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The Compulsion for Completion

  • Dr. Les Parrott for the eHarmony Research Library
  • 2003 8 Apr
The Compulsion for Completion

The pioneering sociologist George Herbert Mead was known for saying, "The self can only exist in relationship to other selves."  In other words, having a relationship-being a member of a community-helps us to discover who we are. 

But while relationships are the path to discovering self, they do not guarantee the development of a complete self.  That's the rub.  If we have not achieved a solid sense of who we are on our own, we are destined to believe one of two subtle lies guaranteed to sabotage all our relationships: 


1. I need this person to be complete.


By attaching ourselves to another, according to this first lie, we become instantly whole. Complete.  All of our needs are met. Case closed. The enticement is too much for the needy to resist.  Who can pass up a short-cut, as it were, to personal growth?  No wonder so many drink its poison.  Too many people attach themselves to another person to obtain approval, affirmation, purpose, safety, and, of course, identity. And when the inevitable disappointment happens, they complain bitterly that this person failed them.


The truth is, self-worth does not come from the mere existence or presence of someone in your life.  When you come to a relationship lacking self-worth, all you can offer is neediness. And even if you do win the heart of another, you'll still, over time, come up empty. That's the poison of this lie. Expecting another person-whether it be a friend, a dating partner, or your husband or wife-to provide you with your life is unrealistic and actually unfair.  It isn't anyone else's job to give you an identity or to make you whole. People in your life are meant to share it, not be it. 


2. If this person needs me, I'll be complete.


The second relationship lie is just as lethal as the first, but more cruel. The person living this lie appears to be less desperate. They aren't contorting themselves to win the approval of another. Instead, they are seeking someone simply to win.  Operating out of the same vacuum of personal identity and self-worth, they want a relationship with someone-anyone-who will build up their weak ego. They aren't interested in commitment, only conquest. And the more conquests, the better.


For believers of this lie, a person becomes an object to acquire, like a shiny prize with bragging rights. What they feel about the person they're dating doesn't matter as much as what they feel about themselves when they are with their date. Their attitude demonstrates hedonism at its height, and it shows little respect for others. The person that believes in this lie will be stymied by true love until a sturdy sense of self-worth and wholeness is established, and that's an inside job that depends on nobody but oneself. 


The bottom line is that it's important to take stock in one's self before entering any sort of relationship.  This "self-inventory" could take many forms including meditation and prayer.  It might also be helpful to utilize some sort of written assessment tool such as the personality profile available free of charge from  Not only will this sort of personality test gauge your readiness for a relationship, but it will identify your strengths and weaknesses as well.  

The eHarmony Research Library is a branch of, North America's most successful Relationship Building Service. Our precise technology searches a database of 500,000 persons to find truly compatible matches. Then, eHarmony's guided communication system helps you meet and get to know each other in an appropriate, in-depth manner. Click HERE to learn more about eHarmony.