Why Marriage Is The Highest Form Of Play

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new series about marriage. You can watch the special on DailyWire+.

What are you sacrificing to get married? Well, let’s think about it: What are you sacrificing? Foolish, juvenile, shortsighted, hedonistic, nihilist, cynical, psychopathic, impulsive promiscuity — that is what you are sacrificing. You might want to sacrifice that because that sounds like a pretty decent collection of demons, and you probably do not want that cluttering up your life. What? You are going to be Peter Pan? King of the Lost Boys? You are never going to grow up? What grows you up? Responsibility. Sacrifice. A vision of the future.

People grow up when they get married. It is probably better to get married when you are young because then you grow up. And then what else matures people? I have met very few people who have fully matured who do not have children. I think there is a reason for that, a real technical reason. You are not mature until someone else matters more than you — period. Maybe that will be your wife or your husband, but probably not. They might matter as much as you, and maybe that is the right amount. But when you have children, they matter more than you, unless there is something seriously wrong with you. Very few parents, if push came to shove, would not die for their children. As soon as someone else matters more than you do in some fundamental sense, you have taken another step toward a true, mature responsibility. I do not see that you can do that without necessity, and there is nothing that screams necessity more than an infant. 

So, what? You do not want to grow up? You want to stay a child. You want to stay an adolescent. Really? You want to stay an adolescent? Do you know anyone more miserable than a teenager? Why would you want to stay that? How is that possible? And maybe you say, ‘I want to stay a child.’ First of all, you are not supposed to stay a child. You are supposed to become a child. That is a whole different thing. You are supposed to take all that wisdom of maturity, all that hard earned knowledge — even the cynicism and the skepticism, the monstrosity that comes with being aggressive, all of that — you are supposed to transmute that into the spirit of play that inhabited you when you were a child. But you are not supposed to stay immature. That is not helpful because a three-year-old who is a delightful creature cannot rule the household, much less the state. You have to grow up. You grow up to return to childhood. That is the doorway into the domain of paradise, and you do that in the spirit of play. You do that within the confines of your marriage.

The marriage should be — and this is true, particularly on the sexual front, I would say — the highest possible form of play. That is so valuable. It is so utterly valuable that all that idiocy and immaturity that you are sacrificing is like cutting away dead flesh. It is like burning old clothes, or it is the forest fire that renews the garden. There is no sacrifice in that [idiocy and immaturity]. If you think that what you are giving up is not worth what you are attaining, then your vision is clouded to a degree that is a form of miracle.

It is the same with having children. It is like, what the hell are you going to do with your life? You have got a job and a career. You have got your wife or your husband. You have got your kids. That is what you have. You can sacrifice one of those, and maybe if you are like Einstein, career is enough. If you are Einstein, career is enough; you are probably not Einstein. So you need all three of those, and why wouldn’t you want to have them? You have children, a family, a stable life, a productive life, a generous life, and a playful life. And then later you have grandchildren. So what else are you going to do when you are 60 by yourself in your isolated hedonism? And what sort of sex object are you going to be then for your hedonistic promiscuity? That is no plan.

I know already that if you are still an adolescent by the time you are 40, you are a creep. You are the sort of person that you do not even want to be around. You do not want to be the oldest person at the frat party. That is not pretty. There is something rotten about that, and I mean in that contemptible sense; it is something that has overstayed its welcome. You know, people are willing to forgive your immaturity when you are 22 or 23 or 28, maybe, or even 30, but if you are still playing that game when you are 40, you are not a happy person and you are going to be motivated to go out there and make everyone miserable. So, grow the hell up. And why? Because it is better in every way. It is better for you. It is better for your wife or your husband, obviously. It is way better for your children. If your family is together, that is better for your community. Then maybe, you know, if you have your family together, you could go serve the community a bit in some positive sense. That would be good for the community, and the state, and the country. It all scaffolds up from there.

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.

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