Back in college, during a lecture on how to manage Architectural Firms, one of my old mentors shared with us the secret to finding good business partners. Instead of gravitating to like-talented professionals, you should try to find your counterparts. If you’re good at designing, the others must be good at production. If you’re good at marketing, the others must be good in accounting. You might have the best product in the world, but without someone to sell it, it’s useless. You might have the best hustlers in the world, but without something to sell… you get the idea. When you understand how each person contributes to the partnership, you understand where you have duplicated efforts, what bases are left uncovered, and if you have expendable freeloaders. Only when you can cover all the bases between all the partners, can a business be stable and successful.
He concluded the lesson by emphasizing how this mentality goes into any partnerships, especially marriage.
We live in a society that promotes self-reliance and autonomy. We are grilled by life into avoiding at all cost relying on others; all thanks to failed group projects, bad roommate arrangements, and the ever constant posts about life’s “givers and takers” or about “reachers and settlers.” By the time when we’ve been properly indoctrinated into a self-sufficient mind set, we end up unable to understand why marriage is so difficult.
During that entire process of independence, we’re never taught to open up to others or to actually trust and depend on them. We are told that “love overcomes it all” as if love, a wonderfully ephemeral sentiment, was enough to overcome some very practical issues that happen within relationships.
Let me make something clear here. No matter how “complete” and well rounded you are, you have your strong points and your weaknesses. We want to believe that we’re so “complete” that sometimes being with someone with a different skill-set or a different mindset just exposes our shortcomings to ourselves, a mirror into our “weakness.” The insecurities then tend to flourish as we become defensive of our weak points or arrogant with our strengths.
You need to view your relationship like any partnership. You bring into the union your own personal weaknesses and strengths and hope they play well with those of the other person. It’s about moving past our inability to accept our short falls or dismissing our partner’s strengths. Instead, start looking at how you balance each other out and trust your partner to have your back, even if that means keeping you in check.
The dreamer needs the realist to ground him, while the realist needs the dreamer to fly. Maybe that successful person is constantly in business mode, yet what they need and crave in a life partner is a free spirit, someone that reminds them that life isn’t all work, that play is important. Maybe that “smart” person needs someone who reminds them that life can’t be overanalyzed, that some things simply are. Or that imaginative and creative person needs a pragmatic and logical partner, who can give them the necessary focus to fulfill their dreams.
It’s amusing how we are willing to understand this concept when we speak of businesses, as the social savvy marketer will partner up with the economy savvy number cruncher. Each realizes the strengths within their partner and weaknesses within themselves, so the power and command constantly shifts and flows between them depending of the situation and the needs. If this is so easy to understand as a concept when dealing with business partnerships, why is it such a hard concept to embrace when speaking of romantic partnerships?
We don’t need someone to complete who we are within a relationship. We need someone to complete the relationship based on who we are. We need a partner who can pick up the slack left by our own weaknesses, helping us to excel in our strengths. We need a partner, who can see what we can’t see, who can give a different perspective than the one we have. And we need to trust this person to hold their end of the bargain and that is willing to let us do the same for them.