Category: fighting about baby names
Conceiving your child may have made you feel, more than any other step you’ve taken together, as if you and your spouse had finally and truly become one. Choosing its name can remind you that, nope, you’re still actually two.
There are all those people with all those names that each of you knew and loved or hated before you met each other. If you and your spouse draw up individual lists of your favorite names, chances are you’ll cross off half of each other’s picks because you went to third grade with an Elizabeth whose nose was always running, or had a college roommate named Daniel who told terrible jokes.
Couples who successfully negotiate religious differences and complicated family holidays sometimes find themselves stymied by conflicting name ideas and requirements. One couple we know, for instance, compromised his Jewish and her Catholic backgrounds by attending a Unitarian church, but when naming their baby hit a deep divide when he wanted to follow religious tradition and give their child a name that started with the same letter as that of his recently deceased grandmother, and she bucked against being pinned down to names beginning with S.
Another factor that can make for difficult name negotiations is that, in most cases, one of you is a man and the other is a woman. A study by Charles Joubert of the University of Northern Alabama demonstrated that men and women often have very different tastes in and ideas about names. Men, he found, were more likely to choose common or old-fashioned names for children of either sex, while women were more likely to propose common names for boys and unusual ones for girls.
How to resolve any naming problems you and your spouse might be having? Here are some tips:
Talk about issues like image and gender before you talk about names.
What do you each hope for in a child? Is your fantasy child energetic or studious, “all-boy” or gentle, feminine or tomboy? Coming to agreement on these matters, or at least getting them out in the open, can help when you’re choosing a name, not to mention raising your child.
Rule out all names of ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends.
No matter how much you like the name Emily, do not proceed with it if your husband had a long, torrid affair with an Emily way back when. Do not tell yourself you’ll forget: You won’t, and neither will he.
Make a “no” list as well as a “yes” list.
Most couples only make lists of the names they like; it can help to make lists, too, of the names that are absolutely out for each of you. Include those you’d rule out for personal reasons (the roommate who stole all your clothes) as well as names you simply hate. Agree that neither of you will bring up the names on each other’s “absolutely not” lists no matter how much you like them or how neutral they may be for you.
Avoid using the name-selection process as an opportunity to criticize each other’s loved ones.
Investigate the reasons for each other’s choices.
Let’s say you love a name your spouse hates. Instead of fighting over the name itself, explore what it is about the name that appeals to you. Figuring out whether you like a name because it’s classic, or feminine, or stylish can lead you to other names with the same characteristics that both of you like.
Remember that parenthood is a joint venture.
Just as your child will be a unique blend of characteristics from both of you, so should you endeavor to arrive at a name that combines each of your sensibilities and tastes. If you absolutely can’t find a name you both love, agree that one of you will choose the first name, the other one the middle. Or, one will name this child, the other will name the next. Such enlightened negotiation and compromise is what marriage is all about.
Many couples are shocked to find that, while they agree about so many more seemingly important things, they’re locked in an enormous battle over baby names. Why do fights rear up about an issue that should be fun and pleasurable? And how to solve the Baby Name Battles?
RECOGNIZE YOU’RE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT NAMES. Name discussions often tap into deeper issues like religion, family, people’s experiences from their pasts that they may not have discussed openly or even be aware of themselves. It may take more time, patience, and care to thoroughly discuss name tastes and their implications than you anticipate.
DON‘T COMPROMISE. Finding a compromise name — one that may not be either of your favorites but that you both like okay — might not actually be the best solution. It can provide a quicker, easier fix to the name problem, but may cover up the deeper issues still lurking.
DIG DEEPER. It’s worth uncovering the reasons BEHIND the names you and your partner like. Let’s say he loves the name Jack (which you hate) and you finally figure out that’s because he thinks Jack sounds like a popular, laid-back, masculine guy — exactly the sort of guy he wanted to be. That can help you both look for other names that might fit the bill in a way that’s meaningful to him but that you also like.
BE SENSITIVE. Rather than snapping, Why do you like that stupid name?, realize you’re talking about his mother and father, his ethnic identity, his religious background, his feelings about himself as a child, and use the kind of care those subjects deserve. And treat yourself and your feelings about names with the same tenderness and respect!
TAKE YOUR TIME. Search long and hard, make lots of lists, talk about it with friends if you find that fun and not threatening, and discuss fully the issues that may lie beneath why you like or hate certain names. Searching for the right name can be a great opportunity to learn about each other.
DON‘T OPT OUT. Don‘t sidestep the struggle and turn the name decision over to somebody else — his mother, a friend. It’s your decision to make and you should keep ownership of it.
REACH FOR A NAME YOU BOTH LOVE. With enough discussion you might reach the ideal — a name you both love that’s not a compromise. Failing that, I actually think rather than a compromise of choosing a name you’re both just so-so about, it’s better to let one person choose the first name and the other the middle, and then switch with the next baby.
DON‘T LET THE NAME DECISION UNDERMINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Are baby names important? Sure, but not as important as your relationship. If the name decision is really tearing you apart (and we have heard from couples like this), seek counseling, take time to work through all the issues that arise. Things will be a lot tougher when the baby is actually here and the name tension might be symbolic of deeper problems you should address now.
We’d love to hear about your baby name battles with your partner. Did you fight about names? Take a long time talking through your decision? Agree easily? Tell us more!