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Considering Wedding Rings: What Is Practical?

By Sheila Grinell October 04, 2022 Family

My husband passed away this June after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Years ago, I had joined a group of Parkinson’s spouses who met monthly to support each other. We were all around the same age, going through the same quandaries, and we became excellent friends. Now, a decade later, six of the eight of us are widows. We have something else to share.

A Startling Question

When I announced my husband’s death online, many people sent condolences, which was tremendously comforting. Then one woman, herself a widow, asked, “Are you still wearing your wedding ring?” Huh? I hadn’t thought about it; I was far too busy settling legal and financial issues and communicating with the kids. But the question made me stop and wonder, so I brought it to my caregiver group.

I Got Four Different Answers

Friend #1 is always well-dressed, wearing multiple rings, earrings, and necklaces, even when we meet casually. She said, “Naturally, I’m wearing my wedding ring.” I assumed she meant that it was simply part of her wardrobe. But then she said, “I don’t want any man to get near me.” She’d had a long, satisfying marriage and had no intention of attaching herself to another man, especially an older one who might sicken on her.

Friend #2, who also had enjoyed a long marriage, said she sometimes wears her ring, sometimes not, depending on her mood and the occasion, in that order. Much of her jewelry had been stolen years ago, so she had fewer items to pick from. Nonetheless, she had sentimental favorites, especially a necklace she and her husband purchased on one of their travels. The slim gold pendant reminded her of her guy. She wore it, not her wedding ring, nearly all the time.

Neither Signal Nor Sentiment

When I asked Friend #3 about wearing her ring, she seemed as surprised as I was by the question. She had been a widow much longer than I and said it had never occurred to her to stop wearing her ring. She didn’t see it as a symbol, as did the other two. Putting it on in the morning was like brushing her teeth. Her marriage had been a big chunk of her identity, and it still was. So was the ring.

I questioned a fourth friend, not yet a widow, who didn’t wear any rings. When I asked how come, she snorted, “It’s my arthritis.” Her ring would not slide onto her finger anymore, and she said she didn’t care. She confessed that her attitude had been conditioned by a bad allergic reaction a few years ago. Her entire body had swelled, and they’d had to cut her ring off. She’d had no desire to replace it. Taking good care of her hubby was commitment enough.

What’s a Girl to Do?

Listening to my friends, I resonated with all of them. I can’t imagine getting entangled with a man again, not after 42 years of a marriage that suited both partners; hence the “keep-away” function of a wedding ring sounds good to me. I also like the sentimental side: my husband wore one of my rings toward the end of his life when his fingers had thinned, and I can feel his vibe in that ring. I might wear it for a while to remind me of the good times, not his awful disease.

As for identity, I have presented myself to my community as, among other things, a person who cared about her family, and wearing a wedding ring was part of the presentation. But my interests are evolving, and I can imagine a time when something new comes to the fore and wearing rings becomes impractical (gooey hands or exotic travel or some such). Perhaps I’ll leave the ring in my dresser drawer and present a new face to the world, and to myself.

Conclusion

Of course, all the above is moot if arthritis advances. Right now, the ring finger on my right hand gets stuck, and the second joint is the only joint of all ten fingers that is permanently swollen. (I have no idea why.) I can still wear my ring in its rightful place on the ring finger of my left hand, and I intend to. But I realize that widowhood may bring changes in the near future, and the safest attitude is “wait and see.”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you wear your wedding ring? How does that determine who you are today? Do you envision a point in time when you might want to take it off?

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Rosamund Sheppard

I thankfully still have my husband (he is 7 years younger than me) however I haven’t worn my wedding ring for years. When I was expecting our second child my fingers swelled so I took it off before it became a problem. As I have always felt completely secure in my marriage with no intention to ever stray outside marriage it has never bothered either of us that I no longer wear a ring. Unfortunately, after having our second child, I never lost enough weight to wear my ring without going to the bother of getting it stretched.

Nina

There is no right or wrong and don’t be pressured by others do what makes you comfortable and happy. Friend #1 made me laugh and feel better about my private thoughts. I was separated and widowed by the age of 50. I’m 70 and single but family and friends still try to match me up. Politely I say no but it doesn’t stop. My private thoughts were expressed by Friend #1 “had no intention of attaching herself to another man, especially an older one who might sicken on her” and I felt a bit ashamed thinking that way. Today I feel a little bit less guilty.

Nancy Trevino

My dad wore his wedding ring after my mom passed away until he got too thin to wear it. They were married almost 62 years. Of course we buried it with him.

Melody Rankin

I wore my wedding ring until I met someone else. I then gave my wedding ring to our daughter.

Susan

I also lost my husband in June after a long illness. I am still wearing my ring, as well as his. It makes me feel close to him. I still feel married, the first time I had to mark down ‘widow’ instead of married on a form I felt physically ill! I do not envision a time when I will not wear it, though I am in early grief and understand that may change in the future. We discussed this at my widows group and all of us, even those whose husbands passed years ago were still wearing their rings.

The Author

Toward the end of her 40-year career as a creator of science museums, Sheila Grinell began a “second act” as a novelist. Her debut, Appetite, appeared in 2016, and her second novel, The Contract, in 2019. She writes a monthly newsletter and engages with readers on social media.

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