Okay, sorry to be all harsh reality today, but I found out a dear, dear friend is getting a divorce after close to 20 years together. And although it’s devastating to her and her children, I got to thinking about how vital it must have been for the women–girls, usually–in our period to make the right choice when it came to marriage.

Can you imagine? You are courted by someone who waltzes with you a few times, escorts you to supper, gets you a glass of orgeat, and boom! you’re married. You barely know the guy, and now he has control over you, whatever fortune you might have, and whatever offspring the two of you have together.

Just thinking of it frightens me. It’s a very real aspect of women’s lives at that time that it is hard for a modern woman to comprehend. I know I always wonder why Jane Austen accepted an offer only to change her mind 24 hours later, but if Jane was as remarkable a person and a thinker as we all believe, it’s no wonder she didn’t want to leave her fate in some guy’s hands.

Making the importance of that decision resonate–and not seem like some woman’s unrealistic desire to be madly in love, even though that wasn’t the norm–is crucial to Regency authors, and something I struggle with as a modern woman. We’ve discussed birth control here before, and doubtless have talked about marriage and what it means, but my friend’s situation brought it all home again to me.

So what aspect of your life would you never wish to relinquish control of? Do you or your husband handle finances (in my family, it’s me)? Which of your former boyfriends’ habits were dealbreakers for long-term commitment?