Baby names: What to do if you and your partner don't agree

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.


Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Disagreement over what you will name your new baby is the first conflict you are facing together as parents. 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 will you develop a pattern of 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. Treating each other with respect and consideration, (rather than discounting or minimizing the other's feelings in order to win!) is critical to maintaining a healthy partnership.

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

What does a name mean to you?

Naming a child 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 a 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.

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, Aunt Martha could be honored by using the initial "M" for Marina.) 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. This can help the two of you create your own meaning of family in the naming process.

Get creative

Keep trying! Use the Baby Name Finder for help. 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. Consider 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.

For fun, take this quiz and find out your baby name IQ!

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