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In a lot of period movies the husband & wife are shown to be retiring to different bedrooms at night. e.g. most movies about 1800's Britain or even pre WW-II. Or even War & Peace or Pride & Prejudice. Or The Count of Monte Cristo.
How & when did that change to them sleeping in the same room / same bed? Was the separate room custom only among the nobles & intelligentsia? Or did the commoners sleep in separate rooms too?
Movies portray people as having separate beds to get around strict censorship laws which were derived from old religious traditions.
In reality, there have been many such movements for and against sleeping together, and it appears to have gone in and out of style through the ages.
The question is different now and requires a new answer. Have you read Jack London's The People of the Abyss? Yes, commoners in England slept in one bedroom, and many of them lived in one room, too.
This Father's Day, Remembering A Time When Dads Weren't Welcome In Delivery Rooms
Until the 1970s, most U.S. hospitals did not allow fathers into the delivery room for the birth of a child, or children.
At a childbirth class at Doula Love in Portland, Ore., a half-dozen pregnant women lean on yoga balls. Their partners are right behind them, learning how to apply pressure for a pelvic massage. Together, they go over the stages of labor, birthing positions, and breathing techniques.
Cole Cooney, who is expecting his second child, says he can't imagine missing the birth. Not just because he'd miss meeting his child, but because he'd miss the opportunity to help his wife.
"I'm certainly not a medical professional or anything like that," Cooney notes, "But I know my wife a lot better than any of the people at the hospital. And so being able to advocate for her is really important."
Dads in delivery rooms may be routine these days, but not that long ago, childbirth was an experience few American fathers were a part of. So how did we go from an age of men pacing smoke-filled waiting rooms to this modern era where they attend birthing classes and learn about pelvic massage?
Medical historian Judy Leavitt, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, traces the history of fathers and childbirth in her book "Make Room for Daddy: The Journey from Waiting Room to Birthing Room."
"Traditional childbirth was really a female event," Leavitt explains. "The woman would call her friends and relatives together to help her, and they'd be all around the birthing bed. And there'd be the midwife." A male physician might come and go, she says, and fathers might be asked to boil water, but mostly it was a room full of women.
In the 20th century, childbirth moved from the home to the hospital. In 1938, half of American women gave birth in hospitals. Within twenty years, nearly all of them did. While there were advantages to medicalized births – having antibiotics and blood banks on site, for example – Leavitt says it was lonely. "The nurses are busy, going in and out, and the laboring women are laboring on their own. And they don't like it."
Meanwhile, some fathers weren't happy about being stuck in waiting rooms, nicknamed "stork clubs," especially when they were close enough to the labor and delivery wards to hear their wives cry out. Leavitt says doctors typically didn't want fathers present for the delivery any more than they'd want them around during an appendectomy.
But parents began to push back. The women's movement and the natural childbirth movement helped drive the campaign, Leavitt says. Women argued that they should have a say in who could be around during labor and delivery. Fewer drugs, especially at a time when sedatives were widely used in labor, meant women were more aware of who was in the room.
Getting fathers into delivery rooms didn't happen overnight, and progress across the country was uneven, Leavitt found. By and large, by the 1960s, fathers were regularly allowed in the room during labor. By the 70s and 80s, they were allowed to stay for the birth. Today, most do.
As Cole Cooney prepares for the arrival of his second child, he looks back in amazement at the hours he and his wife shared right after the birth of their first.
"We kind of have different memories of the experience, but ultimately the two memories kind of make it a whole," says Cooney. "It's just such a bonding experience, and it's such a special moment — bringing this human into the world."
Deena Prichep is a freelance print and radio journalist based in Portland, Ore.
Some feminists   and non-feminist economists (particularly proponents of historical materialism, the methodological approach of Marxist historiography) note that the value of housewives' work is ignored in standard formulations of economic output, such as GDP or employment figures. A housewife typically works many unpaid hours a week and often depends on income from her husband's work for financial support.
Traditional societies Edit
In societies of hunters and gatherers, like the traditional society of the Australian aboriginal people, the men often hunted animals for meat while the women gather other foods such as grain, fruit and vegetables. One of the reasons for this division of labor is that it is much easier to look after a baby while gathering food than while hunting a fast-moving animal. Even when homes were very simple, and there were few possessions to maintain, men and women did different jobs.
In rural societies where the main source of work is farming, women have also taken care of gardens and animals around the house, generally helping men with heavy work when a job needed to be done quickly, usually because of the season.
Examples of the heavy work involving farming that a traditional housewife in a rural society would do are:
- Picking fruit when it is ripe for market
- Planting rice in a paddy field
- Harvesting and stacking grain
- Cutting hay for animals
In rural studies, the word housewife is occasionally used as a term for "a woman who does the majority of the chores within a farm's compound", as opposed to field and livestock work. [ citation needed ] .
Whether the productive contributions of women were considered "work" varied by time and culture. Throughout much of the 20th century, the women working on a family farm, no matter how much work they did, would be counted in the US census as being unemployed, whereas the men doing the same or (even less) work were counted as being employed as farmers. 
Modern society Edit
A career woman, as opposed to a housewife, may follow a mommy track or a shared earning/shared parenting track.
Regarding family size, a study of three Mexican cities done in 1991 came to the conclusion that there was no significant difference in the number of children in "housewife families" compared to those families with women who worked outside the home. 
A research based on 7733 respondents who were aged 18–65 and legally married women in 20 European countries showed men and women share less housework in countries that publicly support gender equality. On the contrary, women did more housework than men. 
Full-time homemakers in modern times usually share income produced by members of the household who are employed wage-earners working full-time benefit from the unpaid work provided by the homemaker otherwise, the performance of such work (childcare, cooking, housecleaning, teaching, transporting, etc.) could be a household expense.  US states with community property recognize joint ownership of marital property and income, and, unless a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is followed, most marital households in the US operate as a joint financial team and file taxes jointly.
The method, necessity, and extent of educating housewives has been debated since at least the 20th century.    
In China Edit
In imperial China (excluding periods of the Tang dynasty), women were bound to homemaking by the doctrines of Confucianism and cultural norms. Generally, girls did not attend school and, therefore, spent the day doing household chores with their mothers and female relatives (for example, cooking and cleaning). In most cases, the husband was alive and able to work, so the wife was almost always forbidden to take a job and mainly spent her days at home or doing other domestic tasks. As Confucianism spread across East Asia, this social norm was also observed in Korea, Japan and Vietnam. As foot binding became common after the Song Dynasty, many women lost the ability to work outside.
After the founding of the Republic of China in 1911, these norms were gradually loosened and many women were able to enter the workforce. Shortly thereafter, a growing number of females began to be permitted to attend schools. Starting with the rule of the People's Republic of China in 1949, all women were freed from compulsory family roles. During the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, some women even worked in fields that were traditionally reserved for males.
In modern China, housewives are no longer as common, especially in the largest cities and other urban areas. Many modern women work simply because one person's income is insufficient to support the family, a decision made easier by the fact that it is common for Chinese grandparents to watch after their grandchildren until they are old enough to go to school. Nonetheless, the number of Chinese housewives has been steadily rising in recent years as China's economy expands. [ dubious – discuss ]
In India Edit
In a traditional Hindu family, the head of the family is the Griha Swami (Lord of the House) and his wife is the Griha Swamini (Lady of the House). The Sanskrit words Grihast and Grihasta perhaps come closest to describing the entire gamut of activities and roles undertaken by the homemaker. Grih is the Sanskrit root for house or home Grihasta and Grihast are derivatives of this root, as is Grihastya. The couple lives in the state called Grihastashram or family system and together they nurture the family and help its members (both young and old) through the travails of life. The woman who increments the family tree (bears children) and protects those children is described as the Grihalakshmi (the wealth of the house) and Grihashoba (the glory of the house). The elders of the family are known as Grihshreshta. The husband or wife may engage in countless other activities which may be social, religious, political or economic in nature for the ultimate welfare of the family and society. However, their unified status as joint householders is the nucleus from within which they operate in society. The traditional status of a woman as a homemaker anchors them in society and provides meaning to their activities within the social, religious, political and economic framework of their world. However, as India undergoes modernisation, many women are in employment, particularly in the larger cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, where most women will work. The role of the male homemaker is not traditional in India, but it is socially accepted in urban areas. According to one sociologist's study in 2006, twelve percent of unmarried Indian men would consider being a homemaker according to a survey conducted by Business Today.  One sociologist, Sushma Tulzhapurkar, called this a shift in Indian society, saying that a decade ago, "it was an unheard concept and not to mention socially unacceptable for men to give up their jobs and remain at home."  However, only 22.7 percent of Indian women are part of the labor force, compared to 51.6 percent of men thus, women are more likely to be caregivers because most do not work outside the home. 
