'My mother-in-law sends weekly letters. And the name she uses for me is maddening.'

I didn’t change my surname when I got married. That was something I never considered doing. I find the whole idea of women changing their surname to their husband’s surname offensive. To me, it’s like symbolising the loss of your identity – the idea that you are no longer your own person, you are now simply a possession of your husband’s.


When I got engaged a while back, my fiance was totally cool about the idea of me keeping my surname. (I wouldn’t have married him otherwise.) Anyway, he doesn’t have a great surname to work with. Combined with my first name, it sounds like a stutter. Think Bec Eckert.

That’s not it, but it’s something like that. That’s how awkward it is to say. Even if I was a believer in women changing their surname to their husband’s, I would have hesitated.

On the subject of annoying mother-in-laws, this is a guide on how to handle toxic relatives. Robin Bailey and Bec Sparrow speak to listener Lucy, who was brave enough to sever the relationship she had with her toxic father, on The Well. Post continues after audio.

Obviously, I met his parents before the wedding.

“Our other daughter-in-law hyphenated her surname when she got married,” his mother told me. “I’m glad you won’t be doing anything silly like that.”

No, something sillier.

“I’m actually planning to keep my surname,” I told her, pointedly.

I thought that awkward incident would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.

After the wedding, my mother-in-law began writing to my husband and me, at least once a week. Yep, she actually still sends letters through the mail, with a stamp and everything. She fills me in on what she and her husband have been up to. Nice.

But she addresses these letters to “Mrs Bec Eckert and Mr Dave Eckert”. Or sometimes even “Mr and Mrs Dave Eckert”.

I cannot tell you how irritated this makes me. I am not a “Mrs”, I am not a “Dave”, I am not an “Eckert”.

Since my wedding, a few other people have tried to refer to me as a “Mrs” or called me by my husband’s surname. I have set them straight, and they’ve been fine about it, and they haven’t done it again.

My mother-in-law is different. She knows I haven’t changed my surname – I’ve reminded her about it since the wedding – but she’s addressing these dozens of envelopes like I have. Is she doing it to make herself happy? Or just to needle me? I’m not quite sure.

I refuse to open the letters, because they’re not addressed to me. I leave them on the kitchen table for my husband. He thinks it’s all a bit of a laugh. It’s not. He just doesn’t understand what it feels like for me.

I’m seriously considering writing “return to sender – no one by that name here” on one of the letters and popping it back in the mailbox.

Overreaction? I don’t think so.

What would you do if you were in this woman’s situation? Should she confront her mother-in-law about this?

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