I recently asked a series of relationship experts to share some relationship aphorisms that, despite being acknowledged as obvious wisdom, are simply not true.
Hal Runkel’s answer stood out. The idea that “you’re supposed to meet each other’s needs and make each other happy,” he said, is “BS.”
Runkel, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, was similarly revolted by this particular notion when he spoke with Business Insider in 2017: “That is the most horrific piece of advice I can imagine.”
Specifically, he called out people who refer to their spouse as their “other half.” Runkel explained why this is the wrong way to approach a relationship, using his own wife as an example.
“I am a whole person,” Runkel said. “She is not powerful enough to complete me. I’m not powerful enough to complete her. She’s a complete person. That’s why I want her. Not because she’s half; she’s whole.”
Instead of needing each other, he suggested, how about wanting each other?
One potential danger of looking for a soul mate that “completes” us, they wrote, “is that it may lead us to think that our perfect partner is somewhere out there, and that fate will bring us together. This view doesn’t involve any intentional action on our part, but instead leads to us wait around for romantic lightning to strike.”
It’s a twist on the notion that you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. As Pileggi Pawelski and Pawelski write, it’s important to “work on your own self-development” to prepare yourself for a healthy relationship — whether you’re currently in one or not.
As Runkel said, “Your spouse will never respect you more than you respect yourself.”