Asked if she thinks marriage is a dying institution, Diaz responded, "I do. I think we have to make our own rules. I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off of old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."
It would be easy to dismiss her comment as the observation of an out-of-touch starlet. However, her words were amplified in an article by well-known author, psychiatrist and Fox News commentator Keith Ablow. His conclusion: Diaz is right and marriage is dying.
Despite being a noted psychologist and author, it turns out Mr. Ablow's rationale makes about as much sense as Ms. Diaz. He immediately douses any credibility by starting his article saying, "I'm not certain marriage ever did suit most people who tried it."
That would be news to social scientists and anthropologists who actually study marriage and its effects on people and cultures. And it directly contradicts reams of research that confirm the social, physical and mental benefits that marriage provides to both men and women.
What's his proof? He explained how he regularly hears about the suffering and dysfunction caused by marriage in his work as a psychiatrist. Well of course he does. That's where people go when they are having trouble. As one marriage expert countered, "Oncologists rarely see patients who are not fighting cancer. Do most people then have cancer?"
Dr. Ablow claims that as a "healer," he can't help but be suspicious about marriage since, in his words; it "depletes energy, optimism, mood and passion" as if marriage exists to only satisfy these desires. But he's got this exactly wrong. Research reveals that married people are happier, healthier and live longer than people who aren't.
He goes on to explain several reasons for why marriage is dying. Among them he blames oral contraception because The Pill makes it harder for people stuck in marriage to control their urge to cheat, since contraception makes it possible for them to do so without "consequences." Having to stay sexually faithful in a marriage causes "psychological pain," he says. Monogamy, he asserts, is too much to ask of the "vast majority" of men and women who no longer feel physically attracted to one another after being married for a few years.
Marriage is also dying, he claims, because this kind of committed relationship "deprives men and women of the joy of being 'chosen' on a daily basis." He believes most husbands and wives stick around only because of the legal hassle of ending the marriage.
According to Dr. Ablow, the key to relational happiness is a self-centered fulfilling of one's own desires. If this were true, then he's right; marriage need not exist.
But he's wrong. True love is self-sacrificial; it's the intentional expression of good toward the other person. Marriage is the ultimate form of true love, where a man and woman choose to commit to one another "for better or for worse" to the exclusion of all others. That's what makes it so powerful and so good. To the husband or the wife, marriage explicitly and implicitly says "I choose you" every day and not just on the days I feel like it. The health benefits of marriage previously mentioned are likely tied to the relational security that comes with this kind of commitment.
If we all took his advice and began and ended relationships simply based on narcissism and hedonism, the emotional wreckage would be incalculable.
There's no question that marriage is facing difficult times. And it's true that many marriages end in divorce (often for good reason). But in the real world apart from Hollywood and the pop psychology of Dr. Ablow, marriage continues to be the most fulfilling human relationship and one vital to the stability of our society.
Ablow concludes his article by saying we should replace marriage with something that improves "the quality of our lives." Here's some news for Dr. Ablow: we've already figured this out. The best way to do this is to keep marriage alive and well.
Randy Hicks is president of Georgia Family Council, a nonprofit research and education organization committed to fostering conditions in which individuals, families and communities thrive. For more information, go to www.georgiafamily.org, 770-242-0001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.