Rick has asked if I would consider giving the ring to his daughter since her mother sold her ring. He said because he would be the one to give me the ring, this would be fair. I have three kids myself — one daughter and two sons — but Rick’s argument is that my daughter would probably get my ring that her Dad gave me. But that’s not necessarily true. Yes, she is my only daughter; however, she is the youngest and another tradition for many families is for the oldest boy to get the mother’s ring when he is ready to propose to his girl. Rick claims that my son’s girl is not going to want my ring, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true either. At any rate, I believe that a ring of mine would mean more to my son’s hypothetical fiancé than to Rick’s daughter, and Rick admitted that the ring would probably only be of interest to his daughter for monetary purposes.
Since this ring — that I don’t even have yet and may not want after all this — would be my ring, it would be of sentimental value to my kids, given that I probably would, in a marriage that went well, be wearing it up until the day I died. I’m having a hard time committing to leaving my ring to his kids, just because HE would have bought it for me, knowing upfront that it would be sold. My only comment right now has been to say that I don’t buy something for someone based on who’s going to get it when he or she dies. Also, Rick’s daughter’s not getting her mother’s ring because the mother sold it isn’t my problem.
Do you think it’s a fair and realistic expectation on Rick’s part that I agree to give my engagement ring to his daughter upon my death even though it would be of more sentimental value to my kids?
While we are on the topic of rings, Rick and I also had a discussion about who gets the ring if the marriage does not take place. I said that if I call off the engagement, he gets the ring back, and if he calls it off, I keep it. He says he should get it back no matter who calls it off. What is the proper ring etiquette in a break-up of an engagement?
Honestly, all of this talk about what happens to a ring I do not have yet sours the thought of a ring at all. Any advice or opinion you can give me is greatly appreciated. — Whose Ring Is It Anyway?
This letter especially caught my interest since my family is dealing with something similar and I appreciate how complicated and emotionally-charged an issue like this can potentially be. And the truth is, I’m not sure there is a totally “fair” solution; I almost think a ring ought to be buried with a woman to avoid future conflict and hurt feelings. But that’s not always the right answer either. So, what IS the right answer? Well, for one thing, I think deciding now whom you want the ring to go to rather than let your heirs fight over it after your death is a step in the right direction. And in an effort to avoid hurt feelings or showing favor for one kid (or one person’s kids) over another, it would be most fair to say the ring is available for the first person who has use for it and wants it (i.e. whoever is ready to get married and wants to get engaged with the ring — man or woman, your kid or your future husband’s kid).
One thing I disagree with is arguing that the ring may have more sentimental value to some offspring than to others or that sentimental value trumps monetary value. You have no idea what connection any of the kids in question might have one day to this ring that doesn’t exist. And you don’t know who may or may not want it. There’s a good chance all the kids between you and your boyfriend will already be married (and maybe married and divorced) by the time you die. They may have kids of their own by then. So, who gets the ring then, and how is sentimental value determined? If it’s saved for the next generation — your future grandkids — do you think they’re going to feel as connected to the ring as as your own kids would? Maybe. Maybe not. My point is, you can’t predict what future people who don’t exist are going to feel about a hypothetical ring that doesn’t exist. Best to outline in the will that the ring is available for the first person who wants it and is ready to propose/ get engaged. And if there are multiple people who want it, make a stipulation that the ring be appraised and, if everyone agrees, the ring can be bought from the estate by the highest bidder. If everyone doesn’t agree, then the ring remains in the estate for the next generation with the same stipulation that it’s available for the first person who is ready to get married and wants to use it to propose/get engaged.
As for who gets the hypothetical engagement ring if the hypothetical engagement ends before marriage, I — and just about any other etiquette expert — agree that the person who does the breaking up relinquishes the ring. If you do the dumping, you return the ring and if your boyfriend does the dumping, you keep it.
All that said, it’s been six months. Why don’t you put talks of rings and marriage on hold for another six months and see how you feel about the issue, and each other, in the spring?
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.