I’ve decided to legally change my name. I’m going to drop my married name and go back to using my maiden name. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but for me there are emotions and history associated with this name change that makes it feel like a triumph for me.
My name has been an issue ever since I got engaged back in 1992, and the discussion about what our married names would be began. It was a little more complicated than simply would I take his name, or I would keep my name.
The first complication was that this was his second marriage, and when he got married the first time they combined their names into a new name. Somehow my ex-husband could not understand that I would not want my married name to contain the maiden name of his first wife. This seemed pretty reasonable to me, but he just didn’t get it.
He had emotional reasons, tied to his family of origin, that he did not want to go back to using his original last name, so he suggested that we choose a name we liked that would be just ours. This didn’t work for me, because part of the meaning of name for me is the family history.
I was already struggling with if I wanted to give up my maiden name (Longley) and essentially say I was no longer part of that clan. To give it up in favor of name that had no connection to anyone else, was just not possible for me.
Eventually my then-fiancé decided that he would be okay with going back to his original last name (Allan), and I agreed that I would change my name to Allan. Until…
As we got closer to the wedding date, I just didn’t want to give up Longley. It felt like I was giving up my identity, and it felt like I was losing my connection to my family of origin. I felt that I would be consumed by the marriage relationship, and that I would cease to exist as an individual.
These feelings and fears ultimately proved to be prophetic. But that comes later in the story.
My fiancé was not okay with us having different last names. It was non-negotiable to him: we must have the same last name. Although the simple solution would have been for him to take my name (Longley) – that solved the issue of giving up my maiden name, as well as us having the same last name – that was not an option to him.
We started counseling to try to figure out what we were going to call ourselves once we were married. In hindsight twenty years later, this was probably a very good clue that we would have some issues in our marriage!
In fact, the core issue in our marriage was his need for us to merge, and my need to maintain a separate identity. This is not an issue that can be resolved through compromise, and it’s not surprising that he’s now my ex-husband.
Ultimately we agreed that he would change his last name back to Allan, and that I would add Allan as a fourth name, keeping my original middle name, as well as Longley. My ex-husband was never fully okay with this solution, but it was a middle ground.
He did not want me to hyphenate my name, so at work I used the last name Longley Allan (with a space between the names) and in other settings I used Longley as a second middle name.
Longley Allan was a difficult last name. Computer systems don’t deal well with a space in the name, and I was forever being called Allan (first name) Longley (last name). When my son was born in 1996 I decided to just use Allan as my last name in all settings.
I was okay with making the change to Allan at that time because the meaning was there for me: I had the same last name as my son. We were a family.
When I divorced, I kept Allan for the same reason; it was my son’s name. I greatly regret not insisting that my son’s middle name be Longley, or even that he have two middle names, one of which was Longley. But his father and I had so many fights over our own names that I just didn’t have it in me to have another one about my son’s name.
So, why am I changing my name now? I still have a son. He still has the last name of Allan. I think the answer is that I have wanted to be a Longley for the entire time I have been an Allan, and my son is at an age where it makes sense.
My son is sixteen and we are going through the separation phase. Last year he decided he wanted to go and live with his dad, so we have physically been separated to a degree (I still see him on weekends). It feels like whatever bond we have needs to be based on more than a shared name if it is to survive. For me, changing my name now symbolizes that I am letting him go, allowing him to grow up and be whoever he may be.
I did ask my son if he cared if I changed my name, and he said he didn’t. He has plans to change his own name (to something pretty outrageous) once he is eighteen, and said it would be hypocritical for him to tell me not to change my name. I smiled, as somehow I don’t think his name change will ever actually take place.
I do feel a little sad that my son and I will no longer have a name in common, especially as that held meaning for me. But as I’m coming more fully into my authenticity and my identity, choosing the name that feels like me is important.
Finally, now is the time to make this change because I am ready to let go of the power my ex-husband has had. Changing my name is entirely symbolic, but it just feels like as I become a Longley again I am truly shedding the last vestiges of that marriage.
I never was Laura Allan, I always have been Laura Longley.