Not wearing my engagement wedding ring was an easy transition. That’s because I’d been checked out of my marriage at least two years before making the decision to finally call it quits. Remaining emotionally invested meant getting hurt on repeat, and to protect myself from that pain, I detached.
My engagement ring (I didn’t wear a wedding band because it fit awkward with the engagement ring) lacked meaning to me for one important reason. My ex proposed with a cubic zirconia solitaire, promising to replace it with a diamond within a few years. We had just purchased our first home, and finances were tight. I understood. But when that didn’t happen – despite my ex’s income placing him in the top 4% of earners in America – my self-worth took a major hit. He knew it was important to me, but always had an excuse why it wasn’t the right time.
On the 9th anniversary of our engagement, I reminded my ex of his promise, and he agreed to replace my engagement ring. Though he financed the purchase, I picked the ring out for myself. The process felt like nothing more than a business transaction. Something I’d wanted for so long brought me no real joy and left me questioning whether he’d ever really loved me.
When I realized that our marriage could not be saved and communicated to my ex that we needed to part, I stopped wearing my ring. There was no internal struggle, no climactic event. I just stopped. In a way, I wish it had been harder to take off my ring. That would mean it had symbolized something – that I had mattered to someone. But if my ring was a symbol of anything, it was that I wasn’t special enough. And I was done with feeling less-than. If anything, it was a relief.
The decision to remove your wedding ring isn’t always so easy. It’s a personal choice that depends on your unique circumstances and the emotions you experience throughout your divorce. Here’s what to consider before removing your ring, according to experts.
The emotional weight of a wedding ring can be overwhelming
When the difficult issue of divorce arises, wedding rings often carry substantial emotional power, Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and relationship expert based in Sonoma County, CA, said. For many, wedding rings carry great symbolic weight – all of their hopes, dreams, and plans for the future are often embedded in that wedding band, she says.
For some, it might feel right to cast off a wedding ring as soon as a divorce is in the works, while others may not feel right removing their wedding ring until the divorce is final, Manly said. “Those who are more emotionally connected to the symbolic energy of weddings – and marriage in general – tend to have more difficulty removing this ‘simple’ band,” she said.
Taking off your wedding ring can be a powerful and significant moment, but there’s no right or wrong time to do it, Oona Metz, LICWS, a therapist in Brookline, Massachusetts, said.
“Once you take it off, you can put it back on again, as long as you haven’t thrown it in the river!” she said. The choice to remove your ring should be based around what’s best for you, Holly Herzog, LPC, a therapist and relationship coach based in Bend, Oregon, said.
How to navigate the emotional impact on family and friends
To find the time that is right for you, it’s important to examine your personal needs and desires, Manly said. That’s especially true when children are part of the mix, she says – you’ll want to consider how a newly bare finger will affect them. The same goes with your loved ones. If they may be negatively impacted by news of the impending divorce, think about how learning of your divorce by seeing a now-bare wedding finger might hit them, she suggests.
So, if you have not told your close friends and family about the divorce, consider having that conversation at a neutral time before you remove your wedding ring, Herzog said.
“If you stop wearing your ring, they may ask questions at an inopportune time, and you want to have time to answer questions and know that they are emotionally okay moving onto their next activity.”
Although it’s often helpful to give others a bit of notice, that’s not always possible, Manly said.
When this occurs, she recommends giving a simple response such as, “Things have been a bit tough lately. I wish I’d had the bandwidth to let you know about the divorce in advance.”
Just keep in mind that your wedding ring is an unspoken symbol to the world that you are married…or not…and some people will notice the change, Metz said.
Listen to your emotions and trust your intuition
Listening to your emotions will ensure that you are ready to remove the ring, Asma Rehman, LPC, Founder and Director of Grief Recovery in Houston, TX, said. Again, finding the right timing is a very personal process, Manly said. If you’re feeling anger or betrayal over the divorce, you might feel the need to pull a ring off immediately, she said.
Some may continue to wear their ring due to its sentimental value or to honor the shared history and memories of the relationship, Rehman said. It is important to consider the personal meaning the ring holds for you and whether removing it aligns with your emotional needs, she says.
For others, timing the removal of their wedding ring is a matter of intuition – they wait until it feels right, Manly said. If you’re sentimental about the ring, it may feel more appropriate to create a ceremony around its removal, she says, suggesting a visit to a special location like the beach – solo or with friends – as a perfect way to let go.
What to do with your wedding ring after removing it
Each individual copes with change differently, and some may find it easier to remove their ring sooner than others, Rehman said. This can depend on what coping mechanisms you have in place, such as you emotional resilience, the circumstances of your divorce, and the level of support you’re receiving from friends and family, she said.
“It may be helpful to consult with a therapist or counselor to explore your feelings, navigate the decision-making process, and receive support during this transitional period.”
If you’re struggling to manage your tears or anger surrounding your divorce, it might be a good idea to wear your ring until you feel ready to answer questions from coworkers, casual friends, and other acquaintances, Herzog said – they’re probably going to want to know what happened. She also recommends not removing your ring until you’re ready to begin dating – otherwise, you might attract unwanted attention or have well-meaning friends try to set you up.
When they’re ready to move on, some women buy themselves a divorce ring to replace their wedding band and engagement ring, Metz said.
“If you decide to do this, feel free to wear it on whatever finger feels best to you,” she said. What you choose to do with your ring once you stop wearing it is up to you, she says. You might choose to save it for your child, repurpose it, or even sell it so that it’s not a constant reminder.
I kept my ring in its original box for about eight months before putting it up for sale at an online auction. Because I had no emotional connection to the ring, I couldn’t see the point of holding onto it. With the proceeds, I’m taking my son on a trip to Jamaica this summer, and I can’t think of anything more joyful than that.