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Should a Wife Take Her Husband’s Last Name?

Jeremy:
This is a conversation that I know is going to erupt in this next generation. I read a very well thought out article on this topic, and I wanted to quote a few things and just give you guys some reflections about this because I think that this is a topic that actually … It’s interesting. There’s two ways to have this conversation, and I really want to kind of tease out the two ways. Let me read to you guys.

The article is subtitled The Archaic Tradition of Assuming a Woman Will Take Her Husband’s Name Needs to Stop. This is some of the things that he wrote.

“Unless a guy is willing to make that non-traditional, trendsetting last name leap, in other words, if the guy is willing to take his wife’s last name, which I hope will become increasingly popular, his public identity largely remains the same as it did before marriage, patriarchally higher than his wife. That, my friends, I would argue is overlooking a game-changing chance to enter into marriage with a powerful advertisement of equality and commitment.”

Guys, one of the things that’s happening in our culture is that we are living surrounded by the antiques of a multi-generational society. What was interesting to me about reading this article is that there was not a single mention of the impact of this last name conversation, what it would have on the descendants of this family, which would have been the first question 100 years ago. 

We see everything, you guys, through the lens of the individual. The argument that he’s making here from the perspective of the individual has a lot of strength to it. As an individual, why are you asking your wife to give up her last name so that you can keep yours? If marriage is nothing more than sort of a romantic commitment to each other as individuals, it is a weird, archaic tradition for her to have to lose a part of her individual identity, her past, and adopt something from your individual identity and your past. That’s a weird exchange, and it’s understandable why the culture is having this conversation. 

I think that they’re going to have this conversation, but I what I want to do is make sure that we interject a second topic into the conversation, which is we are advocating, you guys, that we consider or think about families multi-generationally. That is part of what it means to think about who we are as a family. I do think that the wife’s family line and her last name should be honored and celebrated as part of that story. How do we do that? I don’t know. I don’t know the best way to do that. 

But one of the things that was really concerning to me about the article, and I think that is concerning to me about the conversation, is that it’s not being had in the context of how do we preserve and celebrate our multi-generational heritage and how do we make sure that our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren feel the continuity of their ancestry, of their root structure. Whatever we can do to really encourage that to flourish and deepen, I’m excited about that conversation. 

I don’t know that we should necessarily feel like we have to hold to any particular traditions. This is not biblical by the way, you guys. Last names, this is nothing … The Bible doesn’t talk about this. This is definitely a cultural tradition. All cultural traditions should be up for discussion, but I think that the thing that we need to make sure is we’re inserting into the discussion the whole picture. Part of that picture for us as dads that are trying to develop and establish multi-generational family teams is, “How are we making sure that are preserving a story for our future grandchildren and great-grandchildren?” That’s a part of the conversation I think that needs to be inserted. 

But Jeff, what are your thoughts about this one?

Jeff:
Yeah. No, I agree. I feel like at the base level, it’s basically just kind of a competition of generational vision versus peak individuality. I do think it subtlety is supporting and kind of forcing the hand of seeing marriage as the fulfillment of just kind of two loves facing each other eye to eye rather than like shoulder to shoulder looking out over the next 500 years. 

Jeremy:
Right.

Jeff:
To me, that’s just like an interesting thing, an interesting picture, a way to think about it. But I agree. I don’t feel like there’s a huge dog in the fight. I think it actually is a fun conversation, fun discussion, and given the individual values that I think we should hold as followers of Jesus, I do believe that it’s actually like a really valid point and kind of almost one I support, but we’re not individualized people. We’re not individualized humans. That’s not what we’re living in. We’re living in a communal structure that God clearly wants to work through teams, through tribes, through the larger scale, through the family of God. 

Then that is like … Yeah. I just think it’s … One thing I don’t like too is I really get frustrated whenever an article just kind of … It’s very much a straw man that almost everyone accepts of just like archaic … If it’s old, it must have meant just oppressive, patriarchal, archaic, and bad, when it’s like, “You do realize there was loving, gentle, compassionate, wise people back then who fought for justice, equality, and all these different things?” 

You almost don’t realize by this you’re self-cannibalizing yourself because you’re basically just setting up a system that in 1000 years, no matter what you do today, if they believe what you actually believe, if they believe the ethos of what you believe, they’ll basically just say today we are all evil and horrible and wrong. It’s like you don’t really … You’re just setting up this terrible like hamster wheel system.

Now, of course, is there parts of history in the past that are evil, oppressive, wicked, and needed to be torn down? Of course, of course, but that’s also … I don’t think we go into the nuance of that discussion outside of those things, that there was actually people that were not idiots. There were people that were not dumb. There were people that were not just … Not every single person was just this monster. Yeah. That’s a whole other discussion for another day, but I think this stuff kind of takes that like in one sentence and moves on. I’m like, “What? I don’t assume that.”

But good discussion. I think it’s super fascinating. This one, if you guys are listening, let us know online what you think about this. 

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