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What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?


I promise I am not about to tell you to stop and smell the roses during your divorce.  But I may not be able to resist quoting Shakespeare while discussing a very particular challenge related to divorce.

The name change issue and the ensuing identity struggle during and after divorce is a common one.  Men ask me if they can control whether their former wife changes her name back to her maiden name (they can’t) and women, particularly women with children, struggle with this big decision. 

I recently overheard two divorced moms discussing this complex issue.  One woman had restored her former name, but said she felt like was having an identity crisis because she no longer identified with either name.  The other had not changed her name, but said she strongly disliked using her married name because she no longer felt connected to that family or to her spouse, but she did not want to have a different last name from her children.

I, too, struggled with having a name different from my daughters.  In my situation, not only did changing my name mean separating names from my children, but also meant changing my business name and dealing with a complete firm re-branding. 

It was in the process of my professional “re-brand” that I decided that was how I should approach my personal name change.  Rebranding is about affirming your core values, while at the same time viewing them with a fresh perspective.  For me, changing my name was a daily affirmation toward that goal.

I wish I could give sage advice or practical recommendations about this challenging decision.  But I can’t.  Ultimately I just went with my instinct and that is how I advise my clients.  Trust your instincts and what feels the best. Like putting on a pair of jeans – go with what fits you best.

 When my daughter, Anna, said to me “How will people know that you are my mom?”  I responded, “Because I am.”  That was a simple truth.  My name didn’t change who I was.  It didn’t change my roles with important people in my life.  I was still a mom, boss, daughter, sister, best friend, aunt, law partner, mentor, and volunteer.  My name changed on my mail and business cards.  It didn’t change my core, but it helped me look at me from a fresh perspective and it just fit.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer in this complex identity issue.  But there are truths – regardless of the decision – you will be you.  Beautiful you.  And I believe Shakespeare said it the very best in Romeo and Juliet when Juliet said:

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

 Angela Dunne