Put a ring on it! No? Put a rock on it? – The story of engagement and what the Hollywood romcom never told you – PART TWO


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PART TWO 

The engagement is broken – what to do with the ring?!

The quandaries after a break-up can be plentiful. Take for instance the who-gets-to-keep-which-friends, that’s a tough cookie! Batter that up with a long-term relationship, perhaps a good portion of engagement or even a big slab of marriage, and you’ll have yourself quite a cracked biscotti to work yourself through. Luckily I’ve never had to take a bite of that myself, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been close enough to others to smell the dough turning burnt.

Another major quandary post engagement-break-up is what to do with the ring. I promised in my previous post PART ONE with the same title as this, that I would investigate the dos and don’ts with the engagement ring after a break up. Well, it’s quite an ethical question, for yourself and your partner, but perhaps sometimes stretching so far as to include the interest of families and friends. I’d say what to do with the ring all depends on the reason for the break up. I’ll write here from the angle of what I’ve nicknamed a Hollywood engagement, where a man proposed to a woman with a (quite expensive) ring, because this is the version that my very good friend Lady L just found herself breaking up from.

Her partner had, much to everyone’s surprised given the recent circumstances, gone down on one knee and proposed to her with an extraordinarily stunning Bulgari ring, price tag in the ballpark of 3 months’ salary.  Some months down the line they mutually agreed to break the engagement and separate, making it a clean and definitive break up this time around. During half a decade they’d been a couple experiencing a life that had taken them on many roller-coasters. We, their friends, as well as they themselves thought numerous of times that they had gone for their last ride, they even left the amusement park all together a few times, so to speak. But they kept on coming back for more rides, even costly ones such as moving in and out with each other, selling and buying etc. So, this mutually agreed break up from the engagement seems like a healthy way forward for both of them, separately. Now, what does Lady L do with the ring?

She is a lady of good taste and naturally she wants to keep it, because it is indeed dazzling. Though given the nature of the ring, an engagement ring to mark the bond between two partners aimed to marry each other, it is no longer suitable for her to wear it. She even asked me if perhaps it would be OK to continue wearing it, just as an amazing piece of jewellery, perhaps on the opposite hand? I bluntly said no. To me that is just immoral. Had your partner died, and you were left unmarried widowed, then yes, be my guest and continue wearing the symbol of your love. However in her case, after a break up from what had been a relationship full of not only complicated love but also various let downs of each other, continue wearing it is for me a big no-no. I mean, did she say yes to the guy or yes to a diamond clad finger…? But then what good will it do laying around in a box in her vanity? None, naturally.

I suggested a decent thing to do was to return it to her ex, given the non-conflict circumstances under which they separated. It would be a humble gesture and a suitable closure of their shared past. That way the guy could also sell the ring and keep the money for some other future expense. Lady L explained to me that she had indeed implied this option to him and he had insisted she’d keep the ring, saying she was worth it. I’m thinking she’s now locked in quite a quandrum. She’s not giving it back because “she is worth it”, and yet she can’t benefit from that worth by having the value boxed up in a drawer in her new studio apartment (apparently the ring’s value seems to decrease as soon as it left the store, much like a car, given it’s a brand piece). Now her options would be to trade the ring for some liquid asset! Sell it, even though at a decreased value, and do something fun or useful for the cash! Should she?

Selling it would be to let her ex down a bit, wouldn’t it? He meant for her to keep it, no matter what – well maybe not after say a case of infidelity – but almost no matter what. As mentioned in my previous post PART ONE, the ring used to function as insurance for the woman, but this was in the olden days when women were less likely to have an income. Now, Lady L makes good money and doesn’t “need” the cash, at least not more than her ex would. So there’s no “insurance” based reason for her to sell it. And even if she did need the cash, there’s always the, less profitable, option of pawning it until your economy becomes stable again and you could buy it back. Only to put it back in that box. I’m a big believer in thing’s functionality. It clogs my mind having tons of stuff around that doesn’t fill any purpose. The purpose can be pure visual enjoyment, like a beautiful ornament, and that’s fine. But to keep things just for the sake of keeping them, that’s not me. I grew up in a crowded 3-bedroom apartment with my other 7 family members. Nowadays I treasure clear open spaces… So I say, sell it, and turn it into useful money. And, no offense, his wishes are no longer her command. If he truly treasures her, he’ll be happy with whatever decision she makes about the ring. Am I right?

Now, lastly, could you ever throw it away? I mean literary getting rid of it by throwing it out the window, flush it down the toilet, or toss it off the cruise ship? I don’t think I would. We’ve seen it plenty of times in Hollywood romcoms, how a woman is wronged by her man and in desperation dramatically pulls the ring off her finger and throws it far away. Perhaps should I find myself in such an awful situation I would react beyond logic, but today, from where I stand, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would do something so stupid. The ring is yours, the guy has done something terrible to you and all you wish is that he looses his job and never gets a new one, that he always forgets his pin codes even if he’s issued new ones and that his hard drives always and forever crashes (by the way, vengeance actions inspired by awesome Swedish rapper Timbuktu’s lyrics). So why not also turn that fake intended ring into some well deserved cash and spend it like there’s no tomorrow! Or invest it like there’s an even better tomorrow, without him. Hey, why not take that expensive watch of his and sell it too, and use to money to spoil yourself and people you care about, maybe go out dancing. Sort of like dancing on his grave.

Luckily, my friend Lady L needs to do no such thing. She is still in the blissful quandary of keeping a keepsake or turning it into party.

