Divorce rates in the United States currently stand at around 40 to 50 percent.
While that’s a decline from recent years, the low rate of marriage success often makes people long for the days when couples would stay together. Historically, though, some practices indicate that even though people weren’t getting divorced, they were still finding ways to move on from their unhappy marriages.
One custom that seems absolutely insane now is the practice of wife selling, where a man would sell his wife at auction to the highest bidder.
In 1800s Europe, women and children were considered property. Men who were unhappy with their wives or fell on hard times could bring their spouses to market and sell them.
Divorce wasn’t an option for most common folk because it required an Act of Parliament and permission from a church. This cost the equivalent of $15,000 in today’s currency.
Women who wanted to leave an unhappy or abusive situation could also ask to be sold, and usually the decision was hers to make. If she disliked a buyer, she could decline.
Wife selling wasn’t exactly legal, but it was common among the poor, and law enforcement didn’t enforce the rule often.
<div class="llcust" data-lltype="media" id="ll_590846ee4b0a1" data-source="
While we might think wife selling is insane today, it shows just how much marriage was an economic agreement instead of an expression of love. Marriages didn’t even require ceremonies before 1753 — they were just agreements.
Unfortunately, this practice sometimes still happens, though now it is often linked to poverty and debt.