The Ring Thing

I wear two wedding rings. The reason? When we were first getting ready to move to Germany in the 1980’s, I read a tourist information sheet that warned American women about the differences in flirtation in the various European countries. In Germany, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand, so this sheet encouraged American women to move their ring to the right hand when travelling in that country, otherwise men may think you are divorced or widowed. Since my right hand is larger than my left, there was no choice but to leave my wedding ring where it was while we were in Germany the first time. I had no problems with unwanted advances in any case.

After my first son was born, my mother gave me her mother’s wedding ring. Ever since then I have worn two wedding rings – one on each hand. Problem solved! Well maybe. With the times changing as they are, many couples are choosing not to marry. So where does that leave the wedding ring – as a silent symbol of fidelity – or romantic standing?

I thought of this recently when I absent-mindedly moved my grandmother’s wedding ring onto the same finger with my own and decided that looked really nice. Then I thought, hmm do I now need to move both to my right hand? Well, why? No German man has ever flirted with me (not in a way noticed by me at least), and if I move this to my right hand, will the Americans and English get the wrong message? And does it matter since many people in committed relationships don’t wear a ring at all? Am I the only one who cares about which hand my ring is on?

Part of me is sad that this silent symbol has lost the social significance it once carried. It was at least a clearly communicated signal, and like I have said in other posts, clear communication is in itself merciful. But then I am reminded of what that tourist sheet warned American women about the Spanish. It stated that American women tend to make the mistake in Spain of pointing to their wedding rings in order to deflect unwanted advances. The sheet said this behavior is interpreted by Spanish men as completely the opposite of what was intended; they see a bored married woman as far easier to seduce than an unmarried woman. So maybe that signal wasn’t so clear – at least in crossing borders.


About Lois Loban Stuckenbruck

Trained as a Ballerina, then completed a BA in Business Adm and English Literature at Milligan College. More recently trained to be a lay pastor (Reader) in the Church of England. Wife of a Biblical Scholar, Mother of three. I'm an American who has also lived many years in England and Germany (currently Munich). I have worked as an Editorial Assistant, Systems Manager (Xerox Stars on Ethernet Network), and several positions in higher education fundraising (Alumni and Development).
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