The Starter Husband
Andi was my introduction to the concept of an icebreaker marriage, but
certainly not my last. Burning through a starter husband is almost becoming a
rite of passage: While newly marrieds everywhere fear the
one-in-two-marriages-fail statistic, the more relevant stat is that while the
median age at which a woman first marries is 25, the median age at which she
first divorces is 29. In fact, 20 percent of marriages fail within five years,
and of those, one in four end within two years. So much for until death do us
I don't have to look far in my own life to find human faces that bear out
the numbers: One of my best friends from college barely scratched out a
two-year union following her six-figure Hawaiian wedding; my brother managed to
eke out almost 29 months before he and his betrothed packed it up for
Splitsville. Their divorces were good things, believe me. Still, I was miffed
that they got married in the first place. These relationships were never the
stuff of happily ever after.
Of course, our generation can afford to chuck the Cinderella story when the
glass slipper doesn't fit. While our grandmothers were forced to remain
shackled to unhappy unions for monetary reasons, most women today have the
financial wherewithal to cry uncle and bolt whenever we get uncomfortable.
For some, a starter husband is like a starter home — a semicommitment where
you're willing to do some of the surface work, like painting the walls, but not
the heavy lifting, like gutting the whole foundation; he's just not a long-term
investment. Others compare a starter husband to a first job, where you learn
some skills and polish your résumé before going after the position you really
In our everyday life — one where we're encouraged to pursue the bigger,
better anything (witness the average college grad who now burns through seven
jobs before turning 30 — how can you commit to something, or someone, forever?
"That's a huge promise. We live in an incredibly fast-paced consumerist
culture," says Pamela Paul, author of the book The Starter Marriage,
who herself was divorced less than a year after taking her vows at age 27.
"Ours is an H&M culture, where you go out and buy 10 cheap items for
the season, then toss them, rather than investing in one beautiful coat you'll
wear for another 10 seasons. More and more women have that throwaway mentality
with their first marriage — the 'I want it now' attitude." Until, of
course, you don't.
And that's just our prerogative, says Generation Me, fingers poised above
the do-over button. We can pick and choose among limitless possibilities
seemingly unattached to consequence because today's 20-somethings are living
out an extended adolescence in a manner unlike any generation before them.
We're still knocking around and figuring it out, often on our parents'