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Living In SinCohabiting As Husband and Wife in Nineteenth-century England$
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Ginger S. Frost

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780719077364

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719077364.001.0001

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(p.225) Conclusion
Living In Sin

Ginger S. Frost

Manchester University Press

Cohabitees resembled married couples and emulated aspects of marriage as much as possible. Women tended to see irregular unions as ‘marriages’ whatever their legal status, while some men could see themselves as ‘free’ even in legal marriages. Stable cohabitation and marriage shared many traits and sometimes reinforced class and gender norms. All the same, cohabitees could not emulate all aspects of marriage; even those most firmly emotionally ‘married’ could not change the legal and social circumstances. Men gained freedom from cohabitation, but in doing so they forfeited some of their legal authority. Cohabitation had legal, economic, and emotional consequences. Marriage has survived the onslaughts of mass cohabitation and no-fault divorce. The legal changes of the twentieth century have ended the heavy-handed adjudication of divorce and marriage. The survival of marriage into the twenty-first century shows that the institution has weathered the changes in its definition and roles.

Keywords:   marriage, cohabitation, class, gender, legal authority, divorce

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