In North Korea Edit
Until around 1990, the North Korean government required every able-bodied male to be employed by some state enterprise. However, some 30% of married women of working age were allowed to stay at home as full-time housewives (less than in some countries in the same region like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan more than in the former Soviet Union, Mainland China and Nordic countries like Sweden, and about the same as in the United States  ). In the early 1990s, after an estimated 900,000-3,500,000 people perished in the North Korean famine, the old system began to fall apart. In some cases women began by selling homemade food or household items they could do without. Today at least three-quarters of North Korean market vendors are women. A joke making the rounds in Pyongyang goes: 'What do a husband and a pet dog have in common?' Answer: 'Neither works nor earns money, but both are cute, stay at home and can scare away burglars.' 
In the United Kingdom Edit
13th-15th centuries Edit
In Great Britain, the lives of housewives of the 17th century consisted of separate, distinct roles for males and females within the home. Typically, men's work consisted of one specific task, such as ploughing. While men had a sole duty, women were responsible for various, timely tasks, such as milking cows, clothing production, cooking, baking, housekeeping, childcare, and so on. Women faced the responsibility not only of domestic duties and childcare, but agricultural production. Due to their long list of responsibilities, females faced long work days with little to no sleep at busy times of year. Their work is described as, "the housewife's tasks 'have never an end', combining a daily cycle with seasonal work" . 
19th-20th centuries Edit
In 1911, 90% of wives were not employed in the work force. Ann Oakley, author of Woman's Work: The Housewife, Past, and Present, describes the role of a 19th-century housewife as "a demeaning one, consisting of monotonous, fragmented work which brought no financial remuneration, let alone any recognition."  As a middle class housewife, typical duties consisted of organizing and maintaining a home that emphasized the male breadwinner's financial success. Throughout this time period, the role of the housewife was not only accepted in society, but a sought-after desire.  Eventually, women, due to the difficulty and consuming nature of these tasks, began to focus solely on one profession. By focusing on a particular niche, women spent more time outside of the home, where they could flourish independently.
As a housewife in the United Kingdom, females were encouraged to be precise and systematic when following duties. In 1869, R. K. Phillip published a household manual, titled, The Reason Why: The Domestic Science. The manual taught women how to perform certain duties, as well as the necessity behind their household chores.  Cookbooks and manuals provided exact measurements and instructions for baking and cooking, written in an eloquent manner. Complicated recipes required a knowledge of math – arithmetic, fractions, and ratios. Cookbooks and household manuals were written for women, therefore, eliminating the idea of men participating in domestic duties. 
In most cases, women choose to work in the home. Work outside of the home was deemed unattractive, difficult, and daunting. Since the female is heavily involved with her children and domestic duties, certain risks were associated with a woman's absence. For example, a life in the labor force doubled a women's average workload. Not only was she expected to financially provide, but she was fully responsible for caring and raising her children. If the mother chose to work, child care costs began to add up, therefore, decreasing the incentives for the woman to hold a demanding job. If a working mother could not afford to pay for child care, this often resulted in her appointing her older children to act as the younger children's caretakers. While this was financially efficient, it was looked down upon by society and other housewives. In this time period, many believed that younger children were at risk for injuries or other physical harm if cared for by older siblings. 
Within this time period, women became involved with consumer politics, through organizations such as the Co-operative Union. Organizations allowed women to get involved, as well as develop an understanding of feminism. In 1833, the Women's Co-operative Union was established. Margaret Llewelyn Davies, one of the organization's key female leaders, spoke out on topics regarding divorce, maternity benefits, and birth control. Similarly, Clementina Black helped establish a consumer's league, which attempted to boycott organizations that did not pay women fair wages.  Compared to earlier centuries, women found a voice in politics and began understanding the concept of feminism. Instead of focusing purely on household and childcare duties, women slowly merged into the public sector of society.
In recent years, accompanied by the respect of housewives, the UK is paying more attention to the value created by housewife. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), childcare accounts for 61.5% of unpaid work's value at home, the rest includes 16.1% in transport, 9,7% in providing and maintaining a home, others in giving care to adults, the preparation of meals as well as clothing and laundry. The total unpaid work at home was valued at £38,162 per UK household in 2014, according to ONS. 
Two British magazines for housewives have been published: The Housewife (London: Offices of "The Million", 1886) and Housewife (London: Hultons, 1939–68).  "On a Tired Housewife" is an anonymous poem about the housewife's lot:
Here lies a poor woman who was always tired,
She lived in a house where help wasn't hired:
Her last words on earth were: "Dear friends, I am going
To where there's no cooking, or washing, or sewing,
For everything there is exact to my wishes,
For where they don't eat there's no washing of dishes.
I'll be where loud anthems will always be ringing,
But having no voice I'll be quit of the singing.
Don't mourn for me now, don't mourn for me never,
I am going to do nothing for ever and ever." 
Do Eskimo men lend their wives to strangers?
Dear Straight Dope:
I want to clear up a question about a certain Eskimo social custom. The question is whether Eskimos loan their wives to strangers. I have heard this claim in various social gatherings as an example of how we might resolve jealousy issues, but I am skeptical and wonder whether this is an urban legend or has specific contextual constraints.
I guess I wasn’t the only kid who ever dreamed of running away to join the Eskimos. I notice you use the present tense "loan." Did you have travel plans in case I gave the right answer? Sorry to disappoint, but the Eskimos have gone and let Christianity ruin a beautiful thing. Since the coming of the missionaries, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen any more. Besides which, it never really worked quite the way a certain sixteen-year-old used to imagine.
It’s true Eskimo men sometimes let other men sleep with their wives. But did they offer that privilege to any horny schmuck who showed up on the front stoop? Generally not. The lending of wives to perfect strangers happened occasionally in some places, but it was never the widespread custom it has been made out to be.
There were several contexts in which a husband would let another man sleep with his wife. The most widespread was ritual spouse exchange, practiced in one form or another in every region where Eskimos lived, from eastern Greenland to the Bering Sea. This sort of spouse exchange was always associated with a religious purpose, and was always done at the instigation of an angekok (shaman). Often the point was to effect some desired outcome, such as better weather or hunting conditions.
The best known example of ritual spouse exchange was the "putting-out-of-the-lamps game" played in Greenland. This was a sort of combination of seven minutes in heaven, Roman orgy, and prayer meeting. The prayer-meeting aspect failed to overcome the objections of the early Christian missionaries, one of whom called it the "whore game." Those guys really know how to ruin a party. To play at home: gather together a number of married couples (according to some sources, singles could play too) wait for the angekok to contact the spirits turn out the lights screw a random member of the opposite sex turn on the lights. The idea seemed to be that the spirits would be more willing to cooperate if you did it that way. Who are we to disappoint the spirits? This game was played only in Greenland, but other spouse-exchange rituals were practiced elsewhere. One example from Alaska was called the "bladder feast," which sounds a bit less appetizing. (Despite the name, the bladders weren’t eaten, and sex was only a minor part of the festivities).
Another type of wife-sharing had nothing to to do with religion, but it wasn’t just about sex either. This was reciprocal spouse exchange, sometimes described as co-marriage. It was found in all or almost all areas inhabited by the Eskimos, although it was rare in some regions. Even in areas where it was common, many couples did not participate. Co-marriage was not entered into lightly since it usually resulted in lifelong bonds amongst all members of both families. Besides the obvious motive of sex with a new partner, the purpose was to strengthen economic and friendship bonds between the two families, who could depend on each other in times of need.
Generally each married couple maintained its own household. Every so often, each man would move into the household of the other couple (often in another village), taking over the other man’s responsibilities, rights, and privileges. The practice is often called "wife exchange," but more logically it should be "husband exchange" since it was almost always the husbands who changed places. The exchange might last any length of time, with a week or so being typical. The husbands would then move back to their own houses until the exchange was repeated, which might be in a few months, or maybe never. The family-type bonds remained in force even in cases where the actual exchange was made only once. Participating couples might have such arrangements with one other couple or with several.
