When my brother was single, his idea of a wedding band was a group of his friends playing cover songs next to an open bar. After he got married, though, he learned the true meaning: a piece of metal on his hand that he could never stop playing with. “I can’t stop looking at my ring,” he’d say, proudly holding out his left hand and fanning his fingers, like a newly engaged gal pal.
Prince Harry has been known to similarly fiddle with his ring, along with many other married guys. There are numerous articles and Reddit posts that question why men do this, speculating on everything from wanting to cheat to missing their wives. Some married dudes prefer wearing their rings on a chain instead, telling their wives it’s to “keep it closer to their hearts.” Others approach it as more of an act of surrender: “You literally just have to wear it all the time until it becomes part of you,” redditor dhunt501 opines.
For most guys, though, it’s not that dramatic. Married men play with their rings because they’ve never had jewelry on their hands before, and that novelty can turn them into a toy. Dan, a 34-year-old musician, is a self-described “fidgety motherfucker” who got married in 2014 and found himself constantly fucking with his ring. This eventually escalated to him spinning his ring on the table and trying to catch it on his finger mid-spin, “which then led to trying to catch it between my thumbs and shoot it like a paper football.” “I lost all control,” he admits. But like a childhood toy, he ended up leaving the ring at his dad’s house and completely forgot about it. Now, five years later, he’s yet to pick the ring up but remains happily married.
Relationship coach and wedding officiant Eric Hunt has seen many married men behave awkwardly with their rings and agrees it’s mostly because they’re getting accustomed to them. But he also suspects it’s because men’s rings have historically been too bulky. “Men’s wedding rings are typically larger than the female versions and cause married men to get callouses on their hands,” he says. As such, there’s an emerging market for lighter, more comfortable rings that don’t risk a horrifying injury for men with industrial jobs — or guys like Jimmy Fallon, who fall in their kitchens and get their rings caught on counters.
“A lot of my grooms joke that their ring weighs them down, or throws off their balance,” Hunt says. He likes to joke back that “wedding bands typically burn a bit and sear into place after the marriage license has been signed.”
Peter, who has been married for more than 30 years now, still remembers the initial heaviness of his wedding ring. “It felt like it was always going to fall off. I have large knuckles so the ring must be large enough to fit over the knuckle, but then it feels loose,” he explains. To his surprise, when he brought up this issue with his jeweler, they were able to construct a ring with a “convex inner and outer side,” which helped solve his problem. “The ring fit like a glove, and I didn’t have any trouble getting it over my knuckle and didn’t feel so sloppy,” he says.
The moral of Peter’s story? There are plenty of solutions beyond ditching the ring completely.
Sure, more and more married couples these days eschew wedding rings, or like Jay-Z and Beyoncé opt for new traditions such as a tattoo. (Becky with the good hair, of course, would argue that’s a flawed example.) Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, who’ve been rumored to have an open relationship, also go without wedding rings. And Donald Trump has gone without a wedding ring for his entire marriage to Melania. But none of these are obviously good examples, which is why marriage and family therapist Elisabeth Goldberg suggests that married men wear their wedding rings, unless their partner has made a clear exception.
That said, she firmly believes that men playing with their rings is nothing to worry about. “Taking the ring off is one thing, but don’t read into it when men fiddle with their wedding ring,” Goldberg says. “It’s the socially acceptable counterpart to fiddling with their genitals.”