Baby Names Compromise: Finding A Name You Both Love
By Pamela Redmond Satran
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 arguments rear up about an issue that should be fun and pleasurable? And how can you solve these 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 your partner is campaigning for a name from their family — which may be more about pleasing their parents than loving that particular name. That can help you both look for other names that might fit the bill in a way that’s meaningful to the other person but that you also like.
BE SENSITIVE. Rather than snapping, Why do you like that stupid name?, realize you’re really talking about bigger issues such as family ties, ethnic identity, religion, childhood yearnings and disappointments, 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 — a 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, or find some other way to pick a name that at least one person truly loves and the other person can live with.
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 argue about names? Take a long time talking through your decision? Agree easily? Tell us more!
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on February 19th, 2009 at 6:37 pm
We discuss pros & cons and only fight occasionally. 🙂
Our tastes aren’t polar by any means but where I like say, Arthur, he’d rather Amedeo. Suffice to say, he’s more exotic than I am. I’m a bit more confortable with is style after 20 years than I used to be but sometimes he still manages to surprise me. Case in point, James Tiberius is a possibility for us! I definitely like James and he’d rather something wild in the middle. Tiberius floats his boat and the Star Trek reference is not a bother for us, but rather a bonus! We ‘argue” more over boys than girls because we both like boys names more but he also doesn’t think he’s qualified to “do” girls names, since there’s very few he feels anything for.
on February 19th, 2009 at 6:41 pm
Meant to add, We talk names all the time, when we’re pregnant, when we’re not, because we like them. And we’re Credit watchers, you know, movie credits? Yeah. Loving Pixar & Blue Sky’s movies for the “Production Babies” at the end of the credits!
The more we talk, the easier it is for us to agree or at least compromise.
on March 10th, 2016 at 12:07 pm
This is great advice!
Compromising about who does what household chore can be OK, but I agree, not about naming a human being. With a compromise name, both people end up feeling meh about the name. The naming process becomes more like an ad team naming a product than parents naming an infant.
I like the option of one chooses first name and one chooses second. If there isn’t a second child to flip the choices about, flip the naming of future family companion animals to the other partner/spouse.
I also find three names (first and two middles) a great way to make both parents happier. It allows for each person to has her/his favorite name as well as an honor name or a wild name.
And not every relative wants to be a namesake. I’ve said to relatives in the past, “I’d love to someday name my child after you” to which they all replied, “Oh, God, I can’t stand my name! Don’t do that!”
I like what the poster above said about James Tiberius. She’s happy, he’s happy, and the kid has a name that is both classic and cool.
on March 10th, 2016 at 1:18 pm
I love this. My SO is really great about treading carefully and asking for the specific “why” of a name (even of he hates it). My family is not so kind.
on March 10th, 2016 at 3:00 pm
We are not pregnant, nor do we have any immediate plans to be, but since I am such a name nerd I bring up potential baby names out of the blue just to gauge his reaction. I love this advice because it is so applicable. My guy is awful about just shooting down names without giving me an explanation, so this is a nice reminder about how to go about making the decision when the time comes.
on March 10th, 2016 at 6:50 pm
SO literally likes one name for a future daughter (Amalia, thankfully I’m a fan!) and for a son: Luke, after Skywalker. I’ve brought up so many different ways to get Luke and also so many other names and he has vetoed literally everything. He was the same when we named our dog, only one name would do and that is our dog’s name.
on March 11th, 2016 at 9:16 am
Good advice! I’m engaged, and my darling SO has almost no interest in baby names. Of course, he’s known I’ve considered names a “hobby” (arguably an obsession…) since I was eight. In the past year or so, instead of just suggesting names I like, I’ve tried suggesting names or name combinations that in some way honors himself or his family (he has a very small, close-knit family unit). And almost like magic, the interest starts showing! He’ll even give suggestions or nickname ideas (: of course, we are nowhere near starting a family, but I’m very happy that I found a way to interest him earlier in the game, rather than later!
