Under what circumstances should you return an engagement ring? Jewel Citizen explores this thorny subject.
Certain times of the year are thought of as being especially romantic, St Valentine’s Day without a doubt the most celebrated. We couldn’t really avoid it if we tried could we? Bouquets in the florist, cards in the supermarket, perfume adverts on television, romantic recipes in the Sunday supplement, and for those in love there’s a sense of expectation. How many times have we heard something along the lines of “I think my boyfriend might propose on St Valentine’s Day!”? Who hasn’t fantasised about the proposal, the romantic setting be it in Rome or Venice, and of course the sparkling ring…
And it used to happen thus: the lovers’ eyes share a knowing glance, he falters, she smiles encouragement, he takes a deep breath and slips his hand into a pocket, her heart skips a beat, he produces a ring box, her smile broadens, he drops down onto one knee, she wants to dance with joy, he asks her the burning question, she nods, he slips a diamond ring onto her finger, they kiss. Isn’t that how it goes in films? But of course these days we live in a more enlightened world and the two lovers preparing to tie the knot don’t necessarily need to be of the opposite sex.
Yet for those tortured souls who find themselves trapped in a less than satisfactory relationship St Valentine’s Day often acts as a catalyst for change. Will they ever make it up the aisle? Do they even want to bind themselves to another in (un)holy matrimony? Pent-up expectation builds as in the fermentation of champagne en triage when alcohol and carbon dioxide threaten an explosive release.
But what about a more metaphorical kind of pressure brought about by ‘the most romantic day of the year’? Or pressure brought about simply by a relationship going past it sell-by date. So, you want to get yourself out of a lacklustre romantic entanglement or marriage? Or perhaps your partner is the one who wants to cut and run? And the burning question is this: do you keep the ring or hand it back?
Now guys and girls, how would you handle a partner who demands the return of your engagement ring? Perhaps you’d willingly hand back a jewel that represented a failed romance? Or would the stubborn streak in you never even consider parting with something so precious?
Jewel Citizen spoke to two people whose relationships floundered around St Valentine’s Day and asked for their views. It was illuminating.
She just let go
“It really depends on how and why the break-up happened.” said Anonymous, 37, “I lived with a guy for 5 years and we only got engaged towards the very end, actually around the time when things were beginning to slide. We argued a lot; we found fault with each other. It was hard enough coping with living in the house he’d once shared with his ex-wife but then I found out by chance that my engagement ring was the same one worn by his ex. To top it all he completely forgot about St Valentine’s Day – that was the icing on the cake! For me it summed up everything that was wrong between us – I felt like an afterthought. The ring wasn’t a family heirloom or even very nice, just a small plain diamond solitaire. When I left him I was frankly glad to see the last of it. Handing it back with dignity was cathartic. It felt like the right thing to do.”
A tale of two paramours
Isabella, 29, has a different very take on the matter. “This must sound really terrible and to this day I don’t know how I got myself into such a sticky situation, but a couple of years ago I was engaged to two men at the same time. I was doing online dating and started to meet quite few men for casual dates. After a while it boiled down to two serious contenders. The hardest part was choosing one over the other and so for a few months I continued to see them both. Things got much more complicated though when they both proposed to me in the same week. It was sheer madness. Two men, two rings…
Everything came to a head pretty soon after that. I remember a dreadful scene one February evening when they both turned up at my block of flats at the same time. Somehow they must’ve talked and realised they’d both been duped because suddenly there was shouting and abuse directed from the street up towards my apartment window. One of them dashed a bouquet of roses against some wrought-iron railings, swearing as he did so. It was awful – so embarrassing and humiliating. God knows why but I threw one of my engagement rings out of the window in a fit of pique and it ended up rolling into the gutter and then down a storm drain. I kept the other one though, a beautiful Victorian pink diamond ring. Needless to say both relationships ended after that night. Should I have returned the pink diamond? Hmm…” Isabella falters only momentarily then smiles “but it was a gift. It was mine. I later sold it at one of the big London auction houses and used the money to go travelling.”
Jewel Citizen wishes neither to condemn nor condone Isabella’s behaviour. Every relationship break-up is unique and so it’s hard to make sweeping generalisations, however good manners would really suggest the following:
In nearly all cases an engagement ring is given as a conditional gift, meaning it’s given on the assumption that the recipient will marry the donor – if the donor of the gift breaks off the engagement then it’s perfectly acceptable for the recipient to keep the ring. If however on the other hand the recipient breaks off the engagement then they really should give it back.
A married woman whose relationship breaks down should feel it within her right to keep her engagement and wedding rings.
(The above is just an opinion on the subject and doesn’t take into account the legalities of the matter which of course may vary from country to country.)