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Two souls with but a single thought

Two hearts that beat as one.

~Friedrich Halm~

It’s a nice and often quoted idea, but the truth is, it can sometimes be quite hard for two souls to have but a single thought. Frankly, it can be a bit of an ask for even one soul to contain a single thought when it comes to baby names.

The most compatible of couples can have differing opinions about the perfect name for their baby, but reach agreement they must. Under Australian law, both parents of a baby have to sign the birth certificate in order to get it registered. (If you are a single mother, you only need to gain the father’s agreement if you have put his name on the birth certificate).

As it is your legal imperative to choose a baby name in unison with your partner, it seems to be my duty to offer guidance on how to reach this happy state of concurrence with the least possible amount of wailing, gnashing of teeth, hair-pulling and shin-kicking.

1: Take your time

You have your entire pregnancy to choose a baby name, and about twenty weeks to choose a gender-specific name, if you have decided to find out the baby’s sex in advance. After the baby is born, you have a generous sixty days to get all your paperwork in and register the birth. If you are still dithering or arguing after the baby is born, take as much time as you need until you are really sure.

2: Do it your way

Every couple has their own way of deciding on baby names. Some couples write their favourite names on separate lists, then swap lists and cross names off they don’t like. Others start reading a baby name book at page 1 and keep reading until they see a name they both like (these tend to end up with a baby name starting with A, I’ve noticed). Others patiently wait for inspiration to strike, and one day they watch an old movie with Spencer Tracey, and there you go, their baby is named Spencer as easy as that. You can download name-selecting software, scan birth notices, ask all your friends and family, hang out on name forums, pick names out of a hat, or pray for divine guidance – it’s completely your choice. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, so go with what works for you.

3: Don’t take it personally

It’s natural to get emotionally attached to your favourite names. When someone says, “Nope, I don’t like that name at all,” it can be confronting or even upsetting. But getting defensive doesn’t help. Remind yourself that they are only rejecting a name, they are not rejecting you.

4: Don’t be rude

Knowing that the other person might get a bit upset if you trash-talk their most beloved baby name ever, try to be sensitive about it. Avoid using judgemental words like “ugly”, “stupid”, “insane”, or “bogan”. Also try to avoid eye-rolling or making vomiting noises.

5: Explain yourself

When you dislike a name your partner suggests, instead of just stating, “I don’t like it”, try to explain why you don’t like it, while remembering to be nice about it eg “I don’t care for the name Spike; I’m not keen on vocabulary names, and I would prefer something softer-sounding and more traditional for our daughter”. Straight away, your partner can begin to identify what names you might like just from that one sentence.

6: Look for similarity

When you disagree on baby names, try to concentrate on where your tastes converge, not where they differ. If he likes Jedidiah and you like Gabriel – great, both of you chose Biblical Hebrew names. She picked Ava but you prefer Hayley – fantastic, both two-syllable names of old movie stars from the Top 50 with an AY sound in them. If one of you wants Nyssa and the other Peri … well you both like cutesy unusual names. And you’re Dr Who nerds. Start from the point where you want the same thing.

7: Accept vetoes

If your partner hates nature names, throw Ocean off your list. And if they have a horror of any name on the Top 100, forget about Charlotte or William. The funny thing is, if you just accept someone’s veto, they are more likely to change their mind later on than if you argued with them. The person who hates nature names may give the thumbs up to Hazel, casually explaining that they don’t count plant or flower names as “nature” names. And the person who swore up and down that the Top 100 was off-limits may suddenly decide that Declan isn’t too popular after all.

8: Take a break

When couples spend ALL their time discussing baby names, reading baby name books and revising their baby name list, they can easily get burnt out. After a while, names start to blur into each other, and you can no longer tell the difference between Daniel, Dean and Damien; nor do you know or care whether Pax is male, female, or unisex. It’s easy to start getting cranky at this point, and this is when arguments are most likely to happen. So just stop for a while. Put the books away and concentrate on other things.

9: Be prepared to compromise

If you can’t reach agreement easily, you may need to compromise. There are so many ways to do this that it could it be an article all on its own. Maybe one picks the first name, and the other the second name. Maybe you combine your two favourite names into a third name. Maybe mum picks the name of the first child, and dad picks the second. The important thing is that it really is a compromise, and not just one person agreeing with the other because they’re worn out. Make sure you’re clear about what you definitely want before you begin compromising.

10: If all else fails

If you are absolutely deadlocked and neither of you will agree to compromise … well that doesn’t bode well for the rest of your relationship, does it? But as far as baby names go, there is a solution to your dilemma. According to the law, if a couple are unable to agree on a name for their baby, the Registrar-General will choose the name for them so that the baby can be registered. So there you go – worst case scenario, the Registrar-General will select a name if neither of you clowns can manage it. More good news: I asked at a birth registry to explain how a Registrar-General might go about choosing a baby name for someone, and I was told that they didn’t know of a case where it had ever happened. So all the other parents must have managed to find a name for their baby in time, and that means chances are, you will too.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Sandra Salcedo from the ACT Government Office of Regulatory Services for her help in sending me the relevant legal information.

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