Now we come to the meat of the question: wife-lending, in which the husband let another man sleep with his wife without getting access to the other man’s wife in return. The popular conception is that it was a matter of common hospitality to offer this service to any man traveling without his own wife. This is certainly not an accurate interpretation. As far as I can tell, no Eskimo male was ever expected to offer his wife to a visitor, and nowhere did it happen as a matter of course. Most Eskimo men traveled with their wives so it wouldn’t come up very often anyway. Husbands did occasionally volunteer to lend their wives to visitors, but there seems to have been a general aversion to doing so. If, on the other hand, a guest brashly asked to borrow the wife, the rules of hospitality might make it hard to refuse. It would usually be considered rude to make the request, however. If the host had more than one wife (roughly one in ten did), he might be more willing to offer one of them to a guest, but that was still not the universal custom. If a traveler was offered his host’s wife it was usually implicit that the host would have access to the guest’s wife at some time in the future.
Sometimes an unmarried woman, usually a widow, would be offered (or would offer herself) to the traveler. Unmarried people of both sexes had considerable sexual freedom, and nobody thought less of them for exercising that freedom. But a traveler hoping to find an unmarried woman to exercise with might have been disappointed since there weren’t very many of them. Girls tended to marry as soon as they reached sexual maturity, and widows and divorced women usually remarried quickly.
The common Western misconception of widespread wife-lending to unfamiliar travelers may have several roots. The practice was apparently more common among the Aleuts than Eskimos, and these two groups have often been lumped together. Aleuts are not really Eskimos, but they are related and sometimes described as "Eskimoid" (which just sounds silly to me). Another factor we can never overlook is Western misinterpretation. If an early missionary saw a strange (to him) Eskimo offered someone else’s wife, he might assume he was a stranger to the host’s family as well. But this could easily have been a case of co-marriage with a distant family. Finally, it may be that Eskimo men were more inclined to offer their wives to unfamiliar white men than to unfamiliar Eskimos. There are frequent reports (by whites) that Eskimo men wanted their wives to sleep with white men in order to make fine sons. I can’t help suspecting that was an ego-boosting self-delusion on the part of the whites, but such reports are common enough that they can’t be entirely dismissed.
The idea that all these customs are a cure for sexual jealousy couldn’t be further from the truth. Keep in mind that husbands let their wives sleep only with men of their choosing, not every man who wanted her. When a man traveled away from home, he would take his wife with him if at all possible, partly to keep her from sleeping with random men. If for any reason the wife couldn’t accompany him on a trip, he would usually leave her in the care of a trusted friend (who would normally expect sexual access to her in return) or a relative (who would not). If he left her alone he ran the risk not only that any number of other men might try to sleep with her, but that one of them would marry her. (Bride capture of either single or married women was a common means of obtaining a wife.) Infidelity, defined here as sexual relations outside marriage and without the spouse’s permission, was a serious matter. Murder of one man by another was not uncommon in traditional Eskimo society, and jealousy over women was probably the single leading motive. Divorce was also common, especially among couples who had no children, and infidelity was a common cause.
An obvious question is how the wives felt about being swapped. The evidence is sketchy, because most Western observers apparently didn’t think it was an important question. The little information available indicates that the women were usually willing–if not always enthusiastic–participants. They had, at least in theory, a veto power over all such arrangements, but exercising that power might lead to her husband beating her. As a last resort, women (and men) had an absolute right to divorce, simply by moving out of the house or by kicking the spouse out.
A sixteen-year-old’s fantasy might revolve around a compliant lump of flesh, such as the callow might imagine a traditional Eskimo woman to be. But there are examples of Eskimo women beating their husbands and throwing them out of the house for even suggesting a wife-swapping arrangement. Now that I’m older and wiser, I have to say, "Damn, but that’s my kind of woman!"
Finally, I suppose I have to justify my use of the term "Eskimo" instead of "Inuit" because I know I’ll catch flak from some of our Canadian readers for using the E-word. The two words are not synonymous, "Eskimo" being the broader of the two. "Inuit" refers specifically to speakers of the Inupik language, of which there are about a dozen dialects. Canadian Eskimos are commonly called "Inuit" (singular "Inuk"), and that is perfectly appropriate there, since Canadian Eskimos are Inupik speakers. But "Eskimo" is still generally the preferred term in Alaska, since only some Alaskan Eskimos, those from the northern part of the state, are Inuit. Eskimos from the western and southern part of the state speak one of a related group of about six languages (or dialects) collectively called Yupik. Speakers of these languages are "Yuit" (singular "Yuk"), not Inuit, though the two words share a common origin and both mean "the people." The few thousand Eskimos of extreme eastern Siberia are also Yuit. The Eskimos of Greenland are Inupik speakers and so are correctly called Inuit, but they generally prefer to be called "Kalaallit" after Kalaallit Nunaat, their name for Greenland. The common objection to the use of "Eskimo" is that it comes from an Algonquian word meaning "eaters of raw flesh." That no longer seems so certain, as Cecil alluded to in this column. Some linguists now believe it may come from an Algonquian word meaning "netters of snowshoes." In either case, there is no other word besides "Eskimo" that can refer to all Eskimos.
Eskimo Marriage: An account of traditional Eskimo courtship and marriage by Rolf Kjellström
Send questions to Cecil via [email protected]
STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.
A survivor’s guide to Georgian marriage
Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, wrote Jane Austen in her 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice. Roy and Lesley Adkins share their tips for a successful Georgian marriage – from the veil to the grave
This competition is now closed
Published: January 5, 2021 at 1:04 pm
Marriage in Georgian and Regency England was rarely the stuff of great romances like Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice. It was a male-dominated world, and when they married, women passed from the control of their father to that of their husband.
Remaining single was seen as a misfortune and was not a viable option for women of any class. Long referred to by the disparaging term ‘old maids’, unmarried women could face a life of penury – even those from affluent families. Jane Austen famously never married and after her father’s death suffered from relative poverty and lack of freedom, always dependent on the goodwill of her brothers.
The age of consent was 12 for girls and 14 for boys, but parental consent to marry by licence was needed for minors under the age of 21. Even if they were betrothed at an earlier age, most couples did not marry until their early 20s, when they were more financially secure and apprenticeships had ended. Apprentices tended to be bound for seven years from the age of 14, during which time they were not permitted to “commit Fornication, nor contract Matrimony”.
Marriage was a lifelong commitment, and so choosing a companion required great care, particularly for women. For those contemplating marriage, here are 10 tips worth bearing in mind…
Choose your partner
Superstition, love, finances and convenience all played a part in finding Mr or Miss Right in the Georgian period
Marriage took place for several reasons: perhaps a couple was in love, or it was a marriage of convenience to produce heirs, combine finances and families, or escape from poverty and loneliness.
Various superstitions could help find a partner. On St Agnes’ Eve (21 January), the advice was to “take a row of pins, and pull out every one, one after another, saying a Pater-noster on sticking a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry”. Walking under ladders, it was said, “may prevent your being married that year”.
Sex before marriage was not illegal, but under the Bastardy Act unmarried pregnant women were coerced into naming the father. Such couples could be forced to wed, as happened with Elizabeth Howlett and Robert Astick in January 1787 at Ringland church near Norwich. The ceremony was conducted by the Reverend James Woodforde, who noted that Robert was most reluctant to marry and “at the altar behaved very unbecoming”. To Woodforde, forced marriages were cruel: “It is very disagreeable to me to marry such persons”, he later wrote.
Keep to your class
Flaunting a lower-class mistress was preferable to marrying outside of one’s social sphere
In an age with rigid class prejudice, it was easier to marry someone from a similar background. In any case, if a woman did not have a decent dowry (such as money, property and land), male suitors from good families were likely to be scarce.
Although well-to-do men kept lower-class mistresses without censure, they faced criticism and were even shunned if they married beneath them. In 1810 Nelly Weeton was a governess in the Lake District. Her employer, Mr Pedder, had married his dairymaid after the death of his first wife. This led Nelly to confide in an unmarried friend: “If you knew the sorrow that a person must undergo who marries above herself, you would never be ambitious to marry out of your own rank”.
William Holland, vicar at Over Stowey in Somerset, frowned upon any of the lower classes who did not show due deference towards their betters. In December 1800, when his servant Robert attended his brother’s marriage to a farmer’s daughter, Holland was worried that it “has turned poor Robert’s head and he begins to think that both he and his family in a short time must rank with the principal men in the kingdom”.
