One of the homeschooling newsletters I get had a link to this question (and a whole lot of comments) on whether or not it is important if spouses wear their wedding band.
Aside from the literalists who forgo jewelry entirely (I assume because of St. Paul’s disdain for gold, which was, yes, a very expensive way of showing off wealth in his day), the breakdown of the comments is interesting. They seem to fall into:
- husband does not wear ring because of safety reasons at work, and that’s fine with the wife, who would rather have him home in one piece than injured because of the ring
- husband does not wear ring because of “safety” reasons at work, and that makes wife upset
- of course neither of us ever take it off, are you crazy?
- um… get over it? It’s symbolic, but it’s not the marriage.
Now, I understand that the ring is symbolic, and that’s important. However, we also have to understand that the ring is not critical. There are plenty of married Catholics who do not wear wedding rings, because that is a western tradition. (In some cultures, like China, wives also do not change their family names at marriage, either.) Even in the west, the rings were not a widespread tradition until gold became accessable enough (and heavily marketed enough) to the masses so that most people could afford some kind of ring. And even then, it was often only for the wife; double-ring ceremonies became common only in the last hundred years.
So, why the fuss?
Why accuse people of neglecting their marriage because they don’t wear a ring? If your husband doesn’t wear his ring and one of the women in his office meets you at the office picnic and says uncomfortably, “Oh! Um… I didn’t… um…. realize Joe was married…” then you have cause for concern. If, instead, the women in his office tell you, “Your husband is so sweet; he’ll cut short a conversation to make sure he calls you on time at lunch and he loves showing us your kids’ pictures!” well, it would seem the wedding band is not a necessary symbol because your husband’s committment is obvious.
On the other hand, plenty of people (Bill Clinton, anyone?) were obviously married, often wore their wedding bands… and cheated anyways. The wedding ring does not magically protect the wearer from an unhappy marriage.
Personally, I hardly wear mine. First off, I’m rarely not at home, and everyone at home knows I’m married and who to. If I am out, I am almost always trailed by three kids yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!” constantly, so it’s pretty obvious I’m not “available.” And my knuckles swell; I can rarely get my ring on in the summer, but it almost slips off in the winter. And I heard about ten too many lectures in the Navy about not wearing your ring on board ship; it only really takes one description of “degloving” a finger when the ring caught and stayed, the person kept falling, and the finger sort of compromised… major ick! (I “wore” my band in my shirt pocket.) And then I never got back into the habit of wearing it, partially because I’m constantly working with my hands, often dirty, so I’d be taking it on and off all day.
Is my marriage less for this? I’d be surprised if my husband said me not wearing it bothered him. Why? We trust each other. Neither of us is so insecure that we would assume that the other not wearing the wedding band meant infidelity was happening.
People say, “It’s the sign of your committment! If you aren’t willing to declare that publicly, well…”
I did declare that committment publicly, more than ten years ago (and I have photos to prove it). The public sign of my committment is me hauling three kids and a ridiculously full shopping cart through the grocery store, while answering every inane and/or off-the-wall question said children can ask about life, the universe, and everything. It’s doing all the laundry when I’d rather have my nose in a book. It’s not hearing an entire sermon in I’m not sure how long because I’m either shushing someone or making a run to the potty because three-year-olds can’t wait. It’s mowing the lawn again, because I know my husband is being overloaded at work again and won’t really have time to do it.
I can’t help but thinking that all of this would be a complete non-issue if not for the largely anonymous lives we lead. Maybe that’s why wedding bands became more popular around WWII; our population shifted from small, rural towns to the bigger cities. In a small town, everyone knows who’s who, or there’s at least a risk that your pastor might see you flirting with the cute secretary while he’s walking through the bank lobby. In the city, online, at work, people only know what you choose to portray, and that lack of accountability will tempt some people… but I don’t think the wedding band would stop that.
What do y’all think? Necessary or optional?