Jordan Peterson pushes ‘relationship mythology’ when we should be challenging relationship myths, the outdated views on love that clash with many of our real-life experiences. If these old-school ideas were so perfect, why is there so much disillusionment in the relationships that embrace those beliefs? Peterson’s countless videos on social networks often skip over the actual, tough stuff we deal with, choosing ideals that prop up these old beliefs. What he says isn’t just hollow, it’s misleading. We’ve been saturated with these traditional ideas, taking them as the norm. It’s essential for us to critically look at our own experiences and those around us, especially when they don’t line up with Peterson’s ideas.
In his short clips, often lacking real-life context, Peterson paints a skewed picture. I’m not just building straw men here; I’m highlighting the blind spots in his arguments. While there might be counterarguments to my point, Peterson’s own overlooking of examples that challenge his views is quite telling.
Challenging Relationship Myths
Again and again, real life bumps heads with Peterson’s ideas. But many of us just shrug it off, not daring to challenge his views. It’s like making excuses for a breakup, saying things like, ‘They weren’t the one’ or ‘You just didn’t get the strategy right. That’s as absurd as blaming a failed rain dance on wrong steps or lack of faith. And remember, if it does rain, it’s not thanks to the dance. Likewise, seeing a successful traditional relationship doesn’t automatically validate their beliefs. What if there’s just genuine, effortless chemistry at play? Let’s face it, we can’t force ourselves to love someone.
By observing what’s actually unfolding in our lives and those around us, we form our own insights, not blindly adhering to some so-called experts. Let’s get real: Jordan Peterson won’t be footing the bill for your wedding or your divorce. He won’t be returning the time lost chasing his dubious ideals. And he certainly won’t recreate missed chances for love, including potential partners you passed up because they didn’t match the playbook he so zealously advocates.
The relationship myth in the manosphere about a ‘high value’ partner
This bit of jargon assumes that affection is a like mechanical switch that can be turned on and off. Relationships, pulsing with heartfelt affection, are treasures of life that cannot be bought. Yet, too often we see how manipulation, recklessness, deceit, and even violence cast a dark shadow over the warmth of genuine connection. Unnecessary suffering in stories reminds us: everyone’s journey is unique and full of challenges. These stories teach lessons, but only if we pay attention. Ever wondered why some endure such heartbreaking relationships? It’s not just about different ways of coping; it’s about enduring soul-crushing habits.
Remember, habits, beliefs, routines, strategy, prejudices, generalizations, and expectations all overlap in that they all predict the future. And any prediction of the future assumes automation, and automation is the death of loving relationships that are, while alive, constantly changing. The precious time swallowed by this anguish, be it overt, or hidden behind a life-sucking mediocrity, is gone forever! A relationship surviving amid such torment is a tragic, useless heartbreak, not a cause for celebration due to mere longevity.
We learn through imitation, repetition, and discovery
In one of those three ways of learning we are far more likely to be challenging relationship myths. In our fleeting time on earth, we should invite the discovery of relationships that are worthy of our life, not mere reflections of someone else’s questionable ideals. We live with more freedom than our grandparents ever did, a freedom that most of us, men and women alike, wouldn’t want to lose. This freedom allows us to embrace our individuality and creativity in relationships, rather than being confined by outdated norms.
The evolution of relationships indicates something that should be trivial but is often missed. Not only that there was nothing that ever was done that someone wasn’t the first to do; that new human development suggests we have no reason to believe what we think is normal today is the summit of our human capacity. We learn from our mistakes and evolve beyond patterns that no longer serve us. Today, it’s not about being trapped in someone else’s mold; it’s about rejecting outdated functions and roles that limit our lives.
I’m not suggesting that relationships should exclude utility
I’m saying utility isn’t the most important thing. To think otherwise is to turn another person into a tool for your purposes. We’re not born to just slot into predefined roles; we’re here to explore, to love in ways that ignite our entire being. Our relationships should celebrate our unique lives and creativity, even when they must evolve or come to an end. Such relationships are an essential part of a life well lived. We realize their true value when we can say honestly that, given the chance, we would relive our loves exactly as they were – challenges and all. That’s what intrinsic value is all about: experiences that make life truly worth living.
