Today is David’s and my anniversary, but I haven’t worn my wedding or engagement rings for most of the year. I removed them when I realised that for years I’ve been judging women based on the sight — or lack thereof — of a gold band on the third finger of the left hand.

Lauren showing off her ring, August 2011
I wear a pretty ring on my middle finger.

This is how I used to be: When meeting a woman — especially one with children — in the playground, at work or at the shops, I imagined I could quickly size up that woman’s relationship stability, the loveliness of her character and her dedication to her partner and family by assessing if she was married or not.

Even if a woman seemed to be nice, if she treated her children well, and if a loving man greeted her at the playground, I felt that I was superior because David and I are married, and that woman clearly isn’t. All because of a bit of metal wound around a finger!

Now I hold a different view. Traditionally, our dominant Western culture holds to a certain idea of marriage that involves a church ceremony, the congregating of witnesses, certified documentation, official registration and a culmination in an exchange of rings. However, throughout humanity’s history, this idea of marriage has not been dominant, and for me to judge women based on my culture’s [now old-fashioned] norm causes me to separate myself from people who don’t share my narrow perspective.

When David and I first met, we talked about marriage right away — eleven days after we met. It was because our culture emphasised weddings and frowned on couples who moved in together without the appropriate certificate. After my parents expressed concern that we were rushing things (albeit it was before they met David and were relying on secondhand accounts of our relationship), they asked us to wait a year to get married. So we waited a year — to the day.

But we were committed to each other from the beginning. From the first time we met, there was no other person with whom to share life’s adventures. And so we celebrate our anniversary from August 6, 1996, making it fifteen years of reciprocal bliss and heartache as we have learned to love and live with each other.

Upon reflection, when I realised that I was labelling women based on that certificate of paper, when I was translating the sight of a wedding ring into a horrible, judgemental analysis of relationship stability, I decided to take upon myself the judgement that I had previously meted out so freely to others. If I ever encounter a woman in a casual setting who could possibly be as horrible as I was, I know that she’ll believe David and I have all these children and (gasp!) aren’t married! Because that’s what I used to do…

So now I leave my rings packed away. Sure, they signify David’s commitment to me, his wealth at the time, and the fact that we engaged in a popular cultural ritual for the outward blessing of our family. But they don’t tell of the depth of our relationship, whether or not we’re in love or simmering with resentment, how we manage our differences, if we slept together or apart last night and if we like each other at the moment!

A wedding band is a façade — pretty and glittering — that used to give me a superiority complex. Now that I’ve dropped it, I have to live my marriage in order to make it real. It’s now my words about David, my heart attitude that overflows in his presence, and the way I interact with him on a daily basis that witnesses to our relationship’s commitment.

And this is worth building on — not a string of bands that grace the finger — but a heart that adores the man I’m with and yearns to know him more! Happy anniversary, David — my life is happier with you!