Wife refers especially to the institutionalized form in relation to the spouse and offspring, unlike mother, a term that puts a woman into the context of her children. Also compare the similar sounding midwife, a person assisting in childbirth (“Mother midnight” emphasizes to a midwife’s power over life and death).
A wife may, in some cultures and times, share the title of her husband, without having gained that title by her own right.
In the Middle Ages and Early Modern history, it was unusual to marry out of love, though it became an ideal in literature. Women were not expected to have any property: they only were given a dowry by their parents to give her husband and inherited only if there were no male offspring. Unable to procure for herself, a woman had to submit to the husband chosen to avoid problems (prostitution, or a criminal career,), which has been dealt with extensively in literature, where the most important reason for the lack of equal rights was the denial of equal education for women. The situation was assessed by the English conservative moralist Sir William Blackstone: “The husband and wife are one, and the husband is the one.” The situation changed only in the Married Women’s Property Act 1882. Though the wife was generally expected to support the political faction favoured by the husband, satirists like Joseph Addison suggested ironically that the marriage contract might allow the wives to join the political faction independently in order to suit the expectations of their environment, or their peer group. Until late in the 20th century, women could in some cultures or times sue a man for wreath money when he took her virginity without taking her as his wife.
If a woman did not want to marry, another option was entering a convent as a nun to become a “bride to Jesus”, a state in which her chastity would be protected and the woman was economically protected as well. Both a wife and a nun wore veils, which proclaimed their state of protection by the rights of marriage.
Today, a woman may wear a wedding ring in order to show her status as a wife.
In Western countries today, married women may have education, a profession and take time off from their work in a legally procured system of ante-natal care, statutory maternity leave, and they may get maternity pay or a maternity allowance. The status of marriage, as opposed to unmarried pregnant women, allows the spouse to be responsible for the child, and to speak on behalf of his/her wife; a husband is also responsible for the wife’s child in states where he is automatically assumed to be the biological father. Vice versa, a wife has more legal authority in some cases when she speaks on behalf of a spouse than she would have if they were not married, e.g. when her spouse is in a coma after an accident, a wife may have the right of advocacy. If they divorce, she also might receive - or pay - alimony (see Law and divorce around the world).
Women in general are supposed to wear specific clothes, as stated by the hadith, like the hijab, which may take different sizes depending on the Muslim culture, but they are not obliged to do so. The husband must pay a mahr to the bride, which is similar to the dower.
The situation of a wife in Muslim society is controversial: Some groups criticize the condition of wives as being “miserable”, and propose intolerance to the rule that a husband may beat his wife. Based on the fundamentals of Islam, they emphasize that according to the Scripture, “the Prophet(s) said: “Do not beat your wife” and “Do not strike your wife in the face.” Traditionally, the wife has had a high esteem in Islam as a protected, chaste person that manages the household and the family. Progressive Muslims today may also agree on a perfectly equal relationship. The majority, however, is vastly different; not only does sura four, the An-Nisa, allow to beat a wife, but in Germany, a Muslim won a case in Frankfurt when his wife wanted an immediate divorce (additional to the separation already in place, without the one years’ respite) due to domestic violence; her request was rejected, based on the argument that it was “custom” and “based on Islamic law”. Critics commented the verdict legitimized beating one’s wife (see source); in another case, murder of someone for “causing dishonor” ended in sentence of homicide instead, because the person on trial was a Muslim brother killing his sister.
Traditionally, Muslim married women are not distinguished from unmarried women by an outward symbol (such as a wedding ring). However women’s wedding rings have recently been adopted in the past thirty years from the Western culture. Traditionally and most commonly, the only sign of the marriage is the nikah, the written marriage contract.
In Tamil, a wife is known as a “Manaivee”. “Manai” means “house”, and “manaivee” “head of a household”. The majority of Hindu marriages in South India even now are arranged marriages, which means parents that have a son will search for parents with a daughter, through relatives, neighbourhoods, or even brokers. Once they find a suitable family (family of same caste, culture and financial status), they proceed with discussions directly. In the past decades, a marriage out of love has become a rivaling model to the arranged marriage.
Indian law has recognised marital rape, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse of a woman by her husband as crimes. The Britannica mentions that “Until quite recently, the only property of which a Hindu woman was the absolute owner was her strīdhana, consisting mainly of wedding gifts and gifts from relatives.”
Commonly, a wife wears a red dot on her forehead to show her status as a married woman.