The Ring Designed by My In-Laws Is Ugly AF

It’s basically a theme ring?

Closeup of a woman resting her hand on her right shoulder.

Q: My now-husband is a sweet man—generous, kind, and generally very thoughtful about who I am as a person. When he knows I’ve had a bad day, he saves up cute animal photos he’s seen during the day and orders my favorite pizza to cheer me up.

Despite being the man who knows what makes me tick, he took a pretty impractical approach to designing my engagement ring. He wanted it to be a surprise and had it custom made for me by a close family member who designs jewelry as their profession. The design features elements that reference something I really love and is very important to me BUT do not really capture my design aesthetic. Without getting overly specific (as it’s a very unique design that many have commented on and complimented), I’d compare it to having a dog’s paw print included in a ring for a dog lover. A sweet thought, but not necessarily appropriate for somebody who loves clean lines and classy simplicity. Beyond the aesthetic mismatch, I work with my hands as part of my job. My hands are always dirty and wet. I also love wearing cozy sweaters. Because of the ring’s design, there is always dirt in the nooks, and the ring is always catching on and pulling my favorite sweaters.

Practically speaking, it’s kind of a nightmare. Since we got married a year ago, I’ve only worn it a handful of times because of the practicality issues—it really just does not suit my lifestyle. Not wearing it kills me because I know it cost a lot and I know that not one, but two people I love were involved in designing and making this ring. How do I subtly suggest a redesign? I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings but honestly, it feels like a waste to have it sitting in a drawer instead of on my finger where I can enjoy it.

—Practical Woman with an Impractical Ring

A: Dear PWWAIR,

Kind of dying to see it, to be honest. But I mean, if I can’t, FINE, I guess I’ll just answer your question…

Keep this ring and ask him to get you a whole new one. I know what you mean about waste (I feel it, too), but this is still a meaningful, if ugly, memento. Stash it in a drawer or keep it in a dish on your dresser. It served its purpose in demonstrating care for you, and it’s chock full of meaning, if also some questionable design choices. It’s a funny, sweet reminder of a thoughtful partner who was still working out the finer points of how to give you something you love. That’ll be even more special with time. Now keep it tucked away.

But while doing that, be straight with your partner about why you don’t like the design. Emphasize how much you love the thought and will cherish it forever-ever. “But, it’s not something I’d wear, and here’s why…” While you’re at it, I’d specifically mention your logistical concerns. Just don’t take the easy out and leave it there. Take it that step further to explain the aesthetic ones, too. I know his feelings might be hurt. I know it won’t be easy. But remember, that’s because he wants to get you things that you like. Helping your partner learn this about you is for his benefit as well as yours, and will make future birthdays and holidays a bit easier for everyone all around. He’s on a quest to learn more about you, to understand you better, and to get you stuff that makes you happy. Help him out.

But listen to me here: that info stays between the two of you. Don’t share your real opinion with the original jewelry designer or anyone else. If someone asks, you loved it, but it was getting snagged on things. Period. (This is another good reason to keep it tucked in a drawer rather than ditching it completely.)

Then, after arming him with this new info about your tastes, ask your partner to get you another ring. Or better yet, pick one out together. Without the paw prints, this time.

—Liz Moorhead

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