By Robin Hilmantel, Women's Health
Hello, my name is....
Will middle school girls doodling "Mrs." in front of their crushes' last names soon be a thing of the past? More than one in four brides want to keep or at least hyphenate their last names, according to a new survey from WeddingDays.co.uk, a UK wedding directory.
Granted, the site only polled 200 brides-to-be from overseas. So we decided to look into how women feel on this side of the pond. Turns out, it's a slightly different story: Just 8 percent of married women have decided to keep their last names (while about 6 percent either hyphenate or modify their last names in some other way), according to a 2011 survey from The Knot.
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The number of women keeping their maiden names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, when about 23 percent of married women decided to buck the name-taking tradition, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality. The same research found that the number decreased to about 18 percent in the 2000s, although it's worth noting that a woman's age when she ties the knot seems to make a big difference; women who get married when they're 35 to 39 years old are 6.4 times more likely to keep their names than women who put a ring on it between the ages of 20 and 24, according to a 2010 study published in Names: A Journal of Onomastics.
What's up with the decline? It could be tied to the fact that the marriage rate in the U.S. is the lowest it's been in more than a century, according to a report from The National Center for Family and Marriage Research; it's entirely possible that, rather than holding onto their own last names after marriage, some women aren't as interested in getting married at all.
Still, we were taken aback by the numbers-especially since there are so many valid reasons to want to keep your own name: You may have built up a professional reputation that you don't want to compromise, you may feel like changing your name means sacrificing part of your identity, you may not want to imply (even in the slightest) that getting married means your partner is gaining "ownership" of you, you may want to honor to your family-and the list goes on.
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But as surprising as the low percentage of women keeping their own names might be, how men feel on the subject is even more shocking. We polled Men's Health readers about how they'd feel if their wives kept their last names, and more than 400 people responded. We had no idea this was such a hot-button issue. See for yourself what they had to say:
63.3 percent of Men's Health followers said they would be upset if their wives kept their maiden names.
"I'd like her to want to be a part of my family and be proud of our name." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"One family, one name. If she didn't take my name, I'd seriously question her faith in us lasting as a couple. And I don't want hyphenated kids." -Brandon Robert Joseph Peyton, via Facebook
"I believe the purpose of marriage is raising children, and children take their father's name (as a way of identifying paternity). Mothers always have a special bond, carrying their young. Fathers don't, so [passing on our name] is our compensation." -Matthew Bratcher, via Facebook
"It sounds like she's trying to hang onto her "single person" identity and not identify with the fact that she's married now." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"Hyphenation is a direct "f*ck you" to a man's masculinity… it elevates his father-in-law's manhood over his own." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
96.3 percent of Men's Health followers said they wouldn't take a woman's last name if she asked them to.
"My name is part of who I am." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"Call it pride or ego, whatever. It's not happening." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"[I wouldn't take a woman's last name if she asked.] Admittedly, this feels hypocritical, though." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"That's just not manly to me." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
Of course, there are some exceptions…
"It would mean a lot if she wanted to adopt my last name, but I've always felt that as long as she loves me I don't mind what she wants to be called. Changing her name doesn't correlate to a higher level of commitment." -James Roush, via Facebook
"I have no problem with my wife keeping her last name, her friends, her job, her bank accounts, and her individuality. The only reason for a man to demand a woman take his surname is so that he can demonstrate ownership. Ultimately, this is the woman's decision and not one for the man to make or influence." -Greg Hassler, via Facebook
"For me, it all boils down to making a conscious decision to be on the same team. I don't care if she takes mine or if I take hers or if we completely make up a new one; the point is that for the rest of our lives, we are committing to being on the exact same team." -Corey Barton, via Facebook
"I have daughters. I want my daughters to keep their name." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
When Men's Health followers meet a married woman who uses her maiden name, here's what some of them think:
"She's a strong and independent person." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"It's not a close relationship." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"She puts herself ahead of her marriage." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"Their sex life is probably terrible." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
"Their relationship is laid back." -Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll
What are your thoughts on women who keep their last names? Would you want to hold onto yours? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and check back next week, when women who've kept their last name after getting married will weigh in with their stories.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Narins.
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By Robin Hilmantel, Women's Health