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Put a ring on it! No? Put a rock on it? – The story of engagement and what the Hollywood romcom never told you – PART ONE


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PART ONE

Engagement. Not so easy to wrap your head around. And I am not even talking about Eritrean tribes, Maori society or Maya Indians that some people find oh-so-fascinating. I’m talking straightforward Western ways of getting engaged. Traditionally. As it’s done. As in the movies, with a ring and romance and the anticipated wedding. OK, yeah right. It is totally ambiguous this whole engagement business. And I really think it is, of course, just up to each and one to decide for themselves what they want to make out of it. That is – unless you are more interested in what others think of your engagement than what you yourself want it to be.

Hollywood tells us that all women are highly surprised when their boyfriends ask them to marry them. The girls had never thought the thought and it has never been discussed in the relationships. Ask me and I’d tell you it says something about their lack of conversation ability, and maybe thus their incompatibility for marriage? Anyhow, if the girl is lucky she gets a big expensive diamond ring showing the world she is taken and belongs to one man only. Her partner however is free of earmarks and readily available for any sort of, should I say temporary engagements, up until wedding ceremony when the wedding bands are exchanged. Where I come from however, and indeed in other countries and customs, the game goes a bit the other way around.

Couples in Sweden often make joint plans for an engagement, go look at rings together and set a date for when they are going to exchange the rings – yes, both partners get a ring. Many book a trip abroad or decide to do it on a, for them special place, such as a beach or in a restaurant. The rings are often simple bands in white or yellow gold, and are indeed often sold in combo. In the jewelry boutiques where they still label the rings “for women” and “for men”, the man ring tends to be a bit wider in style and the woman ring sometimes have an added little stone set into the very band, to differentiate them a bit. I haven’t done any actual research before writing this blog post, so alas I’m not updated on the development of gender awareness in the jewelry market. It is my hope however, that we have started to move away from the old women/men divide and that each individual in love can buy the ring they want for themselves and/or for their partner without being advertisement-ly pushed toward one or the other style. Getting engaged this way marks both partners as taken, equally devoted and obliged, and on the day of the wedding, traditionally the bride receives a second ring, which appearance’ could resemble her engagement band, upgraded in stones and value, or be a completely different looking ring, with a stand alone larger stone a la Tiffany’s. At the wedding, traditionally the man doesn’t get his finger decorated a second time. This way, the order is the complete opposite from that in the US.

As much as it’s true that not every woman in the US are completely surprised when their future husband pops the question (indeed many couples do talk about marriage and agree on a shared vision for their future!), it is also true that not every couple in Sweden are completely leveled in their life plans together (there have been known to be a number of surprise proposals even in that egalitarian country…!) Regardless of the order in which it is done, the gesture of giving the woman a ring is traditionally much more meaningful than most people in my generation seem to be aware of. It is two-folded really. The ring symbolizes a certain type of ownership, much like handcuffs on a slave. Yes, a bit shocking but true. We all know in the olden days that women were daughters in their family, under the rule of their father, until the day they got married off and instead became the wife of their husband. This is also further supported by the ceremony where a bride’s father “gives her away” to the groom, where she leaves her father’s name behind to become the Mrs. of her new master, the husband.  Wait, wait, wait – don’t’ tell me off as a man hater just yet. I am not. At all. I am very much into traditions and I’ve had the fortune of being to a number of absolutely wonderful weddings in different countries with people of a variety of traditions and faiths. Including the one just described. I love it all and I can see the beauty in it, and I am the first to say that traditions are alive and breathe and constantly change with the way we live them and recreate them. And what meant something 100 years ago could mean something completely different today. That’s what’s so amazing with culture and traditions. I do think it is interesting though to know and understand the root of a tradition, if not to base any serious decisions from them, then at least to have an amazing thought to ponder upon. I believe people try to do things for a reason, and if you or your partner decide to make your engagement or wedding a certain way, I believe it is desirable to at least know why you are doing it in that certain way. So, just to clarify, I am not a hater of weddings or rings or family building or men in general. I tend to love it all.

A little side note to the walking-down-the-aisle-part: The Swedish way of getting married, traditionally in a church, when Swedes were still Christian, was actually for the bride and groom to walk hand-in-hand together down the aisle to the altar. There could be a flower child preparing the walk for them, or an unmarried bridesmaid, only one, who would help the bride with the bouquet. But the ring would be presented by the priest who would give it to the man to put on the woman’s finger. Ring bearer, best man, grooms men, brides maids, maid of honour and father giving his daughter away are all quite new additions to the traditional Swedish wedding. Today it is also becoming increasingly more popular with the American way of going about the ring business with women receiving, expectantly or not, an extravagant engagement ring, and the couple exchange rings at the wedding. It might be a small IKEA-furnished country far far up in the north, but like the rest of the world it is no stranger to adapting American culture 😉

Back to the meaning of the ring. The second reason to give the woman her wedding ring is because it is her insurance. If her husband would do anything inappropriate causing her to having to leave him, she is guaranteed to set off with at least the value of the ring on her finger. That jewel is hers. Maybe more relevant a couple of generations back than it is today, but the married woman is also more likely to loose her income, perhaps because she becomes a stay-at-home-mom, than the married man is to loose his. As you see here the value of the ring is not only meant to cover that juicy tab you and your girls keep on adding to when ordering in Aperol spritzers whilst verbally puking over the memory of that unfaithful ex-husband. It is also intended to cover all those stay-at-home-years of pension saving loss.

So, ladies, either make sure you get a big solid expensive ring, just in case, or better yet, make sure you make yourself some of your own money so in case, universe forbid, you would have to separate from him you got your own two legs to stand own. Preferably in some kick-ass shoes.

***** Dear reader, if you enjoyed this post, check back for Part Two on the same topic! I’ll be investigating the dos and don’ts with the ring after a break-up. Under what circumstances is it OK to keep it, wear it, bin it or sell it? Or would you hand it back or pawn it…?