A man loved by a beautiful woman will always get out of trouble. - Voltaire
I made one of the best decision of my life when I was 20 - I decided to get married. I made the decision to commit to one person for eternity and at the same time remove unnecessary aspects from my life. I’m all or nothing at all, Sinatra was the GOAT. This complex, yet simple decision to get married and devote myself to the bond of marriage has allowed me to build a foundational relationship with a person I deeply respect.
I am an analytical thinker, I even have a decision matrix for career choices. So, for me, marriage was an investment I was willing to take as it has yielded phenomenal returns. In short, marriage was a very high EV decision and it can be for you too.
Marriage is a chief component of a virtuous life. Don’t overthink it and paralyze yourself by being overly neurotic. Marriage marks the point when individuals can transition from the role of children to the of parents. It facilitates the formation of the (socially acceptable) family and its positive moral environment; it is the life long pursuit of perfection with another person. Marriage provides a significant contribution to human moral development and should be pursued by most, if not all, adults.
Are we overly rational? The world is becoming increasingly left brain hemisphere dominant. The left hemisphere is focused on grabbing onto utility and organizing while the right hemisphere is more empathic and big picture.
The left hemisphere is seductive. It offers simple mechanistic answers to complex problems that makes the world less ambiguous complex and scary. However, in the past, the rise of this left hemisphere dominance has proven to be a precursor to the fall of that civilization as it cannot accurately account for the world at large. It is too myopic and too short term oriented.
In addition, the left hemisphere is easy to vocalize. It is literally our center for speech whereas the right hemisphere has no speech. The left hemisphere is explicit and logical whereas the right hemisphere is more mythological which in today’s world is seen with increasing skepticism.
Both chaos and order are needed for a system to be healthy and effective. I like the Apollonian vs Dionysian dichotomy (rationality/emotion), others prefer the symbolism of yin and yang. But, whatever model one chooses to use it is evident that systems need dynamism to work.
The developed world is in a sclerotic state. Nothing feels fresh and new. Fertility rates are dismal (Mormons aren’t producing above replenishment rates), there aren’t enough educated men for educated women, and we still don’t have flying cars. People need to create to feel alive. Rationality is winning out vs emotion and retarding growth, innovation, and prosperity.
So, where does the accelerant come that shifts our world from a sclerotic one to a creatively destructive one? Crypto is trying, many parts of Africa are trying, and the PayPal Mafia is trying, but the epic booms and busts associated with risk taking cultures are not for the masses. Risk aversion is one of the factors that lead to things like slowed growth and stifled creativity. People hat to lose what they already have.
How do the growth, the innovation, and the excitement flywheels begin again? Through incentives, building, and inspiration, that’s how. If building fundamentally requires family units or put another way - organized groups, families require solidarity between the sexes. Throughout much of human history and culture, this has meant marriage. So, we start things up again with the tried and true formula of marriage and family.
The developing world needs children and the best way to rear successful children is with a traditional family structure. In America it is quite easy to “make it”, one just needs to finish high school, get a full time job (and keep it), and get married before having children. This algorithm seems too simple to be useful, but its success is due to its simplicity. And the fact that America is one of the wealthiest nations in history is a testament to this very algorithms success.
Up until quite recently this simple recipe for success was followed by the elite and the masses alike to start and maintain health family structures. Yet, over the last 50 years there has been a divergence between the two groups. While elites continue to attain higher levels of education, work full time, and get married (and stay married) before having children many at the lower rungs of society are living their lives quite differently. Rates of divorce among the lower rungs of society can approach 70%.
One of the ways America became so wealthy was its ability to create in the domains of atoms and bits, humans and software. People make the world progress (gangsters make the world go round…). That’s progression economically, socially, technically, and for those who observe - spiritually.
Without people and young people at that the worlds profession slows. Fortunately, it only takes one or a handful of people to create something truly transformative. So, we need to increase our odds of formative creation through the time tested process of procreation. Elites get married (and stay married) and have children above replenishment rates (on net, it’s a U shaped curve but I digress), so why don’t the masses?
