What to Do When Your In-Laws Aren't Happy You're Not Taking His Name

Getty Images

Whether or not you take your husband's family name is a deeply personal decision you must make in the privacy of your relationship. But, that doesn't mean everyone and her mother—including your mother-in-law—won't have an opinion on your choice, especially if you choose to keep your maiden name. Your in-laws, in fact, could be downright insulted you've forgone their family name.

"In some circumstances, I have found that some parents of the groom can be very traditional in their thinking about these matters," explains John Duffy, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent. "They may suggest, for instance, that it is traditional and customary for a bride to take a groom's last name. And, because their name holds a great deal of meaning to them—in the present and for future generations—they may feel slighted, even if this is not the intention of the bride."

Sometimes, Duffy warns, miffing your mother-in-law is the best-case scenario. Because when it comes to how your in-laws will take your decision, "their responses can vary quite a bit, and be quite strong and sometimes surprising," he says. For example, he shares, "I worked with one young bride whose future in-laws felt as if she would not be fully committed to the marriage unless she took her soon-to-be husband's last name, while another woman I worked with suffered the ongoing wrath of her mother-in-law. She mistakenly assumed that her daughter-in-law had rejected her family directly by not taking their name. The implication was that the daughter-in-law was ashamed of that family name and didn't want to be a member of that family. This was, by the way, far from the truth."

No one wants to be faced with hurt in-laws who may act out in negative ways. However, if you find your in-laws don't take your name news well, there are a few things you can do, Duffy explains. "I think it's really important that women be proactive instead of reactive in these situations," he says. "I would suggest that a future bride sit down with her future in-laws to discuss her decision and the reasons behind it—which can range from feminist or progressive ideals to the importance of a bride's own last name in her career. In my opinion, a bride can present her position on any of this unapologetically."

After you've kept cool, calm, and collected as you explain the reason behind your decision, Duffy states you must also be clear about your intentions. "What you do want to be clear about, though, is that you mean no disrespect to the family of the groom," he says. "This tends to be the hotspot for many future in-laws. And if this position can be made clear, future relational difficulties can be circumvented or completely avoided."

Related Stories