Prepare for the big day
Weddings were public affairs from the start, but elopement was always an option for star-crossed lovers
For prosperous couples, the wedding preparations meant amassing everything for the new household – from linen to carriages. A marriage settlement might also be drawn up to give the wife some financial independence, such as the interest from her dowry.
Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753 stipulated that notice of a marriage (the banns) should be read out on three successive Sundays in the parish church. This announced the event to the congregation and invited parental and other objections, particularly for minors. When his embarrassed servant Dyer left the church before his banns were read out, Holland commented: “This is a piece of modesty [that] might suit the female very well, but I cannot see why it should affect him… He was much more conspicuous in marching out of church.”
Where a couple was desperate to marry against the wishes of parents, elopement was the solution – over the border into Scotland, where the law on marriage was less restrictive.
Enjoy the occasion
Low-key and local formed the basis of Georgian nuptials, where wedding dresses, and even clothes, were optional
There were good and bad times in the year for marrying, and Sundays and holy days were to be avoided. Most weddings took place in church, during the morning, although Jews and Quakers could perform their own ceremonies.
It was rare for guests to travel any distance and nearly all weddings were low-key affairs. It was fashionable for brides, and sometimes bridesmaids, to wear white, but most brides simply wore their Sunday best.
‘Smock weddings’ (often involving widows) were more modest, because the bride wore no clothes, only a shift, in the erroneous belief that her new husband would not be liable for her deceased husband’s debts.
When marrying bricklayer Richard Elcock at Bishop’s Waltham in September 1775, it was observed that widow Judith Redding “went into one of the pews in the church, stript herself of all her cloaths except her shift, in which only she went to the altar, and was married, much to the astonishment of the parson, clerk, &c.”
Observe local customs
Honeymooning in foreign climes was out of the question for most newly-weds
For those who could afford to pay the bellringers, the church bells rang out. In addition, the bride might be saluted, something that clergyman John Brand witnessed: “It is still customary among persons of middling rank as well as the vulgar, in most parts of England, for the young men at the marriage ceremony to salute the Bride, one by one, the moment it is concluded.” It was also considered a good omen “if the sun shines on a couple coming out of the church after having been married”.
A wedding breakfast, or a dinner and supper later in the day, might be laid on, together with dancing and sports. Various ancient rituals were performed to induce good luck and many such customs involved the wedding cake. Honeymoons were rare – most newly-weds returned to work the next day.
Plan for a large family
The pitter-patter of tiny feet, although welcome, was not an event that could easily be controlled
The main point of marriage was children. Upper-class men needed male heirs to continue the family name and fortune, while working-class couples wanted children to contribute towards the family income and for support later in life, as there were no old-age pensions. For a man seeking a wife, it made sense to marry a young widow with children since she was obviously fertile.
Too many children could be a burden, but it was difficult to restrict the number of pregnancies because reliable contraceptives were unknown. Condoms were used mainly with prostitutes, in an attempt to avoid disease.
Large families were generally thought a blessing, though, not least because of the greater chance of some children being spared during epidemics. In just two weeks, William Holland lost four of his five children to scarlet fever in 1795, although another son was later born.
Death during childbirth was a common occurrence and not a tragedy limited to the lower classes
One of the biggest threats to a long marriage was a wife dying in childbed. Many women had a succession of pregnancies and were in this state for much of their married lives.
For upper-class women this was merely an inconvenience, but poor women were forced to work right up until the birth of their baby, even when employed down coal mines. Most women gave birth at home, and although the dangers of childbirth affected all classes, the poor tended to have “very ignorant midwives, some of them much worse than none at all”, according to Charles White, a Manchester man-midwife. Some poor women were admitted to lying-in hospitals, which put them at greater risk of infections.
At birth, a cake or a ‘groaning cheese’ was presented to the mother for luck. A few weeks later she was ‘churched’, a ritual purification and thanksgiving undertaken by the local clergyman for a fee.
Take care of your children
The modern concept of a carefree childhood was virtually unknown
It was still fairly commonplace to employ wet-nurses and even to send babies away from home until they were weaned. Upper classes would hire nursemaids and governesses working families did whatever they could until children were old enough to be employed.
Boys and girls as young as five were put to work, not always earning money but apprenticed away from home to relieve the family of their keep.
Nine-year-old Mary Puddicombe’s childhood ended when she was apprenticed to a farmer at Bridford in Devon. Her arduous work included “driving bullocks to field, and fetching them in again cleaning out their houses, and bedding them up washing potatoes and boiling them for pigs milking… digging and pulling turnips”.
Except in wealthy families, the modern concept of childhood was unknown and the idea of teenagers was completely non-existent.
Prepare for death or desertion
The loss of a partner could drive families into the workhouse
It could be devastating for men or women to be widowed and to be left with numerous children the most practical step was to find another partner as quickly as possible. There was no stigma to remarrying soon after the death of a spouse, although a formal period of mourning was starting to become fashionable.
Apart from death, women especially could suffer from the loss of a husband if he deserted her or was imprisoned or transported for some criminal offence. During this era of prolonged warfare, many married men were also lured into the army or forced into the navy by the press-gang. These abandoned wives were not only prevented from remarrying or having more legitimate children, but they could become destitute and driven into the workhouse.
If all else fails…
Marriage was a lifelong commitment, unless you could sell your wife
The options for those trapped in an unhappy marriage were limited – especially for women, who risked losing their wealth and children (since they belonged to the husband).
A private act of parliament was needed for any divorce, something beyond the reach of most people. Warring couples might choose to separate and drew up legal documents acknowledging this, but they could not remarry.
Lower classes could resort to the ritual sale of wives in the marketplace, which they treated as an acceptable form of divorce the woman was invariably led to market with a halter tied round her neck.
In March 1815 “a most disgraceful scene was presented at the Cross, York, in Thursday Market… by a man of the name of Tate, exposing his wife for sale, amidst a great concourse of people, when 25s. was offered and accepted for her, and she consequently delivered in a halter”.
For most unhappy marriages, though, the only escape was if the husband or wife died.
Roy and Lesley Adkins have written a number of books on Georgian England, including Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago (Little, Brown, 2013).
7 Things Your Husband Won't Tell You About His Affair
After confronting him about his infidelity, you may wonder what he is feeling. Because he has betrayed your love and trust in such a painful way, you may find it hard to believe anything he is saying.
As someone who specializes in extramarital affair recovery, I want to tell you what I have heard many men say. Since I have heard it repeated so often, I have come to believe these truly represent what most men are feeling.
1. He hoped you would never find out.
This may not be as hard to believe as the others, though some men have not even covered up their tracks very well. Yet at least as men enter these relationships, they tend to assume that they can keep it undercover and not hurt you.
2. He wants you to believe he didn't intended for things to get out of hand.
Many times affairs evolve from casual work interactions together to a playful friendship over lunch to a much deeper kind of sharing. At the beginning, a romantic/sexual relationship truly may not have been part of his plan.
In the beginning, many men do not perceive their behavior as an affair. Only when it becomes sexual do they recognize they have crossed the line.
At the same time, marriage counselors tend to agree that most women are more pained by the intimate sharing than men recognize. For women, the openness (especially if there is talk about how the marriage is not working), represents a deep betrayal of what should have been "between us."
3. He can't believe that he's done this.
You may be totally surprised that this person whose values you have trusted could have such a breach of character. For many men as well, they wake up out of the trance state of the thrilling "in love" aspect of the affair relationship only to be genuinely stunned that they have gone against their own values in this way. Not only are his friends surprised, but your man is, too.
4. He is blown away by how much pain he has caused you.
You are experiencing more pain than you have at any other time in your life. The tsunami of feelings will crush and overwhelm you. Believe me here, men do not easily comprehend how deep the kick to the stomach is that you experience each and every time you think of his betrayal.
Here's where good relationship counseling can help. Someone experienced in this area can help your mate appreciate that your response to the impact of his betrayal is entirely predictable and normal, even though he didn't expect it to be so extreme.
5. He wishes you could move beyond it and stop bringing it up.
Over and over men will say to me that they just want their wives to move on and focus on what could be built between them now. You may need to talk about the affair in the middle of the night. But he may feel a profound sense of, "Do we have to talk about it now? We are both too tired to talk intelligently about anything."
6. He does not know what to say when you want to go over it again.
The problem is that you are feeling like a police officer who wants to go over the story many times to see if you have all of the details and if he changes his story. You naturally have doubts that you have the whole story when he had so much trouble revealing the full picture truthfully in the first place.
