The Thing About The Ring

Michael Baisden’s new topic of discussion: does it matter if a guy doesn’t wear his wedding ring?

I ask: why does such a ridiculous question even need to be asked?

Warning – long-winded and personal. As usual, a disclaimer that not every situation is like this, but I write based on my experience and observation. Consider please I spent a huge majority of my time watching and photographing people; I get to see a lot.

Of course it matters! Seriously. Why is this question even on the table? But then again, I thought back to some of my own experiences, and some of the things I’ve seen, and really, I’m not surprised this is on the table. I’ve seen the ringless married guy too many times to count. This is exactly why I’m VERY! wary when someone starts flirting with me. My immediate question is nearly always, what are you trying to hide?

Some years ago, I met someone with whom I hit it off within seconds. I tell you this, readers mine: I thank my lucky stars it went nowhere. Why? Because some months after that initial meeting, a mutual friend alerted me that he’s married. And with a child to boot.

*RECORDSCRATCH* Wait. What!? I didn’t see a ring; hell, I didn’t even see a tan line from a ring.

Of course, I ask, “Where’s the ring, then?” And turns out that the guy apparently has a habit of not wearing a ring. The next thought I had was, “So how much respect does he have for his marriage, exactly?”

I’ve been married before, I make no secret of it. And the one thing I was very clear on is that both he and I wear our bands. Why? Because not for nothing, but the ring is the first and most obvious sign a person is not available. Whatever happened with me and my ex aside, that’s the number-one sign of respect for the entire thing. If you’re in a legal marriage, and you’re wearing something that symbolizes your commitment to the person you’re with, wear it. It’s just plain respect to that person in your life, as well as yourself.

But what if you’re not married, but just in a very long-term commitment? Then make it clear you’re with someone. Bring up your significant other, and often. It’s one of the things called honesty and respect – again, both to yourself and the other person.

The one thing that I’m loath to admit is that nearly every woman will encounter at least one ringless married man in her dating life. That’s pretty much a guarantee.

And the story is largely the same, with a few variables: they don’t tell you about the wife and kids, they make it look as though they’re free and single, you go out on great dates, he makes it look like he’s the best thing out there – but either it never gets as serious as you want it to, or it does and he never takes you home to meet the family for the holidays. Or he never invites you to his place. Or he never wants to make any plans that will take him away for more than 1-2 days at a time. Or worse, he’s got another situation that he is lying through his teeth about, whether it’s about his debtload, his mental issues, his baby-mama, whatever you name it. But you’ll always hear, “It’s not that serious, honey” or another BS platitude designed to take your attention away from the situation at hand.

And before you know it, you have spent over a year with that person, asking whether or not it’s something you’re doing wrong that it’s not getting more serious, that you’ve not met his parents, that you haven’t seen where he lives…

I’ll tell you this, ladies who have been there: it’s not your fault. For as long as there were hormones, and for as long as there were men, and for as long as it’s been known that sex can be pleasurable, women have fallen prey to good-looking smooth-talkers. Things hadn’t changed since the medieval times, when one could have a pretend dress-up priest “marry” you to get some play. But because this is the modern world and because some things never change, you have to do your research and ask the tough questions. While you can’t control whom you attract or whom you’re attracted to, you can minimize your risk. Do your research and keep as much of a distance as you can, or barring that, stay single.

After my divorce, I made the conscious choice to avoid relationships and any emotional entanglements. Yes, conscious choice – everything in life is a choice if you actually take the time to think them through. I have an incredibly low bullshit tolerance in general, but above that, I am simply not willing to put my financial and mental well-being at risk by legally tying myself to a person who can wreck my life by the simple virtue of that legalized connection. I don’t trust people; after my divorce, I will never trust another man again. Staying permanently single is risk management and self-protection. I don’t need a lot materially – my needs generally tend to be very spartan – but I do not need, require, or am obligated to have a man in my life. There’s no reason to open myself to drama, financial issues, lies, etc.

But while I was married, no matter how unhappy I was with my ex, I always! wore my ring. Whether or not he did the same, I don’t know, don’t care, don’t want to know, and am not asking. Why did I wear it, even if I was unhappy? Simple: I gave my word. Because, whether or not I was happy in it, until I actually left that marriage, I was still in it. Out of the plain and simple respect of the promise I made when I married him, out of the plain and simple honor of holding to my words, I wore that ring until I left. When I left, the ring came off and never went back on.

Being married taught me a lot of things. The number-one thing it taught me is that I’m completely unsuited for marriage by the simple virtue of being myself. It also taught me quite a lot about judgment when it comes to people. I’m not the best judge of character, but I learned how to look at a person and see them for what they are. Having been married and having learned that marriage did not, and never will, make a relationship work when it’s not supposed to, or change someone’s personality away from what they are by nature, I got a harsh schooling in doing what’s best for myself, by myself. It was a valuable and very difficult lesson to learn. But the one thing I can also say as an outcome of the entire thing is that I always keep my promises. To my own detriment, I’m sure, but there must be some honor in keeping your word, so I feel.

