Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony [NOOK Book]


The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony is a pioneering study of first marriages lasting five years or less and ending without children, and of the changing face of matrimony in America.

According to the brilliant trend analyst and journalist Pamela Paul, ?It?s easy to conclude that the starter marriage trend bodes ill for the state of marriage. After all, we?re getting married, screwing it up, and divorcing?a practice that certainly...
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Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony

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The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony is a pioneering study of first marriages lasting five years or less and ending without children, and of the changing face of matrimony in America.

According to the brilliant trend analyst and journalist Pamela Paul, “It’s easy to conclude that the starter marriage trend bodes ill for the state of marriage. After all, we’re getting married, screwing it up, and divorcing—a practice that certainly isn’t strengthening our sense of trust, family, or commitment. But though starter marriages seem like a grim prospect, there is also an upside. For one thing, if people are going to divorce, better to do so after a brief marriage in which no children suffer the consequences.” But are there other consequences of starter marriages? And what causes these marriages to fail in the first place?

In today’s matrimania culture, weddings, marriage, and family are clearly goals to which most young Americans aspire. Why are today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings—the first children-of-divorce generation—so eager to get married, and so prone to failure? Are Americans today destined to jump in and out of marriage? At a time when marriage at age twenty-five can mean a sixty-year active commitment, could “serial marriages” be the wave of the future?

Drawing on more than sixty interviews with starter marriage veterans and on exhaustive re-search, Pamela Paul explores these questions, putting the issues into social and cultural perspective. She looks at the hopes and motivations of couples marrying today, and examines the conflict between our cultural conception of marriage and the society surrounding it. Most important, this lively and engaging narrative examines what the starter marriage trend means for the future of matrimony in this country—how and why we’ll continue to marry in the twenty-first century.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Gen X journalist Paul found her marriage ending one year after the lavish nuptials, she was depressed and bewildered. Soon, all around her, she was seeing other 20-somethings with failed "starter marriages" (which she defines as lasting five years or less and ending without children). To understand what was happening, Paul interviewed some 60 couples, mostly white, college-educated friends of friends, all between the ages of 24 and 36. While many of her generation had divorced parents, she found, they still hold marriage in high regard; family togetherness and children are what add up to the "good life." But idealizing the institution of marriage and understanding what married life is actually like are distinctly different. There's much clarity about the wedding it's a major social event, costing an average of $75,000 in New York. But the morning after, couples are often clueless. Examining the process of dissolution, divorce and remarriage, Paul draws on social pundits and demographers in addition to the accounts of her interviewees, mostly sidestepping the details of her own sorry experience. Paul's Rx for the future? Not religious or political panaceas like courtship classes, "covenant marriage" or tax preferences. Rather, young people should be taught "what marriage can and cannot offer" and to have "realistic expectations" long before the engagement party. As a society, he says, we could celebrate delayed marriage, rather than encouraging it early, and more people could accept cohabitation as a method of confirming couple compatibility. Assigning this book in every college sociology class would also be a good start. Agent, Andrew Blauner. (On-sale Jan. 8) Forecast: Paul is goodat the "we" voice she's been there, done that. Her book is perfect for a heterosexual college student or a parent of one. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Paul, who has published work in American Demographics, the Economist, Elle, and other magazines, interviewed 60 mostly white, middle-class, college-educated individuals about their "starter marriages," which began and ended while the interviewees were still in their twenties. Here, she highlights common themes and uses excerpts from the interviews to illustrate her points about marriage and divorce among Generation Xers. Paul sees society's emphasis on the individual as making it more difficult for people of this generation to make the sacrifices and compromises necessary to sustain a lasting relationship. Though she recapitulates the views of the "marriage movement," she considers most of its strategies reactionary and antifeminist. She does, however, ultimately call for some sort of moral renewal in which people are less selfish and realize the importance of staying connected to the communities that support marriage. Though Paul provides interesting observations about the little-studied phenomenon of starter marriages, this is not a rigorous study that quantifies the factors leading to short-lived unions. Recommended for public libraries. Debra Moore, Cerritos Coll., Norwalk, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588362285
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/9/2002
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Pamela Paul is currently an editor at American Demographics magazine, where she reports on social, political, and media trends. She is also a frequent New York correspondent for The Economist. In addition, her work has appeared in magazines such as Elle, Redbook, and Time Out New York. Her own starter marriage ended in 1999.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 Getting Started on a Starter Marriage

