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What to do with an ex's last name

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax


Carolyn Hax

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Q I got married straight out of college and took his last name. The marriage was a mistake and we divorced. Luckily, we had no children and it was uncomplicated. I had (and still have) a fairly bad relationship with my family, so I didn’t see a reason to change my name back.

I haven’t had contact with my ex-husband in years. My current boyfriend and I have talked about marriage.

He would like me to take his name. His reasoning is that the name I have isn’t really “mine,” but is a tie to my ex-husband. His family is relatively traditional and knows my history, and it will probably also create issues with his family if I don’t take his name.

However, I have also established a career with my current last name, and have some publications under my belt. I am very career-oriented and ambitious, as well as very private with my personal life professionally. The group I currently work with is not even aware that I was previously married.

I also don’t savor the idea of sending emails to announce my marital status and name change.

Should I just suck it up and change my name again? He always says it’s ultimately my decision but looks very hurt. He doesn’t understand my professional worries since women get married and change their names all the time. — Anonymous

A What women do “all the time” has so little relevance here that you might as well have written, “Rainbows are pretty” as your last sentence. This is not about “women,” it’s about you. Your life. Period.

If your boyfriend is going to see you as part of a collective instead of as an individual, whatever the topic at hand, then this will be a difficult marriage.

Take the source of your last name. It came from your ex-husband, yes, but it’s yours now. You made it so and you clearly want it to remain so; I see zero equivocation on that.

So if he were seeing you the individual as opposed to you the divorcee, you the someday fiancee, you the career woman (an anachronism, right? please?), you the future daughter-in-law, you the extension of him, then he’d recognize your certainty and stop the name-change talk completely.

To be fair, it’s important and respectful that he maintains it’s up to you. Many people as invested as he is in a certain outcome would not set themselves aside to do so.

But there’s a point where someone is so clearly who they are that the loving gesture is to want them to remain so. If I were writing your romance, I’d have your boyfriend say, “I thought I wanted you to take my name, but I see now — your name isn’t your ex’s anymore. It’s you. So I don’t want to be that guy who asks you to change it.”

Maybe your relationship is this way on enough other counts. But we burn brightest when we embrace who we are — and take great care to hold out for partners who bask in that very warmth. To be yourself vs. “just suck it up” is the only sure way to find out.


Q My friends “Christine” and “Eric” have been dating since senior year of high school; they are now freshmen in college.

Christine has become extremely close to another mutual friend, “Michael.” This attraction is clear to my entire friend group because Michael and Christine physically touch often and spend a lot of time only with each other. Their behavior does not change when Eric is present.

Eric and Christine have never seemed emotionally intimate. Additionally, Christine is very controlling and manipulative of Eric. Michael and Eric are more acquaintances than friends.

Eric knows about the relationship between Christine and Michael but does not seem willing to confront either of them. I don’t know if Christine and Michael’s relationship makes Eric uncomfortable, but it makes the rest of my friend group uncomfortable. Eric is a meek person while Michael and Christine both have dominant personalities.

What, if anything, should I do to make sure Eric is not hurt or being used? — Meddling in Minnesota

A Wait — what about Amber and Jake?


Eric has all the info he needs. So, what you can do is stop being friends with Christine, who sounds like a piece of work.

And ... yeah. That’s all there is. Befriend better people who don’t jerk around your other friends.

That selection process can involve saying something out loud when your current dubious friends are doing something dubious. Never underestimate what a well-timed, “Ugh, get a room,” can accomplish when Girlfriend A openly paws Friend B in the presence of Boyfriend C and “makes the rest of my friend group uncomfortable.”

Please note that none of this involves meddling with anyone else’s relationship on anyone else’s behalf. Thank you.

And if you like-like Eric — just a theory — then please wait till Eric likes himself enough to dump Christine.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.


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