Should You Give Back The Ring?

by Kristina on January 30, 2012 · 34 comments

Hello DINKS.  Today we are discussing what happens and ways that we can adjust when our relationship comes to an end. 

This past week two of my DINK girlfriends found themselves back on the singles market and adjusting to their new lives with a single income.  Maybe it was the stress of the holidays aftermath, or maybe it was the stress of the winter blues; but either way two of my thirty something year old girlfriends are now back on the market.

I know that some of our DINKS Finance readers are happily married, some readers are remarried with merged families, and I know that some of our DINKS Finance readers are unmarried DINKS.  I am not married to my boyfriend Nick but I would definitely like to have a ring…someday.  My question to you DINKS is… if you promise to live your life with someone, and the relationship ends before the marriage starts, should you give back the ring?

An engagement ring is a gift that turns a boyfriend into a fiance and it turns a girlfriend into a bride to be.  But is an engagement ring really a gift?  I am not 100% sure!  Some people think that an engagement ring is a gift, but generally gifts are given on specific occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and graduations.  I am not sure that an engagement is a special occasion.  When a relationship comes to an end usually people don’t ask for all of their gifts from birthdays past to be returned, and therefore we shouldn’t ask for our engagement ring back, if we honestly consider it to be a gift.

Some people consider an engagement ring to be a promise, a promise to get married and spend the rest of our lives with someone, supposedly the person whom we want to spend the rest of our life.  However, promises are sometimes broken and if that promise is broken maybe we have the right to ask for the engagement ring back.  I would love to know how our male DINKS readers feel about this.  If you spent $3000 on an engagement ring and made a promise to marry your girlfriend, but then your girlfriend broke that promise, would you expect to get the ring back?

My friend Carol-Anne decided not to give back the engagement ring to her former fiance.  She decided to break off the 1 year engagement to her 3 year boyfriend after he wasn’t willing to relocate with her to pursue her career goals.  Carol-Anne told her ex-fiance that she was keeping the engagement ring that he gave to her and in exchange he could keep the Playstation 3 that she gave to him as a birthday gift since both items have approximately the same value.  Maybe an engagement ring should be treated as a gift, but maybe it should become communal property within a couple and the value of the asset should be divided if the relationship comes to an end.

I cannot speak from experience because I have never been engaged, but I think that I would give back the engagement ring because I wouldn’t want to look at (or continuing wearing) a daily reminder of my failed relationship.  On the other hand, an engagement ring is an asset; maybe I would keep the ring and sell it for the current market value to help fund my new single income life.

What would you do?

(Photo by Lucas_James)

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 E.D. January 30, 2012 at 7:04 am

I think the only situation when the ring should definitely be given back is when it is an heirloom.

2 Daisy January 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

I would ask whether they want the ring back and be fine with it if they did, but I wouldn’t force them to take it if they didn’t want it.

3 Michelle January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

I agree with ED, I think if it’s an heirloom, then it definitely needs to be given back

4 J.Mill January 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

The ring cost is comparable to a PS3!?

I third E.D. and say that if it’s a family piece – whether the whole thing is or just the stone – it should be returned. Otherwise, I believe that the person who called off the engagement shouldn’t get to decide what to do with the ring. If she broke it off, he should decide if he wants it back.

Neither should really want it back (save for it being an heirloom) anyway. She can’t wear it and he can’t give it to anyone else in good conscience.

5 dojo January 31, 2012 at 8:47 am

I don’t think it’s OK to compare a ring to a PlayStation. She gave it as a gift, he HAD to give her a ring, since this is how people ‘mark’ their relationship when it’s getting serious. I WOULD GIVE THE RING BACK. No questions asked. I don’t need it anymore, if we’re no longer together. I don’t give/ask back presents but a ring should be given back IMO.

6 Carrie - Careful Cents February 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I kept my ring after my divorce, but I did offer to give it back. He insisted it was a gift and that I keep it. We are still friends and on good terms so the ring doesn’t have any bad feelings that go along with it. If it was a family heirloom I would give it back for sure.

7 Kristina February 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I would probably give back an engagement ring if we didn’t get married but not because I had to, because I want to. If I was a guy I think that I would be offended if my ex-fiance didn’t give me back the ring. On the other hand if I was a guy what would I do with a used engagement ring?

If you are a guy, would you want the ring back?

8 MikeTheRed February 10, 2012 at 6:21 am

As a guy, unless the ring was a family heirloom (which is what the ring I gave my now-wife when I proposed), I don’t think I’d want it back. It would mark something that failed, and I don’t think I’d want to re-use the ring in the future… hell, I don’t know any woman who would want a used engagement ring (heirloom being the exception).

9 Emily @ evolvingPF February 10, 2012 at 8:41 am

If I’m not mistaken, the etiquette on this is that the ring should be returned if the woman was the one to break the engagement, and kept if the man broke it off (family heirlooms always returned). I believe I have read that legally the ring should be returned if it was given on a non-gift occasion (not Christmas, not a birthday, etc.). I read those a while ago so I could be off, though.

Personally, I would have given the ring back upon a broken engagement no matter who initiated it. I wouldn’t want the reminder. Unfortunately for my husband, we had our ring custom designed so I’m sure he would have taken a big loss upon reselling.

10 maranda February 10, 2012 at 10:23 am

don’t you watch Judge Judy?! you have to give back engagement rings if you don’t get married, it’s the law!! ;)

11 RichUncle EL February 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

In my infinite wisdom, I would vote for giving the ring back, your friend is the one who initiated the break up because she wants to move. You can’t expect people to just relocate without any backlash.

12 Andi B. February 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I think if it’s an heirloom it goes back. If she breaks up with him (for virtually any reason) it goes back. Otherwise she pawns, I mean, keeps it.

13 YN March 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Engagement rings are given as a promise. Only a selfish, greedy woman would keep a ring after a broken engagement. I, personally find it tacky if you think you are entitled to keep something that was supposed to represent commitment and a future with that person.

14 jackie June 7, 2012 at 12:28 am

What happens if the ring is given to her on her birthday? Does she have to give it back if they don’t get married?

15 Cynthia Jones October 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Sell the used engagement ring and take a vacation with the money. You deserve some fun after all the grief!
That’s what I did anywhere. Thank you http://www.haveyouseenthering.com

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33 Robert August 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I think an engagement ring should be treated like a condition current contract. The gift is only fulfilled when marriage occurs. Until that condition is fulfilled the man still technically owns the ring. Thus giving back the ring is not only the proper thing to do, it is most likely legally required.

34 Melle February 9, 2017 at 5:04 pm

The ring is a gift to the woman, period. If she wants to give it back, she can, or she can keep it. She is not legally bound to give it back, but I would think that if she left the relationship, she should. But it’s strictly optional, according to etiquette.

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