Why a bride’s decision to keep her maiden name has sparked a family feud

Feb 24, 2024
A bride-to-be has infuriated her in-laws after revealing she won't be taking their surname. Source: Getty Images.

Choosing to keep your maiden name after marriage has become increasingly common and, in some countries, it’s actually the legal norm. But one woman has found out the hard way that not everyone is on board with the choice after her father-in-law branded her a “petty feminist bitch” for choosing to keep her maiden name.

The bride-to-be took to the online forum Reddit to share her story, revealing that “all hell broke loose” when she told her in-laws that she would not be taking his name, and asking users “Am I the a***hole for refusing to take my husband’s last name”.

The woman explained that she and her fiancé met while he was doing a college exchange from the US in Belgium, her home country. The pair have been together for five years and still live in Belgium. The woman said she had met her partner’s parents a few times, however, they’d never been to Belgium.

“Here in Belgium, women do not take their husband’s last name. [This] is the law,” the woman wrote. “All documents will still be in my maiden name after our wedding. I think it is possible to do all kinds of administrative stuff to change my name, but I don’t want to. All women around me have their maiden name and my fiancé agrees that I should keep my name.”

Despite it being the law in Belgium, the woman said that “all hell broke loose” when she told the in-laws of her decision, revealing that her father-in-law-to-be called her a “petty feminist bitch” before terminating the call.

“Three days ago, we were doing a Zoom call with his family and the topic of the name came up and they were very surprised that I was not taking his name,” she said. “I explained very calmly that it is the law here and that I had the perfect example of my mum, who had a business in her maiden name and only used my father’s name when dealing with our school or things like that, and that I wanted to take the same approach as her.

“His mum started screaming at me, saying that it is not because I come from a country of peasants that I should punish my fiancé , [and said] that he was so far away from them because of me and so on. [My fiancé] defended me and I tried to calm her down but she turned to her husband while crying [and said] that they never came to my country because they know that it is not nearly as good as the US and that I just proved it. FIL (father-in-law) said that I was a petty feminist bitch and that he didn’t want to listen to such nonsense.”

Sadly, the abuse didn’t end there, with the shocked woman receiving “hateful messages” from not only her mother-in-law and father-in-law but other members of her extended family. The hurt woman said that her family had suggested she “keep the peace” and offer to change her name, but she says she’s conflicted and “really doesn’t want to”.

“My fiancé is conflicted,” she wrote. “He grew up in a town where it was very, very uncommon for a woman not to take her husband’s name, and he agrees that it would keep the peace with his family but he does not want to force me and says it is my decision. AITA (am I the a***hole) here?”

Thousands of people flocked to the post to share their comments, with the overwhelming majority siding with the woman and slamming the family for their insistence on such a “backwards tradition”.

“NTA [not the a***hole],” one wrote. “I’m from the US and lots of women around me keep their maiden name. This family is just insane.”

While another agreed that it was very common in America, warning the woman that her soon-to-be in-laws “are terrible even by American standards”. “Not taking the husband’s name is fairly common in the US among educated people,” the person wrote. “Your fiancé might need some time to learn how to make good boundaries and be in a non-toxic relationship. You may be exactly the excuse he’s always wanted to put some distance between himself and these people … It sounds like he comes from the worst sort of people and that being far away from them might be Belgium’s biggest attraction for him.”

While another said her partner’s conflict was a “red flag”. “It sounds like he’s not conflicted about the name thing, but he’s conflicted about whether to pick his fiancé over his mum. That’s a red flag to me.”

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