We didn’t invent this problem in the 21st century.
Not by any means. We may have coined the phrase “serial cheater” but that’s about all.
In fact, there were many in the 19th century who believed that marriage was more about the practical side of life than the romantic, and that cheating (which was a word they did not use by the way) was not something that could be prevented – or taken seriously.
A man’s world.
Yes, it was that. And in many ways it still is and probably always will be.
So far, medical science has not found a way to impregnant a healthy male, and even if that happened one day, a man’s body chemistry is so different and his approach to life is so different than that of a female that the sexes would still be lightyears apart when it came to emotions.
Men had very definite beliefs about women in the 19th century. Read on and see how many you feel are still true today.
- First, they should marry one as young as possible; often a girl who had just turned what was the youngest acceptable age of marrying – sixteen.
- Second, they should look at the prospective bride in very practical ways, such as how much of a dowry she had, what kind of business and political connections her family had, and if she also stood to inherit the family fortune. Usually that meant that the girl was an only child, or at least the eldest of more than one daughter, so being either one gave a young woman a decided edge when it came to attracting a husband.
- Third, they needed to find a bride who would make a good appearance in his life. If she was pretty that was a bonus, however, her manners and social standing were more important than mere looks.
- Fourth, and last on my list, the man looked at the girl’s mother, and how much power that lady had within the family. A girl who came from a very strong-willed mother was not as desirable as one who came from a meeker and less demanding woman. However, money trumped all in the mid 19th century, and so this particular consideration could easily be crossed off the list if the girl had enough wealth behind her.
How this lead to serial cheating, as we now call it.
The vast majority of men did not enter into the marriage state with any intention of having sex with only one woman for the rest of his life. As sweet and totally romantic a concept as that may be, the 19th century man usually did not think it necessary or even appropriate.
And so the man, once married to a suitable woman, went on to father as many children as he could (considering that at least a couple of the children would not live to see adulthood) with his wife, and more than likely also went on to father quite a few other children illegitimately. People may know about the children he had outside his marriage, it was not really a disgrace, and it was also not out of the norm for the man to bring the babies home to his wife to raise.
As life went on, the man knew that his wife would either die in childbirth, become too physically fragile to have sex, and/or reach a point in the relationship that he was no longer interested in her as a lover. Thus more reasons for men to engage in sexual partnerships with a number of women.
Romance novels and monogamy.
Lots of authors play with this idea and the classic romantic leading man is something of a skirt-chaser in his youth but changes his wicked ways when the right woman walks into his life. History tells that this rarely ever happened, and that it was much more likely that the lady would eventually fall into one of he three categories I just mentioned in the paragraph above.
My CounterClockwise series is more realistic about this particular issue, and yet that doesn’t stop the heroines from blowing their cool when they come face to face with their man’s philandering. It keeps the story interesting, and allows the women who read my books to see the heroines stand up for themselves and not lay there like a door mat.
Keeping it accurate.
That is something I like to do, and somehow weave in the fictional drama to tell an interesting story. Not all of my heroes will succumb to the charms of other women once they are wed, but, be prepared for the ones who are never truly “married” and continue to lead the life of a man about town.