New chapter, new author: On changing your name after divorce and re-marriage

Worse than the people who didn’t ask, and just assumed that I had changed my name when I got married (that’s a choice, not an imperative)… worse than the people who addressed things to “Mr and Mrs His Name” (as if I didn’t have my own name anymore)… are the people who assumed that I would go back to my maiden name.

Changing something as big and as personal as my own name was something I decided to do for me

Not for my partner. Not in the name of tradition. Not for the patriarchy. It was a decision made with much thought and personal pride. And it hurt to find out that so many people did not… what’s the right word… believe(?) that Megan Finley is my “real” name. It was like they were telling me that they never felt my name change was a well-thought-out choice. As if my name — MY OWN FUCKING NAME — was just on loan to me via that guy I married.

I never FOR ONE MOMENT considered going back to my maiden name. Because if I had, for any reason, actually wanted to use my maiden name, I would have never changed it in the first place.

I’ve written about the fact that my birth name, Megan Tharpe, never felt like me. I’d even go so far as to say that feeling mis-named gave me some kind of insight, in the tiniest ittiest-bittiest, most privileged of ways, into how a transgender kid must feel — knowing that you were assigned to this identity at birth, and yet, never really feeling like it fit who you are.

“Megan Finley,” however, fit this bitch like a pair of Black Milk dragon scale leggings. The moment I became Megan Finley, I felt like I finally became my true self. Aaron and I even had this exchange: “You know, even if we divorce I’m keeping the name Finley.” To which he responded, “It is my gift to you.” And it truly truly was, and still is a wonderful gift.

Although, now that I am getting re-married, and starting a new family, I get to consider my name options again…

The name Megan Finley is not just my name, but my brand. I’ve built up a million posts on the Offbeat Empire under Megan Finley. My internet handles are either “meganfinley” or “meggyfin.” And I’m the top mother fucking Megan Finley on Google, bitches! I worked hard for that.

But I really want to share a family name with my husband. Unfortunately, Mike doesn’t want to change his last name to Finley. Fortunately, I really like the last name Horowitz!

I thought about having two last names. But that felt weird — like I was collecting names, instead of choosing them. And then I thought… what if I just make Finley my middle name? That way I could always be “Megan Finley” and replace another name I was also never very fond of — Elizabeth. (Hey, I grew up in the ’80s).

So, I’ve decided to make Finley my middle name, and be one of those Three Name People. Like my boss, Ariel Meadow Stallings, I will be Megan Finley Horowitz.

There’s something a little scary and a lot exciting about changing my name this much…

I realize that, with my impending changes, I will have gotten to choose most of my own name for myself. I’ve taken up more ownership of one of biggest identifiers. My name gets to tell my own life story. Megan Elizabeth Tharpe was chosen for me. Megan Finley Horowitz was chosen by me.

New chapter, new author…

I like to think of my new name as a map of the story of my life:

Chapter one: Megan arrives. She was mostly lost and stumbled a lot as she tried to find her path.
Chapter two: Megan Finley takes over. She found her place in the world, decided to forge her own path, and kicked much ass.
Chapter three: Megan Finley Horowitz shows up. I can’t wait to see where this chapter goes.

Anyone else change their name a lot? Either via marriage, or just, you know, because you want to? What are your thoughts on names and identity?

16 thoughts on “New chapter, new author: On changing your name after divorce and re-marriage

  1. Ursula W

    I kept my name after I got married, even though I thought a lot about the possibility of changing it, for kinda the same reasons: my birth name just FEELS like me. I like my husband’s name just fine, but the one I have is the one I wanted.

    A few months ago, someone asked me if it was my “maiden name,” to which I was like “No…er, wait, yes? I guess?” I’ve never thought of it as my maiden name because it never changed!

    Your new name sounds great :)

    Reply
  2. kellbot

    Wooo 3 name club! I made my maiden name my middle name when I got married (I have no real identity issues with either, I consider Farrell to Maguire a fairly lateral move) and it has come in SUPER HANDY the few times I run into something that’s still in my maiden name for whatever reason. “Oh hey this is on my legal ID, see?!”

