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When to remove the wedding ring

Is there ever a right time to take off your wedding ring?

Is there ever a right time to take off your wedding ring?

Wedding rings symbolise togetherness. Their significance is both deeply personal and profoundly social; wedding rings adorn, commemorate and demarcate. They bond us to our beloved, until death do we part. But what happens when death comes? What happens when you’re left alone with a heart full of memories and a lonely ring on your finger?

This is a reader’s dilemma. His wife recently passed away. He said goodbye. But now he finds himself looking at his hands – the hands that loved her, touched her, stroked her hair – and wondering about the small, gold band. The one she placed there, 24 years ago. Does he take it off? And when?

We don’t like thinking about people we love dying. But the incontrovertible truth is they do. This relative unpreparedness can lead moments of precise confusion; of unsureness and doubt. It doesn’t help that our youth-focused world prefers to avoid talk of ageing, of loss and of grief. Mourning is, by many accounts, a modern social taboo.

Yet widows and widowers are made every day. Some are young, some are old. Some barely made it down the aisle before fatal tragedy. But in every case, life goes on for someone. Days, months, years might pass before the end finally comes – a whole other lifetime, perhaps, depending on circumstance.

So what happens to things of the past when it comes to the future? Memories linger, encased within our hearts and minds. But what of outward symbols of love shared and lost – what of rings and things?

In days gone by, mourning men and women were easily identified. Victorian England, land of Stiff Lips and Propriety, asked for obvious expressions of grief. The black dress did what the white dress was supposed to – reveal an intimate truth without having to talk about it. Things are less plain now.

Perhaps that’s the advantage of removing the ring. In a world where ambiguity sometimes obfuscates, clear signals of change can make adjustment easier. Clear signals might help avoid uncomfortable situations with people on the periphery. Conversations, with those workmates, casual acquaintances, or distant relations who don’t know, or need to know, the particulars of your personal life could take their cue from you before asking, ‘so, how’s married life?’.

Indeed, the ring’s life began as a public display of affection. It was bought from a store, or inherited, and presented to someone so everyone could know they were special, and loved, and attached to someone. It is a physical thing – a tangible manifestation of a romance – so the physical loss of a lover should be reflected.

Of course, a ring’s role is more than material. Anyone who has ever worn a ring of significance knows its power goes beyond look and feel. Taking it off, in life or death, is unbearable for some. Being without the love token is like being without the love. Losing it would be greatly upsetting. Deciding to lose it would be the ultimate betrayal.

Fundamentally, the choice is the wearer’s to make. It depends on their feelings, their thoughts, their habits and customs. There is no one correct option, only a world of individual possibilities. Some people move the ring to a different finger, others to a different hand. Some people wear their ring around their neck, others bury both rings with the body of their spouse. And some people choose to remove the rings, store them in a safe place, and hope one day to have cause to bring them out again. These rings may live on as heirlooms. They may live on in different married lives – there are men and women who wear the rings of dearly departed.

Would you?

If you have loved, and lost, what did you do with the ring? If you plan to love, and exchange rings, would it matter who wore it first? A lover’s death will always leave a mark on your heart, but what of the mark it leaves on your hand?

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127 comments so far

  • I had wondered; my if ex and I had divorced and then not long after she died. I found it bemusing that her eternal resting place is marked by our married name. I assume her wedding ring went to a nice, but I've no idea. Properly with her weird sister who collects mementos of the dead. But what become of the gold cross I gave her when we were both 19? I can't anyone else knew it's significance. Anyway, couldn't you move the ring to another finger. My own wedding band had been family heirloom; it just sits in a box to go to my middle son when he is 21. My sister annoyed me when she announced she was excited to wear our recently dead mother's wedding ring. But why shouldn't she like to wear wear it. It will eventually go to my niece who is the only girl grandchild.

    Commenter
    Fluellen
    Date and time
    June 06, 2012, 7:08AM
    • I would never take off my wedding ring. And I would never pass it along as a wedding ring - maybe my eldest son could wear it as a dress ring one day, but I don't think men's wedding rings should be handed along. From my perspective, it's too personal.

      Commenter
      Harbinger
      Location
      Doom
      Date and time
      June 06, 2012, 9:17AM
      • I removed my wedding ring within a couple of months, such was my dissappointment with my wife. She had changed by the time we were out of the church. No sex till more than 10 months and no support, only sniping and betrayal but what do you expect from a woman.
        Death will be a release and I await it with anticipation. Why do I stay? I don't want to live on my own and I would not expect another woman to be any different. Better the devil I know than the one I don't.
        PS that was nearly 40 years ago.

        Commenter
        snafu
        Date and time
        June 06, 2012, 9:47AM
        • "What do you expect from a woman"?! I expect a lot better, which is why I ditched several gfs who showed the potential to turn out as the wife you've described. There are some horrible and messed up women out there and probably just as many horrible and messed up guys. Being able to choose whether you end up WITH one, or AS one is a privilege in our liberal society, so don't squander it.

          No one has put a gun to your head forcing you to stay, and you haven't even mentioned kids, which I realise does complicate unhappy marriages. So please stop whinging about the results of your own choices.

          Commenter
          CaptainFlash
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 10:12AM
        • Snafu=
          We view this world and people based on our personal experiences and interactions we have had. There are good and bad in both genders. At 46 having met my wife when we were 17 we were and still are very lucky and very much still in love. Life is for happyness, why let someone make your life unhappy, we only go round once, find someone you deserve, someone who cares or life will be bitter memories on your last breath, you dont want that, you deserve better.

          Commenter
          Steve Up North
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 11:17AM
        • Captain Flash and Steve up north,
          Yes, there were kids involved. That made divorce difficult probably because my paents did and it affected my brother, sisterand I badly. I am the only one to have any children out of the lot of us. To hold things together, for many years I have taken medication to suppress all that part of life and so now, I have absolutely no interest in leaving to find someone else. Such are the sacrifices we (some of us) make for our children. Mine have families of their own now and I like to think that it is no small way due to my sacrifices that they are doing well in stable, loving relationships. That is my only "take home" from my life. You say I deserve better, maybe, but so do my children. My choice, my experience.

          Commenter
          snafu
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 12:32PM
        • Ah Gentlemen... I'm sorry you've had bad run-ins. Thank goodness for human diversity.

          Commenter
          CK
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 12:38PM
        • Don't allow disappointment to become long-term bitterness, snafu. You're only hurting yourself.

          Commenter
          rudy
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 12:44PM
        • So you suffer marriage for the sake of your childrens 'stability' in the same miserable constitution which sees to your constant depression. The one where expectations of wives can not extend beyond sniping and betrayal. Yet you're actively encouraging your sons to marry women. Surely not. Or are your children female and therefore no doubt exempt from your ever so flattering opinion of the fairer half. Surely not. Well I can only assume you have gay sons.

          Commenter
          Rachael
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 1:51PM
        • Rachael. Huh?? What's all that about? I have one child of each gender and never had even the slightest thought of trying to influence their choices. Their choices have (so far) been good ones, something as I said, I take some credit for giving them the where-with-all to make.
          Maybe I cut a little too close to a nerve with you.

          Commenter
          snafu
          Date and time
          June 06, 2012, 2:19PM

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