Elin and Tiger Woods are now divorced. That ends their marriage, but should open up windows of reflection on marriage itself.
Today, most Americans who pledge to remain married "until death do us part" end up divorced. Their vows ring untrue. Millions of Americans marry, then divorce, then marry again, then divorce. A very large number then marry yet again.
In my experience as a psychiatrist, a vast majority of those couples who staymarried find their marriages a source of stress and a major contributing factor in conditions including major depression.
Add to this the fact that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman has now been challenged so vigorously, and I suggest we may need to abandon the current legal and cultural structure of marriage entirely and move on to a new form of spiritual union between couples that does not involve the state nearly as much and that has a fighting chance of surviving the 21st century. After all, Constitutional law scholars have asserted that gay marriage paves the way for triangle marriages between three people, or hexagonal marriages between six, etc., etc., etc.
The rate of divorce and the rate of dissatisfaction with marriage recommends a revamping of the institution.
In the new marriage universe I envision, only houses of worship or gatherings of family and friends would grant marriage "licenses"--not any state. They would do so according to the values of their communities and congregations. There would be no government nor employer preference shown to married individuals, as opposed to single individuals. All Americans would file their taxes as individuals and all Americans would have the option of including children (but not necessarily spouses) as dependents on health insurance policies. From the perspective of government, the only required legal document binding a couple would be a document that provides for child support should the couple separate.
Stripping marriage of its state-granted "license" and returning marriage to a spiritual, not legal, status would stand a chance of strengthening it. The vows I would recommend as part of marriage would focus on loving and nurturing and supporting the sons and daughters God bestows upon us and to do no harm knowingly to them. The vast, vast majority of those I have spoken with-even in the throes of divorce-could make such vows and actually keep them. If the core of marriage were defined as nurturing and loving one's children, then people could presumably stay married even when they were physically apart.
Families could remain "intact," even when distance between partners was great.
By looking for clarity in our intimate relationships through the prism of what is good for our children we would do better by one another, too.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.