When Jerry Maguire popped onto the big screen in 1996, we all loved to shout out favorite movie quotes. “Show me the money!” Who wouldn’t like that? “Help me help you!” Or even “You had me at hello.” It’s what Jerry said to Dorothy right before that last one which made me want to slam my head against a brick wall. Do you remember the words?
“You complete me.” No. No, no, no. A million times NO!
If a man tells me he completed a triathlon, that’s quite an accomplishment. I’m impressed. If he completed his master’s program or an application for a job or an essay for a scholarship, wonderful! But, if a man ever said to me, “You complete me,” I would run—not walk—to the nearest exit.
First of all, I can barely complete an exercise routine. I can never complete housework chores. Sometimes I can’t seem to complete my manuscript. So why, in the name of all that’s holy, would I want to complete another human being? That’s a hell of a lot of pressure to be putting on someone else. No thanks! Come to me as a complete person, and I’ll meet you halfway as another complete person, then we can make a cool heart sandwich with all kinds of gooey goodness in between.
That half a heart thing, all jagged on the edges, that people wear around their necks makes me want to scream. Why do you only have half of your own heart? Do you really feel like that? Keep the whole thing! It’s your heart!
As a romance writer, I like to have two people fall in love who complement each other, yes. But I never write characters who NEED the other one beyond all else in life. That’s a very dangerous idea to put in anyone’s mind, and since I write predominantly YA, it’s even more so.
We’re all broken or damaged or vulnerable in some ways. That’s a given. It’s what makes a story powerful. And it’s true. But I draw the line at characters needing another human being to complete them. This idea troubles me.
What happens when this person who has completed you, who holds half of your heart, either breaks that half or dies? Can you no longer live without him/her? If I had a dime for how many times I’ve either read or heard a line similar to “I am nothing without you,” I could start my own publishing company.
It makes me think of being on an airplane when the flight attendant tells you to make sure you secure your oxygen mask before trying to help someone else. Same goes in life. Make sure you’re taking care of you before you start trying to complete someone else. And even then, don’t do it. It’s a lot of responsibility to own half of someone’s heart. I sure don’t want it.
This isn’t to say I don’t want my husband to love me. Or that I shouldn’t love him. However, he isn’t in charge of my happiness, and I’m not in charge of his. He’s not responsible for safeguarding my heart. That’s my job.
It’s unhealthy to need someone to complete you. I call that codependency, and many therapists have made a living by counseling clients on this topic. If you go to the self-help section of the library or bookstore, you’ll see tons of books written about it. It sounds romantic and swoon-worthy, but in reality, it’s super duper awful. To be two halves of the same whole may sound like true love, but it’s not.
Dream your own dreams. Visit places you’ve always wanted to visit. Seek out new hobbies and make your own friends. Be your own person. Because if something does go wrong in your relationship, and that person dies or walks away with half of your heart, and you’re no longer whole without him/her, then you have also lost yourself. Or a self you were comfortable being when you were with the person who owned half of you.
Love! Love with your whole heart! Share it. Embrace it. Treasure it. But don’t ever let the idea of not being complete without someone else seem romantic. As romance writers, we often write about heartbreak, and there will be heartbreak in life. That’s fact. It’s how we respond to it that matters.
Be 100% you. Be a complete person who attracts another complete person. That’s a love built to last.
I’ll leave you with words read at my wedding from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran:
“But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”