“You complete me.” The iconic line from ‘Jerry Maguire’ is known by just about everyone and most consider it a symbol of what romance and true love should be. Yet the sentiment expresses an unconscious mentality running throughout our Western culture that is detrimental. We hope we can find fulfillment and a sense of wholeness by amassing external objects like wealth, possessions, degrees, recognition, houses, cars, and people.
By believing you are completed by something or someone outside of yourself it follows that without this object you would go back to being incomplete. This is a precarious position. From a psychological point of view ‘you complete me’ is the same as ‘opposites attract’. When you feel deficient in areas of your personality one solution is to expect someone else to do the job instead of developing these areas yourself.
Imagine first two bottles of water that are both half full and second two springs of water whose sources run deep and overflow. The first scenario is opposites attract. Both want their bottle filled by the other but the only way to do it is through combining them. They must become one bottle instead of two, losing their individuality while gaining a transitory sense of wholeness. The second scenario is healthy love. Both people already feel complete. They can share what they have with one another without becoming depleted.
When you feel a strong attraction to a potential romantic partner, try to raise your conscious awareness about whether this attraction is due to personality traits you see in the other that you feel you lack. The exercise can be a powerful indicator of areas where you need to grow and self-actualize on your own. You are not being fair to someone when you expect them to stand in for your deficiencies and this attitude puts tremendous strain on a relationship. You both start to feel bitter and resentful. “You don’t love me. You love what I do for you. You don’t want to help me grow, you want to help yourself survive.”
Speaking in an existential sense, being drawn to someone based on personality traits you lack automatically devalues that person and makes them expendable. Anyone with the same traits would work just as well. It’s not who they are but what you can take from them that matters.
Of course everyone is unique and we all have natural traits and abilities at different levels of development. When you can isolate what your partner has that you don’t you can realize that you have a great teacher right in front of you. Observe, ask questions, and take risks. Use your partner as a knowledgeable guide to help in your development rather than trying to commandeer those traits. You can act as a teacher in your areas of strength too.
This simple change in mentality makes a tremendous difference in relationships because you both start to feel pride in who you are. You are not unfairly placed upon a pedestal and you never feel sucked dry or used. Your goal becomes helping the other person grow rather than helping yourself survive.