The masses have been lead to believe that marriages tend to end in divorce. That marriages are antiquated, limiting, and ultimately unnecessary. So, I begin with championing marriage as I believe it to be an essential aspect of a healthy and growing society.
When I speak of marriage I am speaking about a traditional style marriage with two adults and children living together. The exact makeup of the family unit is not important at this point and beyond the scope of this essay. However, what can be said, is that children raised in this environment on net have a stable foundation to build an healthy life upon. Marriage and families matter and we should do more as society to promote and support them.
Why is marriage so important? Marriage unifies a bond between two people which then creates the genesis of a network. A network is always more useful and more powerful than a single node. Networks support the world. A family unit is just a representation of a larger scale network at a more granular level (the fractal beauty inherent in so many aspects of our reality is quite astounding).
In case you are wondering about my family life and what gives me the authority to write on this subject, I will share a few things. I celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary this year with my high school sweetheart (we started dating when I was just 14). I have two young children(boy and girl) and we live together in a beautiful suburban home (no white picket fence). By many measures I have a fantastic marriage and a wonderful family.
My wife and I are both mentally and physically strong. We are attractive, thin, and well dressed. We are devoid of disease and most stresses. I’m not writing this to brag or boast, but to paint the picture of what is possible in todays America. Those that believe we are living in the worst of times are simply ignorant of history.
We are upper middle class/professional managerial class (PMC) by most any metric. The 9.9% if you will. I have advanced degrees, read for pleasure, only eat organic, write to a robust audience on Substack, and I have been lucky financially through various economic interests. If this sounds like something out of Bobo’s In Paradise, you’d be correct.
According to the rubric laid out by sociologist Max Weber, the upper-middle class consists of well-educated professionals with graduate degrees and comfortable incomes.
At times It’s hard for me to believe the life I currently have because if I were somehow able to see this reality 25 years ago I would have been in disbelief. I grew up in the 1990’s in a lower class household. My parents separated when I was 10 and ultimately divorced. This made me a latch key kid living with a single mother of 2.
Life was tough. My concept of family radically changed. I didn’t have a strong desire to grow up and get married. The abuse and and neglect I experienced as a child made me think marriage and family were something terrible. So, I swore I’d never get married. I was 11. I acted out, I overate, and luckily I excelled in athletics and scholastics. School and sports allowed me to get away from the things that were happening at home. It wasn’t all bad, studying and practicing brought on solace. By the time I got to high school I was a honor roll student and baseball team captain. From the outside looking in, I looked like an outstanding young man. Tall, athletic, smart etc. Inside, however, I was filled with rage, insecurity, and a victimhood mentality.
Joy comes to us from those whom we love even when they are absent …; when present, seeing them and associating intimately with them yields real pleasure - Seneca
Thankfully, my infatuation with sports and academics allowed me to escape the impoverished environment of my youth and eventually achieve the American dream. I live a life that many would kill for. Much of this can be credited to my insatiable drive for perfection across myriad domains.
I wish this set of principles was instilled in my youth, but early 20’s isn’t bad either. I read Aristotle early in college and the Stoics before grad school, their writings resonated with me in a way that nothing else ever did.
Both Marcus Aurelius and Seneca write lovingly of their wives. Seneca, who lost his only child, captures the joy of parenting so beautifully in his writing that it’s clear how much he cared for his family. Cato, the towering Roman Stoic who challenged Julius Caesar, clearly had great affection for his daughter (and she for for him). And Epictetus would argue that only the lover of wisdom and rationality can truly appreciate and understand love.
