The following is a collection of excerpts from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new series about marriage. You can watch the special on DailyWire+.
My clinical experience, I would say, and my life experience, taught me that you could divide your life, in some sense, into thirds. One third of that is intimate relationship. We’ll say marriage. One third of that is family, and one third of that is career. That’s a rough break — a rough categorization — but it’s not a bad place to start with regard to rule of thumb. Well, why get married? People want a partner. Half the dialogue that you hear between people, especially if they’re single, is related to their desire to have a partner. And of course, half the dialog you hear from people who are in a relationship is how to deal with problems in their relationship. But it’s a very rare person who doesn’t need and want an intimate relationship.
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You enter into marriage as an act of faith. You fall in love with someone, which is a grace — a gift of God in some real sense. You see what it would be like to care for someone. You see what it would be like to have someone care for you and value you. You get a glimpse of that in love and then you have a challenge set before you which is: can you arrange your life with this person that you’ve fallen in love with so that that state of love permeates the entire relationship and everything you do together all the time? That would make a marriage the perfect date that repeats endlessly. Now, obviously, that’s an extraordinarily high goal to hit, a high mountain to climb. But you need something to do, and it might as well be that. And in an intimate relationship, when things are going as well as they can go, I think you’re hard pressed to find anything better in life. So why not attempt to achieve that?
Well, why do you need marriage? You need marriage just like you need other social institutions. Marriage is a great burden and responsibility as well as a great opportunity. It’s a burden and responsibility because as a married couple, you’re going to face together everything that life can throw at you. The difference between a casual affair, let’s say, and a marriage, is that the casual affair is all milk and honey. It’s all pleasure — although it very rarely works out that way — but that’s the theory. Whereas in the marriage, you have to contend with the harsh realities of all the dimensions of life. But you want to take that on voluntarily, and you want to share that with someone. If you do that properly within the confines of a marriage, then you have someone to weave together the rope of the narrative of your life. You have someone to bounce yourself off, and you have someone to improve yourself in relationship with, and you have someone that you have to take into consideration, like you should take yourself into consideration. And you have someone that you have to take into consideration over the longest possible span of time. What that means is that you’re forced, in a real sense, to perform the kind of sacrifice of impulsive hedonism that produces a true maturity.
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How do you treat someone in your moment-to-moment interactions so that the relationship blossoms into, well, let’s say, continual love? That’s a good thing to aim at. And there’s no difference between doing that and treating yourself properly. They’re the same thing. Then you can imagine if you treated yourself properly and your partner properly, and you really learned how to do that — this is a deep problem, and you have to be challenged to do it constantly — first of all, there’d be nothing better that can possibly happen to you. And second, you’d have the perfect platform for having children. Because now the children come into the world and there’s two of you, and you’re side by side, and you’re treating each other like you’re extensions of each other, which you are, because you’re stuck with this person forever. Then the child has the joint amalgam of two personalities that have had to bargain and negotiate to produce a unity. And the child is introduced into the fact of that unity, which is the higher order structure that governs the marriage.
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Marriage is one of those all-in games. It’s an act of faith. Why is it an act of faith? Well, you don’t know if you can get along with this person. You’re in love with them. You find them attractive. And I think those are two important preconditions. But you’re both ignorant and young. You have no idea who you are or who you are going to be. How do you know that you can be married? The answer is, you don’t know. You decide. You decide. That’s the act of faith. It’s like, ‘I am going to act this out.’ Then even more, ‘I’m going to act this out come hell or high water.’ And why? Well, because hell and high water are coming because you’re alive, and you’re married, and you’re going to be together for decades. So you are definitely going to go through the worst times of your life with this person.
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Even when it’s terrible, it’s good. So don’t wait around for perfection. I did overcome that pretty quickly. We started practicing having dates usually twice a week and usually for three or four hours. That’s definitely been a highlight of our mutual existence.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant and then associate professor of psychology at Harvard. He is the international bestselling author of Maps of Meaning, 12 Rules For Life, and Beyond Order. You can now listen to or watch his popular lectures on DailyWire+.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.