My In-Laws are Unhappy with My Husband Taking My Surname

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female office worker in my late 20s. My husband and I got married last year, and he took my surname. We talked about it and made the decision ourselves.

However, my husband’s parents told us that it’s customary for the wife to take the husband’s surname. Their comment made me feel like I didn’t even have the right to discuss the matter, and I felt sad.

In Japan, only 5% of married couples reportedly take the wife’s surname. The traditional family system ended in Japan a long time ago, and we both work.

My husband tried to persuade his parents, but they were not convinced. I was not able to meet them and discuss the matter before we got married. We had no choice but to get married without their consent because my husband told me that they would not understand any time soon and it is unclear how long it would take.

My parents respect our decision. I have come to realize that there are parents who impose their egos on their children. I wonder if people like my husband’s parents could be described as toxic parents.

My husband hasn’t been able to see his parents since we got married. I just don’t understand what’s wrong with my husband taking my surname.

I, Ibaraki Prefecture

Dear Ms. I:

We often find ourselves in situations where sound arguments don’t work, as people still have strong feelings about traditions, the norm and how others will view them when it comes to their family.

Under the law in Japan, married couples can choose to either take the husband’s or the wife’s surname. However, as you mentioned, 95% of them still take the husband’s.

In this situation, people usually end up thinking that it is common for married couples to take the husband’s surname, no matter how much the two of you have discussed the matter. It is also true that some people discriminate against married couples who make a different decision because such a choice deviates from what they think is common.

Your husband’s parents might be afraid that they could be criticized for having a son whose choice deviates from the norm. Perhaps they might think that their son has been “taken” by his wife’s family.

I don’t know if your in-laws are toxic parents, but if you don’t find any problems in your married life, it would fine to let it be for the time being. You can even think that this opportunity has further fortified the relationship between you and your husband.

The day will come when your in-laws eventually come to appreciate your choice.

Introducing a system that allows married couples to choose to keep both of their own surnames has been discussed for a long time. If this is realized, I believe issues like yours could be avoided.

Masahiro Yamada, university professor