"I took my wife’s last name"

September 7, 2012

I love dialogue and discussion, so I’ll admit to frustration that most readers don’t comment. So how exciting to hear from a man who had read my recent blog post on “married  names” and had a different take on it.  (That original post can be found HERE, for those who haven’t read it. ) 

When Mark Harper Tyler married, he took his wife’s name. He agreed to write a guest post to give us his perspective and tell us a little about how he and his wife reached their decision.

So what’s in a name? Read on for Mark’s view, below.  Comments welcome.

Nametags by Moo.com

It’s unusual, I know, but I’m a man and I took my wife’s last name. My “maiden” name was Mark Perry Harper, and since January 2011, I have been Mark Harper Tyler.

Carol Haley Tyler and I met 5 years ago, when each of us was 28. Carol had just started as a lawyer while I worked at a bank. We got engaged in early 2010. So . . . about six months after that she started talking about what she was going to do about her name. Should she keep it, hyphenate, take my name . . . and what about the kids we’re planning to have. All that stuff.

Then she asked for my opinion, and I told her that I’d prefer me, her, and the kids to all have the same last name. I’m not sure exactly why I feel that way. It’s just something that I said at the time and still believe in.

Neither one of us had been exposed to anything unusual in the naming department. Each of us was the product of a family where the mother had taken the father’s last name upon marriage, and the kids were given that as the last name.

About two months after our original discussion, Carol brought the topic up again, and reminded me of what we’d both said. Then she said (and I’ll never forget this), “If we all have the same last name, why can’t it be mine?” She said it as a joke, but I told her that I’d think about it seriously. So I did.

And then I found myself in the position of the typical female. Hyphenate? Too bulky. Keep my name? But then we’d have different family names. Take her name? Yowww. Big blow to male ego.

Then I thought about it some more. She is well established in her career and I am not. Our plan is for her to be the primary breadwinner and me to be the primary parent. That was part of our deal when we got engaged.

Carol was (and is) extremely dedicated to her career. She made more money than me, and has much better earning potential going forward. She’d always assumed that when she started having kids, she’d keep working and would hire a nanny. But we talked about it A LOT, and decided that I’d try to be the primary parent. I was in banking, but not really going anywhere, and with all of the talking and reflection I decided I really didn’t care for what I was doing but could take a totally different path of being the primary caretaker, despite my very limited experience in that area.

So, “Carol Tyler” is a well established professional while “Carol Harper” is who?

 I didn’t have the same dynamic going from Harper to Tyler, especially as my career was not established as hers and was going to be secondary anyway.

Shortly before the wedding. I decided to make the change. Told her on Christmas Eve. She was stunned. Actually, she asked me to reconsider, that it was cool with her for me not to change. But I told her it was too late, and then she said GREAT!

After New Year’s we told everyone and the reaction was about 60/40 negative, which means that what people were thinking is probably 80/20 negative. A number of people just rolled their eyes at me, a few called me a wimp or more colorful terms, and many more directed negative comments to Carol. Oh well, that’s the way it goes.

As for best responses, I count two, one sappy and one edgy. The sappy one came from Carol’s cousin, who said,”You’ve taken her name and her heart.” The edgy one came from one of her work friends, who wished us at least one daughter so that there’d be someone to carry on the family name. LOL.

Anyway, the big day came, I signed the certificate, the minister introduced us to the crowd as the Tylers, and of course the deejay did too.

Image used with permission

After the honeymoon, the real work began. All told, I think I contacted (by mail, email, and otherwise) over 70 institutions, beginning with the MVD and Social Security office, and going on for 3 weeks or so. At work, my name changed but my email address stayed the same. At first, I signed and introduced myself as Mark Harper Tyler, but the Harper part was basically irrelevant. So after a few weeks I reduced it to an “H” on the signature and omitted it when I introduced myself. It wasn’t long after that when we found out that we were expecting. And a month or two after that, the name-change issue just receded.

One of the last documents I received was my re-named college diploma, and for some reason this had a greater effect on me than any of the other materials. Don’t really know why, but it probably has something to do with the fact that I graduated years before I ever met Carol, and now my marriage to her had reached back and literally rewritten the name on my diploma. This is awesome and cool, but it still feels a little odd.

Anyway, by last fall, the name-change was a fairly distant memory. We found out that our child would be a girl, and we easily agreed on Angela as a first name and it was definite that Tyler would be the last name.

Carol assumed that my maiden name of Harper would be the middle name, and while the name would sound fine, I wanted to honor my mother and an aunt on my father’s side, both of whom are named Marian. When I told Carol, she said something like, “What about YOUR last name?” and i reminded her that my last name was Tyler, and that was that.

So, in November, we welcomed Angela Marian Tyler into the world.

–Mark Tyler

Thanks, Mark, for giving us insight into your and Carol’s thinking. You raise some good points. So, readers, what do you think? Would your partner consider this?  Would you?

5 comments on “"I took my wife’s last name"
  1. Rickatoo says:

    Mark, thanks for sharing. I have a question… Why change the name on your diploma?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually, it’s because I was so thorough, probably too much. We both have diplomas in our den and I noticed mine and said, “Aha, I need to change the name on that.” So I did, sending in the forms and all that. That’s ABOUT the whole thought that went into it.


  3. O. S. says:

    This is such a beautiful post. I love the part especially where you said “my name is Tyler.”

    I was wondering if you refer to yourselves as “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Ms. and Mr.”? Thankyou

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is Mark. Sorry it took me so long to respond.

    It’s situational.

    Our checks read:
    Carol H. Tyler
    Mark Harper Tyler

    Our return envelope address reads:
    Carol and Mark Tyler

    We prefer Ms. and Mr. in formal address, but don’t make a big deal out of it.


  5. Leon says:

    This man is very submissive, it looks even like a mental condition maybe linked to low testosterone. He’s a happy stay at home dad and basically wants to eras himself and his name to be just his wife’s servant. Going as far as changing a name on his diploma although he said he isn’t career oriented. This isn’t normal behavior and I find it very hypocritical that everyone praises him for giving up his name yet the same people complain that women give up their maiden name. It doesn’t look like equality but rather like female supremacy. Again Mark won’t be offended because he probably would agree that females are superior.

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