//Men Who Don’t Wear Wedding Bands — and Why

Men Who Don’t Wear Wedding Bands — and Why

During an exceptionally cringe-worthy Republican debate in March, Donald J. Trump raised his hands to show people that they weren’t abnormally small. While it is unclear whether this display settled the underlying matter, one thing was indisputable: He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

He’s not alone. No band adorns the fourth finger of Prince William’s left hand, or that of Graydon Carter, or more recently, of Jay Z. And Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been spotted without rings, which has added to tabloid speculation about the state of their union.

The question remains: Can a naked finger be just a naked finger?

Mr. Trump, whose representatives declined to comment or to make him available for this article, has not explained why he no longer wears the band he wore when he and Melania Knauss were married in 2005. The public is undoubtedly aware of his marital status, so he’s not exactly putting anything over on anyone. He appeared to not wear a ring during his marriage to Ivana Trump, and only occasionally with Marla Maples as well.

As for Jay Z, he and Beyoncé, who was seen at the Met Gala sans her wedding ring, have matching tattoos on their ring fingers. Never mind that she just released an album largely about infidelity.

Before Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, the palace issued a statement, noting that the couple had discussed it and that the prince’s decision not to wear a ring was “personal preference.” The statement continued, “He doesn’t even wear a signet ring — and decided he didn’t want to.”

Popular perception is that some men — and, yes, women too — go ringless in order to broadcast an availability that their spouses may know nothing about. And there are many who subscribe to the notion that affairs may be avoided if both sexes would simply adhere to this public signifier that they are “taken.” (Of course, this doesn’t account for those who are attracted by wedding rings precisely because they signal no possibility of a longer attachment.)

 “I think they’re making a statement by not wearing one,” said Jeanne Safer, a psychotherapist in New York. “It may unconsciously signal availability for adultery, either actually or in fantasy.”

Judi Winston Katz, 45, a real estate agent in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agrees. She believes that ambivalence played a role in her decision not to wear a ring during her 20-year marriage. While her former husband, whom she loved as a “best friend,” wore his ring right up to the day they signed their divorce papers, she found hers a “nuisance” and removed it after their first year of matrimony. “I always wondered if it was subconsciously because I didn’t want to be married to him,” she wrote in an email.

Just as customs about weddings have become less conventional, so, too, have rules about rings, both in the type of band or whether you wear one at all.

Many gay men have exchanged wedding bands, but it may be too soon to say that these rings are here to stay. Dominick Miciotta and Jason Smith of Huntington, N.Y., however, always wear the matching titanium bands they gave each other at their October 2013 wedding. “The ring is a part of marriage for both of us,” said Mr. Miciotta, 46. “We are both fairly traditional. We both feel the same way about commitment and love.”

In England, the appearance of wedding rings for men is a relatively recent phenomenon. In his 1996 book, “Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette & Modern Manners,” the etiquette expert John Morgan wrote that in Britain “it is customary for the bride alone to sport a wedding ring, and although some brides have adopted the Continental habit of presenting the groom with his own band during the vows, this remains not quite comme il faut.’”

In the 16 years that Nick Sullivan, the English-born fashion director of Esquire, has been married, nothing has adorned any of his fingers. While he was “very happy” to get married, he didn’t feel the need for an extra symbol. “My wife doesn’t care,” he said.

Neither does Evin Lowe, whose husband, Robert Schwartz, won’t wear a ring. For him, though, it is more about trauma. During his first marriage, Mr. Schwartz, 47, who has a consulting business in New York, wore the conventional gold wedding band. After divorcing, he decided that “the ring represented a failed marriage” and flushed it down the toilet.

Before marrying Ms. Lowe, he expressed his reluctance to (literally) put a ring on it. She understood. “If I felt like I needed him to wear a ring all the time, I wouldn’t have married him,” said Ms. Lowe, 41, a lighting technician for film and television. “To me it’s a matter of trust.”

There are practical reasons for not wearing them. Haim Hazan, 40, the owner of a Manhattan hair salon, finds that rings get in the way of his work. “Everybody knows I’m married,” he said. “But it’s convenient not to wear one.”

Craig Savel, 53, a developer of computer apps and programs in New York, said, “Rings never entered the equation.” He and his wife, Marion Stein, eloped to Niagara Falls without rings for either of them. “We’re two kind of aging hippies,” Mr. Savel said. “I think we’re also both afraid we are so ditsy we’ll lose it, with all the attendant symbolism.”

The way Dr. Safer sees it, going ringless does tend to symbolize that there is something deeper going on — an inability to fully commit or a desire to be free. She and her husband, the historian and writer Richard Brookhiser, have been married for over 30 years and both wear rings.

“It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t,” she said. In marriage, she believes, “you exchange your pathologies. You should exchange rings, too.”

Source: www.nytimes.com


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