While your Facebook feed is covered with engagements and anniversary news, Scarlett Johansson is here to call BS on their picture-perfect relationships.
In an interview with Playboy, Johansson unabashedly stated that marriage—something she’s jumped into (and out of) twice already—isn’t normal or natural. She knows her anti-monogamous views won’t be met with a warm welcome, but could the actress actually be onto something?
“I think that the idea of marriage is very romantic; it’s a beautiful idea, and the practice of it can be a very beautiful thing,” Johansson first admits. Then, she says that being monogamous—dedicating yourself to just one person for life—is unnatural. “I think it’s work… And the fact that it is such work for so many people—for everyone… proves that it is not a natural thing.”
Though Johansson has been married and separated two times, this view isn’t an epiphany for the 32-year-old actress or the jaded view of a divorcee. During a press day for Match Point in 2006, she said, “I don’t think human beings are monogamous creatures by nature.”
Still, she touted a hint of optimism during that interview over a decade ago. “When I decide I want to have children with someone, I think it would be nice to be married to that person,” she said. She was engaged to Frenchman Romain Dauriac when the couple welcomed daughter Rose in 2014. Johansson and Dauriac were also married in 2014, but announced their plans to divorce in January 2017.
So here’s the real question
While there are plenty of happily married couples out there (who would certainly agree that marriage takes work!), could the outspoken actress actually have a point?
Let’s first explore some statistics. The official number of divorces in America has dropped to nearly 17 per 1,000 marriages. The average marriage is lasting longer and people are more cautious about getting married at all.
“Marriage is so much more selective today,” says Bowling Green State University sociologist Susan Brown, so the average age or first-time spouses is higher than ever (age 27+, up from age 20 in the 1970s).
But this seemingly positive news for love is met with another reality: first-time marriages that fail last a median of 12 years.
“We have no way of knowing what will happen to today’s marriages tomorrow,” University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen says. Sociologists can only look at current behavior and make predictions about the future. Based on this data and trends, “sociologists can only conclude that many millennials and Generation Xers are headed down the same path as baby boomers—toward midlife divorce,” according to Bloomberg.
It also notes that even if we see a decline in divorce rates in the future, it doesn’t mean our relationships are more stable. It could simply mean that fewer people are getting married, though they may be shacking up in long term relationships instead. We’ve got worse news for these non-married couples: cohabiting, unwed relationships are even less likely to last.
So if you’re looking for a love to last, you’ll need to do the one thing Johansson and her critics can agree on: just work hard to make it.