“You Complete Me” Kills a Marriage

At least two quotes came out of the movie Jerry Maguire (1996): “Show me the money” and “You complete me.”

I wouldn’t mind if someone took the time to “show me the money.” Better yet, hand me the money.  I’m glad to work for it, but I still want someone to “show me the money.”

The second quote raises more serious questions for me.  “You complete me” is NOT the basis of a healthy relationship. “You complete me” sounds like I’m half a person without my spouse…that only my spouse can make me whole, meet my needs, and help me grow. “You complete me” raises expectations that my spouse and I must think alike, behave alike, hold the same opinions, and dream the same dreams. Preferably those dreams will be mine and you will simply “complete them.” Think about it. If my spouse completes me, I am incomplete on my own. I will expect, even demand, my spouse:

  • Always be there to listen to me and comfort me when I am sad or upset,
  • Always want to have sex as often as I want and every time I want it,
  • Always appreciate me and never get angry with me
  • Always be available and attentive to my every need,
  • After all, “you complete me.” I’m incomplete without you. You are an extension of me. In fact, there is no room for individuality. We are one!

As you can image, “you complete me” can easily lead to feeling trapped. “You complete me” also attempts to change the other person so they can make me more complete. “You complete me” will blame others for my incompleteness and eventually lose interest in one who does not do what I want.

Great marriages are not about addition in which two halves add up to make a complete whole. Great marriages are about multiplication in which two individuals choose to become one.

Let me explain. Two people who are “half way mature” do NOT make a whole mature relationship, but a QUARTER of a relationship. In other words, .5 X .5 = .25.

Only two individuals who have reached independent maturity make a whole mature, healthy relationship. In other words, only 1 X 1 = 1.

Mature adults in healthy marriages each have their own lives.

  • They accept personal responsibility for their decisions and emotions. They do not cast blame on others for decisions that go wrong or for negative emotions they experience. Instead, they take action to correct their decisions or manage their emotions.
  • They have friends who support them and their marriages. They know how to develop friendships and they enjoy time with friends.
  • They have dreams and aspirations. They share their dreams with one another. They also take the initiative to work toward those dreams and support their spouse in reaching his/her dreams together.
  • They accept their strengths and weaknesses. They utilize their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses and even make improvement in areas of weakness.
  • They are relationally comfortable in their own skin, warts and all.

So if you want a truly healthy marriage, become more mature as an individual. Learn to manage your life. Develop your interests. Share your maturing self with your spouse. Your marriage will grow more intimate as you do. Paradoxically, the more mature you become as an individual, the more intimate and secure you can become as an adult.

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