Personally, I also like when couples combine their last names and create a new name to go by as a family unit.

  • Suzanne Hines

    I’m a Christian, and I really appreciate this post! I did change my last name, and I found so much joy in taking on his name and identifying as HIS. However, I really don’t see anything wrong with not changing your name, unless there is a heart issue behind it like a fear of commitment. I have a friend (who is getting married today!), who picked a NEW name with her husband. They are both changing their last name to a new one! I thought that was pretty unique!

  • Lauren DiPego Plotkin

    This was a great read, mama! It took me 9 months to change my name because I really didn’t want to, but in the end I did it because it meant more to my husband to change it than it meant to me to keep it.