The Starter Husband
By Gretchen Voss
Pulling the trigger was easy; dealing with the fallout was not. Every time I ran into somebody I knew, I wanted to die, Elisa says. She briefly moved back to her childhood home in L.A. to regroup. Even if they were nice, I just felt this pity from them, like, Oh, my God, you fucked up big. Wow, that sucks. Looking for guidance, she joined a divorce support group out in the Valley. It was an eye-opener. It was full of women in their 50s with kids and mortgages, Elisa remembers. They knew their marriages were doomed straight out of the gate but stayed shackled to them for 20 years.
Confronted with that alternative, Elisas confidence in her decision was restored. Today, three years later, she considers her first husband the perfect warm-up for the real deal. I could not be more grateful for that experience, she says. Im in a really good relationship right now, knock on wood, and I would never have been capable of that without my first marriage learning how relationships work.
Its easy to write these women off as callous or self-absorbed. And yet on some level, they just might be pioneers: Why stay put in an empty shell of a marriage an arrangement on paper only instead of calling it what it is? This generation is reinventing marriage, says Paul.
I think women our age are like, Were either going to fix this, or were going to end it, and thats for the better, says Kay Moffett, coauthor of Not Your Mothers Divorce. She married her own starter husband in a funky, flamingo-filled Florida wedding at 27, then divorced him four years later after realizing she could never make the real commitment of having children with him. But dont call her divorce a failure; in this enlightened world, it was simply a relationship that ran its course. I think maybe were moving more toward a serial-marriage society maybe you have three marriages in your life and several different careers. Thats where Im heading, she says.