Spouses shouldn’t wind up completely sated by a relationship, able to retreat from the rest of the world. Married people, just like singles, have some needs that are best met by a friend or by a neighbor or by family. Our mutual, unsated needs draw us together in service to each other.
Few partners will be in danger of making a complete retreat, utterly emotionally self-sufficient as a dyad, but aiming at this goal is as destructive as achieving it. Spouses in this situation are likely to sell their friendships short, failing to rely on them, as the theatre-going wife does.
If the friends of these marital perfectionists are rarely given the chance to excel, their spouses are only ever given the chance to fail. Expecting a romantic partner to be fully satisfactory doesn’t just damage existing marriages, it can preempt them. A person who assumes that their spouse should fit seamlessly into his or her life may pass up several good partners while waiting for the perfect one.
In the meantime, they’ll be missing out on the best part of marriage—the presence of a partner in the ongoing project of becoming better versions of yourself. The spouse you pick shouldn’t be the one who makes you happiest, but the one who makes you more kind, prudent, and generous, and whom you can give the same gift. You join to grow, not to accommodate the desires of your present self.
“You complete me,” remains a trite and unhealthy declaration, whether you say it to one lover or a full set.”