You Complete Me? I Don’t Think So!

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.

heart sandwich

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.

Half Heart Necklace

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.

Looking for other half

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.”

GH 2014 photo

50 thoughts on “You Complete Me? I Don’t Think So!

    1. Ah, Holly. How can you be the wind beneath my wings when you are the wind beneath mine??? lol.

  1. I want to take you on tour – book you and your words and your wisdom in all of the high schools and colleges in America, and few other countries, too. Wise words and a great post. And also THANK YOU! I love the movie, but her big line (and her milk-toast character in general) made me crazy!

    1. You crack me up, Denny! My wisdom could barely fill a teaspoon. But thanks! I do think it’s an important life lesson for people of all ages. Be a complete person without someone else.

  2. What made that line so powerful for me, was the character felt complete on his own until he met the one person that made him feel even more complete. That’s the way true love worked for me, and that’s how it works for my characters.

    We do have to feel comfortable in our own skin, be able to stand on our own, and be a whole person BEFORE we can offer that sense of completeness to another person. Make sense? Maybe, maybe not. Love is a complicated thing that rarely does make sense. The human heart is even more complicated.

    Great thoughts on this point, Kim! As romance writers we don’t want our characters to be needy, but they do have to need something that only the other lead can provide.

    1. Shelly,
      Thanks for stopping by! I disagree about Jerry Maguire being a complete person before he met Dorothy. And I don’t even think he’s all that complete after the fact. The whole point with all of his old girlfriends was that he didn’t like to be alone. When you’re comfortable with who you are, being alone isn’t a big deal.
      But I agree that me need to be whole before embarking on a relationship.

  3. This reminds me a little of Twilight and why some people absolutely hated it. Bella falls apart when Edward leaves to the point where she can’t even function without him. What kind of message does this send to young girls? (Disclaimer: I do like the series, but I totally get the point these people are making. That being said, my favorite YA vampire series is Vampire Academy. There is a kick butt heroine who doesn’t need to guy to save–or complete–her.)

    1. Jessica,
      I was actually thinking about Bella falling apart when Edward left, and it bothered me so much. I kept skimming through the book wondering how the author planned to redeem her in my eyes. I loved the series, but I hated that whole whiny, needy episode that seemed to last for three-fourths of the book. ugh.
      I really have to read Vampire Academy. Sounds great. I’ll add it to my TBR pile.

  4. A heart sandwich with gooey goodness inside… Love that.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about love of late. Not the starry-eyed, blather stupid you-complete-me nonsense, early stage love. Rather, I’ve been contemplating the love that sees us through decades of marriage despite dirty socks on the carpet love. The love that holds tight through cancer or job loss or disaster. The love where two partners meet. It is a love that strengthens and sustains and laughs and cries and bites its tongue over dust bunnies and dirty socks. It’s the kind of love only possible between two complete people.

  5. Well said, Kim! I can say from personal experience that too much neediness goes from flattering to annoying and even creepy very quickly.

    1. I know, Gail. I’ve heard it from both sexes as well. There are some freaky needy women out there. And there are some possessive men who really need those needy women. Crazy circle.

  6. You know what I hated about that movie (besides that line) – her name. DOROTHY. She didn’t look like a Dorothy to me. And it made her seem even dowdier than she already was. Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy. You know who is Dorothy? Bea Arthur – rocking my stockings in the Golden Girls.

    that. is. all. 😉

    1. Kerri,
      I happen to have loved those Golden Girls. Especially slutty Blanche. haha

  7. When I think of my relationship with my husband, I don’t think it’s so much “you complete me” as “you make me a better person”. Am I complete? Sure! Perfect? Far from it!

    Hmmm. This is way too much thinking without caffeine. I’m off to find a Diet Coke. I’ll leave the deep philosophy to the rest of your followers.

    Have a great day!

    Enjoyed the post!

    1. McCall,
      I think that’s the point exactly. You can help each other be the best you can be, but you can’t really complete them. Balance, yes. Complement, yes. Complete, no.

  8. Ha ha ha. As always, you crack me up, but you are so right. I agree with every word. Wonderful post, as always, my friend!

    1. Pintip,
      I think you always say you agree just so I won’t wear you out with arguments. haha.

  9. I agree with everything you said, HOWEVER I interpret the line in a different way. No question you need to be a whole person when you enter into a relationship. BUT we all have wounds and cracks and dents, and I do believe there are people in our lives who fill them. My husband was the second youngest in a large family. His parents didn’t give him much attention, and he has wounds stemming from that. Now, believe me, he came to me whole and strong, having lived a great life full of adventure and travel. But I gave him what his parents didn’t. Like the Mickey Mouse watch and feetsie pajamas he never got. I find him books I think he might like and bake him biscuits and cookies. I fill in the holes by giving him the attention and nurturing he didn’t get as a kid. On the other side, I had a controlling dad. My husband gave me all the space in the world to grow into the woman I’ve become. He loves me unconditionally. Yes, I’m a strong, independent woman, but he DOES complete me. He complements me, and I him. He creates the infrastructure of our lives, and I create the home. He manages the finances, and I manage the emotional well-being. So, yeah, I do believe we complete each other. But in the sweetest way possible!

    1. I actually agree with you 100%. That is exactly what I’m talking about. You have to come to each other whole, and then you can balance and complement each other. I think it’s important to help each other grow. To share you hearts with each other fully, but never giving away half of it.

