The Ring

A couple of days ago I had a sudden and strong urge to stop wearing my wedding ring. I love my husband and I love being married. The urge had nothing to do with that, at least I don’t think so. Since then I have been trying to psychoanalyze myself and figure out what it’s all about.The urge came over me as I was participating in a philosophical discussion group. As I sat there, I realized that I have been becoming more independent as of late. I do things by myself that I would have never done without being attached to my husband’s side in earlier times. Suddenly I wanted to be just me. I didn’t want my marital status broadcast to anyone who glanced at my left hand. I didn’t want be perceived by others as a part, but as a whole. More deeply, I wanted to really see myself as a whole. I wanted “just me” to feel like it’s enough, complete.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I have a wonderful relationship and I am a better person for it. I don’t want to detract from that. However, something in me wants to feel complete and to be able to relate to the world as simply Amy. Much of my sense of self has been bound up in being a married woman. I derive a sense of worth and security from it. Now I’m ready to explore my sense of self without that shiny rock on my finger showing the world that someone else thinks I’m worthwhile.

I could stop there, but I also think there’s something more to it. Somehow wearing the ring makes me feel as though I can’t engage fully or be fully present with other people. I feel like the Mormon coloring to my marriage experience has led me to be somewhat closed off in my relationships with other people. Somewhere along the way I internalized the idea that it is not appropriate for me to socialize with men. I overreact to the point that in some cases I can barely manage to be friendly. I want to be more emotionally available to a wider range of friendships and interactions. I don’t want so much of my psychic energy to be bound up in preoccupation with my marital status. Somehow all these things have become imbued into the symbol of my wedding ring for me. It’s time for me to undo some of that.

I like my ring. I don’t plan to completely abandon it. But maybe some days I won’t wear it.

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  1. Hilary says:

    Ok, I just can’t not comment.
    and please place your fire retardent suit on.
    But, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? First many of you take your garments off, now your wedding ring.
    These are all small steps, but I don’t think you should be fooled into thinking they ARE steps.
    And, if one tiny ring is truly making you feel that way there is more you need to examine then the tan line left behind as you take it off. For me, the ring is a reminder to me and everyone else that I do share my life and my whole being with one other person, and that’s it. It doesn’t mean I can’t talk to other men, it doesn’t mean that I am “his” that I can’t making independent decisions and have independent thoughts — for it is a bond we SHARE — not him taking over me… it’s a freaking ring.
    Anyway, sorry if you weren’t looking for opposition, I just couldn’t help myself.
    I’m a commenter.

  2. Caroline says:

    Good grief, Hilary. Symbols like rings can mean different things to different people. So be it.

    Amy,
    I personally have not had the urge to take off my ring, but your desire to be your own complete self and not broadcast your marital status does resonate with me. Those are some of the reasons I kept my birth name and have my students address me as “Ms. Kline.”

    Like I said, I have not yet felt like my ring holds me back in my interactions with people. But I will confess that I have become more bothered by my big fat diamond. I think of the diamond mines in Africa where people are dying over diamonds, or the ways corrupt governments are soaking up diamond wealth and letting their people starve. I hate the thought of being part of that vicious cycle.

    Thanks for giving me something new to think about, Amy

  3. EmilyS says:

    I happen to be wearing my ring(s) today. I love them. But I wear one or both of them only maybe 30% of the time. My husband doesn’t wear his at all. And both of us are abolutely fine with that, because to us, our commitment to each other is entirely internal. I don’t need public displays of “ownership” to show others that I’m off the market, nor do I need a physical reminder to myself that I am. The same is true for my husband. And people who see us together don’t need to see rings to know we “belong” to one another.

    My rings are beautiful accessories — both to my wardrobe and to my marriage — but they really are only accessories.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My dad took his wedding ring off sometime after I was born but before I can remember. When he took it off, it was for safety reasons only, because he worked with his hands. He is retired from that line of work, but hasn’t put the ring back on. It’s inertia, and just not being a jewelry kind of person, and the hope that he may still be called on from time to time to help with handiwork, and nothing about his relationship with my mom. So I totally understand that a person might choose not to wear a wedding ring without having serious problems in their marriage.

