Starter marriage

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A starter marriage is a first marriage that lasts five years or less and ends without the couple having any children together.[1]

In her 2002 book The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony Pamela Paul analyzed historical trends in American matrimony, pointing out that, as of 2002, Americans were getting married only slightly older than 100 years before, but that they were living decades longer. (In fact, Americans of Generation X are getting married at a rate closer to that of their grandparents than of their Baby Boomer parents.) She also claimed that some young couples get married for reasons not strong enough to support a long relationship, and that an increasing number of them end their marriages quickly. Paul's book caused controversy for suggesting that these divorces are a good thing, if the couple have not had children.[2]

Paul's research consisted mostly of census data analysis and interviews with dozens of young divorced people, most of whom fell into one of several categories: people who got married to complete a "power couple" life, to move out of their parents' houses, out of fascination with weddings, or because they had been dating a long time and marriage was easier than breaking up. Finally, Paul discussed the emotional wreckage left by these divorces and analyzed public policy that can minimize the damage.

The book came out at the same time as some highly public celebrity breakups, including those of Tom Green and Drew Barrymore,[3] Angelina Jolie,[4] Jennifer Lopez,[5] Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley,[6] and socialite Nina Griscom.[7] This helped it garner enormous attention.[8]

Etymology of "starter marriage"[edit]

The term, a play on the expression "starter home", appears as one of the footnotes in Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X. Published usage of the term grew significantly after the publication of Pamela Paul's 2002 book The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.

In 2005, Kate Harrison's The Starter Marriage: A Novel and Gigi Levangie Grazer's The Starter Wife referenced Paul's use of the term. The latter became the basis for a USA Network miniseries of the same name in 2007, and a television series that ran from 2008 to 2009, though it expanded the use of the term since the starter marriage in question had produced a daughter.


  1. ^ The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, Pamela Paul, Villard Books 2002, p.4.
  2. ^ Starter marriage: A new term for early divorce, USA Today, January 29, 2002.
  3. ^ ”The Curse Of the InStyle Wedding”, Alex Kuczynski, The New York Times, June 2, 2002
  4. ^ "Can This Divorce Be Saved? Marital mavens and their irreconcilable differences", Daphne Merkin, The New Yorker, April 22, 2002
  5. ^ "Q: What Do These Women Have in Common? A: They all had starter marriages", Michelle Ingrassia, Daily News (New York), January 24, 2002
  6. ^ "Til divorce do us part", Eleska Aubespin, Florida Today, January 25, 2003
  7. ^ ”Why Few Big Breakups Make the Grade”, Alex Kuczynski and Linda Lee, The New Yorker, August 25, 2002.
  8. ^ In all the articles cited above, Paul or her book was specifically quoted on the subject of divorce.

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