I-You vs. I-Thou Relationships

To: Shmuley Boteach From: Amy Sohn Subject: I-You vs. I-Thou Relationships Hi Shmuley, I think you are wrong about today’s parents. A lot of parents want desperately to be good husbands, wives, and moms and dads, but have trouble giving … Read More

By / April 6, 2007

To: Shmuley Boteach From: Amy Sohn Subject: I-You vs. I-Thou Relationships

Hi Shmuley,

I think you are wrong about today’s parents. A lot of parents want desperately to be good husbands, wives, and moms and dads, but have trouble giving their families the time and attention they need because they are so stressed about work. I live in a neighborhood with a fair number of self-employed or freelancer parents and I see them in the playground during the week, happy to be playing with their kids and to have the leisure to spend a few days a week with them. They – we – are lucky, because when you are self-employed you can make your own schedule, as I am sure you know. Most of the country does not have this luxury.

American businesses can treat their workers better, by giving more personal time, more paternity leave, extended maternity leave (some months without pay if need be), on-site day care, and flexible hours. Today’s parents do want to spend time with their kids and spouses – but are hampered by unfair policies at work, creating a massive time crunch that leaves them unhappy at home and never fully present. This leaves them in an I-You relationship with their kids and spouse instead of I-Thou. In order to make the realization that your family requires as much care and attention as your job, you have to have the leisure to be able to reflect on things like that, to spend an hour or more a week talking to a therapist or a friend, to lie on the bed from time to time and ruminate on your quality of life. The families you visit on your show and the families on the nanny makeover shows obviously do not have that leisure time, which is why they need help to see what’s wrong.

You are right that women are more likely to be overworked than men, and in need of attention and focus from their husbands so that they can maintain a sense of their erotic and personal selves. But as someone who makes a living listening to the pulse of the American family, you should also know that in some families the dynamic is different. My husband cooks dinner 360 nights out of the year, twice a night, once for our toddler and once for the two of us. He cleans the apartment every week while I take our daughter out. He cares for her alone at least a day or two a week as well as many nights, when I, afraid that my life is over, must go out to hear live music, see a play or have drinks with a girlfriend.

Many men chip in with housework and childcare – look at any of the daddy blogs out there on the Internet – and feel pulled in two directions between work and home, just as women do. I always enjoy your soundbites like, “The history of relationships is that the female need for attention is rarely matched by the male attention span,” but these out-of-date stereotypes of American men as clueless Neanderthals hurt men and set us all back.

I know many men who
seek out sex from their wives because they, the men, crave intimacy, and aren’t getting it. Men want closeness too. Men like slow sex even if they’re not always capable of having it, and men want to be held, complimented, and listened to. Men crave attention too – and even if they don’t need to be complimented on their physique on a daily basis (and some do!), they need to be appreciated for other things, like supporting their family, or cleaning up once in a while, or going out and taking the children. We all need more attention and more love. The challenge for today’s couples lies in figuring out how to love your partner the way your partner needs to be loved.

With regard to teen sexuality, I guess my feelings are complicated. Some teens are ready. Some aren’t. I don’t think you can say categorically that any teen sex is bad but yes, a lot of teens find themselves in situations for which they are not ready, even if they think they are. So yes, I am heartened that some teens are holding off because they want to meet the right person. If a girl’s first time is going to leave her bloody and terrified, better it be with someone who cares enough about her to hold her when it’s over, and who maybe, just maybe, can give her an orgasm, if not the first time then maybe by the fiftieth.

Lastly, Shmuley, there are days I wish I could go on your show. Unfortunately Charles is far too private. But when it’s six o’clock at night and my toddler is throwing a tantrum as I try to wash her hands for dinner, the TV is blaring Cops in the living room because my grandson-of-a-cop husband finds it soothing, and I have three deadlines to meet that night in order to make enough money to feed three mouths, I feel in desperate need of some shalom in the home.



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