Just as marriage customs change through the years, so too do customs of getting rid of an unwanted wife. A La Mesa, California man advertised his ex-wife at a garage sale, though there was no information as to whether the sale was consummated.
Wife-sale dates back to 1073, and in England for nearly a thousand years, a man could slip a halter around his wife’s neck, lead her to the cattle market and sell her to the highest bidder. She was sometimes happy to get out of the marriage, so in that case went willingly. A drunken husband sells his wife in the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Castorbridge”. No doubt that she was glad to get out of that arrangement. Amazingly this informal route to divorce lasted until 1887, according to “The Family Sex and Marriage”, by Lawrence Stone and Samuel Menefee in “Wives For Sale”.
In the Old Testament, the law allowed for divorce because of infertility and other vague reasons, but wives could not divorce a disreputable or impotent husband for any reason. If he finds something obnoxious about her, he simply writes her a note of divorcement, hands it to her and throws her out of his house. He’d better be sure that this is what he wants, because he can’t have her back again.
Henry VIII proved that a wife who failed to provide him with a male heir simply lost her head. With that pronouncement in her future, bedtime became a dodgey occasion.
Interestingly, some Native American wives had similar rights of divorcement. If a wife decided she wanted to be rid of her lazy husband, she simply put his boots outside her door, and he was gone. Often his only other possession was his saddle, which he probably kept to ride away.
The Bible leaving nothing to chance, provides soldiers taking enemy women to wife a lesson on managing them. You don’t just throw her to the ground and have your way with her immediately. No, you bring her into your home and clean her up first. She must trim her hair and nails, and get rid of her captive’s garb. ‘She shall lament her father and mother,’ and I’m sure, clean and cook. After a month, you may possess her and call her your wife.
The lesson includes instruction on how to get rid of her, too. ‘Then, should you no longer want her, you must release her outright. You must not sell her for money; since you had your will of her, you must not enslave her.’
I write all this in warning. This is a real drop in the bucket for what life may have in store for you.