Most guys feel like they have tried to dredge up all of the details. They cannot believe that telling you anything more will help you feel grounded. Instead with each new detail, they imagine you will just feel more hurt, anger and rejection.
What they do not realize is that his having the courage to tell the whole story is a step toward helping you trust rather than him seeming to continue protecting the other woman. He can see your pain but he may not know what will lead to you feeling reassured. You have to look for that together.
7. He feels interrogated and wishes he could defend himself (and knows he can't).
On the one hand, he even wants to blame you for some of what has happened. Yet he may recognize that any hint of taking less than full responsibility will look like he's trying to deny what he has done and the pain his actions caused.
In the initial stages, he knows he must constantly take full responsibility for the steps he has taken to reach beyond the betrayal and restore the promise of renewed fidelity.
However, over time, you both need identify the many factors (on both sides) that made your marriage vulnerable to the possibility of cheating in the first place. Otherwise, you remain clinging to a victim role rather than exploring the possibility of positive changes that can happen now in order to rebuild trust.
Recently in How to Do It
My wife of 35 years and I have widely divergent feelings about her premarital sexual history: I’m completely turned on by it and love hearing about her experiences, but she’s fairly tight-lipped about discussing them with me. She’s a lovely, elegant, and intelligent woman with a charmingly offbeat personality who graduated from a very well-regarded college and then from law school, so she dated a lot of men and had sex with maybe five or six of them—a few casual screws as well as a two-year-long engagement that she ultimately broke off. I, on the other hand, had a very limited sex life before I met her. She describes nearly all of her sexual encounters in pejorative terms: “indiscretions” or “slip-ups” or “lack of restraint.” All of her experiences were fully consensual with no hint of coercion. In fact, she seems to have initiated nearly all of them.
Apparently, I’m supposed to be jealous of or disgusted by the fact that she’s screwed/sucked off some guys before she married me. I never got that memo. I think (duh) she was free to do anything she wanted to do, so long as she had a willing partner. Here’s the heart of the matter: I love to hear down-and-dirty details about the sex she had with the other guys. Who had the biggest dick? Who went down on you? Where was the most exciting place you ever had sex? Did you swallow? Did you come? She usually deflects my questions or feigns lack of memory. But on the few occasions when she does tell me specifics, I get crazy hard and horny—like I’m 16 again, instead of almost 60. I’ve struggled with ED for several years and have overcome it with daily Viagra. But the erections I get when she “talks dirty to me” are grade-A hardwood. And I am ultra-appreciative toward her afterward.
I’m saddened that she feels too embarrassed about her prior antics to open up about them. Plainly, she has a fair amount of emotional baggage about her past sexual behavior—but that was 35 years ago! And ideas about how to put her at ease with herself?
Dear All Ears,
I think you might be using the language and concepts of social justice, specifically pro-sex feminism, to justify your desire to get your rocks off imagining your wife with other men. Plenty of people like hearing details from their partner’s sexual past—or present, for that matter. Consent still applies, and active consent is still the goal. If your wife doesn’t want to talk about it, you’re wrong to beg, demand, or otherwise coerce her into changing her mind.
People get to regret sexual interactions they’ve had, even when those interactions were consensual and pleasant. Even if they’re sex-positive. People should get to have privacy around any subject they don’t want to talk about. Even with their spouse. Even if it makes their spouse’s dick hard. And really, it’s simply unreasonable to expect your wife to recall details of sexual experiences from more than three decades ago. Would you ask her to recall the specifics of a lunch she had in 1984? Is my false equivalency any less reasonable than your request that she rank dicks she encountered individually over a span of some years?
If you can’t let this desire go, consider a cam girl who can recount sexual adventures, or read real-life erotic stories—whatever’s within the bounds of your marriage. Leave your wife out of it.
Dear How to Do It,
I am a mid-20s gay man in a serious relationship with an older man, which started as just the usual casual sex buddies. Working in porn, he occasionally reluctantly bottoms for a shoot, but he’s said many times that bottoming for him is deeply intimate and enjoyable only when he’s head-over-heels in love. Around six months ago, not long after we both realized our romantic interest, he was given a double helping of sexual trauma when he was drugged and violently raped by what was supposed to be a hookup, which triggered deeply buried memories of child sexual abuse. I expressed my willingness to pump the brakes or even swear off sex while he mentally recovers, but our sex life never faltered (following his lead) and still continues to be great (which may be because he exclusively tops me and never vice versa).
Nearly half a year later, he’s been talking much more about me topping him, and I’m more than interested in diving in, but every time we try he clenches up, no matter how slowly, gently, and free from pressure I try to be (and I’m talking about 10 minutes of deep, romantic kisses and ass-eating and other such foreplay). It’s difficult because he usually tells me to keep going, even though he clearly struggles with it. I shift into aftercare mode and always eventually call off him bottoming for the night and substitute with lots of cuddling, kisses, and massages. I have no idea how to approach this. I’m more than happy with anything we do in the sack (whether that’s penetrative or not), but he’s been pretty clear in that he wants me to top him till we both come. It’s a bit difficult staying hard when I’m worried I’m hurting him, and I don’t want to accidentally push him too far by unintentionally pressuring him, and stopping every minute to make sure he can relax and reassure him that I love him even if we stop isn’t exactly sexy. How do I simultaneously balance keeping the mood right, taking care of his limits, and fulfilling his sexual desires?
Dear Tense Top,
I think you and your partner ought to have a purposefully not-sexy conversation about pain and his emotional state. No kissing beforehand, overhead lights on, sober, and clothed. Ask your partner how connected he currently is to his body. Ask him what his ass feels like when it clenches up. Find out whether it feels more like good pain or bad pain. Discuss a safe word, and how to address discomfort or a need to slow down but not stop. Talk about why he’s pushing himself like this. Share your own comfort zone and qualms—you get to have your own boundaries and limits, too. If you aren’t comfortable because you’re worried, that is completely valid and needs to be addressed. You don’t mention therapy in your letter, but also make sure he is getting the help he needs to process his trauma outside of his romantic life with you.
On the physical side, I want to confirm a few things about this “other such” foreplay. Ass-eating is great and all, but you need to warm up the sphincters, and not many people can reach the inner sphincter with their tongue. Are you easing your fingers in slowly and leaving time without friction for your partner’s involuntary muscles to adjust to what’s happening? If you are and it still isn’t working, you might need to leave more time or invest in an anal training kit. Even the smallest phallic dildo—smaller than a finger—can be useful because finger bones can feel harder and more uncomfortable than the softer material of a purpose-designed sex toy. Penises can be too large at first.
You might find you need to walk it back even further. Have your partner explore his ass with plugs of various sizes. He’ll be better able to make small adjustments and feel out what the edges of his physical comfort zone are if he’s leading the expedition. Topping can have a couple of different meanings. If there’s any power dynamic to your interactions, you might incorporate it into these prep sessions by taking a role of authority and telling him what to do through the process. You can also use that power to insist on longer warmup times in a way that incorporates them into your play. As in, “I’m not going to give you my dick until that ass is wide open.” He can also be the active partner while you penetrate him, if it’s easier.
Communication will be essential here. Some parts of sex aren’t very sexy, but we do them anyway because they’re necessary. Discussing condom materials and latex sensitivities isn’t usually a boner-springer. Reciting test dates and results doesn’t tend to rev people’s engines. We still talk about these things, though, because they’re a part of safer sex. So even if you can’t find a way to make these necessary parts inherently erotic, I hope you’re still prioritizing them. Safer sex in my definition encompasses STI prevention, sure, but also prevention of mechanical injury and emotional damage. He’s only got one asshole, and you’ve only got one heart.
Dear How to Do It,
I recently ended my relationship with my girlfriend of five years. We live together—we bought an apartment, and we were planning to have kids in the following years. During the last two years of the relationship, sex was scarce, and she told me she was not very interested in it anymore. At the beginning, I tried to motivate her, we tried several games and toys, and in the end, I just gave up. I thought we were happy nonetheless.
About a year ago, after noticing the books she was reading and the Recently Watched on Netflix, I asked her if she was interested in an open relationship. She told me she was, but that she didn’t dare ask because I didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would be interested in that. The thing is, I was. I told her I would be open to anything as long as there was communication.
