When I first got married almost two years ago, I couldn't wait to change my name, I was beyond excited to start my new "life" as a new wife and made the decision to take my then husbands name with excitement,
I had always been a strong believer in doing this and never really gave it a second thought.
Despite having already had one marriage that hadn't worked out, I was a hopeless romantic and traditionalist whilst being a very independent and flag waving feminist.
The excitement I felt was palpable as I spent the day parading my marriage certificate around to whomever would look at it, from the bank manager to the roads and traffic guy,
I was in love, adored my now-husband and a deliciously smug newlywed.
I was so excited I even registered my new email addresses and domain name leading up to our wedding. It was one of the things I was looking forward to most - "belonging" to someone and not being just "me" anymore.
Changing my identity to connect with the person I loved to tell people was the "love of my life" was the ultimate to me.
A few weeks in I knew I'd made a horrible mistake.
And we all know how this ends (if you don't, jump online and Google it).
Suddenly it was the last name I wanted to be associated with. It became a symbol of grief, despair, betrayal and well, embarrassment. I had failed. And I no longer wanted anything to do with the man who had brought that shame and hurt to me and my children to be associated with US anymore.
So I made the decision to change my name legally, before our divorce was final.
My former husband has not signed the divorce papers and I continued to wait daily for them to arrive. Assurances that they were "in the mail" did not happen and to this day, I am still waiting for the signed papers to arrive to my or my divorce lawyer.
So I made the decision to move forward and change my name legally anyway.
Changing my name for marriage was one of the easiest things I’d ever done. Deciding to delete it from my memory (and the Government records), was a whole other story. Made even more difficult by the lack of divorce papers. (Again...waiting...waiting....).
When you get married, legally all you need is the certificate you sign at the ceremony, and then the marriage license. But if you wish to revert to your maiden name or change your name post-divorce, get ready for a bureaucratic process.
Given we were married 5 minutes before my husband decided it wasn't for him, I figured it would be a fairly easy process. With the approval certificate from the Government counsellor in my hand, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was fortunate that the woman who assisted me at the Government office went from being routine, to actually very kind. I explained the situation and how I wanted to delete the name from existence as soon as possible. Without a divorce certificate though, it was incredibly difficult.
They explained my options - one was my maiden name. I have not had that surname for almost 20 years and although that would be the easiest option, I don't identify with that name anymore. I have no relationship with the family members who have that name, and it would simply be out of birth that I would have taken it on again. And I'm a different person now. With no emotional attachment, I could not see myself ever having that name attached to my identity either.
The Government department were incredibly helpful to me and said the other option was to change my name entirely and register a whole new name. This would also negate the need for the divorce papers to be signed by my ex husband.
I came up with a tonne of possible surnames - some I sounded like a romantic novel writer, an action star or absolutely ridiculous. I then created a mind map of potential extended family names but none of them felt right either (or I'd be spelling my name for the rest of my life). And then finally I decided to take my stepfathers name.
I am incredibly close to my mum and stepdad, and after consulting with my step-siblings and getting their blessing, I wrote my new surname, James, on the forms.
The act of changing my name has been incredibly profound. As soon as it was all done and dusted, the feeling of loss, grief and stress fell away. I'm now a new person, with a new identity. I' am now ME.
I am Sheridan. A mother, a woman who loves her career and dogs, cooking and wine, writing and creating pretty things. I'm happily single and learning about myself every single day. I am an individual with a web of emotions, dreams and goals - but I am ME. I'm no longer a wife, ex-wife or the woman who became known on TV for living through a hellish relationship.
I am simply me, rebuilding my life, owning my shit and loving it.
Since I posted about my name change on social media I've received tonnes of PM's from women wanting to do the same thing but being afraid or just stuck.
My only advice is do it. It's freeing, liberating and feels AMAZING to take back your individuality and self worth.