Dear Emotional Hardbody,
In September, I’m marrying the man of my dreams and couldn’t be happier. But there is one issue that is causing our wedding bells to chime slightly off key. My fiancé does not want to wear a wedding ring.
It’s not that I don’t trust him, but I do think wearing a wedding ring is an important symbol of one’s commitment. When married people don’t wear rings, I think it raises eyebrows and questions. I get that wearing a ring might seem uncomfortable to someone who isn’t the jewelry type — which he isn’t — but I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
We’ve been round and round on this issue, and can’t seem to reach an agreement. Help?
Going around in Circles
This may be your first marriage-related difference of opinion, but I promise you it won’t be your last.
Issues of opposing desires tend to come up now and then over the course of any long-term relationship. It’s helpful to have a framework to solve these impasses. That’s why I created the heartburn-saving game called "Have to/Want to/Don’t Care." (Trademark pending.) Think of this game as rock-paper-scissors: the couple's edition.
When it comes to opposing desires, the positions can usually be categorized in one of three ways: principled objection, strong desire or indifference. Under the game of Have to/Want to/Don’t Care, the hierarchy of opposing desires shakes out like this: a principled objection to something trumps a strong desire for something. And a strong desire for something trumps indifference to something.
Consider, for example, Andrea and Jack who are planning a trip to Los Angeles. Jack has never been to L.A., but he’s heard about the Beverly Hills Hotel and really wants to stay there. Andrea, however, doesn’t want to stay there because of the hotel owner's controversial connections to the Brunei government which recently passed laws that are anti-LGBT and anti-women. Even though Jack has a strong desire to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Andrea’s principled objection to doing so wins. If, on the other hand, Andrea doesn’t really care where they stay, but prefers Hilton properties because that’s where she earns points, Jack’s strong desire would win over Andrea’s indifference.
You and your fiancé need to figure out how deep his opposition to wearing a ring runs. If there is a principle at stake for him, that trumps your strong desire for him to wear a ring. But if it’s more a case of him not caring about rings, that counts as indifference, and maybe he will consider wearing one if he knows it’s important to you.
Regardless of who wins at Have to/Want to/Don’t Care, you must also consider the "my body, my decision" rule. When it comes to whether someone should or should not wear something, it’s up to the individual who would be doing the wearing to decide. (The only exceptions to this rule are the wearing of cargo shorts, ankle bracelets, fanny packs and jorts.) Under this rule, just as it would not be your fiancé’s place to tell you not to wear a ring, it isn't your place to tell him he should. That means if your fiancé ultimately decides he does not want to wear a ring, it is his prerogative.
But while it is your partner's decision whether to wear a ring, it is up to you to decide how important it is to you to have a husband who does so. Maybe this tradition is so important to you that you would not want to marry a man who does not share your same view. Then again, maybe you’d be okay with marrying someone who doesn't share your commitment to this tradition, as long as he is still willing to go along with wearing a ring, anyway. And, of course, you may decide that in the grand scheme of things, this is not that big of a deal.
Before you finalize any more wedding details, you and your fiancé need to play a round or two of Have to/Want to/Don’t Care. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in a position to decide whether the ring (and the wedding) are on or off. But if he holds firm to his objection to wearing a ring and you marry him anyway, you must vow to forever hold your peace on this issue — and then keep that promise.