couples

'I stopped wearing my wedding ring - and people changed.'

When I was 26 a very sweet, funny man asked me to marry him. I said yes and we went out and bought an engagement ring. A year later, I married him and slid a wedding ring behind my engagement stone.

Next April, we celebrate 18 years of marriage. And, yes, we’ve travelled the traditional path of children, arguments over pillow thickness and a mortgage that has so many zeros I should start investing in zeros.

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I’ve never really thought much about the significance of those rings. I’ve spent more time looking for my iPhone charger than I have thinking about those delicate pieces of platinum. If I was being honest, if I did contemplate my rings my thought would more likely to be punctuated with words like ‘responsibility’, ‘predictability’, ‘to-do lists’ and ‘worry’, rather than ‘love’, ‘commitment’ and ‘pride’.

Jacqueline. Image supplied.

Because in my mind, people without rings like mine travel toexotic locations at a moment’s notice because they didn’t have to get six girls to netball camp, drop the dog off at the clippers and wait for the dishwasher repairman. People without rings like mine drive tiny, cute, two-door cars and go to cool outdoor parties that start in the afternoon and don;t even consider wet weather option. People without rings like mine haven’t followed a traditional path and following my logic, they are flying untethered and free.

Were the rings, and the length of my marriage, a sign I was boring and safe and would never ever be able to put into action one of those inspirational quotes I read every day on Instagram? I mean, there once was a time when I'd eat chicken from takeaway shops and not worry for the next six hours about food poisoning.

Then, one day, my rings went.

I was playing netball and I jarred my ring finger. It blew up like balloon.

For the first time in 17 or so years, there was nothing on my ring finger. I put them in safe place – an empty Pears soap box under the bathroom sink - and went out into the world with completely naked digits. The swelling will go down in a few days, I thought. It didn't. Then I thought it will go down in a few weeks. I was wrong.

And it was great.

Without my rings there was nothing that showed my history, my marital status and, because I'm in my 40s, the probability that I was a mother. People couldn’t place me. I was surprised to realise I did a quick finger glance to clock whether a new introduction was married or not. It’s called collecting background info. Strangers obviously did the same with me.

Jacqueline and her husband. Image supplied.

I went to a work meeting with a colleague and three people I had never met, and casually asked how long a new consultant (he was Italian) had been in Australia. Someone started talking about how good looking he was and said she thought he was single and he liked blondes. She practically raised her eyebrows, Benny Hill-style. Toward me. She obviously figured, since I was “single” my enquiry was a romantic one.

Another time, waiting for a friend at a bar, I had forgotten my phone and had to ask to borrow one. The conversation turned flirty very quickly and then I realised: I’m a “single” woman by myself in a bar asking to borrow a man’s phone.

Twice (one of those Murphy’s Law situations) in one month I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in a decade. The second time she talked to me as though I had obviously split up with my husband, then proceeded to talk about the problem with men.

For the first time in 18 years, strangers didn’t know anything about my marital status. I was as close to a mystery as I would ever be. It felt light. I felt fun.

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I would go home and joke with my family that I had been reborn as a single, childless woman. Or an astronaut. Or a CEO of a Fortune 500. Or a dolphin trainer. Or anything at all - other than a boring, routine-orientated, predictable, married-for-17-years mother of three. At dinner one night, after telling another story about mistaken ring identity, my middle child put down her fork and said dryly she thought I was enjoying my ringless life too much.

Image via istock

And, at first, I was.

Then the weeks turned into months and I would pad softly into the bathroom and crouch on the floor and take my rings out the Pears soap packet and try to shove them on my finger. I found myself looking at my husband at the dinner table. He would be chatting to the kids with a wedding ring on his finger (he never takes it off unless he’s mixing cement or being manly with Bunnings hardware things), and I would think how significant and heavy that stupid piece of platinum was. I would lie awake while he slept and touch his ring with my ringless hand, and listen to my house. His breath, three children sleeping down the hall, the drip from the leak in the bathroom, my breath and then his again.

Together, we had weathered challenges and seismic shocks and sleeplessness and boredom and little people’s vomit in our ears and the hunt for numerous sets of car keys. We'd talked about the world and our children going out into it. We had stood side by side through big and small. Funny and awful. We had known when to push and when to let go. And here we still were.

We loved deeply and were loved deeply back. That kind of love beat the fear of being boring, predictable and being the kind of person who air punches if someone else empties the dishwasher any day. Those two rings are the start of my little story. The start of my family.

So now, after five months of naked fingers, I’m going to get my wedding rings stretched. It’s on my To-Do list. Right after I google mattress protectors and sale.

Because that’s the kind of married mother-of-three I am.

Did anything change when you stopped wearing your wedding ring? Let us know in the comments.

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