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Starter Marriage

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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, generally the marriage lasts less than five years, and the couple in question has no children together. It is also always a first marriage for at least one spouse, and very often both of them.


May be the result of Relationship Writing Fumble, Married Too Young, 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. May or may not result in one or both halves of the ex-couple going on to become a Serial Spouse.

Compare Sex Changes Everything.

Truth in Television, sadly.


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     Film — Live-Action  
  • At the end of Animal House, it is revealed that Boon and Katy got back together, and married in 1964, only to divorce in 1969. Apparently, they later marry again, divorce again, and remarry yet again.
  • In Persepolis, Marjane and her boyfriend Reza feel stifled from having to hide their relationship due to scrutiny from the Iranian police, so decide to marry. They discover however they don't have much in common, and their marriage means she has to stay in Iran and deal with oppression from the fundamentalist government. Their eventual divorce coincides with Marji's decision to finally leave Iran for good. Fortunately, her family was never on board with the marriage in the first place for this exact reason.
    Grandma: The first marriage is practice for the second.

  • Marina Gregg's first husband Arthur Babcock in the Miss Marple novel, The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side. He was a realtor 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 Star Wars Legends. 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.
  • In the Adrian Mole series, Adrian's love interest Pandora deliberately has one of these; it's a marriage of convenience, since her husband is gay, and she believes that first marriages should "be got over with quickly."
    • Adrian's own first marriage counts as this, since it lasts only a few years. He and his wife Jo Jo have too many cultural and social differences to be sustainable; he's working class English, she's a Nigerian aristocrat. Adrian says that when she told him she'd wear "traditional dress" to the wedding, only to show up in traditional Nigerian dress (whereas he'd been expecting a white dress and veil) he knew it wasn't going to last.
  • In the Alice Series, her cousin Carol got rather quickly married to a navy guy. The marriage lasted only a year and, years later, Carol admits that she rushed into the marriage, not realy knew the guy beyond finding him funny. And realizing that he was seeing other women on the side was one more reason for the divorce. Her second marriage, to Larry Swenson, is much longer-lasting and happy.
  • The Overstory: Olivia and Davy, who get married impulsively in college and end up only being married for two years.

     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.
  • Girls: Both Jessa and Marnie have brief, season-long marriages that end in divorce.
  • Gilmore Girls: Dean hastily marries his girlfriend Lindsay when they're eighteen, and the marriage is soon on the rocks because they both tend to act selfish and inconsiderate towards each other, with both of them realizing they simply aren't well suited for each other. This comes to a climax when Dean cheats on his wife with Rory, his ex-girlfriend he has lingering feelings for, and they divorce soon after. Years later in the revival, Dean has moved on from Rory and is now Happily Married and has started a family.
  • 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.
  • In Married... with Children, numerous times Kelly has said a variation of, "I hope my first marriage/husband goes okay."
  • St. Elsewhere: In "In Sickness and in Health", Dr. Ehrlich and Roberta "Bobby" Sloan get married after a very brief courtship. Three episodes later in "After Dark", they separate after only 16 days of marriage after they realise that they are incompatible.

  • From Company: Joanne's first marriage happened when she was just out of college, and apparently lasted only a year, until her husband announced that he wanted to move back to Chicago and she refused. As she tells Bobby:
    Joanne: I was too young, but I was old enough to know where I was living, and I had no intention of leaving New York.


     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, Erin, gets married in season two. By season five (2-3 In-Universe years later), they're getting divorced; apparently Erin only wanted to get married because the guy, Brian, 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 Daria and her family 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.
  • Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey's marriage, documented in Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, became this when they divorced after four years.


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