    I was feeling very supportive until the part about how your wedding ring is part of why you can’t feel comfortable being friends with men. I can’t understand that. The only reason a wedding ring would get in the way of relationships with men would be if you wanted to be more-than-friends with them. I assume that’s not what you want.

    If you just want to be friends with men, then a wedding ring should actually make that easier. Men can relax from the get-go, knowing that you’re romantically involved with your husband only, so you are less likely to perceive them as flirting with you if they are friendly. You can likewise relax a little, because your friendly overtures plus your wedding ring are less likely to be misperceived as flirtation than just your friendly overtures alone.

    Without a wedding ring, and especially if people notice you’ve recently removed a wedding ring you used to wear, I think there are going to be a lot of people making the wrong assumption. Probably some of them men.

  5. Bored in Vernal says:

    I haven’t connected this specifically with my ring, but I have felt many of the same feelings. My friends say I am a completely different person when I am at a party without my husband. I’ve tried to analyze this, and part of it is because both of us talk too much. When he’s there, I’m silent, because our family is already dominating the conversation too much! I’m trying to balance him out, instead of seeing myself as an individual.

    Also, I’ve felt a great proscription against having conversations with men. For years, I never looked a man in the eye when speaking to him. I still do it most of the time. I don’t have a comfortable relationship with any men. I think that’s strange and unhealthy. But it’s very, very common.

    I think the feelings behind this are quite valid.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I commented just before Bored in Vernal. After reading BiV’s post, I just wanted to make clear that the discomfort some Mormon women feel around men who are not their husband is a very real feeling. I experienced it myself. I just think removing the ring is likely to make those relationships more awkward, rather than less awkward.

    Meeting people who don’t also know your husband might help. What helped me was being around good non-Mormon men, noticing what specific behaviors on the part of good non-Mormon women came across as appropriate friendliness, and consciously trying to adopt similar behavior.

  7. EmilyS says:

    Amy – check your email! urgent message!

  8. AmyB says:

    Interesting responses. I talked with my husband about this issue. One of the things that came up was that on occasional days when he forgets to put his ring on before he heads out the door, it’s just not a big deal. I’ve experienced something more akin to panic when I’ve forgotten mine (of course, I panic when I forget my watch too).

    Caroline, I’ve had some diamond guilt as well. I haven’t figured out how to navigate living in our modern world without feeling guilty all the time yet. 🙂

    Emily, I really liked what you had to say . . .especially about the accessories. Lovely thought.

    anon, I see your point and I agree that my reaction doesn’t seem rational. It’s not. That’s the reason I’m trying to parse it out. It makes perfect sense that wearing the ring could make me feel more comfortable when itneracting with men and like my intentions could not be misconstrued. A large part of me just doesn’t want wearing my ring to be such a big deal, and not wearing it sometimes is a way for me to make that happen. I actually really appreciate your point about observing appropriate friendliness among men and women who seem to do it well. That’s very helpful.

    BiV, I’m a different person with and without DH too . . .that’s another interesting angle to contemplate. I tend to withdraw and let him to the interacting when we’re in a social setting together. That’s something I’d like to change.

  9. Kaimipono says:

    Interesting thoughts, Amy. It’s an area that M. and I have discussed, over time.

    I’ve gone through various stages in my own views. Early in my marriage, I had pretty traditional ideas. M. should wear her wedding ring all the time, because she’s mine, and if she doesn’t wear it, people won’t know that she’s mine. It was a pretty insecure approach.

    More recently, after a series of changes in life and view, I told M. that I wouldn’t be bugged if she didn’t wear her ring. I even bought her a few cool alternative rings (a wood ring, a braided ring, a fun hexagonal ring) too.

    For a while, she wore those sometimes. No ring at all, sometimes. It was a fun experience for her, I think, sort of reasserting herself given our early marital history of me being insecure and possessive.

    Now, it is largely a day-to-day decision for her. She wears a ring, or not, depending on what else she’s wearing, what she’s doing that day.

    I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all solution. For some people, men as well as women, the ring may be particularly important. For others, having _no_ ring may be particularly important. You should do what feels right for you. (As a sort of caveat, though you shouldn’t be _controlled_ by him, you should take L’s feelings into account, such as whether he’d feel badly hurt by a decision one way or another.)