Isabel always wanted to get married. Atwenty-nine-year-old public relations executive from a New York suburb, she never lacked for male attention, though she says, “I mostly dated the wrong people. I just dated whoever liked me instead of trying to find the best person for who I am.” Despite a steady stream of monogamous relationships, Isabel was afraid of ending up single. “That’s why I married my husband,” she explains with a wry laugh.

At twenty-five, she decided to marry a man she’d been dating for eight months. “My friends were starting to get married, and they had had their boyfriends for years before,” she explains. “I felt like they were moving on with their lives, and I wanted to as well. I was pretty sure this was the right person, and I was tired of getting screwed over by men and at least he wasn’t doing that. We were both sick of the New York dating life, so we were pretty relieved to be getting married.” Marriage was something Isabel felt she was supposed to do. “You’re expected to get married, buy a house, have two kids. I think everybody gets caught up in that, and I definitely did. When you’re twenty-five suddenly you think you’re old and the thought of being twenty-seven or twenty-eight and still being single is such a bad feeling. You think everyone is judging you.”

After she got engaged, Isabel noticed several of her friends doing so quickly thereafter. “It’s like this snowball effect. Once one person gets engaged, everybody has to get engaged. And then you get so wrapped up in whose ring is bigger and who’s getting married where and how much everything costs.”

Isabel expected her marriage to be “a nice life with nice things,” but mostly she devoted her attention to the wedding. Over her year-and-a-half-long engagement, she and her fiancé planned the big day, which she now describes as “a three-hundred-person circus.” During the engagement period, whenever she and her fiancé fought, which was often, Isabel wrote it off as prewedding jitters, assuming that once they were married, things would change. They didn’t.

“Everything was a problem,” she says. “I don’t think we had any respect for each other. I didn’t feel comfortable with him. I knew, pretty much right away, that something was definitely not right.” Screaming matches and power struggles ensued. Isabel lost weight, grew depressed, and “didn’t feel like myself.” After only a year of marriage, they decided to divorce. “It was the one thing I hated to do because he came from a divorced family and I don’t believe in divorce. But after a while you say, ‘I’m too young. This is wrong. This is not what life’s supposed to be like.’ ”

“I rushed to get married,” Isabel explains. “My marriage was an unfortunate mistake, and it wasn’t worth saving because we were not meant to be.”

Isabel describes a typical starter marriage.

Starter marriages, like all marriages, are meant to last forever. But they don’t. Instead, they fizzle out within five years, always ending before children begin.

Starter marriages usually start young. While the age of Americans entering marriage has increased slightly over the past century (the average woman today marries at age twenty-five, the average man twenty-seven), many people still marry in their early and mid-twenties. Starter marriages end young too, with divorce papers often delivered before the thirtieth-birthday candles are blown out.

Divorce has long been common within the first five years of marriage, but today marriages are ending progressively earlier. And the new young divorces are a bit different from their predecessors; rather than becoming single moms and alimony dads, we’re divorcing before having children. Because while we still marry relatively young, we increasingly delay childbirth. The average age of first-time mothers has been steadily rising since 1972, and more couples are delaying children for three, four, five years into their marriage. First marriages aren’t exactly new, but starter marriages are more prevalent.

