While speaking with Playboy magazine recently, actress Scarlett Johansson opened up about her recent split from her husband of two years and the realities of marriage.
“I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person. I might be skewered for that, but I think it’s work. It’s a lot of work.”
Johansson is not wrong. In fact, she’s right on the money. There is an excellent case to be made that monogamy is not at all natural, at least not since the fall of man as laid out in Genesis.
“In the beginning” we find Adam in the Garden of Eden. He is cared for and busy and he communes with God himself and yet he is lonely. God gave him Eve, formed of his own flesh and bone. Whether or not you believe this to be the literal truth of the origins of humanity the symbolism is every bit as powerful as the truth itself. These two people were literally one flesh, their union being the most intimate two human beings could experience, second only to the intimacy between man and God.
This is why the Bible tells us that a man will leave his family and “cleave” unto his wife and the two will become one flesh.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
This is a direct reflection of marriage’s monogamous origins. However, as we all know Adam and Eve didn’t stay in that utopia. They allowed sin to enter their world and as a result were cast out from the “natural” perfection of Eden.
Sin became a permanent condition of humanity. It became natural.
Johansson’s comments may have had nothing to do with God, but they were powerfully correct nonetheless. Monogamy is most likely not natural, but our natural state is sin and we are commanded to fight against our natural selves in order to commune with the One who is perfect. That is why Christ had to come, to reconcile us to a perfect God who’s very nature cannot tolerate our very nature.
Monogamy does not serve our natural state and it most certainly does not soothe our natural instincts. Johansson understands this. Monogamy is not natural…but it is right and it is a reflection of what is meant to be our natural state, as Adam and Eve first experienced it.
I’ve never found the argument that “such and such” or “so and so” is good because it is natural to be particularly compelling. It is usually made by the same people who say that mankind is naturally disposed to cruelty, war and prejudice; the same people who proudly and loudly declare at cocktail parties that they are above such natural proclivities and wish that the rest of us could get with the program.
In that same interview, Johansson actually goes on to make some very salient points on the nature of marriage. As a twice-divorced, typically liberal Hollywood actress she may not seem like the type of person whom we should take seriously on the topic, but I contend that the “Ghost in the Shell” star’s thoughts on marriage are profound and deserve some reflection.
“Being married is different than not being married, and anybody who tells you that it’s the same, is lying,” she said. “It changes things. I have friends who were together for 10 years and then decided to get married, and I’ll ask them on their wedding day or right after if it’s different, and it always is. It is. It’s a beautiful responsibility, but it’s a responsibility.”
Haven’t you ever wondered why people who have lived together for a decade or more get married and end up divorced a short while later? After all that time together prior to marriage? There is a reason that people who live together before marriage have a higher rate of divorce. It may sound crass to some, but co-habitation is simply “playing house.” As Johansson suggests, it is not at all the same thing as marriage itself. When cohabiting couples marry, they often don’t understand the profound changes it brings to one’s spirit and psyche. When those changes begin to appear, the parties involved often start to think it is their partner or themselves that has changed and disappointment sets in, leading to discontentment. In fact, it is simply the nature of their relationship that has changed.
Marriage is not just a piece of paper. No matter your religious beliefs, there are numerous studies and social polls that show marriage can actually change the health, wealth and mental stability of a given participant. It’s deeper than a ceremony. It changes your DNA.
Johansson may not have yet found her way to the ideals that would support and sustain a healthy marriage (and help her find a good partner beforehand) but she displays a very mature view of the ancient institution and her words are weighty but true.
Marriage is indeed a heavy responsibility requiring focus, unwavering commitment and (yes) work.
But it is a beautiful responsibility, and may I add…a singular privilege.