'My boyfriend won't propose to me unless I take his last name'

Mel Schilling is a relationship expert, confidence coach and TV presenter who is passionate about educating, motivating and inspiring people to be their best. Mel’s advice is backed by her 20 years spent as a psychologist and aims to improve your relationships in life and love.

Question: My boyfriend won't propose to me unless I take his last name. How do we come to a compromise?

I was a little confused when I read this question. To be honest, I thought it was coming from 1950.

But of course, we all have different values and different beliefs about the symbols and milestones in our relationships. Historically, the practice of taking a man’s last name came about as part of the patriarchal system that deemed a woman to be a man’s possession. Interestingly, a 2016 study revealed that although 60 per cent of UK women consider themselves feminists, 90 per cent say they would change their last name (and 85 per cent of women aged 18-30).

Mel Schilling on MAFS
Mel Schilling says taking a partner's last name is a very personal choice. Source: Nine

So it’s a complicated choice because as women, we have a range of beliefs about equality and our roles in hetero relationships.

It’s not black and white. And being a feminist does not exclude you from taking your partner’s name. This is a very personal choice.

Some women (and I include myself in this) experience a level of shame associated with the idea of giving up their last name to take their husband’s. Unconsciously, there is a level of cognitive dissonance (or conflict of ideas) associated with being a feminist AND changing your last name.


But both can co-exist, all it takes is some open-minded thinking and honest communication. Fortunately, we live in a time where concepts like gender, sexuality and relationships have become less binary and more fluid. This has afforded us a range of last name options, for example:

  • Male and female both take the female’s last name

  • The hyphenated last name (for one or both of you)

  • The blended last name (where you create a mash-up of both last names)

  • The entirely new last name (where you invent something new together)

So, I’d suggest it’s time for you to have a conversation with your boyfriend but before you do, ask yourself some questions:

  • WHY do I feel uncomfortable with the idea of taking his last name?

  • WHAT would I prefer to do?

  • WHAT is my bottom line (or deal breaker)?

  • HOW important is it to reach a compromise on this?

And then approach your partner with empathy and respect. Remember, this issue is obviously very important to him, if it led to such a dramatic ultimatum. You might consider asking him some questions like:

  • WHY is this issue so important to you?

  • WHAT would it mean for you if I didn’t change my name?

  • WOULD you really, honestly, rather not marry me than marry me and allow me to keep my name?

  • WOULD you be open to some of the alternative, less binary ideas?

Ultimately, this will come down to a conversation about your values. You may share some values and clash with others, and this can be ok in relationships. As a couple, you need to work through this in a sensitive manner to make sure you both feel heard and both have the opportunity to express your beliefs and wishes.

Mel's topline advice:

  • Remember its OK to be a feminist and change your name

  • Consider the modern-day versions of marriage and last name options

  • Ask yourself some questions to get to the heart of this issue for you

  • Ask your partner some questions so you can really understand his perspective

  • Work together to find an outcome that works for both of you

To learn how to step into your confidence you can sign up to Mel Schiilling's workshop here.

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