Well, a month ago she decided to break up with me. Turns out she’s been going out with different people during the last year. She never told me, she lied about who she was with and where, and the worst of all: She does enjoy sex, just not with me. We have been living together for a month since our separation because neither of us have anywhere else to go. I have to see her leave every morning wearing my favorite dresses and perfume and come back the next day wearing the same clothes. I find her boxes of condoms laying around the house, and my favorite underwear with our dirty clothes.
I know it is not my fault, but it is so hard to know I was the only one making efforts for so long to feel so rejected and betrayed. I’m a good person, a good professional with a good job, and I think I was a good, loving partner. But now I feel worthless. I find it really hard to leave bed in the mornings, and I lost all motivation and plans I had. I don’t know how to deal with this anymore.
Dear House Arrest,
Get out of that apartment as soon as possible. Save up and move to a small studio. Crash on a friend’s couch. Can your family take you in? Just get yourself to a place where you can really rest and start recovering so you can think rationally about the process of separating when real estate is involved. In the meantime, separate your laundry and stop looking in what will be her hamper. Do whatever you can to ignore her on her way in or out of the apartment.
The next step is to start seeing a therapist. You’re defending your goodness and describing feelings of worthlessness. I’m concerned that you might have tied your worth to your partner. It’s particularly concerning that you might have tied your worth to a partner who went behind your back after you’d given permission as long as there was communication. That’s a real, painful betrayal. Talk it out with a professional. In the meantime, lean on your friends.
Table sex for a while. Get yourself back to a place where you feel ready to connect and be fully present, if only for a brief encounter. Do it sober when you’re ready to put yourself out there again.
Dear How to Do It,
I’m a woman in my early 30s. I’ve always been terrified of online dating because I’m heavy and have self-confidence issues, but my problem is that I find a lot of sex boring I like it rough with an element of domination (by him). I’ve never had a full-on domination relationship, so I don’t know if that’s what I want, but I do know that I find gentle sex—and even a guy going down on me—unappealing most of the time. I like being left with visible bruises and bite marks (I bruise easily).
I currently live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and options are fairly limited, but I’ll be moving back to a big city in not too long. My question is: How do I find men who are interested in what I’m interested in? I’m not necessarily looking for a boyfriend. I’m fine with sex-only relationships, but I want them to work for me. If I do get myself to a place where I can go online, how do I communicate what I want so I don’t waste both of our time without letting too many people know? I’m looking for advice both here and for when I move back.
Dear Dom Spot,
OkCupid has plenty of profiles with blurred, cropped, or otherwise obscured faces. People also have kink-specific profiles on that site. You might also want to check out FetLife, which is kink-specific. You might be able to find people who live one or two towns over, and who are likely to be as motivated as you are to maintain discretion. People tend to mention at least a sketch of what they’re into (top/dom, bottom/sub, pain, power exchange, leather, latex, feet) in their profile, and you can let them know your interests upfront or at whatever point in the conversation you feel comfortable doing so.
When you move back to a more urban environment, you can attend munches, sex-focused workshops, lectures, and parties to meet people in a more organic environment than apps can provide.
For both small town and big city, it’ll be helpful to articulate your desires and boundaries to yourself in a word document. Think about what you know you do and don’t like. Consider what directions your fantasies take and what of that you think you’d like to explore further. Feel free to read erotic novels and watch BDSM-themed porn for ideas and to imagine yourself in the shoes of the subjects. Then edit it all down into succinct statements. Get ready to communicate with as much and as little detail as you want in various contexts. If you’re shy, you might practice saying things out loud, first to an empty room and then to a mirror.
I live with my partner of 10 years in a happy, committed relationship. My partner is a fantastic person and very considerate and giving in bed. So what’s the problem? I desperately want to have sex with other people. Every time we have sex or I masturbate, I think only of other people.
Everywhere I go I get crushes: subway passengers, my bank teller, co-workers, the gamut. I can’t imagine a better partner in life for myself and I really don’t want to break up over this, but I also know that suggesting we open up the relationship would be devastating. I should have known this was going to be a problem before, because even in the beginning it wasn’t his physical appearance that attracted me to him, but we fell in love anyway and have now built a life together. How do I manage this? It’s not going away, and it feels like I’m cheating.
Why so many married couples are sleeping in separate beds
Do these things to keep your relationship healthy.
Another sleepless night. (Photo: paolo81, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
This story was published in 2017
After waking up from her husband’s snoring too many times to count Lilly Grossman decided it was time to sleep in separate bedrooms.
Ten years later, Grossman and her husband sleep in separate bedrooms not only at home, but on vacations, and she believes they may have gotten a divorce if she continued to lay awake in the same room with him. Now instead of waking up irritable and struggling to stay awake throughout the day, Grossman said she feels closer to her husband than ever before.
“We both wake up energized through the day, and we enjoy each other’s company when we are awake and when it matters,” Grossman said.
And despite a decision that she says shocked a few friends, Grossman is far from alone. A survey from the National Sleep Foundation found that almost one in four married couples sleep in separate beds, while the National Association of Homebuilders predicted years ago that dual master bedrooms could become the new norm in custom-built homes.
Whether it’s because of different sleep schedules, snoring, or restless leg syndrome, couples make the decision to sleep separately for a slew of reasons.
“If you think about it, sleep is eroding for a lot of us, so we are declining in our hours of sleep, and it affects the relationship if people aren’t getting sleep,” according to Jane Brewster, a psychotherapist based in Alexandria, Va.
But despite the need for rest, sleeping separately is still something that many may not feel comfortable talking about, Brewster said.
"It's tough because there is that worry and shame about sleeping separately being some kind of indicator, but it's also more acceptable because people are sleeping separately more and more," she said.
From Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip to reports that President Trump and Melania Trump sleep separately, the decision to part at bedtime doesn't mean couples are in trouble, especially if they implement strategies to keep the relationship strong.
She notes that roommates sleep separately and usually aren't lovers, so it's important to use care and attention to reinforce that your partner isn't just a roommate, but also your significant other.
Couples who decide to sleep separately, but worry about closeness, should decide what is important to them. Whether it's deciding on a TV show to watch each night, eating dinner together, or cuddling and sex before bed, it's important to implement strategies to ensure that a partner's needs for intimacy are met.
"People have to define what intimacy looks like for them," Andres said. "People have different ways of expressing love, and one is physical displays of affection, one is gift giving, one is compliments, one is quality time."
Grossman said she and her husband share the master bedroom, but at night he goes to a separate room.
"We find time to spend time together and there's never an issue intimacy wise, it was just ok we've got to go to bed and get up early, so we have to sleep," she said.
And despite what opinions others have about a couple's decision to sleep separately, at the end of the day those getting a full-night's rest may be getting the last laugh.
"Whether people share the same bed or not, sleeping together overnight doesn’t create the intimacy that is meaningful intimacy," Brewster said, adding she sees couples who sleep together at night, but can barely be in the same room during the day.
It's about what you do while you're awake, too, she said.
Follow @MaryBowerman on Twitter: @MaryBowerman
Parents say good sex makes a happy family, but struggle to find time to get it on
The Legal Status of Women, 1776–1830
State law rather than federal law governed women’s rights in the early republic. The authority of state law meant that much depended upon where a woman lived and the particular social circumstances in her region of the country. The disparity in standards can perhaps be seen most dramatically in the experiences of African American women. In the North, where states abolished slavery after the Revolution, black women gained rights to marry, to have custody of their children, and to own property. On paper at least, their rights were identical to those of white women. In the slaveholding South, lawmakers continued to deny enslaved workers these basic human rights. But even in the South, a rising number of freed black women theoretically enjoyed the same privileges under the law as white women. However, racial prejudice against both black and Native American women made it difficult to ensure these rights in practice.
In every state, the legal status of free women depended upon marital status. Unmarried women, including widows, were called “femes soles,” or “women alone.” They had the legal right to live where they pleased and to support themselves in any occupation that did not require a license or a college degree restricted to males. Single women could enter into contracts, buy and sell real estate, or accumulate personal property, which was called personalty. It consisted of everything that could be moved—cash, stocks and bonds, livestock, and, in the South, slaves. So long as they remained unmarried, women could sue and be sued, write wills, serve as guardians, and act as executors of estates. These rights were a continuation of the colonial legal tradition. But the revolutionary emphasis on equality brought some important changes in women’s inheritance rights. State lawmakers everywhere abolished primogeniture and the tradition of double shares of a parent’s estate, inheritance customs that favored the eldest son. Instead, equal inheritance for all children became the rule—a big gain for daughters.
