It was during a conversation with classmates while attending the second level of my collaborative family law training when I heard the term “the starter marriage” for the first time. Based on my recollection, my classmates and I were discussing the increasing number of twenty and thirtysomething year olds who were retaining us to commence divorce applications after being married for only a few years. Fellow Toronto based family law lawyer Alessandra Goulet described these marriages as “starter marriages”.
Intrigued, I decided to Google the term “starter marriage”. It turns out the term warrants its own Wikipedia page, that Pamela Paul, an American Journalist and Editor at American Demographics who got married at 27 years old and then divorced a year later in 1999, wrote a frequently cited book about starter marriages in the United States back in 2002 called The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.
Eager to read what Paul had to say about starter marriages, I purchased The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony from Amazon, along with How to get Divorced by 30, by Sascha Rothchild, which I will discuss in future blogs.
I intend to blog about Paul’s book as I plow through it. So far, I have read the Introduction and Chapter 1.
Paul’s own experience compelled her to explore and understand the significance of starter marriages within a broader social and cultural context and to write a book about them.
In writing her book, Paul interviewed nearly sixty men and women from across the United States who had starter marriages. Those interviewed were between 24 and 36 years of age.
Paul honed in on what starter marriages have in common, and what distinguishes those who entered into and exited their marriages so quickly. Paul discloses those interviewed shared several general commonalities, including:
- The majority married for the first time between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-seven
- Most were college-educated and some had graduate or professional degrees
- They were predominately white, mostly-middle to upper class
Paul’s research led her to define a “starter marriage” as a marriage that fizzles “out within five years, always ending before children begin” (p. 4). She explains starter marriages usually start young and that the spouses are typically divorced by their 30th birthday.
According to Paul: “Divorce has long been common within the first five years of marriage, but today’s marriages are ending progressively earlier”.
I have personally never been married, so I cannot commensurate with the experiences of Paul or the 60 ex-spouses she interviewed. None of my close friends or family members got married and separated by the time they were 30. But I certainly have had a number of clients who fall under Paul’s definition of “starter marriage”. The shortest so far being approximately 9 months in length.