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“I’m not wearing a wedding ring because all they do is make women want you even more,” my boyfriend told me the other day. Of course, I didn’t hear the latter. All I heard was, “I’m not wearing a wedding ring.” This seriously caused me to question the importance of the little gold bands. I was never one to make a big fuss over flower arrangements, cake toppers and the almighty white wedding dress, but when it comes to the ring, well that’s something completely different.

For as long as I remember I’ve never seen both of my parents’ left hands without their wedding rings. Wedding rings act as your voice to the world that you are no longer looking for love because you’ve found the one that will last forever. When you’re watching Lifetime and you see the married professor casually slip his wedding band into his inside pocket before entering class, you know it means trouble. When you hear that your favorite celeb’s marriage has hit the rocks, you know TMZ will not hesitate to report when the ring is MIA during the next interview. People don’t flip out when their partner loses their belly or tongue ring, but if that wedding ring is anywhere but your finger, assume all hell is about to break loose.

Let’s discuss the tradition of exchanging rings for a bit, shall we? According to author, Matt Jacks’ The History of the Wedding Ring –A Recognizable Symbol of Love, Egyptians and many other cultures believed the circular shape of a ring symbolized eternity since it has no beginning and no end. The hole in the center of the ring stood for a gateway or door leading to things both known and unknown suggesting that marriage was a journey of two people who commit to traveling together although they aren’t quite sure of where the path may lead. But why on the third finger of the left hand? The Egyptians believed that the vein that travels directly to the heart could be found in this finger. Greeks and Romans eventually picked up on this tradition and named the vein, “vena amoris”, Latin for “the vein of love”. Over the years and throughout different cultures the wedding ring has been made of different materials. Iron symbolized the strength of the union at one time, while gold and silver insinuated its worth.

Regardless of the material, today the wedding ring for most people distinguishes the married from the single in order to avoid awkward indirect questions like, “So, will your husband be joining us tonight?” But more and more people are challenging traditional wedding rings as much as they are challenging the whole wedding tradition. Even the groom in the most publicized wedding of the year, Prince William stated he won’t wear a wedding ring, leaving his bride as the only one with a band on her hand.

It’s also important to note that for some lifestyles and professions, a wedding ring isn’t practical. Many men will just as soon tattoo a ring around their finger or wear it around their neck rather than run the risk of losing it while performing job duties as a mechanic, plumber or carpenter. David and Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are just a few of the celebrities who have chosen to display their love in ink. When wedding Eva Longoria, Tony Parker gestured to tattoo his wedding band since he would have to continually remove it when playing for the San Antonio Spurs. Even hip-hop royalty Jay-Z and wife, Beyonce’ have matching tattoos with inscriptions on their ring fingers.

So after giving some thought to why my boyfriend nonchalantly challenged the whole tradition, I came to the conclusion that the only reason I’m worried about the wedding ring is because of the message it sends to other women. But is that message “I’m taken, but thanks,” or “This is just one more obstacle for you to overcome.” Do others really respect the ring? Does it matter? I never been intrigued at the challenge of trying to subdue a committed man, but what’s more important to note is that if your husband is going to cheat, it’s going to take more than a wedding band to stop him. The marriage is meant to be respected by you and him, and while the world would be perfect if everyone showed that same respect, remember: Your MAN is obligated to you, not his admirers. Your marriage is only as monogamous as you and your man want it to be, and it shouldn’t matter if Halle Berry herself decides to give him the business, ring or not, your man should be committed. There are those men who simply don’t want to wear a ring because they aren’t yet willing to give up the attention they’re receiving as a single man, or even worse, some men don’t want the world to know they’re married. If you find yourself making a fuss over a ring because you’re obsessed with what may happen in its absence, you may actually be more worried about what happens in YOUR absence.

There are many ways for a couple to symbolize their love and commitment to each other, but regardless of how creative you choose to be with the expression of your union, it’s important that what you’re expressing is genuine to each other. If your marriage isn’t an authentic bond of trust and respect, does it really matter what you show to the world? As for me, I wouldn’t mind a tattoo ring to compliment my Vegas wedding, but I will not compromise on my emerald cut diamond solitaire engagement ring. How important is it for you and your husband to wear wedding rings?

Toya Sharee is a community health educator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee.

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