Do Men and Women Complete Each Other?

I’ll be up front about this.  I think the notion that men and women complete each other can be pushed too far, even though it does seem to have some truth to it.

In favor of the notion, I can recall some wonderful feelings of completeness I’ve had during sex, and sometimes those feelings reverberated for hours or even a few days afterwards.  So maybe there’s that sense in which men and women might complete each other.

I also recall thinking that my partner’s talents and skills somewhat rounded out my own.  In some cases, she had a strong aptitude for things I wasn’t much inclined towards.  And vice versa.  So there’s another sense in which men and women might complete each other.

Of course, I’m not talking about the seemingly related issues of whether men and women compliment each other or are compatible with each other.  I’m only talking about this one notion of whether they complete each other — of whether they make each other whole.  And I think that can be pushed too far.

For instance, I’ve heard the argument that, because men and women complete each other, men and women cannot be complete or whole in themselves.  To be polite, that argument seems to be based on a naive lack of experience with being complete or whole.

A friend of mine once told me, “If you really need someone else to feel complete, then you are too needy for a relationship in the first place.”  I don’t entirely buy into her radical attitude, but I think it might have some truth to it.  At least, I’ve known some pretty needy people who always seemed to be mentioning how much they required their partner for themselves to feel whole. And the same people were often too jealous or possessive to have a healthy relationship.

Another argument I’ve heard is that, because men and women complete each other, homosexuals cannot.  That seems quite a stretch.

I see no reason why two homosexuals cannot feel the same sort of emotional completion that I have felt at times with my partners.  And I see no reason why they cannot have the same balance of talents and skills that I have at times had with a partner.

The last argument I’ve heard is that men and women complete each other in the sense men are the head of the family and women are their helpmeets.  If that’s how a couple genuinely wants to work things out between them, that’s their business, but I think it pushes it too far to say that only that one arrangement can complete a man or woman.

Besides, what’s there to really differentiate that sort of “completeness” from the working relationship of, say, a male executive and his female secretary?

So, why I think there might be some truth to the notion that men and women can complete each other, I also think that notion can be pushed too far — and often enough has been pushed too far.

But what do you think?  Am I onto something, or are these just some more of my late night thoughts that I ought to have torpedoed out of the water before they left their berth?

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12 thoughts on “Do Men and Women Complete Each Other?

  1. I can only buy into the notion that partners complete each other. Let me explain:

    Business Partners
    Intimate Partners
    Friendship Partners

    I think it is no secret that we do need other people. When youf friend tells you that if you need someone else to complete you that you are too needy for a relationship she is somewhat correct. In other words if you aren’t happy with yourself someone else cannot make you happy. But yes, business partners, intimate partners and friendships all bring things out in us and help us to be well rounded individuals. But these people are interchangeable to a degree. Not that I think swapping partners willy nilly is copacetic, but I don’t buy into the notion of a “soulmate”. I love The Tour Guide, and have no desire for anyone else, but he isn’t the only person I’m capable of loving. If I had never found him I would have found someone else.

    To say that men and women complete each other misses the point to a certain degree IMHO. People complete each other.

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    • I think some of us find we have more than one great love in our lives. I’ve known at least three, perhaps four people I would call soulmates. At least there seemed something qualitatively different about them.

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  2. To me, I think “enhance” would be a better term. My wife has told me on more than one occasion, “You don’t really *need* me.” In my mind, this makes for a stronger relationship where the people choose to be together instead of clinging to each other out of some Jerry McGuire codepency thing. There is no doubt that my wife makes my life better and has helped me become a better person. I also don’t think that gender makes a difference at all. Any two people that have skills, personalities, and traits that complement each other and have committed themselves to similar goals would fall under this sense of “completeness”.

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  3. I believe the health of any relationship depends on how complete the parties are as individuals. In many ways a relationship is similar to a business. The more needy and thus incomplete the individual is, the less able they are to contribute. They become a drain on the relationship rather than an asset and a contributor.

    Something that always bothered me about my religious culture was (still is) the way that people tend to look for a marital partner who will complete them; someone who will validate or even give them a sense of identity, fill a role and meet a need. It’s quite superficial, degrading even, and thus no surprise that so many marry with a few months, weeks, and even days of meeting. Icky.

