I took my husband for granted, until I received an unlikely sign

Who doesn’t take their spouse for granted even a little? How one woman’s misplaced wedding ring led to the discovery of a simple relationship-strengthening strategy all couples should try.

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I can’t remember now why I was so irritated with my husband. It could have been our different approaches to raising the kids, my not feeling understood, or any number of issues, large or small. Don’t most marital arguments hash and rehash the same old issues, anyway?

I do remember being annoyed, and then, feeling that something was a bit off, looking down at my hands. I saw my wedding ring, the slimmest of gold bands, alone on my right hand, not my left. I have no recollection of it, but at some point in my annoyance and anger, I must have slipped my ring from my left hand to my right, not even registering what I was doing.

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My wedding ring—the gold band given almost 55 years ago by my father to my late mother—usually sits with my engagement ring on the ring finger of my left hand. I don’t take them off to shower or sleep or clean. That’s how it has been for the nearly 20 years my husband I and have been married. So familiar is the feel, the weight of the them, that I don’t even notice them anymore.

Usually.

Until the day my wedding band sprang up on my other hand. And I noticed. I checked my motives. Was this a passive aggressive move? Was I trying to say I no longer wanted to be married? Or, “Yeah, sure, we are still married, but you are in the dog house”?

I’m not sure.

Kids, sports, church, friends, our pets, and even our house, appeared to take precedence over our marriage. Grocery shopping always got done. The cars usually got regular maintenance and inspections. But our marriage sat largely unexamined.

But the experience got me thinking about marriage, complacency, and how we can get used to almost anything. I couldn’t remember the last time I had put much thought into our marriage.

Mid-life, careers, personal tragedy, and parenting a teen and an infant at the same time left little energy to focus on what was supposed to be the key relationship in our family. With so much life experience, good and bad, under our belts it was hard to even remember the two college students who met and fell in love years ago, let alone check in on how their wants, needs, and dreams were faring.

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Mundane, daily concerns, kept me from thinking of myself as my husband’s partner in any meaningful way beyond the practice of picking up kids, dividing chores, and ensuring yard work got finished before the neighbors got ticked off. If you looked at the way we prioritized our time and money, you would have thought that kids, sports, church, friends, our pets, and even our house, took precedence over our marriage. Grocery shopping always got done. The cars usually got regular maintenance and inspections. But our marriage sat largely unexamined.

Likewise, my wedding ring, the treasured symbol of unity and commitment, went unnoticed, too, until I moved it to the other hand. The new location led me to a different sensation, an awareness of it.

Thoughtfulness such as kind words and prioritizing my husband need not be reserved for anniversaries, and being partners can go beyond just the practical.

It reminded me of when my husband and I first got engaged. The sensation of having an engagement ring was so shiny and new, just like our love, that I couldn’t stop looking at it. It would gleam and catch my eye when I gestured with my hands. I felt the weight of it when I woke up. In those days, I considered it a pleasure to seek ways to make my fiancé feel valued and loved.

I decided to leave the wedding ring on my right hand for a few days and see what sensations creeped in. In the midst of busyness, it would whisper, “I’m married.” It would lead me to ask, “Have I done anything for my marriage today?”

Goodness knows I didn’t want to have to give one more thing to one more person. You remember how I said I’m the mom of a teen AND an infant, right? And one of our dogs is a puppy. I felt utterly spent. But I could shoot off a text to my husband, “Thank you for driving Margaret to school today,” or “You are such a good dad” signed with XOXO and hearts. I could log out of Facebook for a while. I could reach my cold toes across our king size bed to find a place to warm them. Rather than taking away from my day, it added to it.

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Nothing dramatic happened, and I moved the ring back to my other hand. But every few weeks I move it back.

Being aware of the ring helps me remember that the kids, the dogs, the house, even the grocery list would not be here if two people hadn’t fallen in love. It reminds me that thoughtfulness such as kind words and prioritizing my husband need not be reserved for anniversaries, and that being partners can go beyond just the practical.

I love literature, but I don’t want my life to be like my favorite Jane Austen novels or Shakespeare’s plays where the wedding is the culmination of the love story, and then the story ends. We have years of living ahead of us. So I sometimes move my wedding ring to the other hand. Not because my husband is in the doghouse anymore, but because I want to notice my part in the story that continues on.

Anna Whiston Donaldson
Anna Whiston Donaldson

Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a popular author and speaker whose New York Times bestselling book, “Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love” chronicles the raw, early grief of losing her 12-year-old son in an accident. Selected one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2014, Rare Bird resonates with readers looking for hope in impossible circumstances. Anna lives with her family in the Virginia suburbs and blogs at An Inch of Gray.

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