So much I've seen from The School of Life has been great, and this video my father shared with me is no exception:

The one thing it doesn't have is a list of topics, which is really unfortunate since it crams so much into 20 minutes that Alain never slows down enough to tell you what he's going to tell you.

That's what this document is: a list of his topics, with time stamps to follow along with. Be sure to notice the handy table of contents (perhaps by clicking the "show" button at right) that goes along with this page.


  • (0:03)
    He wrote an essay for The New York Times
    under this self-described "dramatic" title.

  • (0:19)
    He takes a poll and about 30 respond as having married the wrong person.


  • (0:40)
    The objective of this talk is to take the anger
    people privately direct towards their love lives
    and turn it into sadness.

  • (1:12)
    Optimism/hope is necessary for anger.

  • (1:58)
    "Vast industries" build up our hope;
    in contrast, this talk will gently let you down.

Why the title is true.

  • (2:33)
    "It's not that bad" because you're likely to marry a "good enough" person.

A) We are unaware of our strangeness.

  • (3:00)
    We are all strange and hard to live with,
    and we don't know much about ourselves in that way.

  • (3:47)
    There is a wall of silence around this strangeness,
    as others know much about your flaws.

  • (4:53)
    Many of us are addicts in order to avoid spending time with ourselves.

  • (5:53)
    "Until you know yourself, you can't properly relate to another person."

B) Love is a skill we lack experience with.

  • (5:59)
    Love requires us to express dependence and vulnerability,
    which we don't want to do.

  • (6:19)
    Psychologists describe two patterns of behavior
    when there is a risk of being vulnerable, exposed.

    1. (6:29)

    2. (6:59)

  • (7:34)
    This is too humbling to say:
    "Even though I am a grown person,
    I need you like a small child needs a parent."

  • (7:57)
    "In short, we don't know how to love."
    Love is a difficult skill we need to learn.

What is Love?

  • (8:24)
    There is a distinction between loving and being loved,
    which we have much experience with.

  • (8:54)
    The core of love is to have the willingness to interpret another's behavior
    and find benevolent reasons.

Love requires a tolerance for weakness and recognition of ambivalence.

  • (9:34)
    "Anyone that we can love is going to be a perplexing mixture of
    the good and the bad."

  • (9:42)
    Melanie Klein argued that infants don't recognize
    the good and bad things as coming from the same parent,
    until they are about 4 years old and are able to be ambivalent.

  • (10:52)
    "Everyone who we love is going to disappoint us. [...]
    Maturity is the ability to see that there are no heroes or sinners,
    really, among human beings, but all of us are this wonderfully
    perplexing mixture of the good and the bad."

C) Our instinct is to seek suffering.

  • (11:33)
    We're told to follow our instinct, heart, feelings,
    to stop reasoning, analyzing.

  • (11:58)
    "You can't think too much,
    you can only ever think badly."

  • (12:16)
    The way we love is built upon childhood experiences,
    where love is bound with suffering.

  • (12:58)
    When we start to choose love partners,
    "We are on a quest to suffer in ways that feel familiar."

  • (13:18)
    This is why we can date someone who seems really great in every way
    while we reject them because they don't excite us.


This is when Alain assumes you've chosen a good enough partner and provides advice on how to help that relationship grow.

Become a good teacher to love better.

  • (14:09)
    We believe that we won't have to explain who we are
    or how we feel to the right person.

  • (14:48)
    This leads to sulking:
    refusing to express what's wrong with someone
    we think has decided to not understand us.

  • (15:47)
    "The root to a good marriage and a good love
    is the ability to become a good teacher."

  • (16:15)
    Rather than being tired, frightened, and as a result humiliating,
    be relaxed and prepared for a lack of understanding.

  • (16:45)
    "You need a culture within a couple
    that two people are going to need to teach each other
    and therefore also learn from one another."

Love allows criticism instead of encouraging acceptance.

  • (16:53)
    Many people respond to criticism as an attack, but it's not.

  • (17:08)
    We tend to believe that love accepts instead of criticises,
    which is appalling.

  • (17:39)
    "Criticism is merely [...] to try and make us better versions of ourselves."

There is hope.

  • (17:53)
    The phrase "good enough" was taken from
    psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott
    when helping parents.

  • (18:21)
    "You cannot have perfection and company."

  • (18:38)
    Compatibilty is the achievement of love,
    never present initially.

  • (19:03)
    Learn to respond better to your "types," who you tend to love.

  • (20:11)
    Recognize the nobility of compromise.

  • (20:56)
    Concluding quote by philosopher Søren Kierkegaard
    saying that in any case you will have regret,
    so don't beat yourself up about mistakes.