on March 12th, 2016 at 5:52 am
I agree with the PP that was talking about compromising in the middle spot. I like much more traditional names and my husband likes names that have meaning to him. I didn’t want an unusual first name (which caused some tension for awhile) so I let him have almost total control over the middle while we had names that he could live with in the first places. He picked two names that were very important to him, a religious figure and the name of his grandpa (Hiram and Magnus). While I didn’t love them at first, they’ve grown on me and I love my boys’ first names! For our daughter I finally got to have more of a say over the middle. Mary Eloise’s middle name doesn’t have much meaning for us, we just both thought it was cute and spunky.
on March 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am
My husband and I have very different name tastes. I love nature, exotic or unusual Biblical names and he prefers, classic, what I would call out-dated names and ‘normal’ Biblical names. For me, the meaning or connotation of a name is extremely important as well. Neither bother my husband. Therefore we had our arguments about names and decided 4 years before we had children! Thankfully that eased things when we had our first child. Unfortunately I liked the girls name we had, but didn’t love it, because I am not a fan of popular names and I could think of 5 girls with that name. I want my children to be the only one among their group of friends with their name, so they feel a sense of personal identity. To sum up, we have a boy and girl by the names of Malachi and Blossom
on March 12th, 2016 at 2:28 pm
When we were naming our daughter, my husband wanted to name her Xochitl. I told him it could be her middle name because there would be a lot of spelling and pronunciation problems in the United States. I made a list of girl names, and he told me which ones he didn’t like. Then he made a list of girl names, and eventually we decided on Noemi. We also decided that when we have a boy, he will have his grandfather’s name, Zenon.
on March 12th, 2016 at 3:25 pm
My husband never really had suggestions, but was quick to say no to just about everything he heard. A few times, after days or weeks had passed, he would say, “That name is really growing on me.” We had a few maybes from those, but nothing was sticking. That’s when I learned that when I brought up a name, I needed to say, “Think about this for awhile…” or “Don’t veto this right away…” I introduced my last suggestion like that, made my “arguments” for the name, and then just let him turn it over in his head. We didn’t talk it to death, and within a few days, we both knew it was the one.
on March 12th, 2016 at 6:31 pm
We never really argued about names, but I used to get irritated at my husband over them. You see, we weren’t TTC at that point (we are now), so it was just hypothetical blabber, to him. He wouldn’t take it seriously and would give “suggestions” in a joking manner (things like Hurricane). It never boiled down to fighting, but it would make me discouraged and I’d drop it. When I talked to him about it, he said that it was just hard for him to come up with names for a child when we weren’t even pregnant or trying to. It made sense and I couldn’t blame him.
Now that we are TTC, he’s really involved and super excited about coming up with potential names 🙂 it is definitely different than before because there is potentially an actual baby in the picture. Thankfully, our naming styles go pretty well together. When one of us suggests a name, the other will give honest feedback. We do try to discuss why we like/don’t like a name. It really helps, because it helps us to see more than just a face value. We also try to be open-minded about it, while realizing that regardless of our tastes/wishes, the child will be the bearer of its name, not us. My husband pointed that out to me when I was suggesting some really old-fashioned names that are pretty out-there nowadays, and it really helped me reign in my ideas. I appreciate he felt comfortable and honest enough to point that out.
We have compromised on one name. It’s his grandmother’s name. She passed away several months ago. He loved her dearly. She was a cranky, racist, ornery, stubborn mule of a woman, but still his grandma (note: he didn’t agree with these things). I suggested her name awhile after she passed and he perked up immediately. It was the first time he smiled in a month. I don’t like the name and never have, but I suggested it for him. It will be our daughter’s middle name, when and if we have one. Sometimes, you do have to make sacrifices when it comes to naming. I don’t regret it at all and it’s become something that means a lot to him.
on March 14th, 2016 at 7:24 pm
I’d just like to say thank you, as a queer mama who sees herself and others like her underrepresented on this site, for choosing a photo of a two-mom family for this post.
on March 14th, 2016 at 11:16 pm
Thank you for noticing and taking the time to write.
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