Q&A: "My husband forgets to wear his wedding ring and it hurts my feelings. What should I do?

"My husband forgets to wear his wedding ring and it hurts my feelings. He says he just forgets and that it's not personal. Should I make a big deal out of it or let it go?"

The importance of symbols Humans seek symbols, ritual and tradition. It has ever been so, and while they morph over time, it will ever be so. The wedding ring in our culture is a simple outward symbol of a profound inward commitment.

My treasured cheap band When we married 20 years ago we were as poor as it gets. My wife got a small diamond from her grandmother's ring that we set in a nice but modest setting. It took us a couple years to pay that ring off. I got the cheapest band for myself we could find at JC Penny's. We're better off now, but that cheap dented band I wear now is my most valued material possession for all that it symbolically represents: Moves, schooling, children, trials, loving, intimacy, fights, friendship, overcoming, persevering and triumphing. I know hers is also a treasured possession. From one view they are just things, but to us they are outward symbols of US. Out of all the things we've owned and gotten rid of over time these two rings have been the constants, which is quite a representation of marriage should be in real commitment.

A symbol is only as meaningful as the meaning WE put behind it Of course, there are those who are all about the outward show and have no problem taking that ring off in private when they go to have an affair. Conversely, some have found in a moment of weakness that looking at or feeling their ring gave them enough of a pause to catch themselves and exit before breaking their vows. Bottom line: What does it mean to each of you, to you both and what did you both commit to? I have a pretty simple mind: Make a commitment. Keep a commitment.

Objections I've heard First of all, why object to something YOU agreed to in the first place? Would it sound insensitive if I simply said, "Suck it up!"? I mean, what's the big deal of keeping one's word these days? That being said, I have heard some of the following objections to not wearing one's ring:

  • "It's uncomfortable."   If it's too tight, get it resized or get a more comfortable band.
  • "I forget to put it on."I'm sure that's true and for most good guys it's just as simple as that. However, let's consider what this is unintentionally communicating: "I forget to wear the most significant symbol WE chose for OUR wedding day to represent to US and to the rest of the world that WE are committed to each other for life, good times and bad, day in and day out." I realize most people aren't intending to communicate any such thing, of course, but this example does bring the force of our commitment to the fore.
  • "If someone's going to cheat a ring isn't going to stop them." The point has been made that many men who wear their rings still cheat on their wives. That is sadly true. Why, though, would we use someone who is faithless to their word as a reason for someone who IS true to their word to not wear the symbol of their faithfulness? It is better to use a good to prove a good, not a bad to prove a good.
  • "It's a symbol of ownership."  The point was made that the wedding ring is an archaic sign of ownership. That may have been the case at one point, but if anyone is feeling that in their marriage now then I would encourage them to question if they freely gave themselves, their word, and their heart to their spouse. If they freely gave themselves then by that freedom there can be no "ownership." Ownership implies one is over the other, is dominating the other, controls the other. If that's what's going on in one's marriage then we have a whole entire other issue to address (see my Abuse and Violence posts). Minus that, though, we can talk of a different type of owning—such as owning (or taking) responsibility for. Further, for example, how can Kara "own" me in a negative way if I've given myself freely to her? Yet I do consider myself hers, so there's something here she owns, right? In this type of giving/owning I am not lessened, controlled nor dominated by her. She does own my commitment to her. She has a right to my commitment. I gave it to her as a gift. Why shouldn't she own that fully, and fully enjoy the gift, and even expect of me that she can claim that commitment (gift) that I gave her? Partners take each other's part, are equal to one another, and commit to helping one another (helpmeet= meet in the middle to help). Partnership is not the same as ownership of a person. Partnership is, however, a mutually agreed upon commitment that we together own our marriage and are responsible to it and to each other. The ring is an outward symbol of that commitment.

Bottom line: These are all just excuses. If YOU committed on YOUR wedding day to wear YOUR ring as symbol of YOUR marriage then wear it. Why overcomplicate simplicity?

Man up, man! My role as a man, husband and father is to provide and protect. That may be primal old school, but for me, quite frankly, I like it. That being said, though, you know what? The truth is, my wife is perfectly capable of providing for her material needs and she's one tough chick so as for protecting her physically she really does need me much for that either. So if she doesn't "need" me for material provision or physical protection am I actually needed? Yes. Definitely. Because I can provide for her emotions in ways that no one else on the planet has, can or will. Those aren't just boastful egotistical words. Them's just the facts proven over 20 years of doing the work. And I can protect those same feelings. So, if wearing a small circle of gold around my finger can provide my spouse with a sense of security in our commitment and protect her from doubts and insecurities then why not? I did after all vow to do everything for her when we got married. I gave my whole self to her, so if she wants that then seriously why wouldn't I want to provide for her and protect her in this simple way?

BONUS: Why we wear the wedding ring on the third finger The earliest known use of the wedding ring as a sign of love traces back to the the ancient Egyptians. In Egyption mythology the Sun and the Moon gods, a ring was symbolic of these gods (all of which were round), and these gods were related to the home and hearth. The round sun and moon rose predictably and faithfully in circular patterns. The circle of the ring represented eternity and the open center represented a doorway to the unknown and to the future. Further, they believed that the vein of the third finger (ring finger) on the left hand went straight to the heart. Thus they believed that the wedding ring should be worn on that finger as it was the closest to the heart and to love. In Latin this vein is called the vena amoris or the "vein of love."

Video: I'm not sure of the validity of this being an actual Chinese legend or not, but I like the meaning of it all the same.

Bottom line Throughout the ages the wedding ring has been a symbol of love, loyalty and fidelity. The bottom line ultimately is what this symbol means to you and to your partner and that you both honor that meaning.

—[ What do YOU think about the wedding ring? Relevant? Outdated? Please share YOUR thoughts below... ]—