The Starter Marriage?

September 7, 2009

Is this the new way for marriage relationships?  To start with one that will in all probability fail? Do we have to get one out of our system starter marriagebefore we are ready to have one that lasts?

It blows me away that so many of us in this day and age are on our second marriages. Some third, fourth and beyond.

I never thought I would be at a point where I would ask the question of whether our society and culture have created the environment where we statistically are more likely to have a starter marriage before we get into one that functions more effectively and happily.

Could it be because the barriers to exit a marriage are diminishing and have been over the past 50 years? Where when the going gets tough, many just go?

I never imagined in my wildest dreams the demise of my first marriage.  We had been together since we were teenagers. We had kids together.  People called us the perfect couple. When she packed it in, I took it very hard. Depression, booze and drugs are where I went.

Yet here I am remarried and happier than ever!  It seems so much more real and genuine. More mature. I trust it more than my first marriage. I honestly believe I am a better husband to my wife than I was to my ex.  My wife often states that she got the better deal because my ex got the “Pre-recovery Chaz”, even though I was not active in my alcoholism for much of my first marriage and the drugs had not started until after divorce. 

My wife says gleefully that she gets the “New, improved version”, and humbly, I have to agree.  I look at who I was in my first marriage… moody… anxious… argumentative… arrogant… depressed… fearful.  Not that I am beyond any of these things now, but at the very least, I have an awareness of them.  And I can offer a more aware and recovering person to my wife that my ex never had the pleasure of.

I am almost convinced that it took the pain of divorce and betrayal for me to crash hard enough to wake me up to any meaningful level of self-awareness such that recovery could even be possible.  Prior to being smashed emotionally, relationally, and financially, I always shielded myself in self-reliance…. which was an outworking of fear and selfishness.

So I have not yet come to any conclusions as to “why” all this happened.  I am just glad it did.  Life is so much better today.  So much more real.  So much less anxious.  I have nothing to prove and nothing to hide, but tons to do and I can now finally do it all without a ton of weight on my shoulders.  And best of all, I have an amazing wife to share it with and walk the journey together with.

I regret that I hurt my ex so much that she felt she had to turn to someone else.  I have some responsibility to take in this.  I regret that my kids went through this high-conflict divorce and saw their super-dad become a depressed, raging alcoholic and drug addict.

Yet I find the result to be the most amazing place.  And I don’t know how I could have shaken off the futile thinking patterns and hurtful behaviour patterns without going through a failed first marriage.

I am just so glad and grateful to offer my wife something and someone I could never offer anyone before.  The starter marriage, if we can call it that, served a purpose.  As they have for so many people I know. Is this the direction our marriage culture is going? 





  1. I guess what I am saying is that it is wierd being in a postion of hating divorce yet divorce is what led me to a great second marriage. Better than the first in so many ways. It is a wierd paradox.

  2. I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  3. My daughter knows a couple that recently got married a year out of high school. She didn’t understand my unenthusiastic response. I told her that the happy couple would more than likely second guess their choice in a few short years because who we are in high school isn’t who we’ll become as we grow older.

    I just wish there was a way for at least the Christian community (50% divorce rate) to put a stop to performing ceremonies when they know that there is a high risk of divorce.

  4. Ya…. it ain’t going to slow down any time soon that I can see.

    How about if all young couples were counseled… “no matter how you feel today, you will probably want to pack it in within a few years. Are you prepared for the pain and expense of that”?

    A good friend of mine… minister who is called upon for many a marriage… in fact, he was in both of mine…. I joke with him to let me talk to the couples and try to talk them out of it before it is too late.

    I dont know what it will take to change the tide. Christian or not. Exit is just too easy and we live in a culture where everyone is “entitled to their happiness” and the definitions of “abuse” have widened far beyond actual abuse… which is quite unfair to the genuinely abused.

    We have become a nation of whiney babies and victims.

    Am sure at some point we will reach a critical mass and the tide will turn.

    For me… just for today…. I love my wife and am grateful for her. Tomorrow, I will have to determine to do the same…. but that is tomorrow’s business.



  5. Might be. I think non-monogamy is going to gain more and more support as time goes on too. You can continue to explore sexually and grow with other people within your own marriage without your spouse feeling threatened by it–in fact it can enhance intimacy and your sex life as a couple. There’s all kinds of open arrangements going on out there right now. And they’re working.

    It’s not for everyone, but it’s becoming more accepted, more popular and more people are experimenting with it.

  6. Ya…. can’t say I can see much support for non-monogamy if this means concurrent partners. I honestly do not think we as a species was ever cut out for it. Maybe some engage in it but I would be very surised if it were that widespread.

    I know lots of people who engage in serial monogamy and not one that I can think of has ever engaged happily in mulitiple partner relationships.

    Not say it doesnt happen. I just dont see it in any of my experiences. I still think most people want one-ness and exclusivity.

    Its just that we can suck at it in our current cutlural environments. So much so that the mis-fire marriage seems to be more the norm before having one that functions.

    My experience and observation anyway.

    Thanks for the reply.



  7. what I mean by non-monogamy is a committed relationship where you are committed to a life with your primary partner, let’s say marriage for the example, but you have an open arrangement where each of you is allowed to have sex with other people under whatever rules you’ve set up. (that doesn’t mean everyone in one of these relationships is out having sex with other people every week. For some it’s once a year or less) Polyamory (emotional relationships with more than one partner but a committed relationship with a primary partner) is much more complex and that’s something that more people are experimenting with but I think that would be exhausting 😉 Some people find it very rewarding though.

