Does A Ring Define My Relationship?

-By Kelsey Santiago

My friend and I were having our weekly conversation. You know, girl talk, exchanging delicious tea. Slowly but surely, we got on the controversial topic of marriage, and she hit me with, “Wow, y’all have been rocking for ten years, and there isn’t a ring?”

“I mean, a ring is beautiful, but does that define me and make me a wife?” I asked.

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My friend is not much of the lock-you-down type, so our convo about the topic was brief. 

On my way home, her words were burning a hole through my head. Her simple remark, “there isn’t a ring” left my mind wandering. Was there an unspoken rule that I needed to be married just because we’ve spent so many years with one another, or was I out here looking like a fool for letting love be enough? My heart and mind had some things to work out. I was stuck. All this time, I was confident about the way I felt, and now, I wasn’t sure. I took the long way home so I could get my thoughts together because my energy wasn’t where I needed it to be. 

When I got home, I put the baby to sleep, which meant I finally had some alone time with my honey, and although the house was quiet, my mind was shouting. My friend’s minuscule comment set off a chain reaction of overwhelming emotions within me. With Jhene Aiko’s “Triggered” playing in the background, I felt like setting it off. 

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Her question made me rethink my relationship. It made me question if the love of my life was, indeed, my knight in shining armor or a knock-off.

I had never really cared for the idea of marriage. Growing up in a “New Yorican” household, my parents were married in my eyes and didn’t need a piece of paper to justify their love. Sunday mornings, the house was filled with Hector Lavoe while my parents danced around, and my sister and I watched how they gazed into each other’s eyes as if no one else was there. Two hearts connected as one, they were bound by love. However, I couldn’t help but wonder, was common law not good enough?

Then again, I wondered if I wasn’t good enough to get that wifey title. I wondered if I was going to spend another decade dedicated to a man who sees me as a girlfriend. I had allowed myself to be consumed by these questions, forcing myself to believe that the world as we know it only accepts and respects a couple that goes the traditional route. 


I had lost sight of the most important thing, and that was knowing that times are changing, and unwed yet committed couples are evolving today’s society. I had to remind myself that I’ve spent years with a man who’s pushed me to always want more for myself and picks me up when I don’t have the strength to get up on my own. I have a man who loves me for me, good and bad. He is the type of partner that keeps it real at all times, and that, right there, is worth more to me than any ring. People in a relationship want respect, love, integrity, and passion, among other things, and I’ve got all four plus more. What more can I genuinely ask for in a partner?

Listen, Young Queen, we may not be following the traditions of the past, but who’s to say we’re wrong? My partner and I may not be married, but we are committed in a way that feels good for my soul and his, too. 

I’ve come to realize that my issue is with public opinion, not my relationship, and that’s my battle to overcome. 



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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Beautifully written
    You hit on all points

  2. Yesssss!!! Once you stop subscribing to the ideology of “social norms” you will find true and inner peace. You and your man could be in total bliss for 10 years…meanwhile we have people who have been married for 10 years and have never been happy. Then to add insult to injury have to pay a ton of money to get out of that marriage.

    Live your life on your own terms. It’s no one’s business honestly and if you want a ring. Get a ring but you don’t have to anything to make others feel comfortable with your situation as long as you are!

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