About eight months ago, I took off my wedding ring. I was going to have a bath, and I noticed that the ring was tight on my finger. I twisted it off and placed it in the medicine cabinet before hopping in the tub. When I got out, I didn't put it back on.
The next day, it sat in the cabinet, and the next, and the next. I kept expecting that the urge to put it back on my finger, but the urge never came.
After a while, I began to percolate on my experience sans wedding ring. I decided that I wanted to continue without it. Here's why:
1. It No Longer Symbolises Who We Are
When I first put on that ring, I had no children and was in my mid-twenties, beginning my career. Now, I've gained nearly a decade and fifty pounds, two children, and a life-threatening mental illness episode. I've lost myself and regained myself. I've re-created my whole life from the ashes and rubble of the death of the person I thought I was.
When I saw the ring on my finger, it was a reminder of the way my life was. It was a symbol of a deal that I made when I was a different person with a different life. That deal had been the basis of many wonderful things: two children, first and foremost. We have a house, two cars, a dog, a cat, relative financial stability. But I didn't feel that that original deal still held, and that it really shouldn't hold. Marriage should be a dynamic contract, not a static one made once. I didn't feel that the symbol of the ring represented our dynamic life together.
2. I Am Not My Marriage
Obviously, it's patriarchal AF for women to take their husband's last name, and to literally have their whole identity changed when they are married. (Although it's also patriarchal AF that women start out with their father's name, so, po-tay-to, po-tah-to.) Both honorifics “Miss” and “Mrs” are representational of the woman's marital status, which I find oppressive. I do not identify as either. I have always been a “Ms.” I'd prefer a gender-neutral honorific, or really, no honorifics at all. Can't we just be who we are?
Every time I see “Mrs” with my last name, I feel the warm dagger of breathless disappointment, of pretending to be someone I'm not, or disengenuousness.
To me, a wedding ring is a physical equivalent of that “Mrs” on the paper. It is a symbol that shows other people that I am married. This may not be a problem for some, but it is for me.
3. My Body, My Choice
In the past, whenever I had considered removing my wedding ring, I had stopped at the thought of how upsetting it would be for my husband. I literally was wearing something on my body that had more meaning to someone else than to me. Eff that! My body is mine, and I can adorn it however I want.
Removing my wedding ring was a powerful symbol to myself that my will is supreme in my body, even though I'm an old married broad. The number of years married doesn't dictate what I can and can't do with my own body. Period.
4. If My Marriage Relies On A Piece Of Metal, It Is Not Worth Anything
When I made the choice to keep my wedding ring off, I faced the very real possibility that my husband would be offended—so offended that he would want to separate. I realise now that I was not giving him enough credit.
If our marriage depends on a ring being worn on my finger, our marriage may as well end sooner rather than later. In a way, removing the ring was a litmus test to see if there was anything else in our marital wheelhouse than just being stuck to each other by a promise made a decade ago. People change in a decade; relationships change. And that's okay—it's normal and healthy. We can't expect that things will stay the same, or even that they should stay the same. The beauty of a marriage is when it can be in flux as its members are in flux.
5. My Marital Status Is Nobody's Business
A large part of the ethos of the wedding ring tends to run along the lines of, “This is how we show that we are taken.” Obviously, that is problematic AF.
Regardless of all that, the idea that a wedding ring can stop a person from cheating is laughable. If a married person wants to date or sleep with someone else, they will, with or without their ring. Yet we still associate wedding rings with marital fidelity.
If I want people to know that I am married, I will tell them. I refuse to continuously announce it with my body. If my husband feels that I need to stick some metal on my finger in order to remind myself not to cheat on him, we need to discuss item #4.
6. No Such Thing As 'Happily Ever After'
I don't believe that marriage is the end of the story. Marriage is the beginning of the story. My story goes on after I am married. To me, not wearing a wedding ring symbolises that I am not “on the shelf,” living out my days in Happily-Ever-After-land. I am an individual, I am a person in flux. Being married and being a parent doesn't negate who I am.
For many people, a wedding ring is a cherished possession, and a warm reminder of a loving relationship. That is fabulous, and I am not arguing that anyone should take off their wedding ring unless they want to. I know that, for me, this was a big step in redefining myself and my marriage.
I have talked with my husband about my wedding ring. He was clear that he would prefer for me to wear my ring, but that he understood that it was my choice. He still wears his original ring (well, actually, not his original ring—he lost his original ring on a desolate beach in Newfoundland; long story). For him, his wedding ring is a tremendously important symbol of our lives together. It's a little bit weird, I suppose, to have such vastly disparate views of our rings, but then again, we have such different, gendered experiences of life before and after marriage. I am under not illusions about his wedding ring as a deterrent to sexual attention—he is an attractive man, and he's experienced some brazen sexual advances. A wedding ring doesn't shield him from that.
So where do we go from here? We have discussed the possibility of renewing our vows, with a separate set of rings, or some other piece of jewelry. I'm not sold on that idea—I need to think about it more. Maybe I just need to wait a bit until our kids are older and our lives are more stable. Perhaps when we can think clearly about things, we'll be able to figure out what our partnership means to us. For now, we are just two well-intentioned people acting in good faith to try to make the best decisions we can. There is freedom in that. Not having the pressures of labels or of symbols frees us to create a life and a partnership that works for us.
Featured image is by Katsu Nojiri via Flickr, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
AJ is a coffee-drinker and parent in Calgary, Canada. She works full-time and writes part-time, and is training to run a 10K this summer. She is excited that she has recently received her new jungle garden seeds. New this year: mini purple diakon and mustard greens.