Getty Images

Why I Took My Wife's Last Name

Jun 30, 2015

Jacob Desjarlais is a director of talent marketing and lives in Los Angeles.

The idea to take my wife's last name when we got married started as a joke at first. We were sitting around sipping wine and talking about last names a few weeks after our engagement, six months after we began dating. My wife Devin’s last name—Desjarlais—is pretty amazing. It rhymes with Chevrolet and is French and full of tradition. My last name was Smith … rhymes with, I don’t know, fifth?

Devin never pushed the idea, but it was important to me. Once I considered it, not taking her name was never a realistic option.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that names are something you can decide to keep or take for yourself. People choose nicknames—like Bob or Becky instead of Robert or Rebecca—or new last names because that is something they want to aspire to be. It’s a promise they make to themselves.

Making your own choice about who you are and what you wish to become is the first step in the journey to becoming that person. A recent report shows that more women are keeping their maiden names. But the idea that they're doing this to rebel against tradition isn't really the point. Changing—or keeping—your name is a personal identity issue. You should only take someone’s last name if it's important to you.

I have a small family, just my mother and sister and myself. I always felt a bit of a disconnect with my past and family history. Maybe the name Smith is the beige of last names—there's no instant cultural team that you can identify with. Devin's family is vast in comparison: There are cousins in multiple cities, aunts and uncles spread all around the country, and there’s also a strong family history.

The first time I met Devin’s family, they instantly accepted me as a member and took me in with open arms the same way that their eldest daughter did when we first met years before. How do you repay that sort of kindness? To the shock of her family, we announced that the Desjarlais family name would continue (she is one of two daughters and no sons), and I would be changing my name, instead of Devin becoming just another Smith in the world.

One wedding, dozens of trips to featureless government buildings, and a few arguments at the DMV later, and I was a Desjarlais. It has now been 18 months since the wedding and official name change, and I have to say I am proud.

I sometimes face a stigma about this decision: A DMV clerk told me with a laugh he would never take his wife’s name. But I've also gotten positive responses: A night clerk at a hotel in Paris told me that he wished it was more common because men are “silly about these things.” It was never an issue with my own family.

As a Smith, I never felt a solid connection to my name. But now, people ask where my last name is from, and I delight in telling them that it wasn’t always my name, and yes, I know it's difficult to spell and pronounce. Most women smile and say they think it’s amazing; most men either say it's weird that I did that, or just, “cool.” I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it either way because now it's who I am and who I chose to be.

Photographing a Kiss: Long Time Love Affairs

The Lovers
Joseph and Dorothy Bolotin Sharon, Pennsylvania Married on June 16, 1938. Dorothy, "I never think of it in terms of years. I think of it in terms of good years. In love, hot romance doesn’t last forever. So I would say that yes, I think love changes. I would say we’re still in love. It’s focusing, doing little things. He’s an amazing man."Lauren Fleishman
The Lovers
John and Sherma CampbellStar Valley, WyomingMarried on May 13, 1955Sherma When you start out, you think you love each other as much as you possibly can,but lovegrows—just like your inner self grows as time goes by and you have experiences.And now at thisstage of the game, I love him even more. I can’t even imagine life without him.
Jin Lin and Lai Mei ChenBrooklyn, New York Married on February 4, 1961Jin Lin We had so many things in common it was like our hearts were the same.
The Lovers
The Lovers
The Lovers
The Lovers
The Lovers
The Lovers
Joseph and Dorothy Bolotin Sharon, Pennsylvania Married on June 16, 1938. Dorothy, "I never think of it in terms of yea

Lauren Fleishman
1 of 9

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.
All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.