Starter Marriage: If at First You Don't Succeed...

NEW YORK, March 24, 2007 — -- Julia Roberts has done it. So has Jennifer Garner. And first lady wannabe Judy Giuliani has done it too. It's not plastic surgery or a diet fad. It's something that more and more Americans are doing -- starter marriages, which last less than five years and produce no children.

This week, the wife of Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani told reporters his wife has been married three times, not twice as previously reported. Her first marriage was a union that began at a Las Vegas chapel in 1974 and ended five years later, the year she married her second husband. Published reports said the former New York City mayor knew all about it and that there aren't secrets between the two.

So What's a Starter Marriage?

The famous faces aren't the only ones with starter marriages.

According to the 2002 book, "The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony," starter marriages are most common among Generation X. Although they are marrying later than their parents, the divorce rate among them is just as high as the generation before. The difference now, according the book's author, Patricia Paul, is that starter marriages are often seen like starter homes: You know that you'll soon outgrow it and need an upgrade.

As part of her research, Paul interviewed 60 American women. They were mostly white, middle class and college educated, and had been married in their 20s for five years or less. The women seemed to have it all -- great careers, homes and friends, and often felt that marriage was the next thing they need to mark off on their "to do" lists.

"Our biological time line, peer pressure, family pressure, often causes us to solidify a relationship that might not need to be solidified," said Rachel Sussman, a marriage and family therapist.

She added that when young people marry because of this societal pressure, it's often not enough to make a relationship work.

So they divorce.

And they are not alone.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, most first marriages that end in divorce end by the eighth year of the union. That may not be surprising, but what may be is that second marriages often don't last much longer.

So What's the Big Deal?

In a culture that's so accepting of divorce, why do people have a hard time fessing up?

"There's terrible shame when a marriage ends in divorce early on for a young person … especially within in five years," said Sussman. "You feel such a sense of failure."

Sussman believes people should admit to a previous marriage as early as three months into a new relationship.

But other relationship experts are more concerned about other secrets people keep from potential spouses -- like drug abuse, financial problems and health issues.

"Any secret or untruth in a relationship is going to cause problems," said Diane Kaminsky, a therapist in New York City. "Corrosion of trust in a relationship is hard to repair."

Heading down the Aisle … Again

So what if you've told your mate about your past marriage and you want to head down the aisle again? There's good news and bad news.

"Second marriages have the least chance of lasting," said Emma K. Viglucci, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

She said third marriages often last longer because people are determined to get it right -- finally. So maybe starter marriages are a good thing.

Rudy and Judy are both on their third marriages, so maybe the third time is a charm.