My boyfriend and I were nowhere close to getting engaged when we ended things a month ago. It was a smooth parting of ways—two adults looking into each other’s eyes under the Brooklyn night sky, telling each other we liked each other a lot but knew we weren’t ultimately compatible. It had been a little over four months, and at 33, I realized it was one of my longest relationships.
I don’t feel societal pressure to get married anytime soon. Maybe it’s because I live in New York City. Maybe it’s because I’m still figuring out what I want my life to look like. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my 20s focused on my career. But by the time I arrived on the dating scene, I still had an old idea left over from youth: I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship. How baffled I was to discover that upon entering one, this was not the case at all. People always say relationships are “work,” but what that actually meant, I had no idea. I learned that for me, it means working through a lifetime of insecurities that rear their ugly heads as soon as I meet someone.
In my last relationship, I worked overtime. When he took a while to respond to my text, I let go of the fear that he didn’t like me and leaned into the fact that I knew he did. When he was busy, I didn’t take it personally; I made my own plans. When I felt an existential sadness, I reminded myself that I sometimes felt this way before him too. I slowly learned how to trust myself and trust the relationship and remained positive even though my fear of it ending eventually came true.
Even though our breakup was mutual, I still felt an emptiness. I thought of my friend whose boyfriend recently bought her a gorgeous ring. I was jealous. Happy for her, sure, but it’s perfectly possible to feel happiness and envy at the same time. I wanted someone to love me so much that they would buy me something beautiful that I didn’t think I deserved.
I’ve often looked at other women’s hands and the glittering rocks delicately perched on their left ring finger—a status symbol, a constant reminder to them and to the world that they are loved. And isn’t that what a ring is? A symbol of commitment, mutual desire, and a decision to wake up next to one another for the rest of their lives. This is the love I’ve longed for. That I’ve waited to be deemed worthy of.
It had never occurred to me that I could just buy one for myself—that a ring from me to me could be just as meaningful as one from a man—until I saw the most gorgeous vintage diamond ring while browsing TheRealReal after a post-breakup crying session on my couch.
I am not what you would call an impulse shopper. My childhood home was riddled with financial insecurity, and I inherited my mother’s frugality. I don’t own any diamonds, and the only thing I splurge on is health insurance and my ever-increasing Brooklyn rent. When I saw the 18k gold ring with four diamonds and five emeralds, my mind immediately flashed to what my friends or family would say: “How could you afford that? Wow, that was an extreme reaction to a breakup….”
After giving it some thought, I realized I cared too much about what others thought of my purchasing decisions—decisions made with money that I made solo, no significant other required. Despite (and also thanks to) my frugal tendencies, I actually could afford it. One click, and the ring—my symbol from me to me that I am loved—was mine.
I don’t think a ring will fill the void my boyfriend left, but it will represent to me what I decided when I added it to my cart: I will no longer abandon myself to a relationship or expect a romantic partner to give me a happiness that only I can truly give myself.