If you were of age in 1997, you probably got caught up in the cultural phenomenon of the movie Jerry Maguire. To many, the iconic line, “You complete me,” kickstarted a ludicrous relationship fantasy.
Even if the movie and its grossly sentimental scene sent you to the bathroom, trying to stifle the vomit rifling up your esophagus, you couldn’t avoid its influence.
Single men and women found themselves ripping up their dating checklists, replacing them with the simple requirement of finding someone who completed them — a mythical partner to fill in the crevices of emptiness and loneliness and lead them down a path of achieving blissful transcendence.
There was no official definition of what it meant for a mate who completed you; it was more of an ephemeral idea, an itch we couldn’t grasp or explain — one of those, “I’ll know it when I find it” notions.
You can’t deny its enticing promise. The myth persists more than two decades later. From the first date, we’re looking for the right signals.
The journey of finding a partner who completes you.
It begins a few minutes into your first conversation. You gel with each other, finishing each other’s thoughts as if you’re were tapped into the same brain. You tell a story about an ex, and your date deftly assesses how and why your former lover screwed you over.
Holy crap, you think. I had been missing out on that closure for years. Did I find someone who completes me?
Your respective worlds now upended, you agree to date number two.
It’s Friday night. You meet for dinner and go home together. Under the covers, you discover each other’s hot spots without the need for verbal communication. By some quirk of fate, you both hate cuddling after the deed and agree to retreat to opposite sides of the bed without guilt.
The evidence mounts.
By Sunday afternoon, you emerge from the bedroom frantically obsessed with each other.
The big leap.
Emboldened by your connection, you share your dreams and hopes — the ones you keep hidden, fearing others might laugh at your quixotic ambitions. But now you take a chance and share them with your new beau.
Instead of mocking you, they become your chief cheerleader, vomiting encouragement and compensating for your areas of weaknesses. You realize they were the missing element, the one who’d spur you to tackle your fears and dive headfirst into the unknown.
The two of you combine to form a single entity, unstoppable and bulletproofed against all obstacles.
With your new lover at your side, there’s no stopping you. They’ll come to your rescue when you’re struggling. You’ll anchor their dreams when they’re barely afloat. It’s magical until…
There’s a trigger — a discussion about your future, a political controversy, or the color you can’t agree on for the bedroom walls. One disconnect begins the domino effect.
That wasn’t supposed to happen.
The sense of completeness wanes. You possess different ideas on how the world should work, how your relationship should progress, and how your respective lives should unfold. That’s when you realize that perhaps, you were wrong.
Were you just deluding yourself?
Six months later, it’s no longer a question. There are holes in your life, longings you dream of fulfilling, and your partner cannot bridge the gaps. Blissful transcendence never came and likely never will.
Is it time to call it quits?
You’re in love, you think, but you soon realize that wonderful human you were so sure completed you…
Shit, you had it all wrong. They’re just a flawed person doing their best.
No matter how hard you try, neither of you completes the other. Perhaps it’s time to end this charade and find someone new. It’s your only shot at experiencing that feeling of infatuation and completeness.
When it becomes clear you grossly overestimated your partner’s ability; you face a crossroads.
You can blame them for falling short, part ways, learn your lessons, and find your true soulmate. That’s the easy path — the road that culture has fooled into believing is attainable.
If you’re lucky, you’ll recognize reality.
Nobody will ever complete you. It’s just an illusion you feel while infatuation grips you. You realize it’s enough to love each other, enjoy each other, support each other, and care for each other.
If you’re wise, you’ll also recognize it’s not only unrealistic to expect your partner to complete you; it’s grossly unfair. A loving partner can fulfill many of your needs, but they’ll never supply all of what you lack. The responsibility falls on you.
There are some things one must do for themselves.
The myth of completing each other.
When I first started dating my wife, I was infatuated, certain I had found the one. I had always thought that with the right woman by my side, I would muster the courage to attack the dreams I was too scared to pursue and round out the shortcomings I could never overcome. Worst case, her strengths would fill in whatever gaps remained and plug the holes I left unattended.
None of my lofty expectations came to pass. Sure, I was super motivated, but I hadn’t become smarter, nor savvier, or even luckier. I was still the same person.
Years later, I realized that expecting a partner to complete you puts an enormous amount of pressure on them. It’s neither fair nor realistic. Even when you do experience that blissful transcendence of completeness, you will soon grapple with its elusiveness.
You’ll always want more.
A former mentor of mine once told me, “I don’t want much out of life; I just want a little bit more.”
Years later, I came to associate that quote with the definition of humanity. The moment you feel complete, you want more.
If Jerry Maguire had been a real human being in a real relationship, he would have faced that moment of disillusionment. She doesn’t complete me, at least not anymore.
The key to surviving that moment is to realize it’s not their job to do that. And even if you do attain that feeling of completeness from a partner, it won’t last. You’ll always want a little bit more.
This article was originally published on PS I Love You. Relationships Now.