A Tale of Three Rings, Then None, Then Two (and Still None)

There is no ring.

Well, actually there is one—or in fact, there are two. Let me explain.

Once upon a time, there were three rings: my wedding ring, my ex-wife’s engagement ring, and her wedding ring. These were not only symbolic, but were very significant to both of us. We got engaged at a time when neither of us had a lot of money. The engagement ring was a family heirloom that was nearly 100 years old. It was priceless. The wedding ring belonged to my grandmother, who passed away some time ago. It was also nearly 100 years old, and it too was priceless. I had not planned on wearing a wedding band, but she insisted—and bought me one—because she felt it was a very important symbol of our commitment to one another. It was important to me as a symbol that I was “off the market,” so to speak. These were Our Three Rings.

I had never worn a ring before, but she put that ring on my finger the day we were married and it stayed there long after the marital crisis began. I took the ring off only on the morning that the divorce was finalized, and I did so because my attorney told me to. I’m not sure why it even mattered, but the attorney thought it did; she wanted it off my finger before I went into the courtroom.

My ex-wife treasured her engagement and wedding rings. To her, they were truly priceless. That is, until the affair started. She took them off shortly after the affair began, and even had the audacity to claim that I should have bought her rings, not given her family “hand-me-downs,” or something like that. All of this was very hurtful to me, but you know, the adulterer could not exactly parade her around as “his woman” if she wore something that so obviously showed she was not single. I never asked her to return the rings to me. It was just that one day, as I was cleaning up her office, I found the rings on a very high shelf—a shrine she kept—and I would not have seen them had I not gone up there to clean.

I have kept the rings in a safe place ever since then—hers and mine. They are bound together by a bracelet cord a friend gave me on the day the divorce was finalized. I told myself I’d wear that bracelet as a symbol of my commitment for a year, or until she came home.

A year passed, and I took off the bracelet. I tied it around the rings and put them in that safe place where they remain to this day, symbolically connected by some karmic force that cannot be undone.

When I saw my ex a few months ago, she was already “married.” She had had a “show” wedding in Japan from which videos surfaced on Facebook. In those videos, she and the adulterer exchanged rings, putting them on each other’s left hand ring finger. This is significant. It is significant because in every other picture I have seen of the adulterer since, and there have been many that have surfaced publicly, he does not wear a ring. So, let’s call this Ring Number Zero because there is no ring.

It is also significant because, when I sat with her on that day for the first time in just over three years, she was wearing a ring, but it was on her left hand middle finger. It was a decorative ring that did not in any obvious way broadcast to the world that she was a married woman. So, let’s call this Ring Number One because it is a ring, albeit with the caveat that it does not obviously signify a marriage commitment. Well, she apparently was not legally married: the Japanese wedding was purely ceremonial, and presumably there had not been any kind of civil process to formalize it legally. Still, she covered up that ring when I first sat down to talk to her. She stopped covering it up when she saw that I had no interest in any jewelry she might be wearing, but she did not exactly try to make it visible, either.

A wedding notice was published in the paper here a couple weeks after that, and the records show that they did get legally married in this state a few days after that notice appeared. The adulterer did not begin to wear any ring after this time. This is curious. It is curious because some months prior to all this he publicly posted about a ring maker who makes custom wedding bands; in the comments he noted that he had worn a ring “the last time [he] was married”; this seemed to imply that he would order rings from this ring maker once he married again. He did not.

My ex-wife also did not begin to wear any rings other than Ring Number One, i.e. the decorative one, since the legal marriage was effected. This is also curious. In this case, it is curious because of the significance that her wedding rings from me—the only ones she has ever received.

She received the engagement ring from me on the day I asked her to marry me.

She received no ring from the adulterer when he asked her to marry him.

She received the wedding ring from me on the day we were married.

Who knows when or from whom she got that decorative ring, but it ain’t no obvious wedding band. 

Yesterday, I learned that my ex-wife’s brother got engaged. He posted a picture on Facebook showing his fiancée’s left hand, with a beautiful engagement ring on her ring finger. This is Ring Number Two.

Exactly one week before this, the adulterer publicly posted pictures of himself on his professional Facebook page that showed him holding various products he was touting. The pictures show his hands clearly, and one is a closeup. He still does not wear any ring. Ring Number: Zero.

I know they both reacted to my ex-brother-in-law’s photo of his fiancée’s wedding ring—through the “like” button. What is unknown is how they reacted internally or to each other.

She got an engagement ring from me on the day I asked her to marry me.

She got nothing from the adulterer when he asked her to marry him.

She still has nothing symbolically significant from him, even though they married.

I don’t want to be a mind-reader, but I do think this probably got under her skin. Her brother made a big deal of the engagement, as did I nearly thirteen years ago. The adulterer two years ago did heaven-knows-what, but it was no such big deal. He may have blown a lot of money on the show wedding in Japan, but it does appear that everything was rented, from the traditional bridal kimono and groom garb down to the wedding bands that were exchanged.

You can rent an outfit you’ll only wear once, but you cannot rent a commitment.

And even though I don’t want to be a mind-reader, I do think that the adulterer has an ulterior motive for not wearing a ring. He might say that it is because he is a gardener and works in soil, dirt, and other muck that a ring might get damaged, dirty, or whatever. Such thoughts apparently did not deter him before, when he was “last married.” I suspect, however, that his ulterior motive might be less pure: perhaps he does not want women he meets to know that he is unavailable.  In fact, back in the early days of the affair, the marriage coach I worked with told me that “guys like him typically have several women they’re stringing along at a time”; he’d seen the scenario many times over in his career. The adulterer is a gardener who has a lot of high-end clients. Not that that means much; he’s just one of the many garden-variety (excuse the pun) gardeners one finds in the neighborhoods he works in. But it does put him in the position to meet any number of affluent women, above and beyond women he might meet elsewhere.

There are a lot of memories and a lot of significance associated with Our Three Rings. Something tells me that Ring Number Two will be symbolic beyond her brother’s engagement.  It could be the symbol that points directly at Ring Number Zero and hence to their undoing and uncoupling.