Pulling the petals of a flower reciting “He loves me; he loves me not” is a sweet memory for many of us beginning on school playgrounds. No matter our age, stage or season of life, we yearn to belong to someone, deeply loved and cherished. For many, Valentine’s Day and the month of love and romance is full of hopeful anticipation, flower deliveries, chocolates, maybe a proposal with the promise of forever love.
The ultimate symbol of love and commitment in the Western world is marriage with a ring placed on the fourth finger of both the man and the woman. God spoke the design of marriage into existence in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The oldest recorded exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt. The circle is a symbol of eternity, representing never ending, immortal love, and wearing them on the fourth finger is a tradition many believe originated with the Romans. A vein, referred to as the “Vena Amoris” or the “Vein of Love” in the fourth finger, was said to be directly connected to the heart. Today we know that’s not accurate, but the tradition remains.
In 860 Christians began to use rings in marriage ceremonies, but it wasn’t until the World Wars that it was a common practice for men to wear wedding bands. Why? They served as a reminder of what was waiting for them at home, the promise of the relationship, and that while separated, we would love, honor and cherish one another in all times, in all places and in all ways, forever.
What God began in Genesis with marriage and what began in 860 with the wearing of rings as a symbol of marriage is waning. Marriage is on the decline, cohabitation is rising and men are wearing their wedding rings less often or not at all. The cultural mores of couples living together has permeated both the secular and Christian communities. It’s become commonplace. Sadly, the reasons are many but folly: we’re saving money for our wedding and honeymoon; we want a trial run to be sure we’re compatible because we don’t want to get a divorce; we’re engaged, so it’s ok to live together now; we don’t need a piece of paper to be committed; and lastly, “we aren’t having sex, just living together.”
This is my response: If he or she doesn’t love you enough to make a legally binding commitment now then they don’t love you enough. If he or she isn’t sure they love you enough to be faithful to you always then they don’t love you enough. If he or she isn’t willing to commit to a lifetime with you then they don’t love you enough. Engagement isn’t marriage. If you aren’t having sex, it’s just a matter of time if you’re living together. God tells us to flee temptation. Sex outside of marriage is sin. God is forgiving, but He’s also just, and there’s always consequences to sin. The wedding isn’t just a celebration; it’s a ceremony of a covenant before God.
Research from the Institute of Family Studies indicates that sexual and cohabiting partners before marriage is associated with lower relationship quality once married. In particular, having only ever lived with or had sex with one’s spouse was associated with higher marital quality. Part of the essence of commitment is “making a choice to give up other choices.” Of course, committing to a choice does not make the alternatives disappear, but the work of commitment in marriage is letting other options go and investing your energy in the one person you have chosen. Alternatives compete with commitment. When living together, you’ve left every alternative open. Don’t tether yourself to someone that isn’t willing to make the choice to give up other choices on behalf of you. As the song goes, “if you like it, you better put a ring on it.
As for wearing wedding bands: Most women love jewelry and most of us (including me) go with the bigger the better for engagement rings. So, rarely will a woman remove her rings. However, men are not as enamored with jewelry and will go without them more easily. There’s actually a phrase for men who don’t wear wedding bands; NF for NakedFinger. When I meet with couples and I notice that a man doesn’t have on his wedding ring, I ask him why. These are a few of the answers: I forgot it; I don’t like to wear it when I’m working; I’m allergic to the metal; I lost it; it’s too small.
This is always my response: Unless you’re work environment creates a safety issue, you should wear your ring. When you don’t wear a wedding band, you’re sending a message to other women that you’re available. Never forget your wedding band; wear it everywhere you go; purchase a different metal; replace it if you’ve lost it; and size it if it’s the wrong size. Put on your wedding band, and wear it all the time.
A wedding ring is the unspoken guardrail for us as individuals and a symbol to every person you come into contact with that you’ve devoted your life to someone. It’s a reminder to us that we’re committed until death. It’s represents sacred vows that we’ve made before God and man. It tells everyone that you’re married and not available; don’t approach me; don’t flirt with me. I love someone else, and I only belong to them. Symbolically, wedding bands protect us, our children and families. They are a reminder of boundaries that God has put in place to protect us physically, emotionally, financially, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Put a ring on it!!
This month of celebrating love… make a choice to put a ring on it!!
What does God’s Word say?
Mark 10: 6-9 – “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Ephesians 5:25 – “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”
Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Ruth 1:16-17 – “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
Romans 12:10 – “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
If “Put a Ring on It” has prompted a change in your thoughts or life we’d love to hear your story. Email LisaMay@livethelife.org
For more articles by Lisa May, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/