06 March 2013

on identities

06 March 2013

i've been thinking a lot about identities and individuation since our wedding last year. as a married lady, there are a lot of societal conventions, traditions, and habits to sift through. 

should i change my last name? should i start thinking about planning a family? should i start learning to cook pot roasts?

i realized that i was pressuring myself to think about whether i should or shouldn't and not do i want to. when i started re-framing the questions to things like, do i want to change my last name?, the answers weren't clear.

because it is my name
i always thought i would change my name right after we were married and liked the idea of our family sharing a common name. and then when it came time to do it, i realized i wasn't sure how i felt.

is it not strange that the name you call yourself for (in my case) 28 years, changes just like that? further complicating matters, i lost my dad five years ago and my last name in many ways feels like my last outward ties to him. sure, there is the possibility of keeping it as a middle name, but it doesn't quite feel the same.

so much of my identity, who i am, is wrapped up in the signature i've been signing since i learned cursive. and yet, i still like the idea of taking james' name.

the royal we
as married couples, we tend to get in the habit of referring to ourselves as "we" and this "we" can take on an identity of its own: 

"we like this restaurant..."
"we're not big fans of..."
"we're tired and staying in..."

certainly, one of the reasons you might have married your partner is because you share similar interests, ideas, and/or tastes. and when you agree on, say, the quality of a restaurant, it's just easier to say, "we like it." but i wonder if all this "we" talk slowly starts to meld personalities. maybe you both like the restaurant, but you enjoyed the chicken parm, while your husband/wifey, couldn't get enough of the steak.

i've found that it's important for me to take a step back, clearly define what's mine (ballet, blogging, banjo), what's his (guitar, photography, fixin' stuff), and what's ours (the rolling stones, HBO series, trying new sushi spots). it's not that i want to keep them separate, but i want to make sure there's room for all three in our relationship.

SO, i'd love to hear from you. have you had similar thoughts? wildly different?

39 comments:

Shari said...

Great post. While I'm not married yet, I've often had these same thoughts with my own relationship of 3+ years. I think it's REALLY important to have your own "stuff" and then those things that you love to do together. After all, like you said, those commonalities are a part of what brought you together as a couple in the first place.

Johanna said...

This is such a great topic. I do think people get lost in societal norms but I think you have your head on straight and that's having balance and your own hobbies is never a bad thing. Always keep your identity and do something because you want to - whether that's kids, cooking or something in between. You'll never lose all the many things you have in common and the reasons you married each other. Maybe just more of an appreciation!

Alyssa said...

This is such an interesting topic! While I'm not in a relationship currently, I've had a few long ones in the past, and I agree–you have to be really mindful of your mentality as a couple. It makes me sad when I see people "lose" themselves in relationships and compromise their beliefs, values or personality. But even past those major things, I think it's important to maintain a distinct identity separate from your partner. People don't have to like all the same things or have all the same opinions in order to be a successful, happy couple! It sounds like you're really aware of having the "mine, his, ours" in your relationship, which is great! As for a last name, I'm not sure what I'll do about this one. It depends on my thoughts at the time, and how much it may mean to my husband. Professionally, I'll probably keep my last name. As a journalist, it's your calling card!

Taylor said...

YES!!! to have a successful WE you need to have strong ME. You have to still work on the personal interests, it made you who you are and what your spouse fell in love with! For us personally, our own interests keep us more interested in the time that WE spend together - sharing adventures and ideas. {Love this POST}

victoria | vmac + cheese said...

LOVE this post. (I wrote a similar one last year before my own wedding -- clearly, women feel strongly about this! http://vmacandcheese.com/2012/10/03/real-life-the-name-change/). Like you, I lost my father, though for me, it was when I was still a child. Add that to the fact that I'm adopted, and my last name is very intricately tied up in issues of personal identity. Long story short, I have not, and currently have no plans to change my last name to my husband's (luckily, he doesn't really care).

As for 'we' -- I find I mostly use it whenever I'm making an excuse for us as a couple and want to pawn off part of the blame on my partner. :) Instead of "I really just don't feel like going out tonight" I'd say something like "we both had rough weeks and are going to stay in." The classic 'we' white lie! Ha.

Joelle Duff said...

This is a really interesting, and important, topic. I think it's a lot different for me, mainly because of how old Robert and I were when we started dating. We met when I was 16, and he was 15, and we like to say that we "grew up" together. When you're discovering life for the first time as a couple, you really form a lot of the same likes and dislikes and opinions about the world. That's not to say that we don't have things that we disagree on, or things that we do or like as individuals (I love Taylor Swift, he loves Thrice, for example), but we always support each other, regardless of how we feel about something specific.


