A spouse is a partner in a marriage, civil union, domestic partnership or common-law marriage. The term is gender neutral, whereas a male spouse is a husband and a female spouse is a wife. Therefore the term may be used in both polygamous and monogamous opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships. Although a spouse is a form of significant other, the latter term also includes non-marital partners who play a social role similar to that of a spouse, but do not have rights and duties deserved by law to a spouse.
The legal status of a spouse, and the specific rights and obligations associated with that status, varies by region and culture. Historically, many societies have given sets of rights and obligations to male marital partners that have been very different from the sets of rights and obligations given to female marital partners. In particular, the control of marital property, inheritance rights, and the right to dictate the activities of children of the marriage, have typically been given to the male partner. However, this practice was curtailed to a great deal in many countries in the twentieth century, and more modern statutes tend to define the rights and duties of a spouse without reference to gender.
- Spousal privilege
- Work spouses, a pair of co-workers sharing emotional bonds similar to those in a marriage
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