Why more men are taking their wives’ last names

I had an interesting conversation with a male colleague the other day. I learnt that when he was married to his first wife he did the unusual step of taking her surname. I was surprised by this as I have never encountered any man taking his wife’s surname before.

So intrigued by this, I went on Google and did a search.  I found quite a lot of articles about this topic and you maybe surprised to know that there are many couples who are breaking the patriarchal tradition so ingrained in our society, it is becoming more common than you might think.

A more frequent occurrence is for both members of a couple to take on both last names.  These days, as many people work and build their careers, some couples are choosing to hyphenate their names together. This is the option my colleague took.  He said his first wife was adamant on keeping her surname because she was a young feminist and he had no problem with it.  However, she  insisted that their children would have her last name. As he was the last male in his family to carry on the family surname, he couldn’t agree to this. Their solution was to have a joint name which he said worked well. He didn’t drop his surname altogether – he hyphenated his wife’s surname after his. Luckily for him, when he divorced his wife, he didn’t need to change his surname. He just removed his wife’s hyphenated name.  He has now remarried and there are no hyphens to be seen anywhere.

My colleague said that what it comes down to is identity. There are so many options now and people should do what suits them.

As I searched on Google, I found out that  in the USA, only seven states now allow a man to alter his name after his wedding without going through the expensive legal process set out by the courts for any name change. Women don’t have to do so.  A federal lawsuit by the civil rights group was filed on behalf of a man who wanted to take on his wife’s surname to show his affinity for his father-in-law. The man accused the state of gender discrimination for forcing him into the more complex process.

Another man in the US concedes he changed his name because he is a liberal person and wanted to break the tradition while showing his wife he loves her.

In the UK, a man with a very common surname of Smith agreed to take on his wife’s surname because her maiden name has Italian origins.  He reasoned that just by looking in any telephone directory, there are pages and pages of Smiths’ therefore the name wasn’t going to suddenly become  obsolete.

In both the examples mentioned above, both men state that, in the end, it was the love for their wives that was the deciding factor.

How romantic!

So is this the way of the future? I do wonder. I think that when I do get married I will take on my husband’s surname but then I am a traditionalist.  None of this fancy new age stuff for me.


~ by Shae on November 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “Why more men are taking their wives’ last names”

  1. Bravo to the men. My partner and I are yet to resolve the surname challenge and might even create a whole new line by starting again with a completly new surname of our choosing.

  2. Interesting topic- I would have no problem with a partner keeping their own surname. Not sure I’d change mine because it would be a massive hassle with passports etc. Hyphenated surnames kind of annoy me, as do people with insist on given their children 3 or more Christian names- they’ll be lucky if the first makes it through primary school without being substituted with a nickname.

  3. cough under the thumb cough

  4. It is so interestig how people have different opinions and interpretations of this subject. There is no right way or answer. As I said in the post, it comes down to identity and what you are comfortable with. It is really insightful to see what other people think though.

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