About The Starter Marriage

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 research, 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.

Praise for The Starter Marriage

“[Paul’s] observations evoke a winning combination of laugh, wince and nod.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Paul serves up a number of fresh and valuable aperçus not just about the nature of marriage today but about the way young men and women have come to see and understand themselves in our highly competitive, status-drive, ‘post-feminist’ world. She compelling articulates the dreams and visions of a generation….Well-written and intelligent…The real strength of this book lies in its very thoughtful and original analysis of how the social revolutions of the 1960s and early 1970s –and the radical upswing in divorce in particular — played out in the hearts and minds of the children who witnessed them.”
— Judith Warner, The Washington Post. Selected as a “rave review” book of the year

“The starter marriage, which lasts only a short time and ends before children begin, is, Ms. Paul concludes, a new demographic phenomenon… One strength of Ms. Paul’s book is that she does not see the problem as one of over-arching expectations matched by lack of fibre or simple immaturity. Another great virtue is her refusal to be pigeonholed into any simple political agenda. Her book will be a lesson to those contemplating marriage and a comfort to those who falter.”
— The Economist

“Pamela Paul’s smart, sensitive, and informative investigation of drive-through marriages ripples with unsettling insights into contemporary society…An important book for Gen Xers and Boomers alike.”
— Nancy F. Cott, professor of American history, Harvard University, and author of Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation

“Paul knows her territory…The author calls her book turning ‘lemons into lemonade.’… A young reader thinking about marriage would be smart to buy a glass.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer

“There are no easy answers, of course, but Paul’s willingness to pose [provocative questions] makes Starter Marriage a worthy read.”
Austin American-Statesman

“Paul is good at the ‘we’ voice — she’s been there, done that. Her book is perfect for a heterosexual college student or a parent of one.”
— Publishers Weekly

“The child generation that grew up with divorce is becoming an adult generation that is rediscovering commitment, as America transitions from the nineties to the Oh-Ohs. In this useful book, Pamela Paul helps us understand how and why, on the brink of midlife, this previously hard-to-pin-down generation is long last getting pinned down.”
— William Strauss, coauthor of Generations, 13th Gen, The Fourth Turning, and Millennials Rising

“I have a 17-year-old daughter and a 22-year-old son. In intend to have both of them read this book.”
The Providence Journal

“A thorough and insightful look at our ongoing ‘matrimania,’ and the pressures and self-deceits it engenders.”
Seattle Weekly

Featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Politically Incorrect, Talk of the Nation, Morning Edition, The Diane Rehm Show, and Leonard Lopate, and featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post Style section, People, Time, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Harper’s Bazaar.