by Heidi Vermeer-Quist, PsyD
If you grew up during the 1990’s, you might recall one of the “hottest” romantic movies of that era—Jerry Maguire. For those of us who’ve seen the movie, who can forget the cheesy, lovey-dovey line delivered by none other than Tom Cruise? During what may be the movie’s most memorable scene, Tom Cruise enters, looks intently at Rene Zellweger, and dramatically professes his love by proclaiming, “You complete me.” At that moment, much of the theater audience would breathe a collective sigh, sniff back tears, and marvel at the power of true love.
But is this really true love? Does another person really “complete” us? As a married woman, do I need my husband to expect me to “complete” him? Do I expect him to “complete” me? While certainly romantic and a reflection of our deep desire to be connected to another person, the “Jerry Maguire” approach to love ultimately sets human relationships up for failure. In terms of living out healthy boundaries (knowing what I’m responsible for and what I’m not) and living in reality, the notion that another person can “complete me” is disturbingly flawed. Unfortunately, thanks to many of the misleading pop culture movies, at least to some degree many of us are duped into believing this fantasy.
A respected Psychologist, Tom Whiteman, once shared the Tick and the Dog analogy during a seminar focused on helping people work through the pain and grief of divorce. Whiteman compared people to ticks. Yes, blood-sucking parasites. Because we are needy, we latch onto other beings to meet our own needs. Consider for a moment how needy we all are with a basic need for oxygen, water, food, clothing and shelter. Then add everything from sunshine, love, encouragement, support, touch, work, sleep, exercise to laughter and the list of needs goes on indefinitely.
Ultimately, a happy, healthy tick finds a good host; a host to provide the very life-blood that it needs. The perfect host of a tick is a dog. Dogs are much larger with lots of hair to cover and protect ticks. But how strange would it be if a tick decided to latch onto another tick as its life source? Very strange. And it would not work out well. The ticks would suck each other dry and, in doing so, most likely kill each other.
Yet, we often find ourselves in a similar relationship with other humans. We look to other humans (fellow needy ticks) for love, affirmation and meeting our needs. While this is natural and it’s okay to receive good things in our relationships, we ultimately will harm one another if we depend too much on other ticks. By this I mean depending on other people to meet all our needs. We can serve ourselves as well as our loved ones much better by relying ultimately on God (“dog” spelled backwards) as our Host—our Source of everything. Also, keeping in mind the fact that other people are also needy will help us to forgive the many times we may find ourselves disappointed by other’s responses (or lack thereof) toward us.
St. Augustine, an early church scholar wisely noted, “My heart was restless until it came to rest in You, O Lord.” I fully agree. My heart is restless and needy. Only God, the true fount of every blessing, can satisfy and calm my needs 24/7. Although I am happily married to my husband, Jesus alone is my perfect bridegroom. God alone completes us. Our best human relationships should be seen as two humans, committed to each other but planted side by side with God as our center. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 15 that He is the Vine and we are the branches. We must abide in Him; otherwise we are likely to destroy each other. As we depend on God to meet our needs and complete us, He will empower us to love one another in healthy relationships.
And so know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. —1 John 4:16 (NIV)
Heidi Vermeer-Quist, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist working at the Pine Rest Des Moines Clinic since 2002. She provides psychotherapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, unresolved grief and adjustment, and personality disorders.