These raw experiences really show us something. They make it clear we need choices that add depth and meaning to our lives. We’ve got to stand up and question any sketchy beliefs.
To approach relationships with a commitment to truth we start challenging relationship myths
We see that the beliefs that make us feel safe and secure in relationships often don’t match our actual experiences. Security isn’t something we can count on.
Many of us cringe at the old saying, ‘Why should he buy the cow, if he gets the milk for free?’ This metaphor says a lot: ‘milk’ represents sex, ‘the cow’ symbolizes a woman, and ‘buying’ equates to marriage. This phrase literally suggests that in marriage, women are prostituted, sex becomes a transactional commodity that men acquire through marriage! It’s not just this saying – the notion of transactional relationships permeates traditional marriage in other ways too. The reality of commitment and matrimony is intertwined with infidelity and prostitution. It’s a system upheld by unspoken rules often alluded to in poignant phrases:
‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’
‘Behind closed doors.’
‘Hidden in plain sight.’
‘The masks we wear.’
‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you.’
‘Playing both sides.’
‘Every family has a secret.’
‘All is fair in love and war.’ (One of my father’s favorites.)
Sex workers know the secrets, it’s why society dismisses their voices.
Whether or not Jordan Peterson admits or is even aware of it, he seems to support these unspoken hypocrisies, often ignored as a supporting structure of tradition. The statistics about infidelity vary, but it’s evident that this problem is prevalent and in every culture. We can’t be sure if, given the chance, those in apparently monogamous relationships would maintain their commitment, as tempting situations may not have arisen. It’s impossible to prove a negative, but this uncertainty doesn’t automatically validate those relationships that are truly monogamous. It’s crucial to recognize this issue and advocate for honesty and integrity in relationships, rather than turning a blind eye to these realities.
Here is a challenge to relationship myths, can Peterson point to any epoch where the tradition of expected faithfulness existed without infidelity?
We see the hypocrisy behind the conservative Mom‘s for Liberty cofounder today. It’s in historical and religious texts, from the story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible to tales in ‘1001 Arabian Nights,’ display examples of infidelity. This prevalence shows that infidelity in marriage is not new or isolated; it’s a recurring theme across time and cultures. This is the “not-yet-conscious knowledge of what has been.”1 The mixing up of the facts with what’s ideal hides the real problem. It’s spraying air freshener to mask the stink.
Again, I’m not saying that every monogamous partnership includes infidelity. Anyone who has ever searched dating websites and seen the word ‘discreet,’ or who a married person has approached, (even in the church,) knows the hypocrisy is real and has been happening for a long time.
Let’s start challenging relationship myths. Being fake hurts us. It might seem like just a game, but each time we pretend to be something we’re not, it becomes easier to lie again. Our conscience, our inner guide of right and wrong, gets weaker. When we deceive people who trust us, we fool ourselves into thinking we’re clever. But this habit blinds us to the true value of other peoples trust. We drift away from reality, losing the chance to learn and grow in a world based on facts.
As we get older, we should be getting wiser.
But if we live like we’re someone we’re not, we lose our integrity. It’s more than just honesty we lose; we blunt our empathy, the ability to imagine how we would feel if we were wearing the other persons shoes. The hypocrisy often hidden in traditional relationships is like wearing a mask and a gag to uphold the façade.
With hypocrisy, it’s like extinguishing a light within us, losing the chance to be our true selves. It’s sad to see someone’s mind lose its brightness, to live in shadows of deceit instead of what’s real.
Hypocrisy is the plenipotentiary of religion, and like any ambassador, the meetings are held in private.
We don’t need to punish those who wear a mask to win love or easy money. They exist in their own kind of hell, and our words can’t deepen their torment. It’s a big deal. They’ve traded their unique, authentic self for a mediocre existence. They’ve given up their freedom for the pleasures of an illusion.
