I’d like my fiance to take my last name – is that too much to ask of him? | Relationships

My partner and I are getting married this winter. But we don’t know about our last names. We are both broadly against ingrained gender stereotypes and we constantly probe where those roles are coming out in our relationships (which is a lot of work).

My preference would be for him to take my last name. Selfishly, if so many men have received this extreme act of love throughout the years, why can’t I? If I laid down some kind of ultimatum, I think he would do it, but I would prefer for him to arrive there as a place he wants to be, which is perhaps never going to happen.

Our gay and married friends have all kept their own last names, and so perhaps I’m overthinking it. But I read that even Beyoncé changed her last name to that of her husband’s, so even she couldn’t escape this vestige of patriarchy. On the one hand, who the hell am I to request my partner change his last name if even Beyoncé didn’t win this round? On the other hand isn’t this insignificant act of rebellion worth fighting?

We do loosely think we’ll have kids one day, so while we can kick this down the road and keep our different last names, we are inevitably going to be faced with this decision again. Using both last names also chafes – inevitably one of those names is colloquially dropped by teachers and friends because they are “too long” for the English-speaking world; we could also make a new last name, which perhaps I slightly prefer to all the other options. But the whole situation frustrates me, because something men all over the world get is still seemingly out of reach for me.

Am I making too much of this? Do you have any advice? If it matters, my last name is definitely cooler.

To be fair, we don’t know what conversations Beyoncé had – she may have been keen to change her last name, I know some women who couldn’t wait to change their names. But that’s not you, and that’s OK (it’s not me, either).

You’re not making too much of this but I wonder how much you’ve really discussed with your fiance (and not just hinted at)? This is a pretty important conversation to bring him in on and he will also have his own views, and solutions.

You could keep your own name – that is, of course, a perfectly acceptable thing to do; he could take yours; or the two of you could make up a name that’s entirely your own. (You will need to get this properly registered by deed poll to update official documents.)

I also wouldn’t avoid double-barrelled last names just because it’s hard for other people, and in my experience one “barrel” doesn’t get dropped, so you do have that option. On a practical note, if you do have children and they don’t have the same surname as you, you might find travelling involves taking more paperwork with you, such as birth/marriage certificates to prove they are yours.

I went to psychoanalytic psychotherapist Susanna Abse who has a lot of experience with couples. “Marriage is a process. There’s the ceremony, but that’s the least of it. You become married over time, over years of doing things together, developing your own family culture but importantly also maintaining your own individual identities.”

Abse wondered if this was “representative … of maybe one person [being afraid of] losing their identity and being taken over by another.” Could this be a sign of something else? It might be worth considering what marriage means to you and what it is you fear? I don’t mean this in a heavy way, but this has clearly caused you to worry enough to write in to me.

This is your (plural) marriage, and it should be done your way. There’s no point going into a marriage, either of you, with a name that doesn’t make you feel like it “fits”.

This won’t be the first thing you’ll need to discuss as a couple. What I’m sensing is that you and your husband-to-be are both fully formed individuals (an excellent basis for marriage) but you have, maybe, become used to theorising important subjects. Here is something which needs a practical solution and, as you’re seeing, that’s rather harder to solve. But I’m confident you will come up with something that’s all your own.

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a personal problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa, please send your problem to ask.annalisa@theguardian.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.

The latest series of Annalisa’s podcast is available here.

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