  10. Kaimipono says:

    One other thing – you’ve mentioned feeling uncomfortable talking to men sometimes. That sounds very much like you. I have to say, M. and I noticed this.

    We’ve known each other for a while now, and I’ve had the opportunity over time, in discussions, to get to know you better. But for a long time, early on, my impression of you was as someone who just didn’t say much (at least, to me). And that’s sad, because I didn’t get to know your thoughts and ideas for a while; and because I think many people never did (do) get to see anything more than Cautious Amy. Not that there’s anything wrong with Cautious Amy — but it’s been really remarkable to get past Cautious Amy and hear what’s really going on in your mind sometimes.

    So I’m happy to hear that you’re making an effort to move away from some of the social norms that have confined you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Do whatever you like of course. Just don’t forget that the human experience will always be filled with contradictory drives and impulses, hence the scriptural warning about the “natural man”. Sure, this isn’t an issue of what’s scripturally right and wrong but it seems to me that an ambiguous impulse not to wear the ring weighed againt the symbolic significance of your marital committment makes for an easy decision. The joking comment where some guy asked for a date was quickly deleted but I thought it was an appropriate jab. Like it or not people respond differently to a person wearing a wedding ring. It helps make appropriate boundries more clearly defined and signifies to your community something important about you.

    And just a thought. The contributors to this blog are clearly good hearted and intelligent and their thoughts and struggles are much appreciated. And so it’s distressing that the blog is becoming, shall we say, slightly unsettling. A forum to share controversial views and express concerns about church teachings and culture. Nothing wrong with questioning, none of us want to be kool-aid drinkers but a touch more joy and uplift would be nice.

    Cheers.

  12. Téa says:

    My grandparents once told me it just wasn’t that common to wear wedding rings in their generation/culture.

    I could probably attribute it more to laziness than devotion, but I just haven’t taken my rings off unless I’m cleaning them, which is not very often. I’m one of those lucky women whose fingers haven’t swollen with pregnancy or age (yet).

    My husband wears his on a chain around his neck–we make some LOTR jokes here and there–it’s what works best for him in his career as well. My first OB wore hers that way too.

    I don’t know if you’re a necklace person or not, but wearing it that way could be a good middle option for you. Kind of a private outward expression of an inner commitment, one with which people here should surely be able to identify… =)

  13. AmyB says:

    Tea, I came across similar statements to your grandparents as I did some reading on the history of wedding rings. In older times, according to one study I read, only women wore them and it was a sign that they were basically property. In the WW generations, men wearing rings became more popular when they were away to show others, and remind themselves, of their commitment. In the last couple of decades it’s become more popular for both men and women to wear their rings. It’s a highly romanticized cultural ideal, and also does functions to show others one is not available for a relationship.

    I suspect it may be a recent cultural invention/idea to think that a person is headed toward being unfaithful to their spouse if they don’t wear their ring all the time. I don’t think it has to matter so much. Incidentally, rings have no part whatsoever in the LDS sealing ceremony. Also, wearing the ring does broadcast that one is not available, but not wearing one does not necessarily mean the reverse.

  14. Paula says:

    I rarely wear my wedding rings. Partly because I don’t particularly like the feeling of stuff on me, and partly because, well, for awhile I got too fat to wear them. Then, I had them resized. Then I lost 30 pounds. Then I had them resized. Then I gained ten pounds, and well you get the point. 🙂 I’m done having them resized. In the fifteen years or so that my weight has been problematic, I have yet to commit adultery, or to think of doing it more often than I would have if I were wearing the ring. Of course, maybe if it hadn’t been for those thirty pounds……

  15. Mardell says:

    Yeah, what is up with Mormon men and women not talking to each other. It drives me crazy. I have always had an easier time talking to men than women. I have a feeling it is because I was raised with 5 brother and no sisters, and was one of the guys for so long that I almost was one. I think that Kaimi was the first guy I got to know real well that treated my like a girl. You know — wanted to hold my hand, and make out with me, and he was more interested in the previous activities than playing irrigation football or laser tag.

