I took my husband's last name when I got married. A decade later, I changed it.

Melanie Obitz-Bukartek wearing a denim jacket and sitting on a couch.
Melanie Obitz-Bukartek changed her last name to include her maiden name a decade into her marriage.Credit: Colin Murphy
  • I've always loved my last name, but decided to take my husband's when we got married.

  • A decade into my marriage, I still missed my maiden name and decided to hyphenate.

  • My husband supported my decision and I'm glad to preserve my family legacy.

Sitting in the quiet of a Wisconsin courthouse, before a judge dressed in a traditional black robe and unexpectedly casual house slippers, I shared the deeply personal reasons behind my request for a legal name change. The application form had barely allowed space for an explanation, shrinking my story to an equation I squeezed onto a single line: my birth name + my married name = the full me.

This wasn't a decision made lightly; it was the culmination of nearly 33 years of life, love, and dreams — all wrapped up with a mandatory three-week public announcement in the newspaper and topped with a $165 bureaucratic bow.

I took my husband's last name when I got married

Ten years earlier, when we married, I adopted my husband's last name, feeling honored to carry a name that represents his own family's deep story of resilience. Yet saying goodbye to my maiden name, Obitz, stirred complex emotions.

I had always adored my last name; it had accompanied me through every significant life milestone, and all of the seemingly simple moments, too, from nametags on my elementary school desks to my basketball team shirts. Even the occasional misspelling as Orbitz, thanks to a well-known travel website, was more amusing than annoying.

For a decade, I felt little pangs of longing for the name, now relegated to the answer to the occasional "Maiden name?" question on legal forms and applications. Why hadn't I considered keeping my name initially? Was it my young age, having married in my early 20s; the lack of personal examples; or the fear of being labeled as "too strong-willed" for stepping outside societal expectations?

The catalyst for change came as I stood on the precipice of realizing a lifelong dream: earning the title of "Dr." I don't have any relatives who will carry on my family name, and this milestone cast a new light on the impending sunset of the Obitz name. I wanted to preserve the legacy just a little bit longer for myself.

He supported my decision to change my name

After a heartfelt conversation with my supportive husband — whose full name already reflected his family legacy — I embarked on an experiment. For six months, I used Obitz Bukartek as my last name, infusing it into the everyday aspects of my life; introducing myself, signing emails, and receiving mail. This trial period allowed me to softly reintroduce my maiden name while experiencing a sense of wholeness I hadn't known was possible.

It also affirmed I would hyphenate the names, now seeing the role of this small yet mighty symbol as a bridge linking my heritage and my partnership. We decided that our son, who was three years old when I made the change, would keep his name as-is. He is the fourth, after all, with the same name as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather; he has his own legacy he may want to preserve.

Melanie Obitz-Bukartek and her husband on their wedding day.
Melanie Obitz-Bukartek's husband supported her decision to hyphenate her last name.Credit: Mel Cochran

Now, at the age of 42, my office wall not only showcases my academic achievements, it also tells the story of my name's evolution. Each degree represents a chapter of my journey: my Bachelor's with Obitz, Master's with Bukartek, and Ph.D. with Obitz-Bukartek.

Living with a linguistic behemoth of a name is an adventure in itself. It requires patience and a sense of humor, especially when I preemptively warn others who are poised to jot down my name, "Prepare yourself, my name is a bit of a marathon. Don't worry, I'll spell it for you!" This minor inconvenience is a small price I gladly pay for a name that's a fusion of my bloodline and my chosen path, a DIY project gone right.

Read the original article on Business Insider