Why "You Complete Me" Is a Dangerous Myth in Christian Dating and Marriage
- Heather Riggleman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 12 Jan
It’s another crazy Tuesday night. Getting the kids to do their chores or homework is like herding cats. My partner in crime is missing as usual. He was supposed to be home two hours ago. Chris stayed after work to finish up a project and I’m finding myself annoyed because I could totally use his help here, at home. After all, he married me, not his job. As he walks in the door, I try not to roll my eyes because I know what he will say next. Grinning, he says, “You complete me.” I can’t help but laugh because it’s our inside joke. He’s my best friend, but he doesn’t complete me. If he did, he would’ve prevented all the chaos and mishaps, right?
22 years of marriage that began with a teenage pregnancy and a shotgun wedding is hardly the stuff soulmates are made of. But when people get to know us, we often hear how we must’ve been star crossed lovers, destined by God to be mates for life.
We all want the Jerry McGuire moment when he says, “You complete me.” But then lights go up, the credits roll, and we find ourselves in the real world surrounded by imperfect people. We compare our significant other to the film, to our friend’s spouses or boyfriends. We scroll through social media and the comparison seems to find no end.
We see perfectly cropped, filtered posts about how so and so’s guy brought her flowers or we see a guy saying he has the best wife in the world because she just ‘gets him.’ But no one talks about the hard work any relationship takes. No one posts about bickering over unmet expectations, the budget talks or hurt feelings. No one wants to post about the fights, the arguments, the late conversations about trust. And no one will ever talk about their secret unrealized dreams, disappointments, or doubts.
We find ourselves living in a fallen world where there is no such thing as a soulmate. I’ll be the first to say my husband isn’t my soulmate, and the church needs to stop preaching it, teaching it, and supporting this ideal. While it may seem like the Bible is responsible for this phenomenon, the word “soulmate” isn’t found anywhere within its pages. Yet, the idea we were made for our soulmates has given individuals permission to bail from the bonds of marriage.
All too often we want to shape our identity, relationships, and marriage to fit our idea of what love is supposed to be instead of the truth. The truth is this, we are matchless. No one on this earth will complete us. No, not even your spouse or future spouse. But finding the one who completes you is a dangerous myth in Christian dating and marriage. There is no prince charming. There is no happily ever after. There is no one who will make you whole.
What Does 'You Complete Me' Mean?
‘You complete me.’
This probably sounds like the most romantic thing your partner may have said to you. It definitely feels good when someone tells us that we complete them. It sounds even more romantic than, “I love you.” But if we dig into the phrase a little deeper, it means this person needs you to be a complete person which eventually leads to the conclusion that without you, this person cannot grow. The question here is whether such need-based relationships are fulfilling for a lifetime or not.
Where Did the Phrase 'You Complete Me' Originate?
So, where did this idea come from? The soulmate myth originated from pagan philosophy thousands of years ago. It has recently started trending in popular culture and has crept into our church and ideals about marriage.
According to Plato, humans were originally created with two faces, two arms, and four legs. They roamed the earth as a sphere and possessed incredible strength. Humans were so strong that their power became a threat to the divine realm. The Greek deity Zeus took notice and acted upon the threat by slicing humans in half. Humans were then sentenced to spend their mortal days not rivaling the gods but instead, searching for their missing half—their soulmates. At least that’s the story in The Symposium. While Plato is definitely not the best source of insight into our lonely condition, we can look to the One who is Truth (John 14:6). He knows the truth and reveals the truth through his word.
What Does the Bible Say about Two Becoming One?
"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female'. 'For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, And the two shall become one flesh': so that they are no more two, but one flesh." Mark 10:6-8 and in Genesis 2:24 it says, “…A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.”
Are we getting a clearer picture yet? Two becoming one does not mean that we were missing our other halves. The Bible shows and teaches the nitty-gritty of marriage: Two stubborn, broken people, united together for a common purpose: to build a home and relationship that reflects God. Two becoming one is less about aligning preferences and more about uniting in purpose. All of this, not in spite of marriage, but because of it. This shows us there is a fine line between becoming one with your mate while maintaining your God-given identity. Becoming one takes effort and persistence.
Mark Groves summarizes what it means to become a unit quite wonderfully:
“While most people seek to be independent in relationships, I seek independent dependence. As in, I want to preserve my wholeness, honor my partner’s need to do the same, and also be able to depend on her. What is the point of a partnership if we can’t turn to the one we love and say, “Today I can’t hold up my world alone, will you help me? It’s healthy to depend on people for support, it’s not healthy to depend on them for our wholeness and happiness. Those are two very different things.”
What Are the Dangers of the Phrase 'You Complete Me'?
The dangers of looking for someone to complete you could be a codependent relationship. It also means we begin looking at our spouse as our savior instead of the One who did save us. Interestingly enough, Plato and the Bible do have one caveat in common: humans are naturally incomplete. But before you go quoting Jerry McGuire, the solution to completeness is different. Plato says we must find our soulmates to be complete. Scripture says Jesus makes us complete. This is the difference. Humans are flawed and fading. Jesus is infallible, infinite, and faithful.
When churches teach and preach there is a soulmate out there for each of us, we are in danger of idolizing marriage. We begin to put marriage on a pedestal. We elevate it, covet it, and only have rose-colored glasses for married life. We replace Jesus for marriage and send ourselves into the wastelands of our perceived incompleteness. Our belief that true love should be passionate and dramatic causes us to cling to unhealthy relationships that should have been left in the past. We expect our spouse to meet all our needs. We think of love as a matter of chance, not choice. We mistake marriage and our spouse to be our saving grace.
This kind of thinking puts us in danger of becoming unsatisfied in marriage or current relationship. Believing that you are destined to be with someone dramatically changes the way you look at your potential partner and changes the way you handle conflict because every instance begins to feel like a failure. Your marriage will begin to unravel because you’re less likely to work at it. Seeing your marriage as a partnership requires work, effort, commitment, and compromise.
Churches should be teaching against the grain of this mentality. God is the crux of our completeness. And this should be the message for our souls. Our challenge isn’t to let go of the idea of finding a partner to do life with—our challenge is doing life with our partner and God at the center. For more about soulmates and marriage, check out, “If God Doesn’t Make Soulmates, How Do I Know They’re The One?”
What Does the Bible Say about Our Identity?’
One of the richest passages about identity found in the Bible in the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul addresses the church in Ephesus, explaining the new identity given to a person when they are in Christ.
According to Ephesians 1, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. We have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, unconditionally loved, lavished in grace, and accepted. We are blameless and forgiven. We have received the hope of spending eternity with God. When we are in Christ, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we do.
The Bible tells us that our identity is in Christ. “When we become followers and believers in Jesus, we lose our identity in this world and embrace our identity in Christ. Our identity in Christ is being a member of His body, the church.”
You are the son or daughter of the Most High King. We are the sons and daughters who had been redeemed, created new, and awakened spiritually to the Lord. This means we are heirs to God’s Kingdom. As long as we recognize our identity in Christ alone, we won’t get lost seeking the empty things that the phrase, ‘You complete me,’ brings.
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
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Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.