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What if You and Your Spouse Don't Agree on a Baby Name?

By Aela Mass |

This post is more of a cry for help than it is a source of help. I cannot answer the question because my wife and I are currently suffering from this dilemma. It’s true that we’ve got plenty of time to decide on a name, or even on a list of potential names. But one thing is for sure: We aren’t even close to agreeing on a name that might work.

One of our hardest problems is that our middle and last names are monosyllabic words that have actual meanings: Hill Mass. When we got married last October, we decided to take my wife’s maiden name as our middle names and my family’s last name as our last name. There were numerous reasons we made this decision, not least of which is that we wanted our children to have unified, familial names that honored both sides of our family, but that also matched their parents’ names without the arduous and (in my opinion) aesthetically displeasing hyphen. So we decided then that our family and all its immediate members (moms and kids!) would have the middle name of Hill and the last name of Mass. It was such an easy decision and sat so well with the both of us.

Who knew that naming would become such a nightmare?

At first, it felt silly to even be talking about names, since we’re not even pregnant yet (fingers crossed that will happen next month!). But after we both started tossing potential names around – who couldn’t use a break from all the IVF medical talk? – I realized just how glad I am that we’ve already started these talks. Because this is going to take a while.

It felt like a quirky disagreement in the beginning. But the cutesy teasing has turned into frustration, and we fear we’ll settle on a name we both feel “ehh” about just to compromise.

We’ve called in the troops, aka friends and family, for advice. But that isn’t really working, especially since my #1 go-to for name suggestions happens to have pretty much my exact taste in names. I leave the conversations with my baby-naming helper friend feeling great, only to have my wife shoot down the suggestions. Names that I adore (Maeve, Alice, Nora, Chet, Stanley, Myron), my wife cannot stand. And the names that top her list (Samantha, Lucinda, Simone, Jesse), I shake my head at. It felt like a quirky disagreement in the beginning. I’d swat her with the dishrag and laugh out, “Get outta here” when she suggested names. She’d similarly tease, often immediately coming up with a rhyme about the name I suggested that I couldn’t help but cross it off the list.

But the cutesy teasing has turned into frustration. Don’t get me wrong; our marriage isn’t in jeopardy because of this. And we have at the very least roughly 11 months to decide on one friggin’ name. It’s just that we’re both at the point where we fear we’ll settle on a name we both feel “ehh” about just to compromise. She likes it enough. I like it enough. Boom, it’s our child’s name. But how sad is that? That neither of us loves the name of our child? Part of me almost thinks it’s better for me to cave entirely just so one of us loves the name. I mean, really, after it’s all said and done, it’s not as though I’m going to love my child any less because I don’t love her or his name, for crying out loud.

I’ve abandoned the idea that I’ll have a daughter named Maeve or a son named Stanley (the name of my much-loved great uncle who passed away a few years ago). My wife simply does not like those names, and I have to respect that. I do respect that. And she knows we won’t have a Samantha or a Jesse. But the problem isn’t what aren’t we going to name our first-born child. The problem is what are we going to name out first-born child?

We’ve gone down the “family names” road. Her twin’s middle name and her aunt’s first name is Vera, and I’ve more than once suggested it. But she only likes it “a little.” My mother’s great grandmother’s name is Evelyn, but my wife’s coworker is naming her daughter that. It seems every turn leads us to a dead end.

Has this happened to you? Are you and your spouse currently in disagreement about potential baby names? How have you handled this? We seriously welcome all and any advice!

Photo: sashafatcat

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About Aela Mass


Aela Mass

Aela Mass is a lesbian writer and editor living the dream on Martha's Vineyard with her wife, Sara, and their dog, Darla. She miscarried her twins at 17 weeks and has undergone numerous IVF, FET, and IUI cycles. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post among other publications. For more of her work, visit her blog Two Moms Make a Right. Read bio and latest posts → Read Aela's latest posts →

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28 thoughts on “What if You and Your Spouse Don't Agree on a Baby Name?

  1. Amanda R. says:

    Yes! We are currently in disagreement about baby names and, like you, I am not even pregnant yet. I can’t bring up names anymore because he keeps shooting all my suggestions down and instead saying he’s going to name his son Thor. I’m too scared to ask if he’s serious!

  2. Stefanie says:

    My husband and I each made a list of boys and girls names and then we shared them with one another. We didn’t find out the gender, but we both had what ended up being our son’s name on our list. Thank goodness we had a son because we went to the hospital without a girls name anywhere near settled on.

  3. Amy says:

    Well, I love Evelyn and it was the only girl’s name that my husband and I agreed on and loved so – wallah – our daughter is Evelyn :) . It was on the table for each of my sons if either had been a girl. The only name that even came close was Vivienne. That being said, I would suggest nymbler and the Baby Name wizard book. You may find that making lists and looking at names leads to you loving a name that you were initially so-so about. Our second son’s name wasn’t even on the table for us when our first was being named, but I said it enough times that when I suggested it for our second boy, my husband was immediately on board. OTOH – no matter how many times I suggested Eleanor, my husband never warmed up to it.

