By Jody Valley
Love by any other name
Q: I’ve been going with “Julie” for over a year. We have really worked at taking it slow. But now, we are looking at having a ceremony, buying a house and just generally making that big commitment to each other. That part is all great. I should probably add that she and I get along very well and mostly see things pretty much the same way.
There is really only one thing Ñ big thing Ñ that has become a sticking point in our progress towards the big commitment/ceremony/house thing. You see, Julie was married before and when she got a divorce, she didn’t change her name back; she continues to have her ex-husband’s last name. This has always stuck me as odd, but it hasn’t really bothered me too much until we started into the commitment ceremony and our wanting to pledge our lives together.
Julie says that she doesn’t want to change her last name as she doesn’t want to be bothered with the paperwork and that everyone knows her by “married” name, and she just doesn’t want to be bothered, it seems. I say: she’s not married anymore and that if she were heterosexual, her husband sure wouldn’t like her going by her past husband’s name. She says that we are not heterosexual and that our names aren’t easily changed like they are in a marriage. When she talks about things, she seems like she really doesn’t have great reasons for it, but she sure isn’t giving into it, either. I’m not asking her to take my name, just go back to her family name.
Up until a week ago, we sort of discussed this issue without a lot of emotional upset, but last night it erupted into a volcano of emotions by her, and yet, I still can’t seem to get it, why she hangs on to that name. She just says that she isn’t sure. I’m sure she doesn’t love her ex anymore or want to be with him. I also know that she loves me and wants to be in a committed relationship with me.
It really seems to me that she’s just being lazy or doesn’t care how I feel about it, or that my feelings aren’t important to her. I don’t want to have this between us, or to be the thing that keeps us from a life together. I’m also becoming quite attached to her 11 year-old son who lives with Julie and would continue living with us. (He’s still having some problems with his mother being a lesbian and missing his dad in life.) Do you have any ideas why she might be hanging onto her ex’s name like it was a life raft in the open sea? It sure doesn’t make any sense to me.
A: My only clue here is: her son. I didn’t get much background on him or his involvement here, but Julie may not want to make her son feel like she is rejecting him by changing her last name, which is the same last name as his. Granted, if she were marrying a man, she’d be doing it anyway. But in this case, she has also “rejected” the male (her ex-husband) in the family, and doesn’t want her young son thinking that he, a male, is also being rejected. Kids that age will have a hard time separating out accepting one’s own sexuality verses rejecting maleness or a name. They would most likely see only the “rejecting of his maleness or his name.”
As I said, this is just a guess, given the little I know. However, this very thing happened to me, not that my partner cared about my “married” name. But, I really wanted to change my name back to my family name, but I didn’t because of my son and the reasons I have just expressed, as well as his needing to get used to my being lesbian. Later, when my son had totally adapted to my sexuality and didn’t doubt that I loved and valued him as a male, I talked to him about changing my name back, and it was no problem for him. You might ask Julie if this might be the issue. Whether it is or not, I would suggest that it is a good reason to wait for her son to grow up a bit, as well as to adapt to her sexuality and life.
In any case, it would be wise for you to give Julie an accepting partner, no matter what the reason is for holding on to her last name. There are more important things in life; and, really, “what’s in a name?”