Summary[ edit ] A white gold wedding ring and a single- diamond , gold -banded engagement ring. In many cultures, wives show their marital status through various symbols.
In many cultures, marriage is generally expected that a woman will take her husband's surname , though that is not universal. A married woman may indicate her marital status in a number of ways: A married woman is commonly given the honorific title " Mrs ", but some married women prefer to be referred to as " Ms ", a title which is also used when the marital status of a woman is unknown.
Related terminology[ edit ] A young bride at her Nikah. A woman on her wedding day is usually described as a bride , even after the wedding ceremony, while being described as a wife is also appropriate after the wedding or after the honeymoon. Her partner is known as the bridegroom during the wedding, and within the marriage is called her husband. In the older custom, still followed, e. In some societies, especially historically, a concubine was a woman who was in an ongoing, usually matrimonially oriented relationship with a man who could not be married to her, often because of a difference in social status.
The term wife is most commonly applied to a woman in a union sanctioned by law including religious law , not to a woman in an informal cohabitation relationship, which may be known as a girlfriend, partner, cohabitant, significant other, concubine , mistress etc. However, a woman in a so-called common law marriage may describe herself as a common law wife, de facto wife, or simply a wife. Those seeking to advance gender neutrality may refer to both marriage partners as "spouses", and many countries and societies are rewording their statute law by replacing "wife" and "husband" with "spouse".
A former wife whose spouse is deceased is a widow. Termination of the status of a wife[ edit ] The status of a wife may be terminated by divorce , annulment , or the death of a spouse. In the case of divorce, terminology such as former-wife or ex-wife is often used.
With regard to annulment, such terms are not, strictly speaking, correct, because annulment, unlike divorce, is usually retroactive , meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place.
In the case of the death of the other spouse, the term used is widow. The social status of such women varies by culture, but in some places, they may be subject to potentially harmful practices, such as widow inheritance or levirate marriage ; or divorced women may be socially stigmatized.
Legal rights of the wife[ edit ] Further information: Coverture and Marital power The legal rights of a wife have been since the 19th century, and still are, in many jurisdictions subject to debate. Historically, many societies have given sets of rights and obligations to husbands that have been very different from the sets of rights and obligations given to wives.
In particular, the control of marital property, inheritance rights, and the right to dictate the activities of children of the marriage, have typically been given to male marital partners. However, this practice was curtailed to a great deal in many countries in the twentieth century, and more modern statutes tend to define the rights and duties of a spouse without reference to gender. Among the last European countries to establish full gender equality in marriage were Switzerland,  Greece,  Spain,  and France  in the s.
In various marriage laws around the world, however, the husband continues to have authority; for instance the Civil Code of Iran states at Article Traditionally, and still in some parts of the world, the bride or her family bring her husband a dowry , or the husband or his family pay a bride price to the bride's family, or both are exchanged between the families; or the husband pays the wife a dower.
The purpose of the dowry varies by culture and has varied historically. In some cultures, it was paid not only to support the establishment of a new family, but also served as a condition that if the husband committed grave offenses upon his wife, the dowry had to be returned to the wife or her family; but during the marriage, the dowry was often made inalienable by the husband. Changing of name upon marriage[ edit ] Main article: Maiden and married names In some cultures, particularly in the Anglophone West , wives often change their surnames to that of the husband upon getting married.
For some, this is a controversial practice, due to its tie to the historical doctrine of coverture and to the historically subordinated roles of wives. Others argue that today this is merely a harmless tradition that should be accepted as a free choice. These views have changed in many parts of the world. Children born outside marriage have become more common in many countries. In northern Ghana , for example, the payment of bride price signifies a woman's requirement to bear children, and women using birth control are at risk of threats and coercion.
Antiquity[ edit ] Seuso and his wife Many traditions like a dower, dowry and bride price have long traditions in antiquity. The exchange of any item or value goes back to the oldest sources, and the wedding ring likewise was always used as a symbol for keeping faith to a person. Historical status[ edit ] Christian cultures claim to be guided by the New Testament in regard to their view on the position of a wife in society as well as her marriage.
For example, the New Testament condemns divorce for both men and women 1 Cor 7: In medieval Christianity, this was understood to mean that a wife should not share a husband with other wives.
As a result, divorce was relatively uncommon in the pre-modern West, particularly in the medieval and early modern period , and husbands in the Roman, later medieval and early modern period did not publicly take more than one wife.
