Apollonia had moved to a new country a couple of years ago to pursue her education. Since that time, she had come to know a man by the name of Gerard. The nature of their relationship proceeded from mere acquaintance to friendship, and from there to dating. Finally, they became engaged.
As the big day of their wedding approached, Apollonia became increasingly excited. As an organized person, she felt she had all of the preparations well in hand. But then her anticipation became dampened when a friend asked her if she had started the paperwork to have her name legally changed.
“Why would I change my name?” she asked.
Her friend replied, “In our country, when people get married, the bride changes her last name to the groom’s.”
“Well, okay …” Apollonia said. “Now that you mention it, I can think of plenty of people I’ve met here who have done that. But I never really thought about it. We don’t do that where I come from. Each person keeps the name we had.”
“I guess we look at it differently here,” her friend explained. “The bride changes her name to show that she wants to be identified with her husband—part of the same family, the same unit. You’re taking on a shared identity, I guess you could say. You’re not the same person you were before because now you’re part of a permanent promise with someone else. Your life isn’t just yours anymore.”
Apollonia thought on that conversation frequently for several days. She struggled to reconcile what was expected of her here with what she had expected for herself. Changing her name signaled to herself a loss of her identity, her individuality. Wasn’t taking Gerard’s family name really telling everyone that she was surrendering to him and becoming subservient to him?
But as she continued to think about it, Apollonia realized that what she truly desired had nothing to do with cultural expectations. She wished to become Gerard’s lifelong partner—for them to be a couple and not just two individuals who decided to walk the same path together for a while.
With these thoughts in mind, she wrote her marriage vows to Gerard: “I am so excited to share my life with you, Gerard. I’m not the same person I was before I met you. Knowing you and having a relationship with you has made me better in pretty much any way I can think of. I want that to never end. In my native country, people don’t change their names when they marry. But I don’t want to be an individual who also just happens to be married. Because I want to be identified with you, because I want to be part of your family, I’m taking your name. And I do this as a promise that I will do everything I can to make our relationship strong and lasting. Instead of ‘me,’ it’s now ‘us.’ It’s no longer my life; it’s our life.”
Apollonia smiled as she finished. Her heart felt lighter. With this feeling, she started researching how to obtain the paperwork to change her name.
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com
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