To this day I think the proudest moment of my life was expressing my wedding vows. I remember the pride and power I felt; almost like a mountain. On that day, I knew my purpose, my reason for breathing, and had this cool confidence that grounded me. Everything seemed to move a bit slower; and while things around me were a little crazy, I never felt consumed or impacted by it. For me, saying my vows culminated the day and made the marriage real for me. Take the ceremony away, forget the reception, and erase the honeymoon. What made the event concretely real for me were the two minutes we used to exchange the vows we wrote for each other. In all my life, I do not think that I have said anything else with so much passion and honesty; and when we were done, it was my wedding ring that for years would server as a reminder of the person I was that day. Of the person I had pledged to be.
Well, my how things change over the years.
So I do not wear my wedding ring any more. To be honest, I do not even know where it is. I stopped wearing it minutes after I told my wife I wanted a divorce and sincerely meant it. Now, one thing about my wedding ring is that it honestly was among my most prized possessions. I took it off maybe five times in all of the years we were together. What it symbolized for me was tangible as well. The ring had an interesting design; there was an inner band to my wedding band that allowed me to "twirl" it with my thumb. I would do this when I was nervous, thinking hard, looking for inspiration, or grounding. When I spun the ring, I could faintly smell the perfume my wife wore on our wedding day (it was powdery, with a touch of flowers). The ring was not expensive, but it represented the resolve and commitment I had regarding out marriage. Thus, it was only fitting that I remove it when my marriage had finally failed.
Hindsight being what it is, I removed my ring originally out of anger and spite. I took it off, and left it on my entertainment center for days. I wanted my wife to see it; I wanted her to understand that I was at the end of our relationship; that she had made a mistake treating me the way that she did. I wanted her to feel hurt when she saw my ring on our shelf, and eventually in my sock drawer. When I moved all my things out of the house, I left my ring on the kitchen table. I refused to take it with me. I wanted her to see that I had abandoned it; that I had abandoned the idea of our marriage. I now realize how wrong and petty I was with that. Divorce is such an ugly, painful process. We end up hurting or trying to hurt each other because of the pain we feel and cause.
So if you are curious when it is appropriate to remove your wedding ring, remember that this decision should not be trite or trivial. The ring represents something you vowed to own, an ideal that you chose to live up to. Removing the ring is a broken promise. It is a resounding "no", and (chances are) something that will at least initially hurt your spouse. It is a rejection. But rather than look at this act as the end of your relationship, chose to view it as the continuation or evolution of your life. Removing your ring is the start of something new; the announcement that in the face of no evidence you are will to change your life. Be empowered by this experience, and do not look upon it with guilt. Think about the following:
- Your wedding ring is not an obligation; it is a pledge or oath of commitment. If you feel that, for whatever reason, you cannot live up to the ideals that embody your ring and marriage, then remove it. Don't live a lie; it will hurt you more than you will understand in the moment.
- If you no longer honor or respect your spouse, remove it. You cannot have a relationship without these emotions and values; pretending that you can only perpetuates the painful.
- If you look at your ring resentfully, remove it. Remember that the ring can be a symbol. Remember that your ring represents your relationship and spouse. If you look at your ring and feel overwhelming resentment then consider taking it off.
- If the negative aspects of your marriage have begun to define how you feel about yourself, remove it. Over time, we sometimes define ourselves not by who we are, but rather by the circumstances around us. We convince ourselves that we are good people when things go well, and bad people when they do not. This is not reality; its conformity.
When I removed my ring, I was sad; but I knew it was right. When I look back on the experience and get through the anger I had, the hurt I felt, and the resentment that filled me, part of me immediately acknowledged that it was time. It was right. It was the first step in my evolution. Did I miss it? Yes, of course. Even today, I still find myself looking at my ring finger and seeing if there is a faint tan line / outline left (there isn't). But now, I recognize and understand that I missed the idea behind my relationship; not my spouse or the relationship we had. When I missed the ring, I missed the connected moments we had as equals and vulnerable, giving partners. Well, life moves on. You have to be willing to move with it, or it will leave you behind.