• Cover: November 19, 2014
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The Non-Starter Marriage

A look at the growing trend of unions that dissolve in less than a year, sometimes before the thank-you notes can even be sent out.

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  • It's not like Steven proposed on a drunken night in Vegas. Actually, his marriage didn't fit any of the standard iffy stereotypes (his fiancé wasn't pregnant, no one needed a green card, he wasn't questioning his sexuality). In fact, it seems he'd walked down the aisle with the best of intentions. When his girlfriend first started dropping not-so subtle hints about getting married, he'd reasoned, "We're at this age and we've been together for this long, marriage is what we should be doing.” And yet, he says, breaking off the marriage after six months is the smartest thing he ever did.

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    The take-away is counter-intuitive, and maybe even controversial. It certainly runs against the marriage-is-hard-work ethos preached by Dr. Phil-types. While most newlyweds believe it's their duty to keep at it—to go to therapy, to play the devoted spouse—Non-Starter survivors seem to agree: Getting out quickly and early is the right thing to do, and maybe even a sign of maturity (albeit a regrettably late-onset sign). At her wedding, Angela*, a Manhattan artist, remembers an old friend saying to her, "Why don't you take a walk around the block and think about why you're getting married." He could see what Angela wouldn't: She was about to marry a man she barely knew very soon after her father died, and that probably wasn't the best idea. Angela broke off the marriage something like eight months later and while she was certainly reeling, she also considered herself a little bit lucky: There were no children involved and no real assets to divide. It was a clean-ish break. "Giving him back this huge diamond?" she says. "It didn't really mean anything to me."

The Non-Starter Marriage
A look at the growing trend of unions that dissolve in less than a year, sometimes before the thank-you notes can even be sent out.
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