    Well now that I am married I feel like I have no one to hang out with and talk about the things I loved doing as a child. It’s sad. I have also noticed that if any of my cleavage is showing no man at church will even look at me let alone say hi. What is so bad about cleavage? (I have tons)

  16. Veritas says:

    “I don’t need public displays of “ownership” to show others that I’m off the market, nor do I need a physical reminder to myself that I am. The same is true for my husband.”

    Ditto. Also, the diamond guilt thing. My husband never really wore his ring, mostly because he just didn’t like to cause its annoying. Then I started being really really embarresed to be wearing a diamond, which I am totally against. Then I looked into the history of wedding rings and realized one of the big reasons we are so big on rings has alot to do with the marketing of diamonds. We both decided rings are a weird ‘ownership’ thing also and we didn’t like that. We don’t need leashes to know our own commitment.

    So, we sold both our rings and don’t wear them. I always used the title MS. also just because I don’t see why I need a marker of my marital status and my husband doesn’t. Why does he stay Mr. but I change? He also thinks its pretty lame.

    I like that now, if people want to know if I am married, they can ask. If they don’t want to ask, they can just realized my marital status has no bearing on who I am.

    And, hilary, are YOU kidding me? You honestly think that that not wearing a wedding ring is at all similar to not wearing garmets?? Last I checked HF didn’t not ask us to use a ring in our marital covenants. They are meaningless. If its just a freaking ring, why do you care if anyone wears it? Im glad it has meaning for you, but it doesn’t have that same meaning to everyone. You do realize there are many MANY cultures in this world who do not use rings. Or any other outward symbol. They just get married. Isn’t that enough?

  17. Anonymous says:

    i’ve been married about 9 months, and the men/women not talking to each other thing is driving me crazy! i can have normal conversations with men at work, at the grocery store, etc…but with mormon men, it’s just so awkward to have a normal conversation, even though it’s completely platonic. i wish i knew how to fix this – i miss having male friends.

  18. Laura says:

    Hey Gals,

    I just found this blog (long story that has to do with the Front Line documentary – anyhoo…) and must say I relate immensely to this feeling Amy (another long story for another time).

    It seems the heart of this feeling doesn’t really have anything to do with the ring itself or even other people but as you said, your own sense of self. And I think you are right, it is time for you to undo it.

    I could launch into a homily about how this feeling is really a manifestation of how you feel about yourself but I’ll spare you since you seem to know this.

    Don’t let the ring be a negative symbol about your “status” as a part of a whole but perhaps think about it as a positive symbol of your unique self and life and your loyalty to a decision made.

    My boyfriend says he can’t wait to look down at his finger and see a wedding band and feel that rush of good feelings about loyalty and commitment. What a good attitude. I’m not sure I ever really felt that way when I wore a wedding ring (I’m divorced now). It was just something that everyone else wore when they got married. I felt more comfortable talking to men with my ring on because then I knew we both understood where things stood. I was married young and found other ways to reassure myself of my sense of independence and self.

    Sometimes I wonder if women have a harder time seeing the positive in marriage symbols because of the ugly connotations and history of literally losing identity. It seems a shame.

    I’m not one to advocate tradition for the sake of tradition. It is, after all, just a symbol. If you really feel that not wearing your ring will help you feel a greater sense of self then don’t wear it. Just make sure that that is really your motivation when you take it off.

  19. Maria says:

    I’ve been having a ring problem these past few years, too. I designed my ring in a very specific way for a very specific reason, and an important part of that design is that it does not include a second band. It’s just one simple band with a deeply embedded diamond and that’s it.

    While I personally don’t think that this is so unconventional, I seriously get about 2 or 3 comments a week about it.

    “Oh! You’re engaged!”
    “No, actually I’m married.”
    “What? You don’t have a wedding band! That means you aren’t married!”
    “Oh, honey, I’m definitely married….”

    People apparently have very strong feelings about this. But, either way–married or engaged–I’m taken, right? So what is the big deal?

    I’m grateful for this post because it’s making me reflect on the importance of rings in our society. It’s a little hard for me to swallow that there are such explicit cultural expectations associated with something as silly as our jewelry. Good heavens. If people can get so up in arms about accessories, it’s no wonder the discussions on gender roles can get touchy.