In pre-modern times, it was unusual to marry for love alone,  although it became an ideal in literature by the early modern period. In Roman law, first marriages to brides aged 12—25 required the consent of the bride and her father, but by the late antique period Roman law permitted women over 25 to marry without parental consent. In the 12th century, the Catholic Church drastically changed legal standards for marital consent by allowing daughters over 12 and sons over 14 to marry without their parents' approval, even if their marriage was made clandestinely.
Most influential in the pre-modern West was the civil law , except in English-speaking countries where English common law emerged in the High Middle Ages. In addition, local customary law influenced wives' property rights; as a result wives' property rights in the pre-modern West varied widely from region to region. Because wives' property rights and daughters' inheritance rights varied widely from region to region due to differing legal systems, the amount of property a wife might own varied greatly.
Under Roman law, daughters inherited equally from their parents if no will was produced,  under the English common law system, which dates to the later medieval period, daughters and younger sons were usually excluded from landed property if no will was produced. In addition, Roman law recognized wives' property as legally separate from husbands's property,  as did some legal systems in parts of Europe and colonial Latin America. In contrast, English common law moved to a system where a wife with a living husband "feme couvert" could own little property in her own name.
This problem has been dealt with extensively in literature, where the most important reason for women's limited power was the denial of equal education and equal property rights for females. Until late in the 20th century, women could in some regions or times sue a man for wreath money when he took her virginity without taking her as his wife.
The high age at first marriage for Western women has been shown by many parish reconstruction studies to be a traditional Western marriage pattern that dates back at least as early as the midth century.
Until then, partners were a single legal entity, but only a husband was allowed to exercise this right. The second change was the drastic alteration of middle and upper-class family life, when in the s these wives began to work outside their home, and with the social acceptance of divorces the single-parent family, and stepfamily or "blended family" as a more "individualized marriage".
Islam[ edit ] Women in Islam have a range of rights and obligations see main article Rights and obligations of spouses in Islam. Marriage takes place on the basis of a marriage contract. The arranged marriage is relatively common in traditionalist families, whether in Muslim countries or as first or second generation immigrants elsewhere. Women in general are supposed to wear specific clothes, as stated by the hadith , like the hijab , which may take different styles depending on the culture of the country, where traditions may seep in.
She has the ever important role of raising the children and bringing up the next generation of Muslims. In Islam, it is highly recommended that the wife remains at home although they are fully able to own property or work.
The husband is obligated to spend on the wife for all of her needs while she is not obligated to spend even if she is wealthy. Muhammed is said to have commanded all Muslim men to treat their wives well. There is a Hadith, in which Muhammed is said to have to stated "The best of you are those who are best to their wives".
However, women's wedding rings have recently been adopted in the past thirty years from the Western culture. Decisions are ideally made in mutual consent. A wife usually takes care of anything inside her household, including the family's health, the children's education, a parent's needs.
The majority of Hindu marriages in rural and traditional India are arranged marriages. Once they find a suitable family family of same caste, culture and financial status , the boy and the girl see and talk to each other to decide the final outcome. In recent times however the western culture has had significant influence and the new generations are more open to the idea of marrying for love. Indian law has recognized rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband as crimes.
In Hinduism , a wife is known as a Patni or Ardhangini similar to "the better half" meaning a part of the husband or his family. In Hinduism, a woman or man can get married, but only have one husband or wife respectively. Buddhism and Chinese folk religions[ edit ] China 's family laws were changed by the Communist revolution; and in , the People's Republic of China enacted a comprehensive marriage law including provisions giving the spouses equal rights with regard to ownership and management of marital property.
Honor killing , Stoning , and Crime of passion There is a widely held expectation, which has existed for most of recorded history and in most cultures, that a wife is not to have sexual relations with anyone other than her legal husband. A breach of this expectation of fidelity is commonly referred to as adultery or extramarital sex.
Historically, adultery has been considered to be a serious offense , sometimes a crime , and even a sin. Even if that is not so, it may still have legal consequences, particularly as a ground for a divorce. Adultery may be a factor to consider in a property settlement , it may affect the status of children, the custody of children ; moreover, adultery can result in social ostracism in some parts of the world.
In addition, affinity rules of the Christian Church, of Judaism and of Islam prohibit an ex-wife or widow from engaging in sexual relations with and from marrying a number of relatives of the former husband. In parts of the world, adultery may result in violent acts, such as honor killings or stoning. Some jurisdictions, especially those that apply Sharia law , allow for such acts to take place legally.