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Dear Abby: Mother upset that son is taking wife's last name

Dear Abby: My husband, "Jack," and I have been married three years. I'm a feminist and didn't want to change my family name upon getting married. In addition, my husband had his stepfather's name, and the man was physically abusive to him while he was growing up.

Jack agreed to take my last name and legally changed his name a year after we were married. When we mentioned it to his mother before our wedding, she was completely against it and threatened to disown Jack if he took my name. That's when we decided to do it and not disclose it to his family.

Jack still uses his original name, but once we have children (which will be in the next year), he and our children will be using my last name. How, and when, should we tell his family? I feel it might be better to break the news before we actually have kids. — East Coast Family

Dear Feminist: When you say your husband's mother threatened to "disown" him if he changed his name, I assume she meant in the financial sense. If he is prepared for that, then it makes no difference when he gives his mother the news. Because his stepfather was abusive and his associations with the name are unpleasant, I see no compelling reason for him to carry it on.

However, it will be interesting to see if his mother follows through with her threat, in light of the fact that if she does she'll be cutting herself off from her grandbabies when they arrive. That's a hefty price to pay for trying to make a point, I'd say.

Dear Abby: Please don't mention my name or town because this is a small community and people will know it's me. I'm an avid reader, and I trust only you with this.

I'm a 15-year-old sophomore in high school. I have been told I live the "perfect life." I'm popular in school and in the top 10 percent of my class of 300 and get straight A's. I have a cute boyfriend, and my parents are "cool" and let me do things. I've never had sex, done drugs or drunk alcohol.

The problem is I'm not happy. I've been cutting myself for two years. All my dad does is degrade me and tell me everything I do is wrong. We argue constantly. Mom tries to be my best friend instead of a mother, and I can't stand to be around her.

I don't feel anything toward my best friends or my boyfriend. I don't know if I really like him. We have been together on and off for two years. This is the fifth time we've tried to work things out. When I break it off, I get even more depressed and cut myself more. My best friends annoy me, but if I don't hang out with them they'll get concerned and tell my parents about the cutting. My closest friend knows I do it, but she does it, too, so she can't rat me out.

Please help me. It's not that I want to commit suicide, but it's like I have forgotten how to be happy. — Seeing Gray, Feeling Blue in N.Y.

Dear Feeling Blue: The feelings you have described can be symptoms of chronic depression, which is an illness. Everybody has days when they feel down and isolated. However, when people begin cutting themselves to take away the pain, it is time to get help from a trained therapist.

Please clip this letter, show it to your parents or a trusted adult — a relative, a teacher or counselor at school, a clergyperson — and admit that you wrote it. You need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor because there is help for your problem. Please don't wait to do this, because you have a right to be happy, and it's only a phone call away.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. © 2005 Universal Press Syndicate