Starter marriage

A starter marriage is a first marriage that lasts five years or less and ends before the couple has children. The term, a play on the expression "starter home", appears as one of the footnotes in Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel ''''. However, it did not enter common parlance until the publication of Pamela Paul's 2002 book, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.

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 they happen quickly enough that the couple has not yet had children.

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, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley, and socialite Nina Griscom. This helped it garner enormous attention.

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 U.S. miniseries of the same name in 2007.

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