The name thing, to me, is a little easier. I think that as long as you don't judge anyone else for their decision, it's completely up to you! The problem, in my mind, is when you make that decision based on your own values, and expect others to agree with you. I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to change my name. I was 23 when we got married, and I had absolutely no attachment to my father's last name (my father would have missed my wedding entirely if my stepfather, my "dad", who walked me down the aisle, hadn't gone and picked him up). Robert is the only person in his family with his last name (it's his mother's maiden name), so it's almost like we're starting our own family name!


Sorry for the lengthy comment, but I guess you can see what I mean now! Obviously, my experience is much different than a lot of other experiences, so thanks for sharing your own! I always love seeing different perspectives like this.


xoxo,
Joelle

Rachel said...

Although I'm not married, I plan on it happening in the future and am in a long-term, serious relationship now. I always joke about keeping my last name because it's quirky and everyone loves it, but I think I'll be taking my husband's last name to keep the tradition going. I've found that my boyfriend and I (present and past relationships) always have our own lives, own groups of friends, own hobbies, etc. Although we have some favorites that we share, we also are completely opposite on others- which makes relationships fun! For me at least :)

Tina Byland said...

The we can really take over. It's important to do things for yourself. That's what blogging helps me with, really. Gives me a hobby that he isn't a part of.


Oh yea, the name change. I was soooooo against it! I am super tied to my maiden name and my extended family is so very close... I didn't want to give it up. Also, my husband was never as close to his extended family. Like my family, they were scattered across the country, but unlike my family, they never really saw each other. So that made it even more difficult to choose to change my name. Why should I change my name if my husband doesn't even identify with them that much?

But you know what did it? I am a teacher. And when you see that the parents have different last names, you just don't know what is going on. Are they divorced? Together but not married? Is the dad in the picture? The mom? If I call mom to tell her something, will it be relayed to dad? Who does the kid live with most of the time?

Seriously, this is the biggest reason I chose to change my name. I want my children to grow up in a family where we all share the same name. Similar to you, really. So, in a way, this is the most unselfish decision I've ever made. And I miss my last name greatly. But it's okay, cause I changed my terribly common middle name (Marie... I mean, Christina Marie, really? everyone's got that name) to my maiden name. So it's still there.

Wow, that was a book I just wrote! I've been meaning to write a blog post about this for awhile but the words don't always work together, you know? I am glad you wrote this!

The Now said...

I love this. Ok so we definitely try not to be "we" people. hahaha! Of course we have similar interests, but there are things I love that Matt could care less about. I think it's good to have a few differences or it would be so so boring! I also had a hard time changing my last name. ..for many reasons. 1. Bc it's Midgett 2. I had been "Wilbert" my whole life and I didn't want to change myself, but in the end, I honestly felt closer to my husband after I did it. And I'm still the same person, just a Midgett now. haha

Lena Leson said...

My parents gave me a damn good name, and I've always been hesitant to change it when I married. And even though John's family is pretty traditional, I think even they understand why I won't be changing my name. I've spent a lot of time and energy on the woman I am, and while a new last name doesn't make me any less myself, it think it can make me a new person in the eyes of others. There's no good answer to these kinds of questions, just the one that feels the most right for each of us!

Emily Fitzgerald said...

i love this post! been thinking about this type of stuff a lot lately and it's great to hear what other ladies think! xox

Jessica Lee said...

I knew I definitely wanted to take my husband's name and become Mrs. Lee, but I didn't want to give up my previous identity, either. When I went to the social security office to change my name, they actually asked "Which name do you want to get rid of?" meaning my middle or last. I asked if I could keep both, and that is why I now legally have two middle names! I am Mrs. Lee, but my maiden name is still part of me.



Identity is key in a marriage, for sure. Girls' nights are KEY (obvi), and we even make sure each of us gets alone time to be home!

Maya McDonald said...