For those of us in the West the ideal life is something that needs to be curated as religion has waned and historically stable family structures continue to dissolve. That curation cannot fully manifest itself without proper exposure to myriad ideologies and world views. My exposure to The Greeks and The Romans of antiquity along with Benjamin Franklin, Alexis De Tocqueville, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Strauss, and Max Weber of modernity allowed me to curate an ideal archetype to pursue. In short - one should pursue perfection in as many domains as possible until death. For me that is within myself, with my family, with my work, and with my community.
This path towards the ideal never ends, I am continually challenging myself to become better. For many the ideal is God, for others it’s a father, a mother, a best friend, a boss, or a famous person. For me, it was the synthesis of some of the greatest minds. This is important to think about as modernity has ushered in the “death of god” with man conquering nature and mysticism through science. So, what is the ideal model if religion is no longer the dominant purveyor? Unfortunately, it is probably the route I outlined above - taking some of the best models one can find and molding them Into a coherent and desirable archetype. When there is no god, man becomes his own god. So, modeling the best is a way to achieve similar results.
My childhood experience is not uncommon, many people in the United States come from broken homes. A recent study shows that only 30% of people that reside in the lower middle class/working class have two parent “stable” homes. Divorce happens 70% of the time within this socioeconomic circle. This is a Pareto distribution with ugly long term consequences.
Education and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Love loses out to education and discipline when it comes to long term marriage success. Education is a meritocracy in many regards and allows people to ascend the socioeconomic ladder. I discovered this at a young age and pursued education in a fervent pursuit. If it wasn’t for my drive to pursue higher education I might not be in the position I find myself today. My time as an undergraduate helped expand my world view by learning new aspects about the world, meeting people very different from myself, and challenging me to be the best person I could be. My wife has pushed and supported me the entire way, she was by my side when studied algorithmic trading and Freudian psychoanalysis.
Working class families are perpetually walking a tight rope overlooking the abyss. To further extrapolate the analogy, It only takes a slight breeze - job loss, addiction, injury, Illness, low IQ decision making, even a blown tire to fall into a seemingly inescapable crevasse. It used to be that religion was the opioid of the masses, nowadays it’s credit. One should pursue education before pursuing more credit, even those these two are often intertwined in modernity.
I was raised in a tumultuous home. Riddled with violence (both physical and mental), poverty, drugs, mental illness, and divorce. I’m a firm believer that divorce is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a child. If you are thinking of getting a divorce and have children, seek alternative means to mend the relationship. A divorce is devastating to all involved and the knock on effects persist throughout life. I used school, homework, and clubs to escape my home life. Access to education was a savior. And it can be a savior to many others that commit themselves to continual education. A college degree is not needed, rather it is the discipline to constantly push oneself to learn more.
Souls that are naturally disposed towards self-control and justice--in a word, towards virtue--are obviously most suitable for marriage. Could a marriage be good without harmony?...Could a good person be in harmony with a bad one? This could not happen, any more than a crooked piece of wood could fit together with a similar crooked one or than two crooked pieces could fit together. - Musonius Rufus
Life is long, and rough patches can take years to work through, but couples engaged in common endeavors find their way back to affection, respect, and intimacy. In the meantime, stoicism and loyalty help. This is, of course, not to claim that anyone should tolerate boundless cruelty, violence, or emotional abuse for the sake of social stability. But it seems unlikely that every single one of the roughly forty percent (this depends on many socioeconomic factors) of marriages that end in divorce do so as a result of such extreme factors. And it is far from clear, especially when children are involved, that exiting a marriage is just self-evidently superior to sticking with it.
Some view marriage as a debt, contracted in youth and paid off during ones life. This is pessimistic interpretation of marriage because not all debt is burdensome. Debt, taken on at the right time allows one to grow at a faster rate than before. One should take on debt when one plans to grow, just as one should marry when one is ready to have a family (grow).
The family—and its members—perform certain functions that facilitate the prosperity and development of society. There are four universal residual functions of the family: sexual, reproductive, educational, and economic.
Sexual: families regulate sexual relations between individuals and offer a socially legitimate sexual outlet for adults.