  4. Michelle says:

    It took my husband and I over a year to agree on a boys and girls name. This was after months of us talking about possible names and each of us getting frustrated when one or the other didn’t like a name. But even with it being frustrating, it was also kind of fun because it was so exciting to chose baby names at all.

  5. guajolote says:

    Family names. Kinda doesn’t matter if you love the name. You loved that person and you’ll love the baby. The name carries meaning.

    You could do 2 middle names, so the Hill Mass is still intact and take a name from each side of the family.

  6. kimybeee says:

    my children are now 16 and 18. our daughter is caitlin virginia. caitlin was the name of the main charachter in the book i was reading when my husband and i started dating and virginia was his grandmothers name and my great grandmothers. our son is jonathan michael. my husband is a jeffrey michael and his dad was a jerry mckinley. my husband wanted to keep the same initials as his and his dads. we have no nicknames for them – they are called by their given names.

    i think you can spend some time researching the popular names now and you can decide if you want to join them or avoid them. you will probably eventually find a name that you both love – and it will be special and important to you both. maybe you won’t decide until you meet your baby – either way, just remember to enjoy the process!!!

  7. Kim Q says:

    It kinda worked out for us that I got to pick the first names and my husband got to pick the middle names. Mind you, we both had veto power too, so anything that I loved and he couldn’t stand immediately got axed, and vice versa. My husband is Irish, so he went with traditional Irish names as middle names. For first names, I specifically did NOT want family names, so I just came up with names I loved. So our two kiddos are Zoe Siobhan and Sunny Saoirse.

  8. Joni Larsen says:

    Like you I chose to use my maiden name as my son’s middle name and that worked out fine. As far as the first name, if I am to be honest I was
    never in love with it and settled and it has always bothered me (22 years). The one thing I believe is that you really have to wait until you meet your child as some names just don’t fit. The moment he was born I knew he was not a Max or a Lee, he just wasn’t. So go armed with a few names you feel more than “eh” about and then meet the new little person and hopefully everyone will be happy. Good luck!

  9. Nikki says:

    Ugh, yes. In fact, I looked at over 500 hundred boy names yesterday and maybe 2 of them stuck out to me. There are names I LOVE that my husband hates and vice versa. But the real kicker is the whole “Well, my best friend’s son is named that; I know a guy that I can’t stand by that name; I dated a guy in college by that name” argument. I hate that I can’t name my son something just because someone else is named that! It’s so invalid, yet it is the deciding factor for so many names.

  10. Kayte Weems says:

    Read through movie credits for interesting ideas. Careful not to get confused and add “gaffer” to the list of potentials.

  11. Kathy says:

    I still like Maeve, Aela! I also really love Samantha. But I know you’ll find something you both love, given time. What about your heroes, literary or otherwise? That’s always where I start, then you think about the sounds in the name, and play with those and go from there. Have you cleaned the library out of naming books like we have? My favorite right now is “Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names” by Amanda Elizabeth Barden. Instead of listing them alphabetically, it is organized by category- nature names, mythological names, etc. I’ve always been a fan of nature names, but I can never find one that Kevin likes too, so I just hope one day we’ll have a cat and he’ll let me name her Meadow :)

    I loved the name Arlo the moment it was suggested, which was pretty much as soon as we found out we were having a boy. But we struggled with the middle name up to the day he was born. In the end I just caved and went with Kandinsky because I knew Kevin loved it. Turns out there isn’t a name in the world that would fit our son better. I feel like kids grow into their names, and their names grow on us, too.

    Best of luck. I can’t wait to hear what you eventually choose! When you finally hear it, you’ll know.

  12. Liann says:

    I gotta step up my game, huh?? I am determined to help you! And it’s not our fault we both have fabulous taste :)

  13. Ingrid says:

    We bought two baby naming books. He went through them with a blue highlighter, I used a green one. We highlighted names that we liked, or were okay with. Then I picked out 10 of the names that he highlighted as my top ten and the other way around. So we had a list of 20 names, plus all the ones that we both liked. We then sat down together and picked out the top ten contenders together, the only thing we did together for that matter.

  14. KateThree says:

    I have 3 boys. Trying to name the second and third? A real pain in the butt! Interestingly, my third child’s name was the one I was most “eh” about, but it has definitely grown on me. My first child’s name, which I absolutely loved at the time…well, I still love it, but I do kinda wish his name were a bit more exciting.
    Which just goes to say, don’t worry too much about whether you LOVELOVELOVE the name. Do you mostly like the name? Can you imagine saying it a gajillion times? Does it sound good with your middle and last names? My personal test involved: Can I imagine the name on a resume for a business professional AND on an artist/musician type resume?

  15. Becky says:

    My husband and I shirked a bit of work one day for a chat session where we went through the alphabet using an online name site, listing those names we liked and crossing of those we couldn’t agree on. We started out with a huge list, but within an hour or so had it whittled down considerably. Whatever we do decide, someday we’ll be able to show our child the chat log where his/her name was hashed out, complete with the sometimes amusing reasons for why we nixed certain names.