Marriage changed women’s legal status dramatically. When women married, as the vast majority did, they still had legal rights but no longer had autonomy. Instead, they found themselves in positions of almost total dependency on their husbands which the law called coverture. As the English jurist William Blackstone famously put it in his Commentaries on English Law (1765–1769):
By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing.
Coverture was based on the assumption that a family functioned best if the male head of a household controlled all of its assets. As a result, a married woman could not own property independently of her husband unless they had signed a special contract called a marriage settlement. Such contracts were rare and even illegal in some parts of the country. In the absence of a separate estate, all personalty a woman brought to her marriage or earned during marriage, including wages, became her husband’s. He could manage it or give it away, as he chose, without consulting her.
This sounds bad, and it was. But one rule worked to mitigate some of the worst effects of coverture. A married woman had the right to be maintained in a manner commensurate with her husband’s social status. If he refused to provide for her appropriately, she could sue and win support from the courts. While waiting for the court’s judgment, she was permitted to run up charges at local stores and taverns—and her husband had to pay for them. Judges consistently applied this rule, called the doctrine of necessities, in order to prevent men from neglecting their wives. But the courts could not stop husbands from gambling or making bad investments. Women had no protection when their husbands proved irresponsible. If creditors pursued a husband for debts, his wife was entitled to keep only the bare necessities of life. This was usually defined as two dresses (so she would have one to wear while the other was being washed), cooking utensils, and a bed.
Women’s rights to real property—the lands and buildings that constituted most wealth in the early national period—were more extensive than their rights to personalty. A husband could not sell or mortgage the realty his wife brought to their marriage without her consent. He could use it, but he could not convey it because a woman’s real estate, generally inherited from her father, was meant to stay in the family and descend through her to her children. A wife also had important rights to the real property that her husband brought to the marriage or purchased afterwards. He could not sell or mortgage it unless she signed a statement signifying her free consent, which was recorded with the deed. Few mortgagors or buyers would enter into an agreement without the wife’s consent. They knew that she retained her right to be maintained by the property in the event of her husband’s death, even if he died insolvent. Courts were careful to ensure that a wife signed a conveyance of her own free will and not because of pressure from her husband. A court officer questioned her apart from him to confirm that she actually agreed to the sale or mortgage.
One of the most important rights of a married woman was dower, which was designed to provide her with support during widowhood. It consisted of a life estate in one-third of the husband’s real property if there were children and one half if there were not. A “life estate” did not mean actual ownership of the property. It was meant only to provide for the wife as her husband would have done had he lived, under a legal system that recognized her position of dependency within the family. When a widow died, her dower lands descended automatically to her husband’s heirs or to his creditors. A solvent husband could leave his widow more than dower if he chose to. He could even leave her his entire estate in fee simple (absolute ownership). But he could not leave her less. Most couples relied on dower as their standard for how much to leave.
Dower was a legal tradition carried over from colonial days. This and other rules about married women’s property rights were meant to support the family as a unit. They worked reasonably well in an economic system based on landed wealth, under which families typically stayed in one place and rarely sold or mortgaged their farms. They did not work as well, however, in a society like the rapidly expanding and industrializing nineteenth-century United States, where lands changed hands frequently and where there was growth in personal property as well as land.
Under these new circumstances, the old system of property law faltered. It failed to give adequate protection to women and, at the same time, denied them the ability to safeguard their own interests. In recognition of this dilemma, states began to pass married women’s property acts in the antebellum decades. These acts gave wives the same legal rights as single women with regard to their estates and wages. It was piecemeal legislation, enacted reluctantly by male lawmakers who would have preferred to keep women dependent within the family. Yet the lawmakers recognized that these reforms were essential in a capitalist economy based on movable wealth.
Political rights were a function of control over property for men in the republic, but gender alone was the basis for women’s exclusion from voting or holding office. Simply put, men with property had the right to vote in the early national period but women, no matter how wealthy, did not, even though women paid the same taxes as men. The reasoning behind this discrimination rested on the assumption that married women were liable to coercion by their husbands if a wife voted, legislators argued, it meant that a man cast two ballots. As one man put it, “How can a fair one refuse her lover?” Yet single women were also denied suffrage, a clear sign that more was at stake than the power of a husband to influence his wife’s choices at the polls.
Blatantly discriminatory attitudes kept lawmakers from giving women the vote. They did not want to share their political power with daughters, mothers, and wives, just as they did not want to share it with freed black men or immigrants. This pattern can be seen clearly in New Jersey, the one state where women with property were allowed to vote after the Revolution. In 1807 legislators took this right away—not only from women but from black men and aliens as well. As it turned out, discrimination against women in the area of the franchise lasted the longest of any disadvantaged group, at least on paper.
American independence brought women greater freedom from husbands who were abusive, neglectful, or adulterous. In colonial society, divorce was virtually impossible under English precedent, but all of the new states recognized the need to end unhappy marriages. The choice of appropriate remedies varied considerably, however. Some states, particularly in the South, only allowed separate residence with alimony (called divorce from bed and board). Other states granted absolute divorce with the right of the innocent party to remarry. In matters of divorce, social and religious values affected the laws in different parts of the country. The conservatism of divorce laws in the southern states, for example, was probably related to slavery: it was difficult for lawmakers to grant women absolute divorces because of their husbands’ adulterous relationships with slaves. Liberal New England laws, in contrast, stemmed from a longstanding Puritan belief that it was better for unhappy couples to separate and remarry than to be joined forever in a state of discord and temptation to sin.
Child-custody rights also changed after the Revolution. The courts were increasingly willing to bypass colonial precedents that favored men in custody disputes. Instead, they placed young children and daughters (although not sons) under the care of mothers. These reforms reflect the rising importance of the gender-based ideology of separate spheres, which gave women moral preeminence in the private sphere of the home and men supremacy in the marketplace and politics. Women would use the concept of moral motherhood to great advantage in their struggle for social justice over the next century.
Marylynn Salmon is the author of Women and the Law of Property in Early America (1989) and The Limits of Independence: American Women, 1760–1800 (1998).
When Does A Work Wife/Work Husband Become An Affair?
Recently, I was chatting with a woman who had contacted me after what she felt was a disastrous marriage counseling session with another practitioner. She described a scenario I've seen play out many times.
It all began as an occasional after-hours and work-related text from one of her husband's female co-workers. Soon, the texts began to come more frequently, often late at night. They would be sitting on the couch watching TV or lying in bed when her husband would drop out of a conversation with her to text his female co-worker back.
When his wife said this bothered her -- did she need to be texting him at 11 o'clock at night? What was so important? -- her husband became defensive. He said they were "just friends" and told his wife to relax.
But it bothered her. She told her husband that this female co-worker didn't seem to respect the boundaries of a married man's life. She texted him at all hours and confided in him about her love life. She cried on his shoulder when a boyfriend mistreated her. She called him to help her move, fix her computer and so on.
They spent every lunch hour together and then talked or texted multiple times during the evening. This wife was particularly worried because her husband would now leave the room to text this co-worker back. He had also started deleting his text messages ever since his wife had found a text from the co-worker that ended in "xoxo."
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Growing evermore defensive of this friendship, the husband blamed his wife for his secrecy. He said he was sick of her suspicions, so that's why he texted in secret and deleted the text history. He accused his wife of being insecure, jealous and even called her "pathetic" during a particularly heated argument. He told her that she needed to "get out more" so she wasn't so obsessed by everything he did.
When she told him that she felt "second place" to this other friend, he said she was "crazy." He then went on to defend his female co-worker, talking about how she "needed him" because she was going through a hard time. He talked about what a good person she was.
His wife took a deep breath. She swallowed the sense of panic, betrayal and hurt rising in her throat, and asked her husband if he would at least stop communicating so much with her after work, and pull back from serving as her personal confidante.
But he said that "wouldn't be fair" to his friend, since she wasn't doing anything wrong. It was his wife who was overreacting. And moreover, he was really starting to resent how controlling she was getting.
So they took the fight to a counselor's office. When they sat down, the wife spilled it all. She cried, talked about how hurt she was, how betrayed she felt, how fearful she was for the future of her marriage and family unit (they had two small children).
This husband continued to prioritize his friendship over his wife until the wife one day gave in to her insecurities and looked at his phone while he was in the shower. There, she found several naked pictures that the female co-worker had sent to him.
