Monday, December 11, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Couple's argument over baby name is really about far more

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Q: My husband and I met in early 2011, got married in early 2012, and are expecting our first baby. (Slight rush because of age/fertility concerns; I'm on the cusp of 40.) So in other words, the transition from first date to married/expectant parents was a pretty quick one.

We are arguing bitterly over how to name our child, with one of us angling for a traditional name that honors a family member (no specific name in mind, just that one consideration) and the other looking for something creative and unique (again, no specific name in mind). There is no overlap between these categories, so no answer that will satisfy both of us.

The bigger issue is, I worry that if we can't get this settled, we're in for a much rockier marriage than we realized. Question 1: Any suggestions? Question 2: Am I overthinking?

Maryland

A: It certainly doesn't help that you are at best self-conscious about your decision to rush things, and at worst second-guessing it. However you go about settling down — from arranged marriage to impulse decision to carefully reasoned choice — the formula won't matter so much as your decision to put everything you've got into the result.

Toward that end, what each of you needs to think about — run this by him at a non-fighting moment — is why winning this argument has become more important than your relationship with each other.

A name does matter, yes, to a degree, because a bad one can dog a person and a good one can be a source of confidence and connection. Still, a name doesn't matter even close to as much as the happiness and stability of one's childhood home matters. Specifically, the relationship of co-parents serves usually as a child's first and most enduring example of how to have an emotional relationship — encompassing such essential elements of human fulfillment as warmth, respect, perspective, cooperation, self-control, fair play, delayed gratification, I could go on.

If none of these things matters as much to either of you as does a victory over a symbol, then why are you married? To finish your to-do lists by deadline?

Your child's name won't mean a bucket of spit if you and your husband fight for leverage over every detail of your preconceived ideas of what marriage and family should look like.

You matter. He matters. Baby matters. Go be grown-ups now and choose a name that aims neither for flair nor ancestral significance, but instead sounds nice to both of you — meaning, yes, you both lose. Voluntarily and as a gift to each other.

If you can't do that, then find a good marriage class, seminar or counselor to help you get your priorities and communication strategies unbent. Wouldn't be a bad idea anyway, even if you do agree peaceably that Annabeth Artichoke has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Pair hope to find premarital counseling that's not religious

Q: My boyfriend and I have started talking marriage and he's indicated a desire to do some sort of premarital counseling. Neither of us is active in a church so I'm not sure where to find resources on a secular version. Any help?

Anonymous

A: Try smartmarriages.org, recommended to me by pros. Yay to both of you for doing this.

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