  10. Go girl!! I actually didn’t mind that line in the context of the movie. It seemed super-sweet at the time. But in real life, I agree. You just can’t fix someone else, and if they expect you to, you’re in trouble. If you think about it, nothing is more attractive than a person who’s got it all together– don’t you want to be around that person? If they’re walking around feeling and acting empty, though… not so much. I think teen girls especially should be wary of guys who are attracted to “neediness”– they’re looking for someone to control. Scary. I do love what Suzanne said, though. None of us are islands in this world, and it’s nice when you find someone who fills your particular dents in the best way. Nice post– good food for thought!

    1. That’s exactly right, Amy! You should be attracted to a complete person and not to someone who is half empty, waiting for you to fill them with the things you need. And I, too, agree with Suzanne. I would never want to be alone. I just know that I wouldn’t fall apart if I had to be. That’s the key. For me, anyway.

    1. Unfortunately, most stalkers probably started out in a relationship that consumed them. They invested everything in that one person when they should have been investing in themselves. Learning to be whole and healthy without anyone else. Thanks for stopping by, Sheri!

  11. I agree with Amy. It worked in the movie, but yes, in real life, it can be problematic. I like “You complement me and we’re better together than either one of us apart.” But that’s probably too many words for the screenwriter and director. 😉
    Thanks, Kim, great post!

    1. Carrie,
      That probably is a bit of a mouthful, huh? lol. But so much better. That’s the right idea.

  12. Well said! And your message is so necessary Kim. People need to be whole in the context of a relationship. In a romance, we want assurance that the h/h will be okay when the story is over. Too much damage to either party won’t help with that. There are too many needy people in real life to have to deal with that in a romance.

    1. Piper,
      I think you’re exactly right. Too much damage is just too much. One person can’t be expected to heal your soul or fix your insecurities. Can they make your life better with understanding and compassion and a deep love? Of course! But they can’t complete you.

  13. Sing it, sister. I’ve watched too many friends run from relationship to relationship, wondering why it didn’t work out when a little alone time could have helped them sort through their s***. I’m a fan of writing complementary couples. Maturity is sexy.

    1. Amen, Keely! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Being alone should never be a life sentence. It should be a useful time to reflect and make some changes so the next person can help complement you and your unique traits. But you’ll never have much to offer if you’re just going from person to person and waiting for them to fix the emptiness.

  14. OHMIGOSH, Kim!! That is my favorite poem about marriage ever! An entire Marriage handbook all in those few lines. I think at most a good relationship can free you from the need to prove your ‘completeness’ at every turn. Anything more than that is delusion.

    1. Wonderfully put, Sonali!
      And I absolutely love Gibran’s words about marriage. Everyone should take those to heart. With their whole heart. 🙂

  15. But, Kim! You completed, MEEEE!!!!! Don’t you remember the night we met? It was in your hotel room during RWA in Florida. We shared margaritas made by your own two hands using the blender you schlepped from DC. But wait. If what you say above is true, then perhaps it was the margarita’s fault? Was it the alcohol that made me feel as though I’d fallen instantly in love with you that day?

    OMG! Now my heart is shattered in two pieces like that necklace!!

    🙂 Sorry, I couldn’t resist!!

    All great points, my friend! I do love you, but I’m a complete mess all on my own, and don’t have to rely on anything from you, thank you very much!!


    1. Tammy,
      Of course I remember our bonding-over-margaritas night. lol. Every moment without you, I feel lost, alone. Just searching and searching for you to make me whole. To make me valued. To make me…COMPLETE!
      You’ve never been a mess a day in your life. But, know that if you were, I would be there to help you. I wouldn’t complete you, though. 🙂

  16. Yes, yes, A MILLION TIMES YES!

    But i’m cool with being “two peas in a pod.” I don’t mind some pod sharing so long as I can retain the identity of my own pea. 😉

    1. Nicely put, Darcy. Be your own pea but share your pod. I like that so much better than “You complete me.” That’s exactly what I meant. Share your heart. Don’t give half of it away. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Sorry for slipping in so late to your blog!

    I was never crazy about that line either. It’s kind of creepy, right? Witnessing a lot of co-dependent relationships made me more determined to remain independent.

    1. I feel the same way, Vanessa. Sometimes it’s easier to learn from other people’s mistakes, and then sometimes we just have to learn the hard way. I prefer the first part. haha. No problem about stopping in late. You stopped in. 😉 Thanks so much!

  18. Kim,

    I’m slipping in late, too. Yesterday was filled with tornadoes, wind, and lightning.

    I’m not fond of the “You complete me.” line either and for the reasons you listed above. About five years ago, I read two historical romance books which had just been published. I enjoyed the stories until I reached the HEA scenes. Both authors had the hero speak the “You complete me.” line. Verbatim. Did they think readers would forget where they heard it? Not only did I never finish the two books, but I also never read any other books by the two authors.


    1. Wow, that’s funny that you didn’t even finish reading the books. Or ever pick up anything by that author. There was an author once that I didn’t like something in it, but I finished it. Wish I hadn’t. Then years later, I was reading a book by another author, and the same thing struck me about that book. Turns out it was THE SAME AUTHOR–just different names. She has three names in different genres, and I refuse to read any of her books…

  19. Stopping in waaaaaay, late…but YES. Having fled my home barefoot one night many many years ago to get away from a boyfriend turned stalker, the expectation of any one person “completing” the other has since raised red flags for me. Kahlil Gibran says it so very well. Thanks for a spirited and uplifting post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Leslie! Yes, that would certainly raise some red flags. I love Kahlil Gibran. He really does know how to write and think about the human condition.

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