    Full disclosure: We still have not decided on a girl’s first name, but only because we both like 3 equally and haven’t completely narrowed it down.

  16. Jenn says:

    We went back and forth for a long while trying to name our children. We wound up going on a baby name website. We chose a letter that we both liked and went down the list. After many evenings of playing this game we finally had a short list and from there, we made our decision. We went back to the list when we got pregnant with our second baby, none of the names seemed right. So, we started the process over again. I’m sure the two of you will find a name that just seems perfect, no matter how you decide to go about choosing it. It just may take some time. Good luck!

  17. LBH says:

    Sort of like Ingrid–We never agreed and we are both as bullheaded as can be. What we ended up doing is going to a ranking system. Note: this only works if you both agree to go with whatever the final result is. We took the top 12 names we both could agree on and then individually ranked them from 1-12. (1 being favorite, 12 being least favorite) #1 got 1 point, #12 got 12 points. Then we took the 5 with the lowest scores and did it again. The name with the lowest amount of points was the name we went with. It had been number 2 on my list, number 3 on his. Middle name was the next lowest score. So neither one of us really got our way, but we ended up with a name we could both say we liked pretty well.

    Worked for us.

  18. LBH says:

    To further clarify–when I say we took the top 12 names we both could agree on, I should have added, “we both could agree didn’t make us want to poke our eyes out.” So, you have to have a little give and take on that top 12.

  19. Kathleen says:

    My sister-in-law had her baby’s name all picked out -Victoria. (she knew she was having a girl). But then a funny thing happened. After a few days with her newborn, she realized that Victoria was actually a Lydia! So, Lydia became her name. As she said, the name “Lydia” just kept coming into her head every time she nursed or held her baby.

  20. jackie says:

    I really think the mom should get the final say on first names if the Dad’s last name is being used. Having the mom’s maiden name is a nice gesture, but please, when do you ever use a middle name except for in legal documents. I was pretty lucky in that my husband didn’t have any strong opinions on naming but I made it pretty clear that if he got to choose the last name, then I get to pick the first name. We are married but with different last names.

  21. Eileen says:

    Completely understand…been there! My husband and I could agree on a name for a son (it came quite easily for our daughter). It helped that each of us retained veto power, and we started the list of names that both of us were ok with. We did not choose a name until just minutes before I started the pushing phase of delivery…and guess what, he has a name, we like it, and we love him!

  22. Eileen says:

    oh and because I know it’s helpful to hear/see other names, we went with Kaia and Micah :)

  23. Carol says:

    I’m 32 weeks pregnat and I still can’t come up with a name I’m stuck I’ve picked Remington James, Hugh marston, Noah Riley, Brunoli Chet. I can’t find one I’m in love with! This is my second child my first sons name is Dylan Malachi! We picked his name out the day I became pregnat but this one is soo hard for me!

  24. Ashley says:

    You mentioned your wife’s coworker is naming her daughter Evelyn, but really, if you both like the name, who cares?! It is a family name for you, and unless you plan on raising your daughters side-by-side, year-by-year, it shouldn’t make a difference if someone you know or once knew daughter has the same name as your daughter. When my son was born, my husband suggested a name that I knew (through Facebook) that a former co-worker of mine had named her son. I immediately said that – no, we can’t name him that, that’s so-and-so’s son’s name, but my husband gently reminded me that we really had no connection to them anymore, only keep up with them on Facebook…NBD! So to make a long story short, if you both like Evelyn, don’t let the coworker stop you!

  25. Meg says:

    My husband and I had the same thing. What we ended up doing was each of us making a list of names we liked for boys and girls, and then going through each name one by one. I never thought I would name my daughter Taylor, but that it what we ended up with, and it’s suits her perfectly. Now we are pregnant with our next one, and my favorite name at the beginning for a girl was Hadley… my husband shot it down flat. No way. Now we have one boys name we like(Maxwell) and narrowed down to three girls names(Norah, Samantha, and Claire)… but names are tough. I would suggest making lists and prioritizing each name on that list until you come up with a top 5(we had 20-30 name long lists before we narrowed it down) and go that route, you might want to invest in a baby name book, b/c that gives a lot of suggestions(like Taylor) that you may not think of on your own.

    Also- Evelyn is a lovely name, and I wouldn’t be concerned about a co-worker(it’s not like your sister or something)

  26. Annie says:

    Evelyn, go for it! What if your co-worker doesn’t end up using it?! :)

    PS, I found was a lot of fun to look through!

  27. Rachael says:

    I love reading how other people name their children. Your decision is no different, even if you aren’t pregnant yet. I find it interesting. My partner and I personally didn’t go any route that I have read about so far. I carried our child, so in order to make my partner feel included, I agreed that she could pick the name and I would not veto it unless it was crazy. “Superman” or “Valkeryie” LOL. So, she picked Peyton Shea and Dominic Giovanni. We decided to use her last name and that was ok with me. This was my way of helping her feel included in the pregnancy and process.

  28. Eric says:

    One way to work through a baby name disagreement is to use an online baby name compromise tool like this one:

    After each person enters names that he or she likes, it will suggest names that you both may like. Worth a try…

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