Why do two people live together? This question came up
today when my friend had some issues with his spouse.
The framework Martin Buber created in his famous book
I and Thou in the 1920s is one way to treat the subject. Most
of the time we are living in an I—It relationship with our
world. The world around us has some purpose for us. We
have created names (labels) and categories for various items,
things, and actions around us. We have a perception of them
and we think (i.e., we think we know) what they are. This
works OK with ordinary functions and items but not so well
with people. Still, most of the time we treat people like
things. They serve a purpose for us.
Another relationship is possible and this is I—Thou way
of being in the world. We do not try to categorize or label the
other. We admit that we cannot know the other person
entirely, not even talking about changing him or her. In addi-
tion, we are constantly changing, which means that nothing is
static (i.e., our thought model will not be realistic). In an I—
Thou relationship, we do not have any purpose, function, or
“image” of the other person in our mind. We simply take the
other as “fresh,” how she or he appears and is. We both are
what we are and discover each other every moment. This rela-
tionship can be achieved via a dialogue. In dialogue, both par-
ties share and contribute by creating something between
them that has no preconditioning or any expectations.
Quite a lot of marriages end up in divorce nowadays. We
often hear couples explain the reason for the split as the other
party changed or the couple just drifted apart over time. This
could not happen in an I—Thou relationship where someone
is not trying to get something from the other party. Nor is
there any attempt to change or try to define the other person.
When we create an image of the other person in our mind, we
also instantly create expectations and relationships. We create
an object that serves a purpose for us. Everything is fine as
long as the “image” in our mind matches with the reality. But
it only takes a few moments before the other changes and
shows some parts of his or her existence that do not fit to our
“perfect” picture of the other we had created earlier on. When
the illusion is broken, we get angry. We are disappointed or
frustrated. Our image of the beautiful life together did not
materialize. We had thought it through already (i.e., lived) in
our mind and then we just should have had to live according
to our predefined plan (i.e., imagination). When this does not
happen, we blame the other. We did not expect this. We did
not want this or we did not expect this to happen. The other
has changed—how unfair! Is there anything or anyone we can
rely on or trust anymore on these days!?!
Did we ever know the other? Did we actually have our own
needs and illusions and dreams we wanted to fulfil? The other
was just an object for those purposes. He or she came into the
picture because I needed him or her to fulfil my
dreams/needs. Maybe I was lonely, or needed to improve my
self-esteem, or I was after wealth or security, wanted to fulfil
others’ expectations (e.g., relatives) of a socially acceptable life
or I wanted to have a beautiful wedding or a family. Maybe I
was after happiness because I was unhappy before. Being
together was not enough in the first place. The question was
not even about the other person. We disappointed ourselves.
We failed our own expectations. The other person was just a
vehicle for our own needs. Were there any possibilities for a
lasting relationship after all—maybe everything went wrong
from the first impression (thought)?
Relationships can work out only when we are not expect-
ing anything from the other, ever, and when there is no need
to be fulfilled or anything that is lacked. When just being is
enough and no expectations are laid out, we can find love and
happiness. A true dialogue.
This is the original text, and an edited version can be found in the Fragments of Reality -book.