To the men who are guilty of being ringless while married, I say this to you in no uncertain terms: you’re not fooling anyone but yourselves. Make no mistake: a lack of ring is generally interpreted a sign over your head signaling availability. Be honest about what you want and what makes you happy: first to yourself, and then to your wife. Some time ago, you stood up and said you’d be faithful to this woman, and it’s your own damn word and your own damn promise that you’re throwing by the wayside if you’re not wearing the ring she put onto your finger. If you can’t hold to your word, then why say it in the first place? Don’t get married if you want to play the field. If you feel that you have every right to take off your ring and pretend you’re single just for your own ego – don’t. get. married. Or, if you are married and doing that, do everyone a favor and get a divorce. Your wife deserves a lot better than to learn – as wives always learn – that her husband likes to pretend he’s single when she’s not looking.

If your wife is okay with an open marriage – and to note, most open couples I know are extremely honest with one another, which is what makes theirs a lot more successful a marriage than most monogamous ones – that’s a whole other story. In that case, make sure you two introduce the other people. That’s what honesty involves. But don’t ever pretend that you’re single when you are expected to be monogamous.

To the women who have been fooled by the ringless married man, I repeat the above: it is no fault of yours. Really, it isn’t, no matter what your guilt tells you. You were lied to, but you’re likely not the only one who has been. After all, know that the man lying to you is one who thinks nothing whatsoever of lying to his wife. Detach yourself from the situation without fail, though. It’s drama you don’t need or want. No matter how ‘in love’ with the man you might be, it’s never worth it to continue this charade. Don’t fall for him trying to tell you he’s leaving his wife for you; it’s almost never the case. And if he does leave her for you, do you not think that you’ll be the next ex-wife? Tigers never change their stripes, and nor do people.

And the last party in this situation, the wife of the ringless married man, who is quite likely to be unaware that he takes his ring off when he leaves the house, or if she is aware, she thinks it’s not a big deal, to the wife I say, first of all, that chances are, it isn’t your fault either. However, I will go on and tell you this: if you are okay with him not wearing his wedding ring, you’re kidding yourself. The ring that you put on his finger at the wedding ceremony was a symbol of his commitment to you. If he takes that off, or doesn’t wear it altogether, what does that say as to how far he respects that commitment? What does that say to the world about how he views his marriage to you if he’s not even willing to keep the easiest possible symbol of it on his hand?

If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, you’re probably correct.

However, the one thing I do not advocate is going through his phone/email/computer to look for evidence. It’s an invasion of privacy, any way you slice it. If you don’t want him doing that to you, then don’t do it to him. Doing such a thing is pretty much guaranteed to backfire on you; you will forever earn the brand of the ‘crazy ex’. If you suspect your husband is cheating on you, then know this: in situations like these, the truth always comes to the surface on its own, for the very mere and simple reason that there is no person alive who can lead a double life without it catching up to them. No matter how long it takes. If you distrust him, you will see the grounds for said distrust soon enough – but if you distrust him, then you need leave him altogether. Don’t pretend things will work out, don’t pretend it’ll be different if you do X, Y, Z, or no longer talking to Person A, B, or C – and if it happened before, then for fuck’s sake, don’t step on the rake twice. It is more than okay to walk away.

And if you do decide to walk away, then I impart this advice to you: peace and quiet are much more important than being right.

My ex often asked about whom I messaged, and insisted on being shown the phone. And know you this: I could’ve just as easily done the same thing. But I never did that. In fact, after I made the decision to leave, I did so as quietly as I possibly could. Took everything important, moved out, and kept contact to a minimum. Divorce itself was silent. Believe me, I could’ve gone through his phone – but I didn’t. It was much more important for me to keep my peace than to ring thunder over his head over whatever I may or may not have found. It just wasn’t worth it. Regardless of what I thought, regardless of what I felt, I knew it was not going to work out, and my priority was myself. My own peace of mind, and my own mental health. It made for a very quiet separation, divorce, and subsequent recovery.

Wherever my ex is – hope he’s happy. I have no reason to wish him ill. He’s a memory; this is the most I’ve spoken of him in the eight years since the divorce.

Remember: if you already know it won’t work (which you usually do know, the gut never lies), if you already don’t trust the other person, and if you already have suspicions, then there’s absolutely no need whatsoever to waste your energy on it any further. You’ll need it for better things.

The bottom line is this: if you are married, wear your ring, and act married. If you don’t want to be married, then don’t stay married. But whatever the case, don’t lie – especially not to yourself.

Love makes fools of people before giving them their due, but no one ever said you have to be a fool for love.

K.G.

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