The exchange of wedding rings typically occurs immediately after the sharing of wedding vows. It is a symbolic ritual in which marriage partners place a ring on their partner’s finger to create a physical reminder of the sacred vows they have exchanged. The wearing of the wedding ring serves several purposes. It reminds the wearer of his or her promise to love, honor, and cherish their partner. It also serves to inform others that the wearer is in a committed relationship. How many times have you checked out someone’s ring finger for this sign of being married or possibly available?

My personal favorite ring exchange ritual carries a beautiful message of how love flows between two people. In the exchange itself, each partner places the ring only up to the knuckle of his or her partner. In turn, the partner takes the ring over his or her knuckle to its resting place. As they do so, each giver, looking deeply into his or her partner’s eyes, might say something like “I give you this ring as a symbol of my promise to you” or simply “I love you.” The recipient, also maintaining deep eye contact, might respond saying something like “Receiving your love is my greatest blessing” or “I will treasure your love always.” No matter what the exchange of words that accompany this exchange, the gestures themselves hold a deep meaning and reminder about the conscious choice individuals make in entering the sacred covenant of marriage with another and of their respective responsibility for the flow of love between them.

Here is what this symbolism means. There are four gestures – each partner gives his or her love to their partner and each receives love from the other.
I think of these four gestures as representing four doors or passageways that either admit or restrict the flow of love between two people. For love to flow fully between two people all four doors must be open. In other words, I openly choose to give my love to you and to receive love from you and vice versa. Each is the gatekeeper to giving and receiving love.

This symbolism can serve the couple as a great reminder of their mutual responsibility as they face the realities of daily life and the trials and tribulations of their journey together. Whenever either partner becomes aware of the fact that the love is not flowing between them, it is time to look at which of the four doors is fully or partially closed. Am I mad at you and punishing you by withholding my love from you? Or, has something happened that has closed my heart to your love? It would behoove every marriage partner to ask him or herself these questions whenever the marriage becomes strained. Asking ‘which of the four doors has been shut?’ is a shortcut to figuring out which partner is restricting the flow of love between you and why. It is important but difficult to do this without throwing blame around. Rather, it is best approached with an honest intention of wanting to restore the health and well-being of the partnership. If both partners understand and embrace their responsibility on this level, they will be far more likely to reestablish balance and their love more quickly when a shutdown occurs and to truly learn from their experiences facing life together.