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I Love Everything But His Name!

I've been seeing a man for about four months. We have incredible chemistry, we want all the same things in life, and a long-term relationship, including marriage and children, is a distinct possibility. There's just one problem, and I realize it might seem silly. His last name is McAnally, pronounced "MACK-an-al-ee." He joked about it briefly but otherwise it hasn't been a topic of conversation. I'm sorry, but I cringe at the thought of my children growing up with this name. How soon would it be appropriate to broach the possibility of changing it to McNally or giving any future kids my last name? It honestly bothers me enough to be a dealbreaker, so I'd want to know before I get any more attached to him.

–One Big But(t)

I feel for you: This is a challenging situation! It's not easy to figure out what the etiquette is on telling a man that you consider his surname cringe-worthy. But if it really is a dealbreaker for you, you might as well bring it up sooner rather than later. (Just be sure that it's a dealbreaker in case the conversation does lead to a break-up!)

It sounds like he gave you a little opening when he joked about the name. That could indicate that he knows it's problematic. But it could also indicate that he has a sense of humor about it, and may be willing to consider other options. It could even show that having the name hasn't been as big a deal for him as it seems to be for you.

How could you bring it up? One way is to ask, "Did you ever get teased about your last name when you were growing up?" Maybe his response will be reassuring to you; you'll find out very few people actually notice or care. Or it could lead to you asking, “Would you ever want to change it, or change the spelling?" Then see where the conversation leads. A long-term relationship means having difficult conversations, so with any luck, this will be the first of many in the course of an eduring, happy partnership.

Comments

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June 8, 2017 12:53 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I wish to confirm like Name Lady mentions that I don't care or think there's a big difference on shortening it ever so slightly as suggested. What if there's a hero in a best seller in the next few years with the last name in question and gets lots of positive even elegant attention? ...I would suggest that if you're falling in love and heading the same direction in your talking you can accept something that puts no blemish on his character or qualities you find appealing. Ask about his family, open your own mind to a new confidence in what the future holds. To put it short, it's a bit trivial. And this site is rather full of parents who worry about teasing but it seems like the bottom line is: Live your life and bestow the best outlook. That's just what we all need and thankfully that's not going to change.

June 10, 2017 4:27 PM
By Elizabeth (not verified)

There are much worse surnames out there. There are literally people named Butts who seem to deal with it. [shrug] No offense to the LW but I think it would silly to let something like that be a dealbreaker with someone you love.

That said, since you hard-down dislike the name, you could definitely broach the idea of him taking your surname, or at least giving the children your surname -- it's a great feminist gesture, cringey names aside. Or you could both change your names to some combined version of your two surnames, I know a couple that did that! For instance, McAnally + Keyes = McKeyes, or McAnally + Redmond = Rednally.

June 11, 2017 9:10 PM
By Sabby (not verified)

While a deal breaker is a personal choice, I personally can't imagine this name being one. You'd honestly give up a man you love who wants the same things you do over a name? It's not even a horrible name at all.
I don't think there is a nice way to say, "I would never want to give our future kids your name." Especially if he has no issues with his name. You can try the feminist approach, but that only works if you and him are extremely feminist. Most folks, even feminists, give the kids the dad's name. People will question it. Most certainly his family. You'd have to be prepared to answer them.

June 13, 2017 11:40 AM
By Carolyn (not verified)

Easy - don't change your name, and don't give the kids the name. I did that - kids have my last name. Lots of women "justify" changing their names/giving dad's name to the kids by "His name is just nicer".

Or give the kids both names, and believe that most people are OK with their last names. (The husband didn't really want to pass on his name, as it can't be spelled in the letters allowed where we live, but different circumstances)

People may assume things (that my husband has the name my daughter has, that my husband is a stepparent) but everyone has basically accepted that this is the way it is, albeit with a bit of surprise.

June 15, 2017 6:18 PM
By Bridget (not verified)

There are people out there with Focker as a last name. When the movie "Little Fockers" and "Meet the Fockers" were made, the producers looked for people with that surname and found those people who had no problem with the name.

June 15, 2017 9:34 PM
By Anonymous

I completely understand. When my grandfather proposed, my grandmother told him she loved but would die before taking his last name, Raper. They went back through their family lines and chose the first surname that overlapped both trees. And we're all very thankful that they did, some names need to die out.

June 19, 2017 5:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I grew up with an objectionable last name. I lived with it, and it wasn't my fault that others decided to be immature about it. It's not going to ruin your life. McAnally as a name is far less objectionable, I would have taken that over my embarassing last name in a heartbeat. Ask him if he's gotten any grief over his last name. You can always suggest going with your last name if you do end up marrying him. You'll regret ending a relationship over something so silly if you end up later have trouble meeting someone new. This is really a millenial concern, your elders would think it's silly.

June 28, 2017 7:57 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'd take McAnally any day over the name I grew up with and suffered with as a kid!

June 28, 2017 4:51 PM
By Rohi (not verified)

I know it's kind of late to comment, but I disagree with those who are telling LW to just deal with it. Sure, McAnally isn't the worst name out there, but I think everyone can agree that it's far from the best, and why needlessly saddle OP's hypothetical children with that when there are simple alternatives that the kids, were they given a choice, would probably vastly prefer?
I agree that LW should broach the issue sooner rather than later, so that you'll know where your partner stands before making any further commitments to the relationship. I personally don't think it's silly that a name would be a deal-breaker for you. Last names are important and very frequently used, and it would be awful if your children's last name made you cringe every time you saw or heard it. Not to mention the kids' feelings: even if your partner wasn't teased about/doesn't mind having his surname, there's no guarantee his children will feel the same way.
So just very casually bring up the possibility of giving your future children your surname. It's the 21st century; it's not that uncommon. (And I mean, really: men and women are supposed to be equal in today's society, yet it's somehow unthinkable or radically feminist for a woman to want to pass on her surname to the kids, whereas for a man this is a God-given right? Yet the wife is the one who generally ends up doing most of the childcare, as well as the one who goes through the ordeal of pregnancy and labor. Even if the husband's surname isn't something embarrassing/undesirable, I feel the wife should have a right to pass on her surname, aka a part of her identity, to her children.) But especially when the husband's surname is something potentially embarrassing/undesirable, I think it's completely nonsensical to feel obligated to give the kids that surname anyway, just because "that's the way it's always been done".
But if your partner has his heart set on giving any future kids his surname, you should definitely ask if he'd be willing to change it to McNally, or alternatively adopt a combination of your two surnames, or a completely different surname that you both like. I don't think it's too early to start discussing this, if you feel that he's also interested in a long-term relationship. At least, it'll give him more time to warm up to the prospect of using your surname or changing his own.
And if he categorically refuses to consider any of your suggestions, then maybe you should reconsider wanting to start a family with him. Marriage is all about compromise, after all, and he should be willing to compromise on an aspect like this that's clearly very important to you, and affects not only the two of you but also your possible future offspring.

June 28, 2017 4:52 PM
By Rohi (not verified)

(Sorry for the super long comment haha)

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