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.
The Non-Starter isn't strictly an American epidemic, either. A legislator from Mexico's Party of the Democratic Revolution, a Socialist party, recently introduced a bill to make quickie divorce easier, not to mention cheaper, by proposing a two-year marriage contract with the option to renew—or not, should the going get tough. (The bill came up against opposition from the religious right, and is under review.) Marriage-lite isn't a romantic idea, but no one can say it's not in touch with the times. In Connecticut, a couple divorcing has to wait an inconvenient 18 months before a split can be finalized. (Waiting periods vary by state; for example, in Ohio, the Carolinas, and West Virginia you have to be legally separated for a year before filing for divorce. In California, it's a comparatively breezy six months, though the unhappy couple undoubtedly doesn't see it that way.)
As for the real million dollar question: Why would someone go from "I do" to "I despise you" at warp speed, the knee-jerk notion is that the bride got swept up in the Wedding Industrial Complex, and the hapless—or clueless, or cowardly—groom was simply powerless to stop it, reaching for the escape hatch too late. But that narrative is only part of the story. David Schnarch, PhD, co-director of the Marriage & Family Health Center, a counseling and healthcare facility in Evergreen, Colorado, puts a fine point on it: "The more the partners are not solid people in their own right, meaning the more dependent they are on getting validation, approval, and emotional soothing from each other, the more likely they are to break up in the first year. They have greater difficulty tolerating the inevitable struggles of 'Do I belong to you or myself?' and 'I want to be with you but don't tell me what to do!' " The Non-Starters seem to have a nasty habit of ignoring all-too-obvious warning signs, he says. But it's less a case of two people growing apart in record time—a common misconception—so much as two mismatched partners abandoning a house built on quicksand.
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