Then it was the husband's turn. He said -- loudly, defiantly -- that they were "just friends" and there was no need to end the friendship. It wasn't fair. She was a co-worker and they had to stay friendly.
And so the counselor took the path of least resistance. She said the wife was allowing her insecurities to drive a wedge between her and her husband. The counselor said she needed to "respect" her husband's right to have outside friendships, and even suggested that the wife get to know this female co-worker on a social basis.
At this, the husband spoke up. "No," he said. "I need my own friendships outside of marriage."
"That's also healthy," said the counselor.
You can probably predict the rest of the story. Armed with the back-up of the counselor's advice, this husband continued to prioritize his friendship over his wife until the wife one day gave in to her insecurities and looked at his phone while he was in the shower. There, she found several naked pictures that the female co-worker had sent to him.
She confronted her husband. He said, "I can't help what she sends me."
And that's when she called me. The first question out of her mouth was, "Is it fair of me to ask my husband to totally end this friendship?"
"Let me get this straight," I replied. "Your spouse deletes his texts to and from another woman. She sends him xoxo's and naked pictures and this issue has landed you in counseling. And you're wondering whether it's reasonable to expect him to end this friendship?"
"Well," she said, "when you put it like that. "
Yeah. When you put it like that.
But unfortunately, many people lose their clarity and common sense when it comes to situations like this. We live in a society where any sign of insecurity in a spouse -- even reasonable insecurity -- is seen as pathetic. Any requests made by a spouse -- even reasonable requests -- are seen as controlling.
Now, for the record, this goes both ways. I hear from just as many men who are concerned about a friendship their wife is having with a male co-worker. Wives can behave in the exact same way and husbands can be just as hurt and betrayed by it. When it comes to this issue, it really is 50/50.
While we all have opposite-sex friendships at work (and elsewhere), not all of these friendships are created equal. Not all are entirely platonic. Some are sustained by a certain erotic tension that provides both an ego-boost and a bit of excitement in an otherwise ho-hum workday.
So is it okay to ask your spouse to end a friendship with an opposite-sex co-worker? If you truly feel it's an issue that is undermining your marriage, then yes. But be prepared for resistance. A person who is having an overly intimate opposite-sex friendship - the kind that leads to infidelity -- can display a profound and often belligerent level of denial, defensiveness, deflection and divided loyalties.
If they can, they'll try to spin it so that no matter what they've done, you're the problem. That's precisely why I created my audio course Overcoming Infidelity // For Betrayed Spouses.
Married couples need to know that the vast majority of emotional and sexual affairs I see in my practice begin as opposite-sex friendships. And a majority of those involved co-workers. After all, many affairs are fueled and facilitated by sheer opportunity. It's a common, predictable path to infidelity and divorce. So if you truly prioritize your marriage and family unit, you'll do what it takes to avoid going down that path. and if you're already on it, you'll change direction.
7 Tips for Women Who Stay With Cheating Husbands
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled "6 Steps to Help Your Wife Recover from Your Affair." One woman who commented on the blog offered up six of her own tips for women who find that their husbands cheat. The sound tips all reinforced her basic premise that, when wives discover infidelity, they should leave the relationship pronto!
However, despite the fact that many advocate leaving the relationship if your husband has cheated, it is not always the case that people do. In fact, at Relationup, an app that provides live relationship advice via chat, our statistics reveal that 65 percent of people who seek help with the topic of infidelity are women struggling with how to recover from their husband's betrayal and stay in the relationship.
So, it seems that some married women are not eager to leave their relationships in the face of infidelity. This is especially true when their husbands are remorseful and appear motivated to not be unfaithful again in the future.
There are many reasons why people stay. Sometimes, wives want to keep the family together for the children. Others stay for financial reasons or due to the fear of being alone. It is not uncommon for wives who have been married for many years to believe it is shortsighted to leave without at least trying to repair things.
So, here are my six pieces of advice for women who find that their husbands cheat and want to investigate if they can heal and remain in the relationship.
Get support, support, and more support! Recovering from infidelity is a difficult thing. You ego has been bruised. You feel inadequate as a wife and as a woman. Your sense of trust has been broken. Your partner feels like a stranger who has lied to you for many, many years. You don't know what to believe about the past and, almost certainly, what to believe about present. Are more lies being told? Will you be able to tell if they are?
As a result of this betrayal , you may also become hypervigilant and suspicious. Things become worrisome that once weren't. You do a lot of snooping. You feel like you can no longer trust your inner voice. It once told you that everything was okay when, in fact, it wasn't. The world no longer feels safe and secure.
Given the description above, it is not hard to imagine why it is necessary to get support for yourself during this process. It is a time of emotional upheaval and the more friends, family, support groups, books, articles, and objective professionals that you have in your life, the better it will be for you.
Set up a time for disclosure with your husband. Arrange for time(s) for you and your husband to sit down so you can ask any questions that you need to have answered about the history and scope of his behavior.
You probably have so many questions. It is important to take time and think them all through. Some questions are about the details of the incident(s). When did this occur? What exactly happened? When and how did you meet? Where did you take the person?
Others are about checking out whether the times when you felt in your gut that something was off were in fact due to infidelity. You may want to know if something was going on when your husband left your family dinner early one night and went downtown to meet a colleague. Was he really on a business trip that weekend when the whole thing seemed strange to you and he denied that there was anything out of the ordinary?
The only way that you can fully recover from this betrayal is for your husband to be committed to stopping this behavior going forward and be willing to come clean and tell you everything you want to know. But it is important that you be in charge of determining what you need to know. For some, a lot of information is helpful. For others, it leads to rumination and intrusive memories. You must decide what is best for you. If you don't know what is right, take it slow. Remember, you can't unring a bell.
Asking about details and history should not be a one-time occasion. Your husband should be willing to answer questions whenever you have them and over and over again.
Following the disclosure, set a rule with your husband that you are entitled to ask about his whereabouts and proof of them at any time. Although it is not healthy for you to make a full-time job of monitoring your husband (and won't do any good as of way of controlling his behavior), there will be times when life presents a circumstance where you will be uncertain of his truthfulness. Maybe it is the tone of his voice or the strangeness of the plan. On the one hand, you can say nothing and just "see what happens." Will your suspicions prove to be true? This strategy of waiting often makes wives feel powerless and results in them being preoccupied with their husbands' behavior. On the other hand, you can approach your husband and share your concerns and express your need for verification. You have probably had the history of pushing away suspicious thoughts and labeling them as ridiculous or of just having no clue that something was going on. Often, to not share your suspicions doesn't feel like you are sticking your head in the sand.
Your husband has to understand that your trust has been shattered and the only way to rebuild it is to have incidents where red flags are raised, even if they're nothing more than false alarms. This goes a long way in recalibrating your nervous system so that you realize you can feel uncomfortable but your husband can still be telling the truth. Trust will strengthen after a long string of these affirming incidents occur.
Require that your husband clean up his mess. Your husband needs to terminate contact with all people, sites, services and apps that are connected to his cheating behavior. Don't hesitate to have him show you that he has completed his tasks or terminations. You can even ask him to end things in front of you.
You and your husband should both get tested for STDs. No matter what he says, your health has been placed at risk. Don't only rely on just him getting tested. Get yourself tested for everything as well. It is often embarrassing to reveal your husband's infidelity to your doctor. But you need to put yourself first and make taking care of yourself a priority.
Return to sexual intimacy slowly and gradually. Some women desire to reconnect with their husband and create security for themselves by being sexually intimate. Others feel so hurt and repulsed by what has gone on that they cannot fathom being sexual and are haunted by intrusive images of their husbands with other women. My best advice is for you to take time to see what is right for you. The most important thing is for you and your husband to rebuild your trust and connection and, sometimes, being physically intimate can interfere with the communication that needs to happen to slowly heal the wounds.
Seek out couples counseling if this feels like too much. You may find that, as a couple, you need help. Infidelity tears the fabric of the relationship and, sometimes, you need a mental health professional to guide you through the healing process. This is especially true when wives have experienced more than once occasion of discovering their husband's infidelity. It is exponentially difficult in these situations for wives to believe that their husbands are remorseful, allow themselves to trust once more, and, later, find they've been duped again.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all that needs to be done to heal from infidelity. It is just a start to get wives on the best track toward healing, should they want to stay in the relationship. That is the key. To stay means to find out if you are able to overcome the betrayal, to rediscover who your husband is and to reassess whether the relationship is right for you.