Discovering Aliveness in Marriage: Embracing the Power of the ‘I-You’ Relationship


Welcome, dear reader, to a journey of self-discovery and exploration through the lens of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” philosophy. In this article, we will delve into the two ways of being, the encounter, and the aliveness in marriage.

Two Ways of Being

Have you ever felt like you’re going through the motions in life, just existing without truly being present? This is what Buber calls the “I-It” relationship, where we view others and the world around us as objects to be used for our own purposes.

In contrast, the “I-You” relationship is a way of being in which we view others and the world as subjects, as individuals whose true nature is worthy of respect and reverence.

The Encounter: Where the Magic Happens

When was the last time you had a profound experience that left you feeling all-in, unguarded, and fully present?

Buber posits that these encounters are where the magic happens, where we shed the cocoon of our everyday self and interact with the world and others in a reciprocal and true nature. These experiences are a path to discovery, grace, and aliveness.

Aliveness in Marriage

Marriage is a fertile ground for encounters, but how can we cultivate this aliveness in our relationships? Hedy Schleifer, creator of Encounter Centered Couples Therapy, suggests that vulnerability, curiosity, gratitude, presence, and risk are key components of creating an “I-You” relationship.

By shedding the protective armor that we often wear in our relationships and embracing our true selves, we can deepen our connection with our partners and rekindle the spark of aliveness in our marriage.

Differences between the I-It and I-You Relationship

1) Different Worldviews

In the “I-It” world, we view others and the world as concrete, limited, necessary, and mundane. We interact with the world based on our day-to-day reality, where everything is predictable and safe.

2) Reciprocal Worldviews

Conversely, the “I-You” world is interactive, reciprocal, unguarded, and full participation with the world around us. We embrace the ephemeral, eternal, and ungraspable nature of life, and see confrontation, challenge, risk, and change as opportunities for growth and transformation.

3) The Importance of Encounters

Life is a collection of moments, and these moments are the building blocks of our lives. According to Buber, all actual life is encounter, and it is through these encounters that we find the meaning and sustenance we need to thrive.

Encounters can come in many forms, and it is often through hardship and struggle that we find the true beauty of life. It is through these difficult experiences that we find a deeper connection with others, resonating with their souls and experiencing the oneness that connects us all.

In marriage, encounters can be both delightful and difficult. When we encounter frustration, disappointment, and problems, we may be tempted to retreat and shut down.

But it is through vulnerability, curiosity, gratitude, and good will that we can transform these negative experiences into opportunities for growth and healing. By bringing our authentic selves to our relationships and seeking the truth, we can work through the shadow of real love and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.

4) Martin Buber’s Prophetic Message

Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” philosophy is a powerful and prophetic message that has the potential to transform our lives and the world around us. Buber believed that all of us have a choice in how we relate to the world around us.

We can either view others and the world as objects to be used for our own purposes, or we can embrace them as subjects with their own innate value and worth. This message can be nebulous and painstaking to understand, but it is one that is more necessary now than ever before.

As poet Adrienne Rich wrote in her poem “Prospective Immigrants Please Note”:

“Either you will

go through this door

or you will not go through.

If you go through

there is always the risk

of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly

and you must look back

and let them happen.”

When we choose to go through the door of encounters and embrace the “I-You” relationship, we are taking a risk. We may encounter difficult situations that challenge us and even cause us pain.

But it is through these encounters that we find the magic that happens when we are truly alive. Think of the chrysalis that transforms into a butterfly.

It is a painful and difficult process, but the result is a creature of beauty and grace. The same is true for us.

When we shed the cocoon of the “I-It” relationship and embrace the vulnerability and risk of the “I-You” relationship, we open ourselves up to a world of aliveness and possibility.

In conclusion, Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” philosophy carries a profound message for all of us.

By embracing encounters, vulnerability, risk, and truth, we can transform our lives and relationships and find the beauty that exists in even the most difficult situations. So let us embrace the magic of love and the power of the “I-You” relationship as we go out into the world and discover the true meaning of aliveness.

In conclusion, the “I and Thou” philosophy of Martin Buber carries a profound message for all of us, emphasizing the importance of encounters, vulnerability, risk, and truth. By embracing the “I-You” relationship, we can find the meaning and sustenance we need to thrive, both as individuals and in our relationships.

Whether we face difficulty or delight, it is through encounters that we resonate with each other’s souls, find the oneness that connects us all, and experience the aliveness that makes life worth living. So, let us go out into the world with renewed energy and focus, seeking encounters and embracing the magic that can be found through the power of love.

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