  20. AmyB says:

    Mardell, fun to see you here.

    Veritas, I admire the way you followed through with what was important to you. I notice you equated wedding rings with ownership and leashes. I think that is how they function for some people, not for others. It occurs to me as I’m writing that there have also been suggestions that a person cannot maintain full control of oneself without a visible reminder that one is married. It’s simply not true.

  21. AmyB says:

    Laura, welcome and thank you for your insightful comment. I hope you’ll keep coming around.

    Maria, I had that same experience. I wore a single ring and kept getting asked when I was getting married. Finally I asked my husband for a band as an anniversary gift. Sometimes all of this attention paid to it is just too much for me!

  22. Deborah says:

    I love my rings for reasons both related to and separate from my husband.

    From age 18 on, I wore my late grandmother’s thin gold wedding band on my right hand. I didn’t think this was so strange — though my husband said when he first met me he assumed I was married.

    He proposed using his late mother’s ring — which, in turn, had been her grandmother’s ring.

    We bought a simple gold band to match both of these.

    So now I wear three rings that represent four generations of women: his great-grandmother, my grandmother, his mother, me. I sometimes think of these women when I look at my hand and wonder about their lives and marriages. I am a big fan of recycled rings . . .

  23. AmyB says:

    Deborah, that is so beautiful! What a meaningful symbol of your connections to generations of women and to your husband.

  24. jana says:

    Fascinating post & thread, Amy.

    I am so happy now that I chose not to get a diamond in my ring way back when I was engaged. A that time I wasn’t at all aware of the exploitive labor practices in the diamond industry, but I remember feeling a strong aversion to wearing jewelry that showed wealth or indicated a particular social status.

    John and I have the same rings (in diff sizes, of course). Our engagement band is a very simple gold bang with a slightly ridged edge on each side. Our wedding bands are reproductions of 17th century French poesy rings. They are engraved with the saying “Vous et nul autre” (You and no other).

    When John wore his engagement ring there were many ward members that were openly critical of him doing so–saying that he was pretending to be married because he wore a gold band before our actual marriage. That seemed so hypocritical to me–why should women wear engagement bands and not men??? So weird!

    On Mother’s Day about 10 years ago (just after the birth of my daughter), my husband gave me a lovely little ring with a few small rubies and diamonds in it. I’ve worn that ring on my right hand every day since then until 2 weeks ago. For some reason I just didn’t feel the need or desire to wear it every day anymore. I still love the ring and I love the memory of John giving it to me. I expect that I will wear it now on days when I want to dress up a bit. But I think my reticence in continuing to wear my ring has something to do with changing style, with desiring to be less showy with my jewelry, with realizing that I’m in a new stage of life (I stopped wearing it the day of my PhD Quals).

    Rings are just symbols. They only have the meaning that we give them. It’s interesting that in LDS wedding ceremonies, an exchange of rings isn’t part of the vows at all, but is something done afterwards, and not with any particular authority or meaning invested in it.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Even though the temple officiant states that rings are not part of the ceremony, the exchange of rings is still something that is allowed in the sealing room of the temple, when so many other wedding elements are not. The officiant does not say, “the signing of the legal marriage certificate is not an official part of the ceremony, but you may do it now.” He also does not say, “the removal and toss of the bride’s garter is not an official part of the ceremony, but you may do it now.” This may be some evidence that rings are seen as especially important and appropriate marriage symbols.

    I think the statement that rings aren’t part of the ceremony is itself part of the ceremony; it is a ritualized statement. But if an explicit statement that something that occurs in the sealing room is “not part of the ceremony” truly makes it not part of the ceremony, is the reverse also true? No one ever says the kiss isn’t part of the ceremony, so is the kiss across the altar an essential part of the ceremony? And if so, are there millions of souls on the other side not really sealed because their proxies didn’t kiss?

  26. AmyB says:

    Jana, I loved reading about your rings. I haven’t heard of a man wearing an engagement ring before, but why not? Even then, it sounds like you had people who were uncomfortable that you were violating social norms. I wonder what is the underlying fear there.

