Starter Marriages: A Great Little Fixer-Upper?

Passionate love wanes. Passionate love ultimately fades.

If couples don’t have this realistic expectation going into their marriages—knowing that passionate love will fizzle—it’s a very real possibility that when this romantic love gives way, partners (especially gals) no longer “feel” that they’re in love.

I think this is one of the reasons why we’re seeing an increase in a frightening new trend, that of starter marriages. Starter marriages—a first marriage that lasts five years or less and ends before a couple has children—are on the rise in the US and Europe.

One researcher writes about starter marriages here. The author is spot on when she says that today’s couples get sucked into “matrimania” (the planning of the gazillion dollar wedding. And shut the heck up–Bridalplasty. I mean, seriously? Bridalplasty?), and that they don’t give much thought to the marriage that comes after the wedding.

These marriages are kind of like flipping houses.  You know, the trend where people purchase a little fixer upper, pour love and attention and resources into it, and then get out of it—hoping to make a profit? Hoping to benefit somehow from the experience?

Take this from a TLC junkie: People who try to flip houses almost always discover that it’s much harder to do than they thought. Much. Harder.

Seeing young adults’ marriages trend in this direction worries me quite a bit, because these marriages aren’t benign, innocuous experiences. Make no mistake about it: These types of relationships carry lasting effects, because they etch yet another mark on the love map.

Could this matrimania/starter marriage craze be the result of passionate love? I’m betting yes.

Have you ever heard of starter marriages? What’s your opinion about them?


  1. Blake says:

    Ive definitely seen this first hand! A lot of people look at how the media influences our behavior and were seeing more and more of this trend in it.

  2. garrettb says:

    It sounds ridiculous to use a marriage as a means to get to something better, it's almost like using someone to get to their parent's money. I think it is true that women do tend to not 'feel' it anymore, this has happened to me once before after being together for 18 months, when I really think it was that she didn't know what she wanted, I'm getting off topic but I don't unerstand why people would waste the money, the heartache and the time into something that really isn't going to pay off. Just wait until you know you are ready and that you know they are ready to be married instead of looking at what others are doing and feeling a push to be married.

  3. Dr. Kelly Welch says:

    @Blake–I couldn't agree more about media influences. You know, of course, that I LOVE watching "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Four Weddings."

    Every week I am FLOORED at how many women spend $10,000+ on a wedding gown! And how some couples spend over $70,000 on a WEDDING?

    Just to PRACTICE it?!

  4. Dr. Kelly Welch says:


    I couldn't have said it better. It's VERY common for the initial feelings of love to wear off within about 3 years… does that mean couples should wait past that time to become engaged or to marry?

    I'm with you 100%—I don't understand going into something with an "oh well, if it doesn't work there's always next time…."

    I think it's a very dangerous trend, because EVERY relationship we have influences our marriages some day!

  5. Kate says:

    If a passionate love fizzles, and what is left is intimacy and commitment; how does this differ from just a really great friendship after a few years? How do couples know when to get married if they can’t forsee the changes ahead (losing the passion)? How do they reach Consummate Love.. is there a way to keep the passion?

    • Great question, Kate! YES, passion can be maintained, but it takes work! It requires couples to place THEIR RELATIONSHIP FIRST–not the kids, not the work, not the in-laws, not the chores that need to be done around the house.

      But who does that?

  6. Bethany says:

    How would you answer the question you asked Garret: “so does that mean couples should wait past that time (when passionate love wears off) to become engaged or to marry?” If they can get through the stage of passionate love and make a commitment to start working toward consummate love even before they get married, don’t they have a better chance of making it last? Should we be suggesting this to couples (to wait until after passionate love fizzles out to get married)?

    • This is a great question, Bethany, and I’m not sure how to best answer it. I don’t know if it’s necessary to wait until passionate love fizzles out—but it IS very important for couples to understand that it WILL fade. Maybe educationis the best approach? Education about realistic expectations in relationships? You are right tho–a relationship has a much better chance of making it when decisions are based on consummate, emotionally mature love, rather than when decisions are based on lust passions.

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