Awwwww, I love this post - so many good points! Maybe it's because I was raised by hippies {really...}, but I don't think I can change my last name when I get married. Even though I love my boyfriend's last name {we've been dating for 6 years, which is the only reason I feel comfortable saying this, haha} the connection with my family makes it hard to change my last name. We'll have to see how I feel once I'm actually married though ;)


xx,
Maya

diane {a spot of whimsy} said...

really great post. I also have a strong gut reaction when I think about giving up my last name, but I want to be a family under one unifying name. it sucks that only we have to make such decisions, but so it is :)

marissa @ the boot said...

i feel the same way about my last name, it would be like i suddenly changed my first name! here in italy, women don't change their names (ever!) though even if we were stateside i wouldn't change it. as for the "we" thing, i don't think i've done it yet! maybe it will happed after we're married? :) p.s. you play the banjo?!

taylor said...

great post - while I am not married, I am imagine that once it comes to that, my thoughts may not be what they always have been. Maybe I won't want to change my name (I have a weird attachment to my name for some reason).

ashley nicole catherine said...

i love that you didn't "get rid of" any of your names! and amen to girls' night!!!

ashley nicole catherine said...

it's not weird at all - it's part of you! i just think it's great that we're in a place now where we can think about it and decide if it's right for us.

ashley nicole catherine said...

exactly! i'm impressed with the gals who take to their new names so easily. i definitely found more we-ness after we were married, but i do think it's different for everyone. haha well, i TRY to play the banjo. i'm working on a few mumford & sons songs.

ashley nicole catherine said...

right?? the mens have it so easy ;) and i hear you on being cognizant of the "we" - it's to easy to slip into!

ashley nicole catherine said...

it's funny, you realize once you're married, or approaching it that your thoughts/feelings might be totally different than before. you have a great name - i mean, if i had an "A" last name, no WAY i'd change it.

ashley nicole catherine said...

thanks, emily! loving that it's stirring such great convos :)

ashley nicole catherine said...

lena, i love your name! as you can see from my comment to maya, i'm a sucker for alliteration. and i totally agree - we have to decide for ourselves what feels right.

Jen PearlsandLace said...

I'm going through the exact same thing with deciding whether I should change my last name or not. We've been married for eight months and I still haven't changed it...when I started to reflect on why it's taken me so long I suddenly realized that I like my last name. I don't have any siblings (let alone brothers) so I feel like if I change my name there won't be anyone else in our family to carry it on which makes me a little sad. I totally agree with you, before I got married I didn't think twice about changing my name and always wanted to have the same name as my husband and my kids...now I'm not sure!

xo jen

pearlsandlaceblog.com

ashley nicole catherine said...

hahah i love you. and i love your sense of humor about it. it's hard because i want both - i want to feel close to him, but also keep my separate identity. decisions, decisions.

ashley nicole catherine said...

thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, tina! and i definitely hear you - a lot of people don't "get" it when a husband and wife have different last names. further complicated if you have kids. it's great you found a way to make it all work for you! i'm still noodling on it ;)

ashley nicole catherine said...

i agree -- it's our differences that keep things fun and interesting :)

ashley nicole catherine said...

don't be sorry at all - loved reading it! sounds like it was really special for you to take robert's name and start your own family. i think that's wonderful!!

ashley nicole catherine said...

thanks for the thoughtful comment, victoria! just read your post and i identify so much with it. it's painful to lose a parent at any age, but i can't imagine as a child. and his name..well, it becomes really special. haha i totally "we" blame too, but that's legit right?? haha

ashley nicole catherine said...

aw thanks, lady! and totally agree.. i feel like that should be a poster!

ashley nicole catherine said...

the professional aspect is totally an important one! a big part of my job is relationships over the course of years and not sure people who know me by another name! my last name now is pretty distinct and recognizable, so i feel like it sticks with people. thanks for the comment :)

ashley nicole catherine said...

thanks, shari! and i totally agree... having my own stuff gives me a sense of accomplishment and i like that there are a few things that are mine. what can i say, i grew up an only child ;)

ashley nicole catherine said...

thanks, johanna! i like that thought...that you appreciate what you do AND don't share in common.

ashley nicole catherine said...

isn't it funny how things can change when you're actually faced with *doing* something? i'm trying not to stress about it and taking the approach that at some point it will be clear what i want to do. good luck figuring it out!! :)

Alexa Evans said...

Totally felt similar. I ended up changing mine...but I really felt connected to my last night, plus it was so much more unique! In fact my husband thought of changing HIS name to mine! Haha. I do like how my new name sounds, and it's pretty common, so I never have to spell it out for people. It's a big and very personal decision though!

Alexa Evans said...

not "night" name. Geez!

Susan Graves said...

Is that it?I guess we all hold a last name traditionally.It is hard to change as we hear that name so many years.But isn't it chic that you are sharing the last name of your love one?chic

ashley nicole catherine said...

you have a great name!! it kinda sounds like a movie star name to me :)

Vogue and Heels said...

Very lovely post! I know that for me it's going to be a while before I get married, but it is important to think about these stuff. I never really realized that once you change your last name to your partners I guess thats who you are now. I've always thought of changing mine when I got married but now Ill gave to think about it.

-Vogue&Heels

vogueandheels.com

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