Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact
Ask Dr. Gayle

Disagreement over baby's name

QUESTION: I am 28 weeks pregnant and my husband and I are really struggling with naming our baby. I love the name Molly, but he hates it. We can't come to any compromise. How can we come together on this and choose a name for our baby? It is causing tension in our marriage.

ANSWER: Disagreement over what you will name your child is the first conflict you are facing together as parents. However, it is by no means the last! How you treat each other in this process establishes what your pattern for problem solving will be in the future. Is your decision making based on promoting connection between you when you face conflict, or disengagement?

Family researchers agree that remaining connected through disagreements is key to what contributes to a healthy marriage. Your marriage is the foundation for your child's well-being. Focus your attention on solving this problem by taking turns listening to your partner's feelings about what is in a name for each of you. Understanding your spouse's underlying emotional reasons for name choice will more likely assure that you remain connected, rather than emotionally detached through this conflict. And treating each other with respect and consideration (rather than discounting or minimizing the other's feelings in order to win!) is critical to healthy partnership.

Consider the following ideas to help you answer the dilemma of what you will name your child:

1) What does a name mean to you?
Naming is based on emotional associations, preferences and meanings. When offering your favorite suggestions to your partner, share what the name means for you. For example, Does "Molly" conjure up images of a feisty little girl, or strong woman? The possibility of finding another name that gives you the same feeling, but is acceptable to your spouse may become more apparent. Ask, too, what the name stimulates for your spouse. And be interested in your partner's feelings! Often, we have had an association with someone by that name in the past, and the name is contaminated with a negative or disappointing experience. By sharing the feelings around these associations, couples can create their own guidelines, making it easier to identify mutually acceptable, and unacceptable names.

2) Family meanings
It is the tradition in some families to honor a beloved relative by naming a child after them, or sometimes using the initial as a guideline. (For example, using the initial "M" for Marina could honor Aunt Martha). Understanding your partner's wish to include family history may generate more ideas and discussions that lead to a solution based on appreciation rather than competition. And it can help the two of you create your own meaning of family in the naming process!

3) Get creative
Keep trying! Use the name finder on this site for help if you are stuck. Look into the meaning of different names, for new ideas. Staying connected through an open dialogue will eventually bring you to a name you can both embrace. Also consider creating a new name that you have never heard before, or including a middle name as a compromise! And don't forget that you can also consider taking turns. For example, some spouses agree that dad will pick the first name, and mom the middle name for the first child, reversing this order for the next child.

Find a solution you can both feel good about, rather than feeling you "lost" the battle. This is what successful problem solving is all about! When partners feel considered, rather than ignored, warmth and heartfelt compromise results.

Your disagreement is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship by joining together to create a successful parenting team. You are practicing your approach to problem solving, and your unborn child will benefit! Make it a warm and stimulating experience, which connects you, rather than separates you from each other.

Return to Previous Page

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com