ROBERTSON: A New Name, A New Freedom
I am equal parts very excited and a little terrified to share a big decision I’ve made… but one that feels like the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. A decision 37 years in the making.
In the new year, I am going to start the legal process of releasing the name Foley and adopting my mother’s maiden name of Robertson.
I’ve been sharing my decision with close friends & family over the past few weeks, and today I’m making the news public.
From now on, I wish to be known by the name Matthew Robertson.
I was born Matthew William Foley, with two-thirds of my name being an inheritance from my biological father, William Foley. Our relationship has always been a difficult one and has been increasingly deteriorating in the past few years. The past 12 months have been the absolute low point. I have not heard one word from him since last December, despite numerous attempts to reach him. The last communication I received from him was deeply hurtful and he has since stopped returning my phone calls & emails.
As many of my close friends know, I went through quite an education this year on toxic relationships and toxic family dynamics. I learned, quite painfully, how the attempt to maintain a sense of loyalty to a toxic person in our life can be deeply destructive to our happiness and can poison our healthy relationships with others. This year held up a huge mirror to my own choices and loyalties, including the ways I have sabotaged my own happiness and limited my sense of worthiness in order to keep a toxic person in my life.
What I learned this year is… I’m not doing that anymore.
I am no longer going to struggle, plead, or sacrifice my dignity to keep someone in my life who has shown me, over and over and over again, that he has neither the capacity or the interest to show up in my life as a father.
So I am showing up for myself instead.
With the guidance of wise coaches & therapists this year, I have learned to give my inner child the fatherly love he has always deserved. And through doing that work, I’ve also discovered that I feel a longing & a readiness to be a father myself. I want to be able to pass along to my future child a last name that is full of unconditional love and unconditional worthiness. I want to be able to share a last name with a future wife that fully honors the love we share. I want to carry a last name that fills me with dignity and pride, not self-doubt and the feeling that I’ll never be good enough to please a distant, hurtful father.
And from now on, that name will be Robertson.
In many ways, it’s a decision that’s been a long time coming. I have a very strong memory from my kindergarten days, when I was probably only 5 years old, of learning my mother’s family name had been Robertson before she married my father and took the name Foley. I remember that somewhere inside my 5-year-old heart, I wanted my name to be a Robertson too. Somewhere inside my 5-year-old heart, I knew that my relationship with my father felt cold and distant, like he was some stranger I was forced to live with, while my mother’s love was warm, always consistent, and absolutely unconditional.. as a parent’s love should be.
I want a name that reflects that love.. a name that reflects the love I want to pass down to my own children some day.
And from now on, that name will be Robertson.
I also feel a great pride that the name Robertson connects me with my Scottish roots. During my time in Scotland this past May on a family trip with my mom & stepdad, I felt a deep connection to the land, to the culture, to the history of that particular ancestral homeland of mine. It was during that trip that the seeds of this decision to take the name Robertson were planted. The Scottish highlands simply felt like home, like a place where my soul belongs. And there is something about the warrior spirit of my Scottish ancestors that gives me courage to make such a bold decision as this. So that Scottish connection explains the images I chose to accompany this post: the Robertson clan crest + a photo of my mom & I from my birthday party back in July where I got to wear the kilt I brought home from Edinburgh.
I also have the opportunity to choose a new middle name for myself and I plan to take the name Edward in honor of my paternal grandfather. It’s very important to me to say this: I want to continue to honor my father’s family and the incredible love I have received over the years from members of the Foley clan. I am honored to have Foley blood and I deeply appreciate the bonds I share with members of the extended Foley family. I love you all. This decision is not a reflection on you & the incredible ways we have shared love over the years. I still want to be a part of this family, but I also have to honor myself by no longer being beholden to my father’s behavior.
Stepping into this new name of Matthew Robertson feels like the start of a new life. At age 37, this feels like my opportunity to make the second half of my life something truly meaningful & wonderful, to drop the heavy weight of toxic parenting I received from my father and truly begin to live the life I’ve always deserved. This decision feels like a celebration of the man I have become and the father I plan to be for my future children. Ultimately, this decision is for them.. so that they may always know unconditional love.
I’m sure there is a mountain of paperwork ahead of me to make this name change legal & official, but I take courage that the decision has already been made in my heart. And now, it’s official on social media. As I share it here with friends & family, I simply ask that this highly personal decision be respected and met with compassion, even if you hold different views about family and parent-child bonds. I’m not looking for constructive criticism here, or admonishments about family loyalty. If those are your opinions, I ask that you keep them to yourself. Thank you.
Today, I’m starting a new life.. with a new name, a new sense of identity, a new freedom.
I’m Matthew Robertson.
Nice to meet you.