/u/the_prickly_pair on /r/polyamory asks…
“Thoughts on wearing your wedding ring when on a date with another person? I love my ring and wear it everyday, but I’m not sure if I like wearing it on a date. It is pretty ornate since it is a family heirloom, and for some reason I feel like that could be intimidating to others. I’m interested in your opinions.”
(This is going to be a different format from my standard advice column posts. In these story time posts, I will discuss some of my own personal anecdotes and talk about my own experiences of dating polyamorously as a cis/mostly-het man in his twenties.)
I have gone back and forth on whether I should wear my wedding band when I am on dates with my other partners. At first, I chose not to wear my wedding ring while I am dating my partners because the wedding ring served as a symbol for my relationship with my wife/nesting partner. By taking off the ring, it served as a mental reminder that I was compartmentalizing my marriage with my wife in the power of the ring and the commitments that were symbolized in the ring. It also made more sense at the time because I was dating unmarried partners. I was deeply concerned that by that ring-imbalance that others would judge me and my partner for our extramarital relationship even if it was ethical and consensual.
There was actually an incident earlier this year where I questioned the purpose of the ring. I encountered some of my family while out on a date with one of my partners. At this time, I was not out to my family as polyamorous. I was out to breakfast with one of my partners when this distant group of family noticed me and came over to say hi. They were on their way back home from their Sunday morning Catholic mass. They probably didn’t see me holding my not-my-wife’s hands in my very-ringless hands, but were able to tell that the connection I shared with my breakfast companion was not purely platonic. We didn’t stay that long and left shortly thereafter.
My partner and I had previously talked about my decision to take off my ring on our dates. So I wasn’t worried about her reaction. But I was so mortified and paralyzed in fear that my distant family might judge me or go to my family about “catching me in the act.” My partner reassured me that she understood why I chose not to wear a ring on our date, and that she too wasn’t out to her family as polyamorous. She further explained that she totally understood that it was a really awkward situation for everyone and that this probably wouldn’t happen again since she was moving into a larger city soonish anyway. And we left it at that.
I kept on revisiting this moment for a couple days after. I thought a lot about what removing the ring before the date accomplished and why I needed to compartmentalize my relationships with the act of taking off the ring on my dates. This was about two years into my polyamorous journey so I already had a pretty good handle on compartmentalizing my own relationships regardless of the status of the ring on my finger. I was also gradually coming out to all of my family and friends as polyamorous at this point.
I eventually arrived to the conclusion that I was going to continue wearing a ring. I decided that the incredibly low risk of encountering someone who is going to recognize the physical status of rings on my and my partner’s fingers were not enough to offset the privilege that I get to wear this ring to celebrate my relationship and commitment to my nesting partner and spouse.
What does a ring signify anyway? It is a mere physical manifestation of the commitment you’ve made. Sometimes, that physical manifestation can look like flowers you’ve planted together in a faraway town. Sometimes, it can look like stones you’ve collected on a beach getaway three years ago. Sometimes, it looks like a ring on your finger. It means exactly that. Nothing more. Nothing less.