A good friend of mine reached out to me the other day and asked me whether I had ever written about wives taking on their husbands’ surname after the wedding. To be honest, I haven’t written anything on marriage, save for our wedding day, because I feel like I’m still green on matters regarding the institution. I’ve been married for 1 year 8 months to be precise, and if marriage was an ocean, we’re still on the shores and we’ve just dipped in our toes to test the temperatures. Looking into the vastness of it all, we continuously hope and pray that it has the best experiences in store for us.
I would like to share the lessons I’ve learnt from it a few years from now and tell you how wonderful it is to be married and the things that make up a great marriage. So far so good, it has been amazing. One might say we’re still honeymooning, and well, we very much could be,
… but remember that to love is a choice. Every waking day, whether its 1 day or 30 years into marriage, you make that choice to love your person and to do the very things that love expects you to be and to do.
My reference is always 1st Corinthians 13: 3-8, and putting religion aside, I just think it’s a good and practical definition of what love is.
I remember one time asking my mother how she managed to completely take on my father’s name. I knew from a tender age that when you marry someone or when someone marries you from a ladies perspective, because that’s how it is culturally, you take on your husband’s name. I mean, that’s just how it worked, no? Most of my aunties and parents friends also officially used their husband’s name – Mrs. So & So. It’s only later that I got to find out that there was actually the option of people hyphenating i.e. retain their surname, hyphenate and add on their husbands surname or even retaining their surname entirely.
My mother’s story is that she changed her name because she needed to be transferred to where my father was based. They were both Civil Servants (working for the Government) and they were based in different locations. Once they got married, they had the benefit of getting a transfer so as to be based in the same location. And in the process of getting all their documents together, she figured, why not just change the surname while at it? It after all made the process smoother. And so she did. But there was also the traditional aspect that when you change your name to bear you husbands’ name, it makes them feel good, like you’re in this completely and that he’s the Mzee wa Nyumba (man of the house). I know most men won’t openly agree to this, but there’s something about it that boosts their ego.
Case in point, my father’s story on the other hand was that she’s the one wanted to change the name, so he helped her with the process. Ha! I wasn’t convinced so I asked him what his expectations had been and he said that it didn’t really matter if she changed or not. Still not convinced, I asked him if he felt some extra sense of responsibility for having his wife take on his name and he wasn’t budging in because his response was, “the moment you get married, you already know that you have a big responsibility.” Ha ha! There was no getting the answer I wanted to get, but deep down I know he was downplaying it.
When my time came, and I got married, I hadn’t put much thought into the name thing. I had never had that discussion with my family or friends on take on surnames once you get married, I knew it was rather obvious that one would, eventually. What I remember is that during our marriage counselling session we had a discussion around what our expectations were and this one wasn’t that much of a big deal for either of us. Although, I know that if I needed to do it today, I don’t have a problem doing it.
I love my father’s surname, it has a nice ring to it and I’m used to being referred as “Mercy Kawiria Rincuni”. I’ve had the name for the past 28 years, using 2015 as the year I would have taken up my husband’s surname. Well, my plan is to gradually fade off my father’s surname as I take on my husband’s surname. So far, I have just added it on my social media platforms. The only barrier between me and doing it officially is the complexity of it all. The process of changing my legal documents to accommodate his name leaves me wondering, “is it really necessary?” But maybe I should make that effort to find out what the process is before making the assumption that it’s complex. So yes, I would take on his name simply to honor our marriage, because we both left our families to start our own and we’re giving it an identity. I’m a tad still traditional when it comes to this, so don’t mind me.
I carried out a short survey to find out what different people think about this concept of taking on the husbands name and it’s quite interesting the diversity of thoughts, which I will share in summary. For the women, some said yes they would take on their husbands’ surnames, while others said no. The reasons you wonder? For the yeses, it was to show a bond in the marriage and a sense of belonging; to show a new identity; because it’s tradition and it’s one of the things that are a symbol of two becoming one; because he’s now her nuclear family and for biblical reasons.
For the no’s, it’s the lack of assurance of permanence, because the husband is not the father so when the relationship ends one has to deal with a name they don’t necessarily want to be associated with. Also on matters of equality and modern day arrangements, we are past the era of women taking up their husbands’ name. That if we’re truly fighting for equality, then why should the woman be the one to take up the name of her husband? For equality in marriage, everyone should just retain their surnames as they were. We could generate a heated argument here ey!
For the men, it was about what they felt when their wives either took up or didn’t take up their surname and what their expectation was after the wedding day. And so far so good based on the feedback received, it seems like it’s really no biggie for them. There’s some whose wives never took their name and they’ve been married for years and they have no issue with that choice at all. Others understand that in this modern age some women have built an identity with their surname and its representative of who they are, so in that sense they’re okay with them not taking on their surname. However, it would still be an honor if they took up their surname, so they secretly hope that they will someday.
In conclusion, I think every marriage is unique and so are the people in it. And at the end of the day, most of the decisions you make regarding how you’ll run your home/marriage are personal to you regardless of the society’s expectations. When you enter your home and you close the door, the society takes a back seat and you and your significant other are the ones that drive your marriage into what you want it to be.
So whether you take on a name or you don’t, the onus is on you. Just make sure that you find out what it means to your significant other while at it and come to a mutual agreement. When you’re in marriage, personal decisions are sometimes not so personal in as much as you feel they are and you are entitled to them, it’s important to discuss and involve your significant others in your decision making process so that they feel like they are part of your life, just like you are a part of theirs.
For those that filled in the survey, I would like to say a special thank you for doing so, you’ve given me a broad perspective on this topic. For those that haven’t, please take a moment to fill in the survey as I would still like to get your opinion for future reference and for the next blog post regarding the wearing of wedding bands. Here’s the link to the survey: https://goo.gl/forms/Qp4BGenDJbkYCbMu2 😀