My car battery and my status as a woman

February 2, 2011

Dating terms defined: “self-preservation”

February 2, 2011

The Who-Keeps-The-Ring Conundrum

February 2, 2011
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if it’s this one the answer is no one. eek!

A few weeks ago my co-workers and I got involved in a heated debate over the issue of who “owns” the engagement after a failed engagement. It’s worth mentioning that my co-workers are five, mostly-married men.

I was championing a very specific position – well positions – relative to who did the breaking up, who did the proposing, and if the ring was a family heirloom. One among my co-workers was very ardently championing another – as in so ardently that the words, “I’d sue for theft,” came out of his mouth, and then he called his lawyer on speaker so we could all hear whether or not he’d have a case – hypothetically speaking of course. This, apparently, is the way you settle a debate in L.A. Whomever’s assistant is within shouting reach gets that executive’s lawyer on the phone and tells him, “no, it can’t wait” or, “he needs 5” (this means minutes). It’s really something to behold.

I want to make very clear that I do not know the real answer to this question and do not have a lawyer to call and ask. My position on the issue of who gets the ring is based on who I believe deserves the ring. There may be a legal answer. There may be a better, moral answer. This is just my answer making it meaningless unless you intend to propose to me and then eventually break off the engagement. Which, if that’s your intention, how dare you read this blog!

Okay – Scenario #1. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, however both man and woman agree that the engagement is best broken.

So it’s as “mutual break up” as the situation can get (though as I’ve said, I don’t believe there’s such thing as a mutual break up. Someone always has the idea first, and wants it more). I leave the decision around who gets the ring up to this seemingly rational couple. It was a gift to the woman, so maybe the man lets her keep it as a, “sorry this didn’t work out.” It was an incredible expensive gift, so maybe the woman gives it back as a, “let’s just call this a wash.” Or maybe these two are so into the whole mutual nature of the un-arrangement that they pawn the ring and split the money? Seems unlikely, but I’m sure stranger things have happened.

Scenario #2. Man proposes, man breaks off engagement, woman is shocked/heartbroken/confused.Sorry but the ring remains in the court of that poor girl. This may be wildly unpopular (like it most certainly was in my office of five men), but you don’t break a girl’s heart and then ask for the ring back. Bad, bad form – especially if the reason for ending the engagement has anything to do with another woman. “But what’s she going to do with it?!” you ask? I don’t know. Sell it and keep the money? Toss it over a bridge? Poke holes in the Voodoo doll of you? Whatever she wants. You took the best years of her life, she can take your 5-20K (Dramatic, yes, but I’m guessing I’d have an even more dramatic line if this had happened to me).

I think it’s important to note that many women in this situation might give the ring back in a spirit of not wanting to have anything to do with this man for the rest of their lives. That miiight be what I’d do. It would depend on how angry I was, aaaand how much the ring was worth.

Scenario #3. Scenarios 1 or 2 occur but the ring in question is an heirloom of the man’s family.

This pains me to say in the case of Scenario #2, but you’ve gotta give that ring back. The ring and that man are only connected in the sense that he got it for free from someone in his family. It’s not his, and unfortunately it’s not yours. Out of deference to people both older and god-willingly wiser than him, you should give it back. Unless of course you’re involved in a very bizarre scenario in which the reason said man is calling it off is because his mother is making him. In that case, you keep that ring, melt it down, and make something amazing with it. Don’t be shocked if legal action is taken against you though, according to one, L.A.-based entertainment lawyer.

Scenario #4. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement.

There is no world in which it is ok to keep the ring if this is your situation. Even if the man, in a hopeless attempt to make you re-love him, says it’s okay. It’s not okay.

Scenario #5. Woman says yes to proposal, then breaks off engagement upon finding that man wronged her in any TBD number of ways (lying, cheating being popular examples)See Scenario #2.

In my mind those are all the general scenarios. I’ve left out instances where the couple paid for the ring together (too complicated), someone lies about the reason for breaking off the engagement (which is likely…), and/or someone refuses to give it back (in which case you’re probably going to need an assistant to get a lawyer on the phone).

Thoughts? Arguments? Legal precedent? Or (gulp) experiences?…


  1. I think, no matter what, the guy gets the ring back (unless it is an heirloom from the girl’s family for some reason). No debate. You didn’t get married, girl doesnt keep ring.

  2. My mom always said that whoever breaks it off, the other person gets to decide what to do with it. The law is divided as to whether to consider it a gift of part of the contract of marriage. The wild card option is that the ring has to be sold to pay for the now-lost wedding deposits…

  3. My mom (and you KNOW my mom) always said that whoever breaks it off, the other person gets to decide what to do with it. The law is divided as to whether to consider it a gift or part of the contract of marriage. The wild card option is that the ring has to be sold to pay for the now-lost wedding deposits…

  4. While morally I agree with all your stances, the law says an engagement ring is a gift contingent on an event (the marriage) taking place. No marriage, the ring must get returned.

    Not sure how this translates into situations where the couple co-purchases the ring.

    Love your writing!

  5. To add to the above comment on the legal view, if the ring is given on a major (gift-giving) holiday or her birthday, the ring is hers (because then it is considered a gift and not part of a contingent agreement).

    Either way, a crappy thing to go through.

  6. I expect that state laws vary, but my lawyer told me that it was a gift, so it’s mine.

    Of course if it had been his family heirloom, it would have been unconscionable to keep it.

    As it stands, however, the diamonds will be re-set into a “Let Freedom” ring.

  7. If the man breaks it off or cheats, the girl gets to keep the ring. No question. Why there’s even debate over that is beyond me. Amicable splits or girl breaking it off = ring returned. Family heirlooms go back to family. Done.

  8. this was my first writing assignment in law school! it has been covered above, but the cases are very interesting to read.

  9. I am 100% in agreement with you on all of the above. I feel like it’s obvious that the break-ee keeps the ring, except in cases of family heirlooms.

  10. Scenario #4 was me. And I, no question, gave the ring back. I totally agree with all of the other scenarios too. Although I still don’t know what a girl would do with the ring if she kept it. I wonder, what’s the point of hanging on to it?

  11. I am new to your blog. This is my first comment.
    I like a logical way of thinking – regardless of what the law says. I like and agree with all your scenarios. True, they may not stand in court; however, they make sense. The law should be rewritten. Send congress your blog as a rough draft.

  12. I agree with you completely in each scenario. Although I gotta say, if it’s me, I want to keep the ring only so I can sell it for a trip somewhere or something.

  13. Great post, Jessie, as always. Though I must ask… is the picture of the ring the ring you (eventually) want? A hint to R?

  14. While engaged, I strayed out of the engagement and this ended our engagement (emotional affair, but affair nonetheless). I gave the ring back to him because I felt awful for having it. Now we are working things out and the fact that he has it, and could potentially give it back to me is more meaningful than had I kept it all this time. You do the wrong, you lose the ring.

  15. Mine was Scenario #2. And he asked for it back. At work. Because I took a job at the same company 1200 miles away from my family so we could get married.

    I gave it back.

  16. My sister was engaged to a guy and after they moved in together (before they were married) he’d get drunk and hit her all the time. so she called off the engagement, kept the ring, and used the money to pay for deposits, and construction costs for renovations her fiance wanted done to the house.

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