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    • Neediness and emotional dependency seem to the enemies of great relationships. If so, it’s interesting that some religions appear to encourage exactly that — i.e. neediness and emotional dependency.

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  4. Personally, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to the question. It is a matter of personal preference and perspective. I do, however, think there is danger in thinking one can’t be whole alone. Our popular modern Western ideal of marriage and relationships are a custom and nothing more. (Which is another way of saying I don’t believe God ordained the institution of marriage.)

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  5. Hoo, boy, this is a hot kettle of fish. I might do well to mince no words. I am choosing to speak psychologically, rather than physically, here.

    “If you really need someone else…” This is baloney, the pronouncement of an abandoned lover that somehow got picked up by pop psychology and it’s done some terrible damage to people who’ve aimed for it. Generated a whole pile of unnecessary guilt and self-loathing, too.

    There are a few animals that are healthy in solitary states and humans ain’t one of them. Imaging and other studies have shown that we need that mirror-neuron connection to even wire our brains to function properly from the beginning. Without adequate contact, we fail to thrive. We are built to function in units of two or larger.

    Throughout history, there have been pairs that function in wonderful physical and psychological health without being opposite-gender peers. A child (of any age) and a parent can do wonderfully well if that is the only relationship available. Gender and age are irrelevant to this pairing paradigm, if you leave sex out of the equation. My friend Kyle completes my friend Stan as fully and romantically as any bi-gender duo you can name, if we want to talk about love. But we’re not, exactly, are we?

    Men aren’t built to complete women nor vice versa, IMO. We seek in others what we need for ourselves; qualities that we might be short on and have experienced suffering due to the lack of (pardon all those dangling prepositions), we will be attracted to when we find them in someone else. Hence, the notion of being completed by a partner.

    So, on the notion that men complete women: Romantic. Fun to make poetry of (since we’re dangling). Anthropologically and sociologically ubiquitous, but not necessarily in monogamous or even long-term pairings. Neither psychologically nor physically necessary to health and well-being. Only to reproduction.

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  6. I’m all over the map on this one. The marital state works for me, but I know some folks who really just shouldn’t be married or in a committed relationship, but stubbornly insist on committing — over and over again. Maybe they’re like the empire penguins who are monogamous for one season then move on.

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  7. No one is ever “complete”, by which we can mean “entirely whole” or “a finished product”. Two incomplete persons might approach wholeness together by compensating for one another’s shortcomings and nurturing one another’s growth towards that ever-elusive “completion.” The mathematics of souls is a strange thing– two incompletes can never make one whole, even if each incomplete is far greater than one half of a whole, even if both incompletes are a nearly complete as any mortal can be.

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  8. “I would never advise someone to get married, I would only say that it is the best thing that every happened to me.” ~ JaAG (aka me)

    I didn’t go out into the real world looking for someone to make me a better or more complete person. The fact that is exactly what happened aside, I looked for someone to partner with who I loved, respected, and wanted to be with. The rest just worked itself out.

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  9. The anatomical differences between men and women are just the beginning. Usually, gender and sex are interchangeable but this ignores much. The male and female brains function quite differently. They are hard wired quite differently. The changes initiated by the differences in hormones extends much further than just plumbing. Men and women bring their own personal, cultural and gender profile to a partnership. Although men vary vastly amongst themselves as do women amongst themselves, the fact is that we don’t know just how far maleness and femaleness runs through our veins, bodies, brains and souls. If a union between inherently different genders of the same species were possible, it seems only logical that the gender-based differences will be, at the same time, a challenge to manage and a glorious strength for the pair acting as one. Think of a sports team where the players do not think as an individual but truly operate as a team – a community of athletic persons. Why would there not be a spiritual equivalent when men and women live for the other “I” in the pairing.
    Although not proof, this would explain why we observe so often the unexpected, untimely death of a surviving spouse of a long-time married couple shortly after the first of the pair dies. Namely, they have grown together in their shared “completeness” to such an extent, that the loss of a large part of their whole selves is enough to tip homeostasis out of balance.

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