    I also liked reading about the ring John gave you to celebrate your daughter’s birth, and how wearing it less often now correlates to a new stage in your life. I relate to that, because I think that’s what’s underlying my feelings. I’m ready to stop being so enmeshed and be more of my own person, which I think, in turn, will strengthen my marriage.

  27. AmyB says:

    This may be some evidence that rings are seen as especially important and appropriate marriage symbols.

    I read your comment a couple of times, and I think this is the crux of it. I agree with you. A ring is a beautiful and appropriate symbol. I am in no way saying that rings are bad, or that people should stop wearing them, or that they don’t mean anything. What I am examining is how I personally relate to my own ring and how it has become encumbered with extra meanings, some damaging, that I need to strip away.

  28. Hilary says:

    I thought I would just mention that I have appreciated all the comments on here. I think that my comment came-off the wrong way.
    I think that taking your ring off is fine, and as a labor and delivery nurse I’ve seen a LOT of rings off… but to take it off because you don’t feel free around men, or because it feels like a leash there’s more behind it — similar to what other women have typed here. It’s the intentions behind the ring removal, not the actual ring removal.

  29. amelia says:

    in respones to last anonymous on exchanging rings in the sealing room:

    while i agree that allowing the exchange of rings in the sealing rooms in some ways tacitly accepts and acknowledges as appropriate the symbolic significance of wedding rings, i don’t think there’s any form of necessity atttached to it. i would imagine that many, many people in the world do not exchange rings out of simple economic inability to obtain rings. and i would imagine there are cultures in which the exchange of rings is not expected or traditional. i don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash if a couple informed their sealer that there would be no ring exchange. because it’s not part of the ceremony.

    while the statement that the ring exchange is not part of the ceremony ritualizes the exchange, it doesn’t make it necessary. nor does it, in my opinion, make it part of the previous ritual of sealing which is already concluded.

  30. Eve says:

    This has been an interesting discussion.

    I have to say I’m one who finds a great deal of significance, and even liberation–strange as that may sound–in wearing my wedding ring. Sure, a ring is a cultural symbol, and like any other cultural artifact, like language itself, its significance is arbitrary. But that arbitrariness doesn’t undercut the power or the significance of the symbol in the least. Four-letter words are completely arbitrary as well; there’s no inherent significance in the four letters themselves whatsoever. But that fact doesn’t undercut the raw power of a four-letter word. Arbitrariness doesn’t translate into insignificance.

    Personally, I find comfort in wearing my wedding ring because it immediately communicates to other men I interact with during the day that I’m married. As a couple of people have already said, the ring actually relaxes me and makes interaction much easier because I know that they know that there’s no romantic significance whatsoever to my interactions with them. It sets clear limits without my ever having to say a word; it makes it easier to be friends, to be appropriately easy with one another. And it’s a visible reminder to me of my commitment to my husband, of my loyalty to him.

    All that said, I have experienced some of what Bored in Vernal mentions–feeling in the shadow of one’s spouse. The only place I’ve ever felt that much is at church. I noticed it the instant I got married. My husband became the primary person, the important one. Home teachers would address only him and would ignore me. At church people sought his opinion and ignored mine. Everywhere I went I had been demoted to M’s wife. It was extremely frustrating. For all we pay lip service to the importance of wifehood (and motherhood) as a woman’s most important role, we often don’t treat wives as people in their own right.

  31. Kiri Close says:

    Rings for marriage are commonplace amongst specific cultures. So as far as wearing, not wearing the ring, I feel that is absolutely in your choosing.

    Though I wear a small, white gold ring with a tiny CZ, Rob & I have opted out of buying expensive, large diamond rings for sheer political, social reasons. Ever watched the film Blood Diamond? I think many should watch that movie as an intro to how objects generate trauma, death, the uprooting of several thousand families, war, poverty, rape.

    And even if you did buy a ring purchased under the UN sanctioned Kimberly Process, there is really, truly NO TELLING whether or not your large diamond ring set in a precious metal has directly/indirectly paid for a bloodbath in Africa or elsewhere.

    If you ask me, you should probably pawn it and then carefully give the return to a charity.

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