Pop culture is packed with new starter marriage icons. Drew Barrymore, Uma Thurman, and Angelina Jolie all jumped in and out of marriage and are already onto their seconds. Courtney Thorne-Smith, former Ally McBeal star, divorced her husband after seven short months of marriage—while still posing on the cover of InStyle Weddings magazine. Milla Jovovich was married for two months, alongside such temporarily committed people as Jennifer Lopez and Neve Campbell. Even Hollywood’s reigning bride, Julia Roberts, had a starter marriage. Starter marriages have practically become trendy. Self magazine described the phenomenon with the snappy headline “Just Married, Just Split Up.” And in September 2000 Entertainment Weekly included “divorcing in your 20’s” on its list of “in” things to do. In 2000 more than four million twenty-to-thirty-four-year-olds checked the “divorced” box. Jane magazine heralded the trend in April 2001 with the headline, “Young, Hot, and Divorced.”

But starter marriages are not to be glamorized or trivialized. To those who’ve had one, the very term “starter marriage” can sound dismissive and, frankly, demeaning. Some people still use the expressions “training marriage,” “practice marriage,” or “icebreaker marriage”; others prefer the generic umbrella “first marriage.” This book will use the somewhat uncomfortable and imperfect term “starter marriage” when referring to this brief, twentysomething take on matrimony. Whatever they’re called, these are marriages—in every sense except “till death do us part.” A starter marriage isn’t a whim or a fantasy or a misbegotten affair—it’s a real marriage between a man and a woman, bound together by love, personal belief, state law, and, often, religious oath. A starter marriage doesn’t feel like one when you’re engaged or when you’re inside it. It is charged with all the hope, expectations, and dreams that inspire almost all marriages. All starter marriagees truly believe they are getting married forever.

A starter home is that first house you buy knowing full well that the bedroom is smaller than you’d like, the kitchen has no windows, and the insulation will have to be replaced. You accept these faults and make certain compromises knowing that you’ll only be there temporarily or that you’ll improve it. The difference between a starter marriage and a starter home is that virtually nobody who enters a starter marriage thinks he’s in it for the short term and will eventually upgrade to a better marriage. “I had a firm belief in the fact that you only pick one partner for life,” says James, thirty, a Seattle-based multimedia designer whose marriage dissolved after thirteen months. “I didn’t have a thought in my mind about divorce. I had very strong values.”

Indeed, today’s young marrieds often think they’ll improve on the institution of marriage, even when their relationships are less than ideal. Existing problems and doubts are submerged to the larger desire to marry and the overwhelming giddiness of love. All will be solved, everything will be fine, we will be happy, once we’re married. Everyone who enters into a starter marriage, like most people who wend their way down the aisle, has dreams—and often fantasies—of what married life will bring.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Saying "I Do" Is Easy to Do ix
1. Getting Started on a Starter Marriage 3
2. Generation We: The Me Generation Rebellion 14
3. Matrimania 41
4. The Search for Marriage 73
5. Where Starter Marriages Stumble 98
6. When Starter Marriages Fall Apart 121
7. Why Starter Marriages Fail 137
8. Divorced Under Thirty 163
9. Lessons from a Starter Marriage 188
10. The Politics of Marriage 221
Conclusion: Marriage in the New Millennium 249
Acknowledgments 269
Notes 271
Index 287
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    Be Married For The Right Reasons And Work On It!

    Pamela Paul gives her audience an excellent account of the causes and effects of a far-reaching social phenomenon called the Starter Marriage. Paul makes an emotional plea to her readers, whatever their current or past personal status, for opening their eyes and ears about the challenges and rewards of marriage. Her positive message is especially relevant because many of her readers have been actors or witnesses of starter marriages. Paul's book is an excellent topic of discussion for singles, divorced and married people that could be used to help reduce the high rate of divorces and therefore strengthen the marriage that plays a key role in our society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2002

    Its sad but true

    Me being at the young age of 22 I have yet to meet Mr.Right and already I feel like I am behind because my close friends are in long term relationships or already married. I made the mistake of starting to read this one week before my sisters wedding. While I find it interesting and very sad for the people who went through such hard times, I cant help but let it influence my thoughts on marriage. I am scared of marriage and not just after reading this book. I was a Family Studies major in college and know all the stats and reasons people divorce. It is scary. While I hope I do not have a starter marriage, I am really scared that there is just no one out there....does anyone else feel that way???

