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More and more women are choosing to keep their surnames after marriage. Despite popular views that women should take their husband’s surname - with 57 percent of adults in the United States believing it ideal - there has been a shift in social norms over the past few decades. 1 In recent years, 6 percent of married women have kept non-traditional surnames after marriage, and this number is only increasing. 2
There are many reasons why a woman might choose to keep her maiden name, and each situation is unique. Whatever you decide, it’s important that you both are happy with it and that it fits your definition of marriage.
Here are 6 disadvantages of not changing your name after marriage:
1. It can be confusing for your children
One of the most common reasons women choose to change their name after marriage is to make things simpler for their children. Marital surname choice is viewed as particularly appropriate for couples planning to have children or who already have young children. 3
Kids can find it confusing when their parents have different last names. It might be difficult for them to understand why mommy has a different name than daddy.
Changing your name after marriage can help to avoid all of this confusion. It will make it clear which surname is the family surname and which one is the birth surname. This can be helpful for your children as they grow up and helps to establish a sense of identity for them.
In addition, there is also evidence of negative perceptions of mothers who do not change their surnames after marriage. In particular, they’re often seen as less attractive and make worse mothers. 4
So, if you’re considering not changing your name after marriage, be aware that it could have some negative consequences for your children.
However, if you’re not planning on having children, or you already have children from a previous relationship, this may not be as big of a concern for you.
2. Sometimes you will have to prove your marriage
If you decide to keep your birth surname after marriage, you may find that you have to prove your relationship in certain situations. For example, when your husband or wife is in a hospital because of an emergency, and you want to be with them, you will have to provide documentation to prove that you are married.
This can be a hassle and can add an extra level of stress to your life. It’s much easier to just change your name and avoid all of this confusion. But to be honest, this is something that rarely comes up for most people.
3. People are going to talk behind your back
Believe it or not, even after two centuries of abolishing the legal doctrine that required a woman to take her husband’s name upon marriage, some people still see retaining your birth surname as a big deal or even strange. 5 You might get strange looks from people when they find out you didn’t change your name after marriage. They might start to gossip behind your back and speculate about the reasons why you made this decision.
Even if you just hyphenate your surname, you might still be perceived as being “career-oriented” or worse, others might speculate that you’re more likely to commit adultery than those who change their surname. 6
However, this should not be a deterrent from changing your name. Ultimately, it is your decision, and you should do what makes you happy. Let the people talk - it’s none of their business anyway!
4. People assume you’re not married
When you have two different surnames, people are going to assume that you’re not married. This can lead to some awkward conversations and situations, especially if you’re out with your spouse.
To avoid confusion, changing your name is one but not the only solution. If it bothers you that people are going to think you’re unmarried, then changing your surname is an easy way to go. However, if you’re okay with people assuming you’re unmarried, then there is no issue with keeping your birth surname.
What is the real definition of marriage, anyway? The answer may surprise you.
5. Conservative relatives may not be happy with your decision
Your conservative relatives may not be happy with your decision to keep your birth surname after marriage. They may see it as a sign that you’re not committed to the marriage or that you’re not taking it seriously.
In a study of married, Catholic, American women, non-traditional marital surnaming practice such as retaining or hyphenating was seen by some as less committed to the marriage, indicating an intention to eventually leave the marriage or self-centeredness. 7 So, if you come from a conservative family, they may not be too thrilled about your decision.
However, you don’t have to change your name just to make your relatives happy. If they’re not going to be supportive of your decision, then it’s probably not worth doing it just to please them. You should do what makes you happy and comfortable and if that means keeping your birth surname, then go for it!
6. After all, there are not many disadvantages
Luckily, in today’s world, there is substantial progress when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality. 8 As a result, the disadvantages of keeping your birth surname are not as significant as they used to be. So, if you’re comfortable with it and you’re not worried about the potential consequences, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t keep your birth surname after marriage.
There are also pros to keeping your birth surname. Just to name a few:
- You won’t have to change your name on all your legal documents.
- You don’t have to go through the hassle of changing your name on social media platforms.
- You get to keep your family name and maintain your identity.
- If you get divorced, you’ll have to go through the process of changing your name back again.
- You set a feminist example for other women who may want to keep their birth surname after marriage.
If you don’t want to change your surname, then don’t do it. There are not many disadvantages to it, and in the end, it’s your decision whether or not to change your name. Weigh the pros and cons and make the choice that’s best for you!
Whether you choose to hyphenate your last name, take your spouse’s last name, or keep your maiden name after marriage is a personal choice that can have some minor disadvantages but ultimately won’t cause too much trouble. It’s important to remember that whatever decision you make, it will be respected and supported by those who care about you. So don’t stress too much about the decision – just go with what feels right for you!
The best marriage books of all time
If you’re looking for advice on making your marriage work, you’re in luck. This list of books is packed with information and tips from the happiest couples on earth. So whether you’re struggling to keep your relationship together or want to make it even better, these books have something for you.
- The Single Girl's Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming A Stepmother With Humor And Grace
- For Married Men Only: Three Principles for Loving Your Wife
- Relationship Goals: How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex
- The Emotionally Healthy Marriage: Growing Closer by Understanding Each Other
Gooding, G. E., & Kreider, R. M. (2010). Women’s marital naming choices in a nationally representative sample. Journal of Family Issues, 31(5), 681-701. ↩︎
Seheuble, L. K., & Johnson, D. R. (1998). Attitudes Toward Women’s Marital Name Choices. Names, 46(2), 83-96. ↩︎
Murray, T. E. (1997). Attitudes toward married women’s surnames: Evidence from the American Midwest. Names, 45(3), 163-183. ↩︎
Forbes, G. B., Adams-Curtis, L. E., White, K. B., & Hamm, N. R. (2002). Perceptions of married women and married men with hyphenated surnames. Sex Roles, 46(5), 167-175. ↩︎
Suter, E. A. (2004). Tradition never goes out of style: The role of tradition in women’s naming practices. The Communication Review, 7(1), 57-87. ↩︎
England, P., Levine, A., and Mishel, E. (2020). Progress toward gender equality in the United States has slowed or stalled. PNAS 117, 6990–6997. ↩︎