Starter Marriage

Alice and Bob got together, they got engaged, and they got married. Everyone expects that they'll live Happily Ever After and grow old together. Then the news is broken that Alice and Bob are getting a divorce, even though they haven't even been married 5 years. What happened?

Reasons for the divorce vary: one or both of them lacked maturity to sustain a long-term relationship, Alice and Bob had radically different goals and ideals in life, flaws (big or small) that they overlooked are coming to light, they married for the wrong reasons and/or too early. Whatever the reason(s) given, the marriage lasts less than 5 years, and generally the couple in question has no children together. It is also always a first marriage for at least one half of the couple, and very often both of them.

May be the result of Relationship Writing Fumble, Alice and Bob being Strangled by the Red String, or simply the idea that True Love Is Boring. It may be used to prevent Shipping Bed Death.

Compare Sex Changes Everything.

Truth in Television, sadly.



  • Marina Gregg's first husband Arthur Babcock in the Miss Marple novel, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. He was an insurance salesman who just wasn't prepared to keep up with the lifestyle of a Hollywood star.
  • They don't get married, but the romance between Wedge Antilles and Qwi Xux ends like this in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Qwi comments that almost everyone ends up in such a relationship at some point, but usually as teenagers; because of her recent forced memory loss and his teenage enlistment in the Rebel Alliance they never really had the opportunity.

Live Action TV
  • Babylon5: The relationship between Captain Sheridan and Captain Lochley. As she puts it, "We met, fell crazy in love, got married, realized it was a huge mistake, fell crazy out of love, and divorced." It's implied the entire process took no more than a couple of months.
  • Friends: This is a Running Gag for Ross. The show starts with Ross confirming he and his wife Carol are now divorced after she came out of the closet. They were married for four years. He then marries Emily in a Fourth Date Marriage, and she divorces him for accidentally saying Rachel's name at the altar. Eventually, Ross and Rachel marry - because they were very drunk, in Vegas, and thought it would be funny. Once sober, they then divorce. At this point, the gang agree that Ross's "thing" is to be "the guy that gets divorced".
  • In Smallville, Jimmy and Chloe. They were very sweet together at first but gets increasingly rocky due to the involvement of first Clark, then Davis. Ends with a huge Tear Jerker when Jimmy shouts at Chloe and declares marrying her is the biggest mistake of his life.
  • The Starter Wife centers around a woman whose husband leaves her once he starts to make it big in the film industry. Leaving a wife once you make it big so you can find a proper trophy wife is apparently a big thing in these circles. She's devastated to find out that this is what she's become.
  • In an episode of Castle, this is the case for one of the suspects and his ex-wife, which he doesn't remember because he gained amnesia at the time of the murder. At the end of the story, they've decided to give it a second chance.


Western Animation
  • Lampshaded on an episode of The Simpsons, which shows Bart (now a teenager) in a relationship with a high school girlfriend, who mentions that they're supposed to vow to be together forever and get divorced within five years.
  • On Daria the title character's cousin gets married in season two. By season five they're getting divorced; apparently the cousin only wanted to get married because her then-boyfriend gave her herpes and she didn't think anyone else would want her. Subverted, however, when they reconcile. (Except for the wedding, all of this happens off-screen, though it affects the Morgendorffers indirectly.)

Real Life
  • Neopagan handfastings have the option of being for life or "a year and a day." After that period, the couple have the option to go their separate ways with no hard feelings, or renew their vows again.