“You Complete Me” and Other Lies We Tell

For the first 7 years of our marriage, I tried my darndest to be the best husband on the planet. “Get over yourself, Nic” was my mantra. Whatever she asked for, whatever she needed, whatever she wanted, I would do everything within my power to provide it. I wanted to be what I should be for her. I’m not saying I succeeded at it, but I made it my goal. I saw her beauty, complexity, and uniqueness and I wanted to be as close to that grandeur as I could. I would proclaim it to the heavens that Jacelyn was the only one for me. When people would tell me that I was “such a good husband”, I took it to mean that I must be doing something right.

And, by all of our common, societal logic in regards to love and relationships, I was doing it right. It seemed like the basis of a healthy relationship. It rang true like a good romance. It jibed from the pulpit to the pop charts.

But we were, all of us, deceived.

Her all-around awesome-ness was real, of course. The greatness I saw in Jacelyn was true, good, and beautiful. I was glimpsing the unfathomable, inestimable worth of the human individual. She was, is, and always shall be intricate, complex, and beautiful, worth the whole universe. From the moment I met her, I had been seeing more and more of that inherent human dignity of which JPII said “the only proper and adequate attitude is love.” That was all fine and good.

The deception lay in my intentions. Not my perceived intentions, mind you, but the intricate motives of my heart, which, unbeknownst to me, were heavily influenced by a treacherous, pervasive terror of being abandoned. Turns out, having a loving family doesn’t necessarily spare you from the internal questions that arise from having your biological father pretend you never existed.

When Theology of the Body came on the scene for Jacelyn and I, it was like having a spotlight glaring into the darkest parts of my life. Suddenly, the altruism that appeared to be behind my actions dissipated and I saw the truth of the matter. Underneath all of the “sacrifice” and efforts, there was a gaping wound of fear. I saw very clearly that I’d been living half-lies in our marriage. For every time I recited my mantra to “get over” myself, I might as well have said, “Please don’t leave me.” In fact, I would actually listen to Thom Yorke’s “True Love Waits” on repeat, assuming I just liked it because of the pretty melody. I should have self-suspected, being as the chorus is “Just…don’t leave” over and over. Good old hindsight.

Sure, I wanted to be the best husband in the history of husbands, but mostly so that she’d never see anyone else as a valid option. I wanted to be so good at being there for her that she’d never see anything but the gloss of perfection that I’d perfected, and everyone else would look silly and pallid compared to me, my shining armor, and my steed. I wanted to be what she lacked, gap the shortcomings. I was Renee Zellweger, waiting to hear Jerry Maguire say those cheesy, endlessly re-played words, “You complete me“.

Turns out, Jerry’s a liar.

No one on this planet can even remotely, for one second, even come close to completing another human being. We aren’t puzzle pieces just looking for another piece on the board that can make us whole and content. Life is not about finding that one piece, or multiple pieces, that make us who we are. We can’t possibly fulfill another person. We exist in solitude, separate. Someone else will always be themselves. They are always theirs. They exist for their own sake. No one completes, affirms, or adds to another persons existence. That’s why it’s actually anti-romantic and dishonest to say someone is “the only one for you”, since no human on earth exists for you! That sort of thinking leads to viewing everyone around you as your own, personal ATM.

Notice, I am not saying that we’re complete on our own. Not at all. We do lack, we are, in a real sense, incomplete; but, since they’ll always be just as lacking and incomplete as we are, our completion cannot lie in another person. Any and every attempt to complete someone else, or be completed by them, will come up short, stale, and disappointing. Think of every compliment or apology you’ve ever forced out of someone, thinking it’d make you feel better about yourself. Think of every promising sexual encounter, married or not. Think of every paycheck or accomplishment. Every companion. Nothing ultimately satisfies. Worse yet, if you’re relying on someone else to make you whole, heal you with their love, or even merely let you know how much they love you, the outcome is invariably to be let down.

If you’re constantly searching for others to reflect yourself back to yourself, you get very upset by their smudges. It quickly becomes about you and getting the clearest view of you. It never turns out well, since the smudges are either the other person’s, and that makes you mad, or they are reflections of your own smudges, and who wants to deal with that?

Being made in the image and likeness of God, we are capable of miraculous heights and depths of love. However, we can only do so when we acknowledge that our hands are empty and debilitated, void of anything to offer on our own except brokenness and selfishness.

I was desperate for Jacelyn to know how much I (thought I) loved her, and would say it ad nauseum. All the while, though, I was woefully off-point, no matter how often I repeated it. By itself, repeatedly reassuring someone of your love for them is equivalent to constantly saying, “I’m broken. I can’t love you to the level that you’re worthy of. I will let you down and neglect you, often when it matters most” and expecting it to sound wildly romantic.

The change in my life and our marriage came when I realized that I couldn’t be the husband she deserved if I needed her. If my underlying motive in the marriage was to make sure she stayed with me, not only was I making everything ultimately about me, I wasn’t even free to love her. There’s no need in love. Addicts need the object of their addiction, and are, therefore, not free. Lovers–true lovers–know that love is a one-way street, aimed right at the person who is being loved, and are then utterly free to give, needing and expecting nothing in return.

So, I stopped telling Jacelyn how much I loved her, and began reassuring her of her infinite worth and goodness, regardless of who on earth loved her, me included. I took out the references to myself, stopped making her see herself in relation to me, and focused instead on who she is in relation to her true Beloved. I began trying in every way I could think of to show her that she was loved, completely and unwaveringly, by God, not me. I sought to remind her that she was made to be complete, but only through intimacy with God, not me. I constantly re-assured her that in Gods’ eyes, she will always be unique and un-repeatable. (Turns out, Beyonce’s a liar, too).

When you begin to see others in their own light, divorced from their relation to you, you find deep freedom in the relationship. It’s like finding someone else’s wallet loaded with money. Giving the wallet back to the rightful owner has nothing to do with you. You don’t need them. They don’t owe you anything. You’re making a delivery. Need doesn’t enter into the equation. You don’t want a “thank you”. You’re not waiting for reciprocation, because that’s outrageously beside the point. If anything, you owe the person who owns the wallet.

We are gifted with the amazing opportunity to be eager-yet-disinterested bearers of the great news that we are loved, no matter what. Each of us, if we are open to it, is able to walk the miraculous razor edge between shouting from the rooftops that each and every human life is worth every possible sacrifice and recognizing that no fulfillment lies in obtaining and possessing that life for ourselves.

We’re at our very best when we keep that in mind.

 

 

***As always, you can view this article at Ignitum Today***

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