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    Key word: Awareness

    Ms. Paul has written a relevant inquiry into a heretofore unexplored phenomenon of 'starter marriages' among contemporary young adults. Not only does she understand her generation's need for security in a rapidly changing society, she draws attention to other factors that lead young people into marriage before they're ready. This is a great book for anyone interested in sociological trends, as well as for young people considering marriage. Better for them to learn from other peoples' mistakes then to have to go through the pain of a divorce on their own. I hope this book will lead to fewer starter marriages, and a more successful approach to lifelong matrimony.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    A Must Read For Anyone Considering Marraige

    This book perfectly outlines the pressure and longing generation exers feel to marry; the pitfalls many of their marriages encounter; and the reason many of their marriages ultimately fail. This book is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of divorce. Instead it thoughtfully and provocatively deals with an important and difficult issue. As a generation exer I can relate to both the author and the numerous people she interviews. I loved this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    Take the time to read it....

    I'm stunned by how many people have comments on this book but haven't actually read it. Not only have I read it cover to cover - I'm in it. Yes, I had a 'starter' marriage. And no, I didn't go into it thinking it was a 'starter.' If anyone had bothered to read Ms. Paul's book they would see that she agrees that the term 'starter' is imperfect - but it's the one we have right now. What these marriages REALLY are is simple - 'failed.' Not because people don't care, not because people are shallow or immoral, but because they are human. The people interviewed in this book all got married believing it would be for life. Then they realized that things can happen that change that - and they were strong enough to get out BEFORE bringing children into an unhappy relationship. It's not ideal - but it's brave, and it's reality. I have recommended this book to many people, some single, some thinking about getting married, some married for over 10 years. I think every single person who's ever had a relationship with another human being will find something in this book that will help them feel less alone - and hopefully give them things to think about before making some of the biggest decisions of their lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2002

    Fascinating insight into the starter marriage phenomenom

    I found Pamela Paul's insight into the starter marriage fascinating. She documents a trend in our society and provides an interesting analysis. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of marriage, particularly as a cultural phenomenom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony

    This is DEFINITELY a problem facing our children's generation that should be studied, and I'm glad there are people like Miss Paul out there diing just that. I regret not being a more positive role model for my child (divorced at 32) and wish I'd shared more of what I thought of marriage in general with her. I mean, who actually stops to think WHY anyone gets married anymore? If it's not the romance then what because romance (sex) is definitely the one thing all the magazines tell us makes the world go around, but let's face it. Even the most successful marriages are not fueled by romantic attachment after the first few years, no matter how long the attraction remains. Those who blame the downfall of society on divorce are naive - it is the lack of discussion of divorce and marriage, what they really are, that leads to societal problems. Let's keep the discussion rolling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony

    I didn't know there was a name for my daughter's marriage and divorce experience until I read this book, and it opened up a lot of doors for her to be able to move on and realize she was not alone. I wish there had been more advice about how to prevent these failed marriages, but then again how can anyone prevent a failed 15 or 30-year one? There are no rules, and I believe that many people still stay in unhappy marriages because being happy wasn't what they were taught to believe in, as the Gen X generation has been.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2002

    Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony

    Ms. Paul does a good job making a social trend readable but well-researched at the same time. I'm not sure I buy the idea that the Starter Marriage is a new trend, but it does seem like a current one. I fear that marriage is not the only institution that will not fare well for the instant gratification generation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2002

    read the book

    I have read this book from cover to cover. It seems to me that many of the so-called reviewers have not shared this experience. Ms. Paul?s insights are not negative nor should they be dismissed as simply ?Gen X?. This is a very real social phenomenon that should be view not with derision and skepticism. If, as the data would suggest, this group of people is divorcing at an alarming rate, the question is why is this happening not, as on reviewer suggests, to simply get over it, buckle down and deal with your consequences. This is both simplistic and bizarre. If we are to get more insight into who we are as a group we must accept what we have become; a group of people that does not see permanence in any real way. Read the book and discuss this important issue. This is a societal observable fact that is worth reading about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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