Sex and the Campus

A promise seems to mean nothing until a ring accompanies it. It has long been the tradition that upon asking someone to marry, and as a method of signifying that a person was “claimed,” there would be a ring or rings to hold the finger during the engagement until the actual wedding. In recent years, prior to the actual engagement it seems to occur to some people that to signify their commitment to get engaged is a “promise ring.” This ring, it seems, is a sort of pre-engagement. Why has this step even become necessary?

Is it that modern men have become so afraid of commitment that they had to create another step in the relationship before actually committing with an engagement? And what better way for the modern relationship to have another unnecessary step than to make it look like something incredibly special by attaching jewelry to it.

I’ve seen many people who have given promise rings because they were not certain if it was right to be asking that person to marry them but wanted to signify their commitment. What kind of commitment are they signifying? Why, in a seemingly healthy and functional relationship is this ring necessary? Perhaps the fiscal situation is such that it is impossible for them to afford an engagement ring at that time, but they want to say that they intend to get an engagement ring. But this seems silly when the promise ring could be a quarter or even a half of the cost of the engagement ring, which will be purchased soon anyway.

Besides, why does the engagement ring need to be a news story to all the surrounding friends of the couple? I can understand that the engagement is a big deal, but shouldn’t the wedding itself be a bigger deal than an expensive engagement ring wrapped in Tiffany’s blue? Maybe it’s my own cynicism, but adding the cheaper promise ring to hold the place of the expensive engagement ring, which itself serves as a place-holder until the marriage seems like an entirely unnecessary and expensive step.
Perhaps the men of the 21st century require this additional step before committing. Perhaps they need an extra step to ensure that they can handle it after we, the children of this period, watched our parents’ and the friends of our parents’ relationships fall apart. Maybe the looming thought of divorce is what keeps them from commitment.

Maybe, all these divorces going on are what have created this extra step, like a “trial engagement” that tacks on an extra two years together before marriage. If you can last all that time, then surely you must be able to remain married. However, if this were the case, the phenomenon known as the “seven year itch,” which causes reevaluation of the relationship, would still occur right around the time of marriage, still eventually resulting in divorce.

So what is the point of the promise ring? Is it any more meaningful than the paper rings we made for sixth-grade marriages, or is it something more, a sentiment of commitment that simply has taken another form? I suppose that’s up to you.