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Marriage/last name


hello  Peter,  so my girlfriend and I are about to be engaged but have run into an issue index guidance on. So, the subject of her taking my last name came up the other day and she insisted on keeping her last name. I told her I would like her to take mine, but she insists on keeping hers. Yesterday, I then told her let's settle on a compromise. Use my last name as hyphenated. She still says no. She claims that she is so attached to her last name, that she will never give it up. I am nearly to the point where I want to suggest to her that we just remain boyfriend and girlfriend. Her taking my last name means a lot to me. It means she is honored to join my family with hers. That she is no longer one but two. That we feel joined, as a couple, in marriage. But her not wanting anything to do with my last name makes me feel hurt. I don't know where to go from here. Some tell me last names are a minor detail in a marriage, but I feel differently. To me,it means much more. Please, any advice on how to proceed on handling this would be great. Thank you for your time.

Jared ,c.

Hi Jared  - you two have a major "values conflict," and she hasn't accepted your attempt to compromise. Have you two been able to compromise successfully on other disagreements? I would be concerned about whether she really wants a committed (marital) relationship at this time. I'm also curious whether she is really free of her parents' and grandparents' preferences - i.e. are they and/or someone else pressuring her to keep her last name? I encourage you both to read and discuss these:  and

Strong feelings about Last-names are often symbolic of deeper issues like personal identity, ancestral loyalty and pride, family acceptance or rejection, sibling competition, and social status. Read this - and then try asking your partner what it would mean if she compromised or took your family name?

Also discuss "If we have a baby, what last name would you want us to give her or him?"

If these bring up further questions, Jared, please ask - Pete  


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about choosing a mate wisely, marital communications and problem solving, affairs, same-gender relationships, trust, respect, bonding and intimicy, values differences, boundary problems, grieving, dealing with ex mates, parents, and in-laws, remarriage, separation, divorce, abuse, feeling unloved, codependence, psychological wounds, money disputes, balancing kids, careers, and marital primacy, etc. I cannot answer legal or medical questions


I've been a professional family-systems therapist in private practice for 33 years. I have specialized in helping people avoid and adapt to divorce, and manage remarriage ans stepfamilies, since 1979. I've studied and taught classes in interpersonal communication for over 40 years, and have presented over 200 seminars on a wide range of human-relationswhip topics to Chicago-area churches, schools, menyal-health agencies, and businesses, and have been featured on Chicago and national radio and TV. I have been married and divorced. I now believe all marital and family problems are caused by five little-known factors - see This forms the basis of my work as therapist and educator.

I now answer "" questions on stepparenting, communication, and counseling. I belong to ", "Death with Dignity," "Compassion and Choices," and to the online Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES) at

I've published over 200 free Internet articles on childhood-trauma recovery and wholistic health, communication skills, healthy grieving, human relationships (including marriage and divorce), family health, effective parenting, and managing a stepfamily). These articles are in the form of seven free self-improvement lessons ( These articles are augmented by 168 YouTube videos ("gercacn" channel); I've published a book on childhood-trauma recovery ("Who's *REALLY Running Your Life?"), and other books on interpersonal communicactioin skills ("Satisfactions"), remarriage ("The Remarriage Book"), "Stepfamily Courtship", and "Stepfamily Co-parenting" All published by

Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Stanford University (1959); Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) from George Williams college (1981); hundreds of hours of post-grad trainng from Northwestern U. the University of Chicago, et. al. in a wide range of human-relationship topics.

Awards and Honors
The state of Illinois licensed me to practice clinical social work in 1981. I was selected twice to serve on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA), and am currently on the Stepfamily-expert panel at Auburn University; I was the Board chairman at a major public mental-health agency in suburban chicago, and was the chairman of the Parent Relations Council for a major suburban High School. I currently have over 500 subscibers on YouTube since I began uploading educational videos in May, 2011.

Past/Present Clients
I've worked with over 1,000 men; women; dating, merried, remarried, divorcing, and redivorcing couples; and whole families. I'm currently 74, semi-retired, and disabled, and I do therapy with people and couples by phone and Internet (Skype).

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