Wedding rings: The symbol of marriage, love, faith, and commitment to couples everywhere. When I think about wedding rings, I almost immediately think of exclusivity. The wedding ring is the universal symbol of ‘your mine and I’m yours’ and signals to other people that you’re ‘taken’. But in my and my spouse case, we are not “taken” in that sense but love as free agents. My wedding ring does not say “I belong to this man” but rather “I’ve made a commitment to this man”. Being polyamorous has redefined what this traditional symbol means to us, and if there’s a time when we don’t display it at all.
When my spouse and I married 10 years ago, we selected wedding bands and had them inscribed with a bible verse about love and devotion. I think we both saw them as a symbol of our love and commitment, as well as a clear sign that we were now off limits to others. The shift from this happened for me gradually. I remember the first time I was aware of the oddity of the second part. I was at a music concert with my boyfriend when a young woman with her own boyfriend asked me who I was there with while the guys were off getting food. I halted to answer, with the gold bands on my left hand it seemed an odd thing to say “my boyfriend” but I also wasn’t going to lie and say “my husband” because that felt wrong. I faltered and replied “my friend” which probably didn’t seem any less odd, given Jim and I act like love sick teenagers around each other. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to take them off even though Jim doesn’t wear his. Allan had given them to me, I was still and wanted to be married to him, but I also felt some sense of wanting to be able to represent my life in a clear way.
Months later, Allan had a similar experience where he questioned his own band. He had been talking with an attractive musician on a dating site and was going on their first date, her with the knowledge of his being a married man. Allan asked me if he should take his ring off and I told him it was totally up to him. Would that make him more comfortable, not having the reminder right in plain sight that he IS married? While we are ok with being poly, it’s still not socially acceptable and can raise unwanted questions. Allan decided not to wear it and subsequently left it off whenever he and his new girlfriend went out.
This got me thinking, did I need to leave mine on while I was with Jim? Would it make it easier for him to be able to say “my girlfriend” and me “my boyfriend” when we were out together? Jim doesn’t wear one at all as it was lost years ago, so with us both bare fingered it would set social situations at ease. While my wedding rings still denote to me that I love Allan and I am his spouse, they don’t mean that I am his and his alone. We cast off that idea from our lives already which it made it easier to remove it from some bands of metal. While my wedding rings are symbolic of a commitment, I also really like to wear a turquoise ring Jim bought me this summer. Both pieces of jewelry make me think about the men I love, and that is my main reason for wearing them.
What I find interesting is that lots of people will give you the line “I could never take mine off!” and not just monogamous people. On a poly forum I frequent online there was a whole discussion surrounding wedding rings and a lot of people seemed to think it wrong or dishonest to take them off. Even speaking with another partner of mine, a more recent friend with benefits, he seemed surprised that Allan and I removed ours at times. I don’t see it as leaving any of my love or devotion behind, but a minor social trapping it’s easier to deal without. When I’m out and about with Allan, they’re on and people know we’re married. When I’m gallivanting with Jim they’re off and we are seen as a couple. I get that I don’t HAVE to care about other people’s perceptions, but I do and I’m ok with that. I like to look nice, I like my kids to be well groomed and well mannered (not that they always are) and I like it to be known that I’m with the guy I’m with.
Next week Jim and I are double dating to a party with Allan and his girlfriend Holly. I suppose, neither Allan nor I will wear our wedding rings. Even though we’ll be there together, romantically that night I’ll be with Jim and he’ll be with Holly. Whether we are together with our partners, or apart with our rings off in a drawer, we share a bond of love and commitment and nothing, especially not the placement of jewelry, changes that.
(Photo: Getty Images)