Boy name issue . . .

Hi Everyone,

My husband and I are expecting our third child, and we both really like the name Benjamin if it is a boy. I have loved the name since I was a little girl, and my husband likes it because it is a Star Wars reference (Ben Kenobi) and because it goes nicely with our last name.

Our dilemma is that my sister in law's ex-husband is named Ben. She went through a bitter divorce a few years ago and still harbors resentment over everything that went on.

Is it terrible of us to use the name anyway? Should we give her a heads up that we plan to use the name, or ask her feelings on it?

What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance!


November 15, 2017 12:41 PM

Annoying as it must be to you, I would definitely skip it- she's got such a bad association with the name that it will definitely feel awful to her. 

November 15, 2017 12:55 PM

That's the advice I was expecting (but hoping not to hear)! Thank you for your input.

November 15, 2017 5:54 PM

I'm really not sure that it would feel awful. I mean would you (general you) expect her to never become friends with another man named Ben because of this previous association? What if someone named Ben started working at her office? Would she feel awful every time she had to talk to/about him? I don't think she would, I think she would adjust to having both positive and negative feelings about the name.

If you have a boy and choose to name him Benjamin I think that it would likely be slightly weird for her for a little while and then just slowly become normal and I'd expect that her nephew would become her primary association with the name. Given how acrimonious the divorce sounds it may take a while for your Benjamin to become the first thing she thinks of on hearing the name but I do think that would happen eventually. 

November 15, 2017 2:47 PM

oh I wouldnt use the name

November 15, 2017 3:22 PM

Was the ex-husband just Ben, or Benjamin, or Benedict?

If he was just Ben, or if he was Benedict (or some other name) called Ben, I think you could use Benjamin, and let your sister-in-law know that she is free to call her nephew the full Benjamin all the time -- or Obi-Wan, or a nickname of her own choosing.

If the ex was Benjamin called Ben, you could go with Benedict, and allow SIL to use Ned as her special nickname for her nephew.

But a pre-name-bestowal conversation with SIL is definitely called for, armed with the above options.

November 15, 2017 3:48 PM

Honestly, I don't think it's bad to use the name. I would just explain to her that this is a name that you have loved for a long time. I think that she would come around eventually, even if she wasn't on board at first, once she meets the little guy. I agree with someone above, too, that she can use a different nickname if she feels compelled. For what it is worth, my sister has an ex-boyfriend (also ended badly) named Julian. It's still on my short list, and I would absolutely still use it. Funnily, I have an ex named Alex, and this is my sister's favorite name. 

Long story short: do what you want, and other people will come around to it once he is born :)

November 15, 2017 5:21 PM

If your SIL's ex husband was Benjamin and not a Benedict, etc., you could use an alternative. Here are some ideas:

Benedict, Benicio, Bennett, Benno, Bentley, Benton, Benoit, Benson.

November 15, 2017 5:38 PM

or what about Reuben

November 15, 2017 6:00 PM

If you love Ben you should use that, I don't think it would be terrible at all. I do think it would only be fair to let her know ahead of time so that she isn't shocked by the birth announcement. I wouldn't ask her feelings on it though just explain that it is the name you've loved for many years. I would absolutely offer that if she thinks she would find it difficult to call him Ben without negative association then she's free to call him the full Benjamin or Benny/Benji or perhaps even a nickname unrelated to the name like Bubba/Bo. It might feel a little strange for her at first but hopefully it won't take long at all for your son to become the much stronger association for the name. Really if it were a more unusual name I could see it being a little weird (if only because it would seem like you got the idea for the name from the ex husband) but Ben/Benjamin is so popular that I feel like it shouldn't be that hard to dis-associate it from the ex. 

If it is really Ben that you love (and ex-husband was a Benjamin-Ben) then it could be worth looking at the other Ben- names, but if you love Benjamin as the full name and consider Ben a bonus of it then I would not worry about looking at different full versions. I'm assuming that the ex went by Ben most/all of the time as that is what you gave his name as, so really if you're calling your son Ben then the association is going to be there whatever the longer name is and it might as well be the version you love.

November 15, 2017 9:23 PM

For me personally, I think it would depend on why the divorce was so bitter.  If he was just an @ss, meh, she'll move on. If it was something really traumatic (abusive, cheater who passed on an STD, etc.) I'd suggest passing on Benjamin.  Those types of extreme negative associations are unlikely to be replaced easily, even by a much loved nephew.  

I'd also be curious to know what you mean by a "few" years.  In this case, I think time does matter.  If the divorce was 20 years ago, I'd be more inclined to use it as opposed to if the divorce was like three or four years ago.  If it was more on the recent side, perhaps she'll have moved on enough that Benjamin will be a better option for a future baby.

I agree with previous posters that using another Ben-name sounds like a nice option.  If the former husband was only known as Ben, you could also go with Benjamina and then make a point to only (or mostly) call him only by the full name.

I think it would also help if you had more reasons to use the name.  Is there anything else you can say besides you've loved the name a long time & it's a Star Wars reference?  Can you claim it's a family name (even if it's a distant one)?  Or the name of a much loved friend or perhaps has some religious signifance to you?  My experience has been that people are more accepting of names with a negative association if they can be convinced there is an "important" reason to use it.  Just loving a name isn't considered important by a lot of people.


November 15, 2017 10:23 PM

Thank you, Everyone. Hearing all your thoughts on this really helps! Lots to think about now. 

December 12, 2017 9:18 AM

If I loved the name, I would use it. You don’t need to ask her permission to name your own child. Almost everyone has at least one name they dislike because it was the name of their ex/their old boss/their class bully, etc. It is not terrible of you to use a name that you like. Naming is a personal choice, and it can get too complicated if you feel like you have to please everybody. If your sister-in-law asks about it, you can say that you’ve always loved the name. However, if you truly feel uncomfortable using the name, then picking another one is not a bad idea. 

December 12, 2017 11:22 AM

I would go ahead and use it.  Do tell her, but honestly, it is a reasonably common name.  Most years, I have a Ben in my classroom as a HS teacher.


That said, wait to tell her until the baby is fairly close.  If she's unhappy about the choice, you don't need to be harrangued for nine months.