Peterson voices his opposition to sex solely for pleasure
On Real Time with Bill Mahar2 Peterson voices opposition against sex for mere pleasure. It again suggests he views sex as a means to achieve other goals; sex as ‘utility’. This notion subtly parallels the concept of prostitution, which also transforms sex into a means for other ends. Adults have the freedom to treat sex this way, legal or not, but I highlight this aspect of Peterson’s argument.
The vagueness seems intentional
Peterson’s term ‘utility’ raises the question “utility, for whom?” Utility leaves the door open to selfishness (what he calls narcissism) and various interpretations, potentially aligning with concepts he probably wouldn’t explicitly endorse. If Peterson’s utility implies producing children to contribute to society, this inadvertently commodifies the children, likening them to societal assets obtained through sex. Such a perspective, when extended, suggests trading sex for a commodity, an idea parallel to prostitution. While this is not a direct accusation that Peterson supports such views, the logical extension of his argument on the utility of sex leads to these provocative conclusions. It’s crucial to explore these implications to fully understand and critically assess the breadth and impact of Peterson’s viewpoints.” If you don’t understand a concept in its extreme, you don’t understand the concept.
Peterson asserts that sex for pleasure ‘consumes itself,’ yet provides no justification for this claim. Bill Maher correctly challenges him for speaking as though he represents all humanity, highlighting how people are sexually diverse. Peterson then backtracks, stating it’s better for him personally. Whatever his implication, the utility boils down to functional or exchange value.
In challenging relationship myths, I propose that sex is fundamentally about human connection and doesn’t ‘consume itself.’ Among consenting adults, sex is a source of intrinsic joy, that joy is better when combined with freedom. There’s a difference between feeling excited to go to some art exhibit and feeling obligated to go.
The more intrinsic joy and aliveness in this world, the better.
Intrinsic value is something worth having, something worth protecting, something worth sharing. Handling sex is like cooking: mistakes can be risky. But if done with care, it’s deeply fulfilling. We’re free to enjoy it often, with any adult who’s into it, as long as everyone’s cool with it.
Why not make sex an actualization of your freedom?
I’m challenging relationship myths and say sex is not just fun, it’s an actualization of your freedom. After all, that impulse is not superficial, regardless of the language, we use to describe it. I mean, come on, that impulse is shared by every living thing on the planet in some form. Life that includes those choices is better than life without that freedom. Consider different groups that were non-monogamous, for example the Naskapi, the indigenous of the Philippines, Tahitians and others. And don’t forget the ethically non-monogamous of today, an ever growing demographic! Peterson conveniently leaves out all the experiences of sexual life affirmation that is contrary to his beliefs.
Challenging relationship myths with history
In Mothers and Others,3 Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy writes an evolutionary-based case for cooperative breeding. Her thesis is it’s one reason our species has survived. Regarding paternity, she recalled the story of a Naskapi tribesman who criticized a Jesuit missionary.
“Seeing the priest’s dismay at the group’s sexual promiscuity and uncertain paternity the man responded: ‘Thou hast no sense. You French people love your own children, but we love all the children of the tribe.’ To which Sarah added; Spoken like a true cooperative breeder.”
The more happiness in the world, the better. Handle sex responsibly, enjoy it with whoever’s interested, in a chill vibe, yet open to deeper intimacy, in mutual consent. Freedom needs far more responsibility than any illusion of control. Challenging relationship myths takes more courage. The trial and error is more intimate than simply following the dots, laid out by some arbitrary authority. One of the good things about affection NOT being a commodity is, it’s extensible to the limits of human capacity. Jordan Peterson wants you to live in his fishbowl. When the truth is we live in the ocean and those two things are quite different.
By Todd Vickers,
1 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (First Harvard University Press paperback edition 2002), 845
2 Bill Mahar, Real Time with Bill Mahar, HBO, November 10, 2023,
3 Sarah Blaffer-Hrdy, Mothers and Others, (Harvard University Press 2011)