Just before he became Pope Innocent III in 1198, Lothar of Segni wrote De miseria humanae conditionis (On the Misery of the Human Condition). Despite being a somewhat glum view of the world, his work became very popular in the Middle Ages, It included a chapter ‘On the Misery of the Continent and the Married’, where the future Pontiff offers various reasons why a man should not take a wife!
1. A wife competes to have the most expensive dresses and accoutrements, so that the upkeep of the wife always exceeds her husband’s fortune.
2. In general, she sighs and cries, day and night, and gossips and grumbles.
3. She’ll say, “She is better dressed and can go out in public, and is honoured there by everyone; while I am the most miserable, the only one to be looked down upon in the gathering of women, and am disparaged by all.”
4. Only she wishes to be loved, only she to be praised; praise of another is treated suspiciously as a disgrace to herself.
5. Everything she loves is to be loved, everything she rejects is to be hated.
6. She wishes to win, but her victory is worthless.
7. She cannot bear to serve, but strives to dominate.
8. She wants to be allowed to do anything and not be prohibited from anything.
9. If she is beautiful, it is easy to fall in love with her, and if she is ugly she will willingly do her best; but it is difficult to keep hold of what is loved by many, and troublesome to possess what not wishes to have.
10. You can try it out before you buy a horse, an ass, an ox or a dog, clothes or a bed, even a cup or a jug; but a wife is only glimpsed with difficulty, so that she might displease before she is taken; whatever might come about in the end, she must be kept by necessity, even if she is fat, stinky, ill, idiotic, or even proud or irascible, or if she has any corrupted blemish.
You can read more from this chapter of Innocent III’s work in Medieval Writings on Secular Women, translated by Patricia Skinner and Elizabeth Van Houts. You can also read On the misery of the human condition. De miseria humane conditionis, edited and translated by Margaret Mary Dietz in 1969.