In most Western cultures men give women an expensive engagement ring as a signal of their commitment to them. The woman can then be more sure of the man ultimately marrying her, if he wasn’t sure he would be less likely to invest so much money in a ring.
Why doesn’t a woman also buy her man an engagement gift as a sign of her commitment?
Until the 1930s a woman could sue a man who broke off an engagement for breach of contract. This would compensate her for the immense damage to her reputation as well as any costs that had been spent on the wedding. In the mid-1930s the law changed and it was no longer possible for a woman to sue her fiancé.
The change in the law coincided with an increase in the giving of diamond engagement rings. As a woman could no longer rely on the law to give her compensation if the engagement was broken off, there was a move by men to give more expensive engagement rings to give their partners the protection that they no longer got from the law.
What is interesting is that this tradition has continued to today even with the greater sexual equality that now exists. A broken engagement, whilst very distressing, is no longer as damaging to a woman’s prospects of future marriage.
The tradition carries on even though the original reason for it no longer exists. It is natural to expect that we will see a change over time to reflect the current social situation and either women will start giving men engagement gifts, or men will stop giving women gifts.
Indeed a search for ‘men’s engagement ring’ returns nearly 1,000 results on Amazon, so maybe things are already starting to change.
<p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=3921″>Image: MR LIGHTMAN / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>