Dead Ringer

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Life in the Third Degree.

He puts the ring on your finger when you’re swearing your oaths, but when do you take it off? When you’re just plain swearing at each other?

Working Through Grief

Opinions do seem to vary. Some say it’s appropriate to remove your wedding band only when the divorce is final. I had planned to follow that advice because I had no intentions of “dating” until I was—what I considered—free to start a new relationship. In fact, when my ex suggested that neither of us date until the judge had stamped the last of the paperwork, I found the idea ludicrous. The last thing on my mind was getting involved in any kind of romantic relationship. If anything, I figured I’d be alone for the rest of my life but was still willing to go through with the divorce. But by the final paperwork, the wedding band was long gone from my finger.

Others advised me to remove it when he moved out, or when we were physically separated. That didn’t work for me either, partly because he didn’t move out until months after I’d sued for divorce. I lived for months in Limbo-Land, not feeling married and not yet single.

Most people suggested the “right” time to take off the wedding band was when I filed for divorce. For me, that was too soon. Even though I was pressing on with the legal paperwork, I felt there was still a chance we might reconcile if he worked through his issues.

One of my colleagues, a program manager for the Department of Defense, suggested I should remove it the moment I knew for certain that the marriage was over and move on to the next potential mate. He had been married and divorced a few times and told me that in each of his marriages, there came a moment when he looked at his mate and knew there was no going back, that things could never be fixed, and that their marriage was over.

For me, that was a year and a half before I actually filed for divorce. I can still tell you the date and the hour and where I was sitting and how far to the bathroom where I ran to throw up when I realized things would never be the same. But even then, I couldn’t accept it. I fix things, I make things work, and I do not give up. So I kept trying and ignored the imminent demise of my marriage.

I guess the right time is different for everyone facing that decision. For me, it was at least a month after I’d sat in my lawyer’s office and signed my name on the petition with my blood pounding in my ears.stayed up late that summer night, peeling open old hurts and opening up fresh wounds, and I sobbed into the wee hours of the morning, nursing a broken heart that I thought would never heal. That was the last time I cried myself to sleep over my marriage. The next day, I took off the ring.

During my 18-year marriage, there weren’t many times I went without that ring. During my pregnancies, when my fingers were swollen, I did take it off for several months, but I didn’t wear the band on a chain around my neck. That seemed silly to me, sort of like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, hiding the A on her chest behind the baby in her arms. I never felt I had to explain that I was pregnant and married, so I waited until my babies were born and my swelling was gone before putting the ring back on. I also took it off whenever I made hamburger patties—couldn’t stand the slick fattiness from the ground beef on the gold. And I took it off whenever I planted flowers with lots of fertilizer—seemed sacrilegious to me to get manure on it.

Now here’s the kicker: I’ve had the ring off for over six months, but the indention on my ring finger looks as if I took it off five minutes ago.

Five months ago, my friend Jean told me the ring indention would “pop right out” any day. It hasn’t. It doesn’t look like it ever will.

“Wear another ring in its place,” I’m often told. Which I do, but not all the time.

One of the men at my office told me I needed to purchase an oh-so-not-wedded ring to wear in its place. His rationale was that if I wore no ring at all, it looked like I was leaving my wedding band at home since the ring shadow is still on my finger and makes it look like I’m still married but cheating. Or like maybe I’m divorced, maybe I’m not, but maybe I just forgot to wear my ring or couldn’t for some reason. His idea was that I should buy myself something feminine and eye-catching that said, yes, I’m wearing a ring but it’s certainly not a sign of an attachment to any man and I am free, free, free.

“What does it matter?” my friend Vicki asked me. “It’s a symbol of your past, and your past will always be a part of you.”

Damn. I hate it when she’s right.