This article was originally published on the Jacob's website, Nurturing Marriage. It has been reprinted here, with permission.
Wedding rings are symbols of a couple's love for, and complete commitment to, each other. You may be surprised at the lessons you can learn from that diamond on your finger — lessons that will help nurture your marriage.
When I was shopping for my wife's wedding ring, my favorite part was selecting the diamond, holding the loupe to my eye and examining its details more closely (yes, I had to Google what that funny magnifying glass is called). I quickly learned that there are four criteria that go into the pricing of a diamond: color, cut, clarity and carat weight. As the years have passed, I've never forgotten the experience of selecting the diamond, and I've realized that there are many marriage-related lessons to be learned from how a diamond is graded and priced.
The first criterion to look at when judging the value of a diamond is its color. The grading is quite simple. Each diamond is assigned a letter from D to Z, "D" being a colorless diamond and "Z" being a diamond that shows noticeable color. The more clear or colorless a diamond, the greater its value.
To me, the color criterion in marriage is purity. Just like a diamond, you want your marriage to be as blemish-free as possible. At the same time, it's OK to acknowledge that no marriage is perfect — just like no real diamond is perfect. We should constantly be striving to be better for our spouses, to be the people they deserve.
Purity in marriage means being completely true to each other. It's keeping some things between just the two of you. It's always speaking highly of your spouse. It's being faithful, physically and emotionally, always. No exceptions. No excuses.
A diamond's cut is the most important determinant of value. The better the cut, the more brilliant the diamond looks. This is because correct angles and proportions allow light rays to reflect effectively throughout the stone.
Just like it's critical for a diamond to have the right angles and proportions in order to shine brightly, it's equally important that you find balance in your marriage. Cut out the things that don't bring you closer together. Cut out poor habits and rough edges that present conflict.
Each spouse may have to sacrifice some of his or her personal pleasures in order for marriage to flourish. While this doesn't mean you shouldn't have personal hobbies, you should be willing to make sacrifices and put your spouse first. You might choose to find hobbies you can do together. This is all part of having the right cut.
Clarity is a measure of the flaws in a diamond. Many of these flaws (or inclusions, as they are called) are only visible with a microscope. However, sometimes the flaws can be seen with the naked eye. The number and size of inclusions largely impact the value of the diamond.
The rule of clarity in marriage is simple: once you're married, choose to stop seeing flaws and only see the good in your spouse. In other words, put on your rose-colored glasses.
The second lesson here is to have a source of clarity in your life and in your relationship. For some couples, this comes from religion. For others, it means being out in nature. For others still, clarity is found in a trusted friend or mentor. Whatever your source of clarity may be, go to it, and go to it often. It will help clear your mind and remind you of the things that matter most to you.
A carat is a unit of weight equal to one fifth of a gram. Obviously, it's used to measure the weight of the diamond. The larger the diamond, the more valuable it is. Pretty simple.
In marriage, I think of this as "remembering the more weighty matters." Said differently: set priorities, and remember those priorities.
Life gets busy — very busy. And sometimes different obligations sit at different places on our priority lists. Always remember what's most important. You simply can't go wrong by keeping your spouse and marriage as your most important priority. Choose to meet up with your wife for lunch instead of going out with your coworkers. Fit in a phone call to your husband before calling that client back. Talk with your spouse over dinner instead of watching TV. Keep your spouse #1, and you won't go wrong.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: "My diamond (or my wife's diamond) isn't real. Are you saying our commitment to each other is discounted?" Not at all!
Diamonds are expensive, no question. And sometimes couples get married early on when they are far from being "well established" — I would know. I have a lot of respect for people who are financially savvy enough to know what they can and can't afford, who might choose to forgo a diamond rather than cripple themselves financially. I also have a lot of respect for couples who are confident enough in relationships to realize that the dollar value of their wedding rings is not symbolic of their love. At the end of the day, what really matters is the value you create in your marriage.
Create the marriage you want, and let your wedding rings remind you of the love and commitment you share as husband and wife.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.