    Reply
    1. megan finley

      Yeah, i kind of didn’t realize how much of a pain completely dropping your life-long last name would be. I’m glad to be rid of Tharpe, but man it would have come in handy a MANY times to have kept it as a middle name.

      Reply
  3. Alissa

    Great plan! I love it!

    In spite of my middle name being my grandmother’s name, I never liked it as a kid because I only ever heard of it as a man’s name – “Dale”. Finally after college I decided to fully embrace it and used first-middle combo for nearly all of my internet profiles. It also had the benefit of being ambiguously possible as a last name, leaving a smidge of anonymity for someone whose first and last name are both uncommon so combined I’m literally the only person who shows up on Google.

    Having just gotten married (!!!), my last name plans are stupidly practical. I want his name because I want us to be a team; I’ve looked forward to sharing a name with my future husband my whole life and I love hearing my new name reminding me of our commitment. But I’ve been my old last name for 35 years which means it’s scattered everywhere. I’m keeping it as a second middle so it’ll still be on my IDs in case I run into it somewhere and need proof that I’m still the same person. :)

    As an aside, 36 hours home from honeymoon and I’m really annoyed I can’t change my name faster. I even tried to just change my name tag at work yesterday which is supposedly an informal process because people put their nicknames on there, but nope. They won’t change LAST name until it’s updated in the HR system, and I can’t update HR until I have my new social security, and I can’t do that because our officiant mailed in our certificate in so I have to wait for it to be mailed back. (It was very nice of him, but I had planned to walk it in to the office directly.)

    So I’m trying to be satisfied with slowly changing it where I can. Like Sharpie on my name tag. And my email signature. And signing my time sheet.

    Reply
    1. Alissa

      (Behold my last name novel… It’s the subject on my mind CONSTANTLY right now. I just had to reprint my May time sheet because I wanted to sign it with my new name….)

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      1. megan finley

        I wish you could start the name-changing process earlier. By the time you’re actually married you have to wait so long to get it all to kick in! It’s annoying. I feel you.

        Reply
    2. Ruth

      THey make it SO HARD to change your name. Which in the one hand makes sense but I think the (mild) trauma of my name change saga was exacerbated by just how difficult and long the process was.

      Side note, when I posted my name at the courthouse (required part of Oregon name change law, when not done as part of a marriage) there was paper work there for someone chainging to Captain Awesome.

      Reply
  4. Michelle Acker

    I wouldn’t change my name back if I got divorced either. And I agree, the married name I chose feels more like ‘me’ than my maiden name. That said, I’m super excited your adopting Finley as your middle name. Ironic, right? Xo

    Reply
  5. Ruth

    Yes!

    I changed my name when I got married, but kept my maiden name as a second middle name. It was shockingly emotional for me and my new name never felt right. I was so happy to go back to my maiden after divorce because as you said, it was ME. Never changing again.

    Im glad you have a moniker that suits you. It’s so important!!

    Reply
  6. Natalie

    Your new three-barrel name sounds AWESOME! Super classy and very you! Maybe it’s just because I’ve always known you as Megan Finley/Meggyfin, but I’m really glad Finley is sticking around, and that Aaron is happy for you to keep it. The addition of your new last name makes this feel very much like your final pokemon evolution!

    It’s actually similar to the plan I have for my name/s when I get married. I’ve got a mixed relationship to my last name due to a problematic relationship with my dad, but it still feels like a core part of my identity (it’s a pretty unique name). On the other hand, I’m actually pretty excited to take my partner’s last name when we marry, one of the reasons being to usher in a new stage of my identity. So, I’ve decided to discard my middle name (which I have never used and feels more like a costume or unwanted heirloom than a legitimate part of me), and turn my current surname into a middle initial. I will go from Natalie K—- to Natalie K. [New Surname]. I’ve actually joked to my partner that he needs to hurry up and propose to me NOW so I can start using my awesome new name and get a new email address.

    Reply
    1. meganfinley Post author

      Dude… waiting to use the new email address is the WORST. Happily since my email is “meggyfin” I can keep it as such and just change the name associated with it. (There’s no way I was gonna change my email AGAIN!!!)

      Reply

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