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Should People Stop Wearing Jewelry They Got From Their Ex?

Emotional baggage and relationship security.

Key points

  • Wearing jewelry given by an ex is not problematic if it does not carry emotional baggage.
  • Wearing two wedding rings seems unusual, but in some circumstances, it makes sense.
  • Respecting the partner’s romantic past does not mean it should rule their romantic headspace.

I have a new boyfriend but I want to wear a ring from my ex—people think it is weird.” —A woman, interviewed by The Daily Mirror.

Jewelry has always been a symbol of love and affection. But what happens when that symbol of love is from your ex-lover?

Remembering our past is valuable, but living in it is harmful. One may intellectually argue that there is no point crying over spilled milk or trying to hold onto a love that has ended. In contrast, nostalgia and idealization of ex-lovers express our positive attitude toward the romantic past (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019; and here). Moreover, although being attached to ex-lovers often has negative consequences, nostalgic memories about ex-lovers may have a positive effect on one’s current relationship (Ai et al., 2023, and here).

In analyzing the issue of wearing jewelry given by a former lover, I focus on three cases: (1) The novel series Outlander, in which Claire is married to two men, one in the present and one in the imaginary past; (2) A true story of a widower, who is marrying a widow and wants to keep wearing his first wedding ring alongside his new one; and (3) jewelry given by ex-lovers.

Outlander: Claire Wears Two Wedding Rings

In Diana Gabaldon’s novel series Outlander (which was adapted for TV), a 20th-century British nurse Claire Randall, married to Frank Randall, travels in time to 18th-century Scotland. There, she finds adventure and romance with the dashing warrior, Jamie Fraser, and after marrying him, wears two wedding rings. One is a simple gold ring from Frank, inscribed: From F. to C. with love. Always. The other is a decorated silver ring from Jamie, with a small thistle bloom at the center of each link, in which is inscribed: Da mi basia mille (“Give me a thousand kisses”). Claire and Jamie are unable to meet for 20 years, after which Claire tells Jamie that she has never taken off his ring. Reflecting on their relationship, Jamie says to Claire “I am a jealous man, but not a vengeful one. I would take you from him—but I would not take him from you.” Jamie wants Claire to himself, but he does not try to erase her meaningful past.

Can Widows Wear Two Wedding Rings?

Romantic dilemmas are common, but those of widows (and widowers) are particularly poignant. Can they love both their late spouse, as well as their new lover? When is the appropriate time to fall in love again? If they get married again, is it appropriate to wear two wedding rings?

Consider the following true story: A widow dating a widower observed that her beau continued to wear his wedding ring—he had not taken it off when his wife died. In due time, the two became engaged and started to plan their wedding. The wedding ring remained on the widower’s finger. Finally, just as the bride-to-be was choosing her new wedding band, her intended turned to her and said, “Would it be okay with you if I wore two wedding rings?” The widow’s answer was absolutely not.

But the widower’s question cannot be so easily dismissed. This woman cannot erase the memory of his deceased wife, but wearing his deceased wife’s wedding ring will always remind him (and others) that he still considers himself her husband, thereby married to two women.

Even if the widower believes that loving two people romantically at the same time is possible (Ben-Ze’ev, 2022, and here), this does not mean that anything goes. To be sure, the widower’s wish to wear two wedding rings does not imply a lack of love, infidelity or disrespect toward his present wife; however, it may be tactless. The widower can keep the ring, but may not wear it in public. Similarly, he may keep his late wife’s picture on his phone, but it should not be on the display screen. Another, less optimal possibility is to wear the new wedding ring on the left hand, which is the traditional place of wedding ring, since it is closer to the heart, and the old ring on the right hand.

Do You Wear Any Jewelry Given by Your Ex?

From this example, it is a small leap to consider our more general dilemma of wearing jewelry, given to us by an ex. Here are responses, taken at random from Reddit that women gave to the question: Do you wear any jewelry that an ex gave to you?

  • “Yes, although I have more clothes from my ex than jewelry. My Hogwarts sweatpants are rad. No way am I ever getting rid of them.”
  • “Yeah, as long as I can keep the memories of him separate from the jewelry.”
  • “I couldn't look at the ring he gave me for several months after the breakup. I later threw it into a lake. That felt good.”
  • “Of course. The relationship being over doesn't mean the jewelry loses its aesthetic value to me.”
  • “I took the diamond out of my engagement ring and had it made into a new ring that I wear. New SO is cool with it.”
  • “Diamonds are diamonds, and they are MY diamonds, not diamonds that my ex gave to me.”
  • “Jewelry no, it seems too personal. Clothing, yes.”
  • “No. I usually get rid of gifts from exes.”

Similar perplexity exists when asking men how they would feel if their partner wore jewelry from an ex (here and here).

  • “I think a girl should wear whatever she wants, but if she starts saying an ex gave her this piece of jewelry or these earrings, then it's borderline passive-aggressive.”
  • "My girlfriend wears a ring that she got from a man who died while they were dating. Of course I'm not going to have a problem with that.”
  • “No big deal, aside from, like, engagement rings.”
  • “I couldn't care less.”
  • “I'm not that insecure.”

These replies express the need to separate the jewelry from the romantic aspect, and indicate that there are various practical ways to deal with the dilemma.

Sentimental Value and Emotional Baggage

Diamonds never leave you… men do.” —Shirley Bassey

Ultimately, the decision to wear jewelry given by an ex is personal. However, a relevant distinction for reaching an optimal decision is that between sentimental value, i.e., the personal value derived from memories, and emotional baggage, which refers to unfinished emotional issues from the past that usually have negative effects on current behavior and attitudes. Sentimental value, which is the more general term, includes cases of emotional baggage.

When the jewelry carries no sentimental value, and hence no emotional baggage, there are usually no difficulties in wearing it. (“If she's keeping it because it's nice jewelry and not because it's a memento of her ex, I have no problem with it.”) The presence of sentimental value without emotional baggage is not problematic concerning most types of jewelry, except those with symbolic meanings, such as engagement or wedding rings. (“Normal jewelry is fine, but a ring with a romantic inscription is weird.”) When emotional baggage is present, wearing jewelry given by the ex is likely to be harmful. (“I trashed everything given to me by him. I am happy I threw it all out, I never miss it.”)

We should respect our partner’s romantic past, but this does not mean it should rule their romantic headspace. As one man said: “I understand that her past is a big part of who she is. Still, I don't need a visual reminder.”

Facebook image: Dragon Images/Shutterstock


Ai, T., Gillath, O., & Landau, M. (2023). Dear old love: Effects of reflecting on nostalgic memories about ex‐partners on current romantic relationship. European Journal of Social Psychology, 53, 15-28.‏

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The Arc of Love: How Our Romantic Lives Change over Time. University of Chicago Press.

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2022). “I am glad that my partner is happy with her lover”: On jealousy, and compersion,” in A. Pismenny & B. Brogaard (eds.), The moral psychology of love. Rowman & Littlefield, 127-150.

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