(Updated September 2020; see the end of the post.)
I was halfway over the Atlantic when I moved my wedding rings from my left hand to my right; I had made the decision several weeks earlier that on my return to Scotland I would make the transfer – although that didn’t make it any easier. I admit that I didn’t completely want to do it, but something told me it was the right thing to do. (Although I am still not 100% convinced that it is.)
I’ve decided to share the story (and my reasoning) here for several reasons including:
- Just Frances began out of a widow’s grief and I want to make sure that I’m continuing to tell stories that confirm there can be a life worth living after a spouse dies.
- Several people have made comments (some out of rudeness; some out of concern) about the fact that I’ve never taken my rings off.
- There seems to be interest in the dating life of a widow – as evident by questions from family and friends as well as the search terms used to find my website.
- There seems to be a lot of confusion over the “etiquette” of a widow(er)s’ choice to wear (or not wear) their wedding rings.
So, on to my right-hand rings! (No, not that kind of right-hand ring, which I’ve always thought was a bit silly.)
In the years since Paul’s death, I’ve had many people comment about my rings – and the fact that I should take them off – beginning just a few weeks after the funeral. I was told that they made other people uncomfortable; they confused people who assumed I was married; they were a constant reminder to everyone that I was a widow, which made people sad. There have also been an abundance of people who’ve encouraged my choice (it’s my choice, after all) and even more who’ve made no comment at all (regardless of their pro/con stance).
It’s been more than four years since my husband died and there’s not been a day since then that I’ve not worn my wedding rings; in the beginning, I was wearing both mine and Paul’s rings. Then there had been a time when I thought I would remove the wedding rings, replacing them with a special ring I purchased for myself. But I had planned to remove the rings not because I wanted to, but because I was aware that my wearing them was frowned upon by others in my life. In the end, I removed Paul’s ring and wore my new ring with my wedding rings. (Read the full account here.)
I suppose that part of me wanted to keep the rings where they “belonged” because they served as a constant reminder that I was loved once; that someone wanted to spend their life with me. For so many years I was told that no one would ever want to marry me because I didn’t conform to societal norms and I suppose wearing my rings is a reminder that they were wrong. And if I were to remove them, would people think I’m a spinster; that no one has ever loved me? Would people think that I’ve been divorced; that I “failed” at marriage? I know that I shouldn’t worry about what others think, but I do. I want people to know that I’ve been loved. That someone loved me so much that he wanted me to be his wife. (Yes, yes. It’s all indicative of my own feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy.)
But in the past two years, I’ve become more and more amenable to the idea of dating again. And in the past several months especially, I’ve decided that I am ready to meet someone. Only I started to feel a little bit self-conscious when I’d be flirting with a man whilst wearing my rings. I felt that they might think I was looking for an affair as the assumption might be that I was married. And let’s face it, it’s not exactly cool to just blurt out “yeah, I’m a widow” when you’re trying to flirt. So instead, I found myself trying to obscure my rings by the way I positioned my hands. (The upside, of course, is that if I wasn’t interested in someone, I could just make certain that my rings were more noticeable!)
I started to experiment with moving my rings to my right hand back in May. It was extremely weird and I was very self-conscious about it. In the beginning, the transfer would last a couple of hours – maybe the entire day – but I always moved them back to my left hand before bed. For about three months they went back-and-forth between hands but I wasn’t ready to commit so when I went home to America for a two-month holiday, they simply remained on my left hand.
My wedding rings have now been on my right hand for a little over two months and I’m starting to feel more comfortable with them being there. I know that there will be people who look at my rings on my “non-traditional” hand and wonder why, and that’s OK. After all, humans notice things that are different about others (even if they’re not judging).
There will be those who think I should have removed my rings altogether. There will be those who think I should have moved my rings a long, long time ago. And there will be those who think that I should have left them on my left hand where they had lived since my wedding day.
But, ultimately, I am the only one who can decide what is right for me. And for today, this is what seems right to me – even though part of me knows that I would rather have my rings on my left hand. However, I think that having them on my right-hand makes me a little more confident when I’m speaking with men I might want to date. I don’t know why, I just know it does.
So, if you’re a widow(er) having stumbled upon this post in search of an answer for what to do with your wedding rings – I say do what you want to do and don’t worry about anyone else. Although I recognise that sometimes that will come with mixed emotions. (And remember, you can always change your mind later!)
UPDATE: Since writing this post in 2014, my wedding rings had a few moves back to my left hand. As of this update (September 2020), they have been back on my left hand for more than a year and I have no plans or desire to change that. I am still open to dating and meeting a “new” love, but my heart is more settled when my wedding rings are where they belong – on the finger that my husband placed them on when he proposed and again when we got married.