    “I honestly do not think we as a species was ever cut out for it.”

    I don’t think we’re cut out for lifetime sexual monogamy. I don’t think it’s natural or healthy.

    “I still think most people want one-ness and exclusivity.”

    I agree
    I just don’t like the reasons for it.

  8. Thanks Walk….

    I am just speaking from personal experience and observation. I do not see that we are equipped as a species to have our spouses engage with others in intimacy whether emotional or physical. I do not see or know of where or when this was a successful practice other than in isolated cases.

    We appear to be prone to singleness, uniqueness, envy, and protectiveness at pretty fundamental levels. And this appears to be consistent accross cultures and throughout history.

    I have on the other hand seen lifelong commited couples build strong and supremely satisfying relationships for a lifetime.

    I believe it can happen. We have to design it and work for it.



  9. Thanks for the post. I know I am a little late to the discussion, but someone I work with forwarded me your blog since we were reading Pamela Paul’s “Starter Marriage.”

    As you know and alluded to in your comments, people getting married younger than their twenties have a high risk for divorce. And since this was the case for you and so many others we DO need to do something.

    My fear though is that out of what has happened to so many, advice can be given based on our own experience rather than giving tools. I know you were joking about telling the ministers to let you talk to the young couples so they could “back out before it’s too late…” but I think many people in your shoes ARE doing this to the next generation.

    I believe that has and will have an effect on the next generation. When we hear so many horror stories or warnings we will keep delaying marriage because we are convinced that “we won’t be the same person in a few years” or “marriage is really hard.”

    As a 22 year old, I was way different than what I was at 19. Now as a 28 years old I not who I was at 25…so I can logically conclude I will be different at 31 as well.

    Don’t get me wrong, we need guidance and counsel from those who have gone before, but I fear that (as Christians especially) we need to be careful to give sound advice and tools rather than reactionary advice out of our own experience.

    You seem like a smart and wise man who I am sure is very careful and wise in your counsel to others. I hope you hear my ramblings as more of an inquiry to hear your further thoughts. I would love them!

  10. Hi Joy… glad you found the post and replied.

    Where to start? My post and replies were written with a twist of humour, but from a basis of inquisitiveness, experience and some bewilderment.

    I would indeed far prefer to carry the message to young people that marriage may one day become brutally tough, no matter what they think and feel right now.

    And no, I do not really want to talk people out of it. I honestly hope every one of them make it. And to clarify one point, my ex and I dated since we were teenagers but married in our 20’s. Not unlike many people in our peer group. Many of whom are still hapily married after 20+ years. I believe it can happen.

    Refelcting back on my original post, I think I was trying to say we live in times of the most extreme and unique challenges to marriage. Like no other time in the history of western civilization.

    The influences to not stay married are tremendous and speak to us constantly. TV and “entertainment” probably lead the pack that speak to us about the ease and causalness of divorce. Add to that, the fact that divorce rates seem to have increased for past 50 years, such that everyone has been close to or affected by one, we are simply de-sensitized to divorce.

    Stack on top of that, widespread frequency/use/vailability of drugs, body-image issues, and other addictions like debt and porn, and divorce really does become more likely. Our world is just that complex so it is no surprise to see this complexity express itself in increased broken relationships.

    The message I would carry to young people getting married the first time is that they should both expect to change a lot over their lifetime, so why not set your expectations to grow and change together? And also, one or both of us will likely make a huge painful mistake and devastate the other. Are we prepared for that? People are making mistakes all over our society every day, why would we or our spouse be immune? No, we are not. So brace now, it may happen.

    Marriage is not for the weak or naive. It is for the strong, the growing, the kind, the unselfish, the humble, the forgiving, the enduring, and the wise. I would tell people that unless they are prepared to learn to be all of these, then don’t be surprised if the marriage follows the stats of our culture.

    And I would further encourage anyone considering marriage to not go it alone. By that I mean that with the complexities of today’s culture, it really does take a village to build and sustain a marriage. Each spouse would be wise to have strong, close and wise friends or family speaking into their lives. Continually. People who can be brutally honest with them.

    And ya, perhaps waiting a few years more than many of us did back in the 80’s and 90’s. Certainly can’t hurt.

    I have a number of Christian friends who have been divorced not just once but twice. It is that pevalent. So whatever the church is doing, it isn’t necessarily working. I understand church stats are no different than non-church for divorce.

    So there are a few reflective thoughts. I borrowed the title of my blog from the book. Havent read yet.

    Hopefully something meaningful in this reply for you.



  11. Loved your words. I am newer to the blogging world, but I had already felt the repercussions of people not getting my humor or sarcasm… (I do it a lot!)

    Everything you said, I agree with. I enjoyed and appreciated you taking the time to send your further thoughts.

    What you said about it “taking a village” is the thing I am realizing is so biblical and needed in our autonomous generation. We feel like we are in community, we talk a TON about authentic community, but we don’t want to listen to anyone’s advice that differs from our own. (Thats a generalization, but I hear it a lot.)

    Thanks for writing and for sharing your journey and experiences.


  12. Glad to be of help. Stop by any time.



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