Reproductive: the sexual outlet within a family gives way to reproduction, which is a necessary part of ensuring the survival of society.
Educational: the family plays a vital role in training children for adult life and as the primary agent of socialization and enculturation, the family teaches young children the ways of thinking and behaving that follow social and cultural norms, values, beliefs, and attitudes.
Economic: economic roles within the (nuclear) family are related to physical and psychological differences between members.
A vital component of forming a marriage is choosing someone who has like priorities and values. If you value wisdom, hard work, and self-control, but your partner prefers an epicurean existence, it will be extremely difficult to make have a lasting marriage. This incompatibility does not create a shared foundation on which to build your marriage. That doesn’t mean you must agree with your partner on everything or do all the things they do. There is still room for disagreement, even on major issues. Like the temperature of your home. But there are certain things that you must agree on, such as basic respect, children, and aspirations. If there is no shared foundation, anything you try to build will simply crumble and fall.
Mankind ought constantly to be striving to produce great men—this and nothing else is its duty. - Nietzsche
Many people judge others based on personality traits, profession, political affiliation, or what activities they like. (Not to mention wealth, fame, or beauty.) On one level, this makes sense, because we live in a hyper-fragmented society with so many options available. It’s logical that you would meet and be attracted to a partner who has similar interests or a similar lifestyle. The problem, of course, is that these superficial traits are not strong enough to support a lifelong marriage. There is nothing wrong with finding someone who likes X food or Y books, as long as that’s not your most important criteria for a relationship. Your most important criteria should be the one that will sustain your marriage through thick and thin: nobility of character and a shared love of inner excellence.
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labour does the body. - Seneca
In fact, it’s possible to have a good marriage even if you don’t share many interests as long as you do share underlying values and priorities in life. You don’t have to like the same podcasts and have the same exercise routines. As long as you’re both willing to work at the marriage, it doesn’t really matter what your personalities are. What matters is that you’re aligned on the big picture questions about life. Right brain synergy.
Husband and wife should come together for the following reasons: to live with each other, to have children, and to consider all things as common possessions and nothing as private...In marriage there must be, above, all companionship and care of husband and wife for each other, both in sickness and in health and on every occasion. - Musonius Rufus
You should consider your relationship to be an alliance on all fronts: mind, body, household, finances, children, success, failure, etc. The key is to focus on a deep type of harmony and companionship rather than a shallow one. Marriage is a symphony. You don’t need to spend every waking moment with your partner, and you don’t have to do everything together or agree on everything. You don’t have to tell them every little thing about your day. You just need to find that deep level of connection that resides in shared goals and a knowledge that you will truly be together through thick and thin.
This is especially true once you have children, since children tend to challenge your relationship in more ways than one. But if you see your spouse as an ally, then the project of having children can be another way that you grow together. If your marriage is a true alliance, then whatever you two face together, good or bad, sickness or health, preferred or disliked can increase your sense of partnership.
There are two ways to share something. One way is to cut it in half so that each person has 50%--this is your half, and this my half. This type of partnership can certainly work, but it is not a true alliance. More than likely, each person is looking out for their own 50%, and they will get upset if the other person tries to take more than their fair share. This is how spouses end up arguing over money, responsibilities, emotional support, etc. Each partner feels that they must always guard their territory so that the other person doesn’t cross the line.
But there is another, better way to share a relationship. In this type, both partners have complete ownership of all things relating to the marriage and family. In this type of partnership, spouses do not keep score, hold grudges, and get upset by their spouse’s behavior. They see themselves as allies working toward a common goal, and they mutually support each other in that goal. It’s rare, but when it happens, you can tell that this is a truly happy marriage.
I know this is all easier said than done and like many other Stoic ideals of wisdom and virtue, this seems impossible to reach. But like those other Stoic ideals, it’s also worth striving for, even if we know we will never actually attain it. We may get close, and we will be better people for trying.
This is so insightful and profound!