In general, I feel the same way about non-engagement rings as I do about engagement rings: get it because it means something to you and your partner. If it doesn’t, then buy a sandwich press and don’t look back. Admittedly, non-engagement rings are far less popular than engagement rings, in part, because nobody knows when to use them.

Never fear! Despite being a commitment-phobic millennial and general piece of work, I am also an adult woman. Hence, I know a surprising amount of information about promise rings, commitment rings and pre-engagement rings. Let this blog post be your guide to the illusive, mystical world of non-engagement rings and how to use them.

Promise Ring

Promise rings are are for the young. Exactly how young is young? That’s up to you. Most of the girls I knew who received promise rings were in high school. Technically, a promise ring can signal your intention to marry sometime in the distant future. However, as with most high school commitments, promises made on promise rings usually fall victim to the annals of time. You can chalk this ring up to a sincere, if ephemeral, gesture.

Commitment Ring

A commitment ring, as its names suggests, indicates that you want to commit to another person. Whether this commitment comes in the form of a pre-pre-engagement or just a general “I’m stuck with you and I like it,” is up to the giver. Couples who chose not to marry might also wear commitment rings to commemorate their partnership.

In some ways, the commitment ring is the grown-up version of a promise ring. Depending on the giver’s intentions, the ring could be as ornate as an engagement ring (especially if it is used in lieu of an engagement or wedding ring) or much simpler. The point is that you’re making a pledge as an adult.

Pre-Engagement Ring

Usually, a pre-engagement ring is given before an engagement ring – not in place of one. A pre-engagement ring says, “I want to marry you, but I’m not financially stable enough to afford a proper ring yet.” The ring usually includes a simple gold or silver band and a small stone. Of all the non-engagement rings, I find this one the most practical. If you can’t afford to buy your fiancé an engagement ring, you certainly can’t afford the wedding.

Still, maybe you’ve been dating for like eight years. Maybe you’re both up to your ears in student loans. Maybe one of you lost your job. Maybe you just want something tangible to set a legitimate intention for the future. Sound familiar? Consider a pre-engagement ring.

If you’re still confused, puzzled or otherwise overwhelmed, please know that most women don’t expect to receive a non-engagement ring. None of us sit around at brunch and complain to our friends about how “he’s a nice guy, but I can’t take him seriously without a commitment ring.” However, if your girlfriend is chomping at the bit for some kind of commitment-based jewelry, then you should probably have a serious conversation about what kind of relationship you’re both looking for.

That said, a non-engagement ring, when presented with authentic intention, can be a very kind, very impressive gesture.