Are Gen Xers Just Trying Marriage on for Size?

ByABC News via logo
January 24, 2002, 3:53 PM

Jan. 25 -- When Vanessa Mobley got married at 22, neither she nor her husband quite knew who they were yet but it didn't take them long to discover that they were two people not meant for each other.

The newlyweds separated after one year, and by the time Mobley was 26, they had divorced. Mobley describes it as sort of a botched experiment with a positive outcome.

"I view the marriage as a rehearsal," Mobley told Good Morning America. "Now I am ready to play the part better because I can expect more of people and they can expect more of me We, as generation Xers, live in a culture of new beginnings where we can fix anything."

A new book says that an increasing number of 20-something couples are getting into so-called "starter marriages," childless unions that end in a sheaf of divorce papers within a few years.

Defining the Starter Marriage

In her book The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony author Pamela Paul defines starter marriages as first-time marriages that last five years or less and do not yield children ( Read an excerpt). Obviously, no one thinks that they are embarking on a brief marriage on the way in, but Paul, an editor at American Demographics magazine, asserts that this type of marriage is a growing trend among Gen Xers.

The government doesn't track "starter marriages," but Paul cites Census Bureau statistics showing that in 1998 there were more than 3 million divorced 18- to 29-year-olds. There were 253,000 divorces among 25- to 29-year-olds in 1962. Meanwhile, the average age of first marriages has risen to 25, compared with 20 in the 1950s.

Paul says that most young couples who divorce early rush into marriage for one of two reasons: either they have finished school and are living with their parents and want someone else to cling to, or they are very successful power couples who feel that they need a great marriage to complement their fabulous careers and looks.

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