Is There Ever a Right Way To Give Back The Ring?

There is some pain that doesn't ever go away. Because as much as I never want to get married, I was happily engaged once.
Publish date:
December 13, 2011
relationships, marriage, engagement, stress, break-ups, anxiety, massage, wedding rings, jane's stuff, reiki, life coaching

This will never not make me sad.

I just gave back the rings that my "husband" gave me.

I have never wanted to get married. I can remember standing in my old kitchen in Durham, NC and declaring to my mom (while she was making tuna casserole with peas! yum!!): "When I grow up, I want a husband who lives in EUROPE." I didn't know exactly where Europe was, but I knew that it was FAR AWAY but still kind of accessible if you really needed it. That was before I learned (thank you, mom!) that I didn't have to have a husband at all. I was just starting first grade and already scheming a way to be on my own without a man (even the word "man" is still yucky and scary to me -- like when women's magazines say, "My Man", or "Your Man" or whoever's man, especially with the ownership part at the beginning of it, it truly skeeves me out). Okay, so back to giving away those rings finally, five years after our break-up.

My then-boyfriend made the most beautiful (in my opinion -- if you are married, you may like yours the best, which would be nice) proposal. He wrote out a list of all of the reasons he wanted to marry me and read it to me. The reasons were so specific and honest and beautifully written. I kept them in my desk drawer at Jane magazine and when I was having a crummy day, I would open the drawer and re-read some of them and cry a little bit and feel better.

It was a surprise proposal. He had planned it all out for ages beforehand. When he picked me up at my hotel in LA, I thought we were going to have a Valentine’s Day dinner with the friends who had introduced us (WARNING: IF YOU DO NOT LIKE TO READ CELEBRITY NAMES OR THINK THAT NAMING FAMOUS PEOPLE IS NAME-DROPPING--STOP READING NOW!), Courteney Cox and David Arquette, at the home of the place where we met, Elizabeth Perkins’ and her husband Julio Macat’s house. The six of us had a really nice dinner and then, from what I recall, he asked to show me something in the backyard (or some ruse like that) and when we got to the tree I was sitting under the first time we met, he reached for something in the bushes and got down on one knee (I had never pictured getting engaged or married so I never had those fantasies so I STILL wasn’t quite sure what was going on) and started to read his proposal. I cried and cried and cried and forgot to answer when he asked me. He reminded me that I was supposed to answer and then I, still crying, said yes.

We walked back into the house to celebrate. And then friends from my childhood on up just started pouring in through all the doors and windows of the house. It was crazy. Like "This Is Your Life" on acid (good acid). Tristine Skyler, Jimmy Fallon, Adam Sandler, Molly Shannon, Tracy Falco, Liam Neeson, Patti Smith, Susannah Koger -- about 50 people came and I'm old, so don't fault me if my memory of the guest list is inaccurate; everyone sang and joked and toasted and did their parts. I just found out this week that Michael Stipe (who sang a cover of the James Taylor song, "You Can Close Your Eyes") had flown in from Georgia just for that night. I thought all these years that he was there for meetings with his film company. Anyway, Angie and Brad were probably there too – I can’t remember. (And Big Bird! And JESUS!) It was crazy and SO much fun.

He always said he couldn’t believe that I didn’t suspect any of this was happening, but I believe what people I trust tell me and really had no idea (I have also fallen for that line, “Do you know the word ‘gullible’ is not in the dictionary?” at least 15 times).

We were planning the wedding (at Court and David’s house in Malibu, duh!). Well, actually, I was having my assistant Karen plan the wedding, as I knew nothing about them and didn’t care that much. Then I got pregnant (yay Charlotte!) and decided to postpone the wedding. “I want to be able to drink champagne at my wedding” and “I want to just focus on this pregnancy for now,” were some of the things that I said. I loved him so much, in a way that I have never loved anyone before or since, but I was relieved.

Then life happened, tragic things occurred, we found out things about each other we hadn’t known and we broke up. But I hung onto the rings. Oh, I forgot to say that when he proposed, he gave me the ring box with the engagement ring in it but the wedding band that went with it was underneath the velvety-cardboard part of the ring box too. I wore them both. It made me feel “normal” walking through airports and things that I had these symbols of normalcy on my hand for all to see.

I had some logical reasons for doing so: I wanted to give them back to his mom directly, as they had been handed down through her family and she had given them to him to give to me (I love love love his mom and family to this day). They were the most perfect rings for me I will ever see in my whole life. I wanted to make sure that they – or any value from them should we all die and not care about material things like rings any more – went to our daughter and not to anything negative. The negative did not include another woman, by the way -- I would be happy to see him happy. Though our relationship had become, in part, destructive and toxic (I think we would likely both claim that at different times the other one was abusive -- I know that on my end, it qualified me for a bed in a women's shelter for which I was truly appreciative), I felt that in a perfect world (which I believe this one is, in that the universe doesn't make mistakes and everything is exactly as it is meant to be every moment), we would both change drastically and then we could still be together: we have a daughter together, after all.

I was out of town with our daughter recently and got a text asking for the rings back. I thought about fairness and closure, and the day we returned, I brought them with me to work and left them at the front desk with the guard at my office building for him to come and pick up. I cried way more on the way to work than I thought I would. Endings are fucking hard and, like my dad being left on the side of the road to die when I'd never called him back for his birthday (that's another post for another time), sometimes there is no closure.

Note: If my ex wants me to take down this post, I will, because it is his story too.