I married my husband in the summer of 2006 after dating for two years and then living together. The engagement ring he bought me was expensive and oh so shiny – a ring I had been waiting for my whole life.
Posted photos of it on Facebook and proudly displayed my jewelry at the request of friends. I’d spent my childhood dreaming of marriages and, more importantly, unconditional love, of being “just right” for someone. For me, his marriage proposal meant that I had finally found what I had been missing in my life: someone who would love me forever.
We bought matching wedding bands that we wore 24/7. He took them off every day at the gym, tying them to his shoelaces before putting them back on right after a workout. Until one day he lost it. We immediately ordered a new one but I was hurt that this had happened although I never mentioned it knowing how needy and silly it sounded. Still, it felt somehow meaningful that he could have lost such an important symbol of who we were and what I meant to him.
I was relieved to see the new ring on his finger the following week; proof that he was mine.
Then I got pregnant. My fingers swelled up like sausages and both rings landed in a safe, hidden place. They’d be back, I knew that, and my growing belly was proof enough of our commitment, wasn’t it? Then I got pregnant again and then again, and my fingers never quite recovered from the cycles of weight gain/loss.
After that, one of our children began struggling with a variety of worrying medical diagnoses. I started struggling with my own choices, my own sense of identity as a stay-at-home mom who now had to fill her days with deadlines, homeschooling, struggling with schools and the world to support my kids the way she did needed . Gone were my career goals, or any personal goals at all – now my focus was on my family. To keep us all okay.
When the pandemic hit, my husband and I had to form a new care team. The weight of our personal, troubled world was too much for me alone, and he stepped forward to take his share.
video of the day
That was about the time I realized it had been years since I had worn my wedding ring and that he had lost his (again) a while ago and we hadn’t even thought of ordering a new one. When you’re focused on supporting your children’s mental and physical health and tackling every day-to-day caregiving task, a ring is the last thing on your mind.
During those first few months of the pandemic, I also realized that a) no one ever asked about my marital status, and b) I had long since stopped questioning my partner’s love or commitment. In fact, our marriage seemed stronger than ever. We had a great sex life, enjoyed hanging out every day, and talked about the arguments and power struggles that marriage inevitably brought. We both didn’t care whether we wore our rings or not.
Of course, walking down the street with three kids is its own public display of relationship status. But whether I’m traveling alone or saying goodbye while my husband goes on a business trip, at no time does this concept of ownership, the knowledge of others about my marriage, enter my train of thought.
As such, I was amazed by a series of social media interactions on the subject, which led to a lengthy discussion among friends about wedding rings and what they mean. A visual sign of “wifery” has long held social significance in much of the world, but when a friend told me, “You’re basically giving your husband permission to cheat, you know,” was shocking, to say the least.
There are a variety of attitudes towards marriage and relationships and all are worth exploring, but a ring is only as meaningful as the way we make it. One’s commitment to honesty and transparency cannot be swayed or reinforced by a symbol, a piece of metal. Our marriage is monogamous and traditional in many ways, but who I am is not defined by my husband or our relationship. My value as a person is neither increased nor deducted based on my marital status.
It took me into my fourth decade to really understand, to appreciate what I had brought into the world. This has led me to love my man more, with fewer expectations and more gratitude, and it has also led me to question other habits and traditions that don’t necessarily make our life or relationship better.
I still love my wedding ring, lying softly in its tiny silk pouch. It’s pretty and reminds me of the day my husband promised to love me forever. But he’s here by my side because he wants to, because he works every day to get through the tough times and stay best friends. Not because he made a promise a long time ago and put a ring on my finger.
And I make the same commitment to him every day.
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/my-husband-and-i-dont-wear-wedding-rings-am-i-really-giving-him-permission-to-cheat-41563223.html My husband and I don’t wear wedding rings – do I really give him “permission to cheat”?