I didn’t wear my rings to dinner.  I forgot to put them back on. I admitted that it was my fault-not my husband’s-that I didn’t shower soon enough. So I turned off the water and put on perfume and rushed out the door to our dinner plans in the Bronx. I was glad to think that we were on time because Ted hates when I make us late, and because I’m trying hard to think of him before myself.

The little pieces of gold that declare my soul-ties were left behind, but my finger remembered them. I’ve only worn the rings together for 7 months and already my finger bears an indent of their presence.

As we sat on the train home, I looked at my fingers and thought about trying putting my husband first. I absentmindedly put my right hand over my left hand to cover up my shame. Right over left not because my rings were missing but because my nails were bitten and the shame of bitten nails was too much to show the other 6-train passengers at 12:04am. I curled my fingers under and told myself that they’d grow out again and that this was The.Last.Time I’d ever bite them; again.

And as I sat there I realized that I have far less compassion for Ted’s wife than I was trying to have for Ted. My boss can ask me to stay late and bounce my paycheck two weeks in a row, and I won’t bat an eye. Ted can make a bad joke and trigger my terror attacks, and I will laugh with him when my tears and trembling stop because these things do happen. An older man can reach his hands where they don’t belong, and I will refuse to add my name to the docket of charges against him because how can I be sure that it wasn’t my fault his 45-year-old-hands wandered.

But Ted’s wife? Oh no. She can’t ever have bitten nails.

She absolutely cannot talk too much about herself in public, or be a pound over weight, or show any faults or sinfulness or ignorance. Ted’s wife, who sometimes wants to talk and make jokes and join the conversations, must stay inside and keep her lips quiet for fear she’ll say something wrong. For fear no one will want to hear what she has to say. So, of course, when we sat on the subway in the middle of the night I made her cover her empty nail beds and indented ring finger and pray that her nails would grow back quickly.

I don’t treat Ted’s wife the way he wants me to. If anyone else ever treated her the way I do Ted would come to blows. He calls it “ski mask justice time.” But because the indent will be in my finger until death do us part, he acts in patience and leads by example and treats me the way he wants me to treat me. He teaches me day in and out how best to treat his wife by loving her the way Jesus does.

It’s only been 7 months of wearing two rings, but my finger has already been reshaped. What will 70 years of marriage do to the rest of me?

From the archives of March 2013.