Men’s and women’s “starter marriages”

The differences between the sexes I discussed a couple of posts ago come out in the differing uses of “starter husband” and “starter wife.”

Both apparently have their roots in the expression “starter marriage,” which appears in various things women have written about married young/divorced young situations. Most of the commentary (going back avant la lettre to Margaret Mead and Erika Jong) relates to their own experiences and is rather positive. The idea seems to be that the marriage was a learning experience, but she decided he didn’t suit her, so why not end it. The same could be said of “starter husband,” which looks like a straightforward spinoff of the “starter marriage” concept.

Starter wife” is also used mostly by women, but its implications are rather different. It’s used by the wronged first wife or her sympathizers to refer to a situation in which hubby has made it big and gone for a trophy wife. As such, it never seems to be used positively.

The contrast confirms that when men and women act badly, each sex acts badly in accordance with its own concerns. Women are more interested in fine-tuning personal experience, men in setting up structure and position in a way they think makes sense. So women dump hubby when he no longer fits the evolving demands of their emotional life and tastes, while men dump the missus when she is no longer a suitable adjunct to someone in their social and professional position. Since there are more women with evolving emotional demands than men who are vastly successful, it appears (and divorce statistics confirm) that women engage in this kind of fickleness more.

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