Wife vs. Girlfriend

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Difference between Wife and Girlfriend

Wives and girlfriends are both women who are involved in a sexual or romantic relationship, with another woman or with a man. The relationship is often, but not always, monogamous. Marriage may involve a wedding ceremony as a public display of commitment. It can also have a religious component and it often has legal implications.


Legal Status

The main difference between a girlfriend and a wife is the legal protection and status that marriage confers on a woman. Marriage is a formally recognized union, while simply being a girlfriend does not offer any legal protection. One way in which a wife's legal status differs from that of a girlfriend is that she will be recognized as the next of kin of her spouse. This means that she can make medical decisions or consult with doctors on his behalf, if he is incapacitated. Another way in which marriage can have important legal implications is that it offers some clear protection in the event that the marriage is dissolved. She may be entitled to financial support from her spouse and there are also laws that govern how the couple's assets should be divided. When an unmarried couple breaks up, there is no such legal protection, even if the relationship has been a long lasting one. Marriage can also have religious implications in a number of different faiths.

Rings and Status Symbols

The status of a woman as a married woman has often been signified by various markers. She may change her name, taking on her spouse's surname or changing her title from Miss to Mrs. or Ms. Married women may also wear a ring or wedding band, usually on the fourth finger of their left hand. Marriage status in women has also been signified in different ways in different times and cultures. Traditionally, a married woman would wear her hair up while a young, unmarried woman would wear her hair loose.

Relationships and Commitment

Marriage is typically associated with commitment and the desire to build a long-term relationship, although marriages do not always last longer or involve more commitment than the relationship between an unmarried couple. Some marriages break up quickly, while some relationships that do not involve marriage can last for a lifetime. However, the decision to get married can mark a couple's choice to assert their commitment to one another in public. A wife is, therefore, a woman to whom a commitment has been acknowledged during a wedding ceremony. This may make her status clearer to other people. A girlfriend may be part of a committed relationship, but her status may be less clear to outsiders and it is also possible that she is in a casual relationship that involves little commitment.

Similarities and Differences

The position of a wife or girlfriend can be different, particularly in the way that her status is viewed by society. In some cultures and religions, marriage is considered an important sign of commitment. Unmarried couples may not be considered equal to married couples.

  • A wife may wear a ring that marks her relationship with her spouse.
  • In many cultures it is only possible to have one wife at a time, but in others polygamy is possible.
  • Marrying someone can have important legal consequences.
  • When a married couple separate or divorce, the wife will have a legal right to fair division of shared assets and may be entitled to financial support in the future.
  • When an unmarried couple breaks up, there may be no legal protection to ensure that assets are divided fairly.
  • Marriage is typically a sign of commitment, although it is not necessary for a committed relationship.
  • A wife will often have been a girlfriend and/or a fiance before becoming a wife, although in some times and cultures couples would not meet before they were betrothed or married.


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