A Philosopher's Blog

Complex Vs. Complicated

Posted in Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on August 16, 2007

A while ago I was involved in yet another discussion about dating. I had not intended the conversation to be about my approach to dating but it someone ended up there. Here is the set up:

Her: “…and that is why most men should be neutered.”

Me: “Well, that would certainly help with population control.”

Her: “Why don’t you ask me for dating advice?”

Me: “I’ve had all the advice I need. Plus, I think it unwise to ask advice from anyone who probably thinks I should be neutered.”

Her: “Really? All the advice you need? But you’re single. The advice must be bad. Oh, you shouldn’t be neutered. You’ve got good genes and don’t do stupid stuff that often. You should have kids. Lots of them. ”

Me: “Um, thanks.”

Her: “So what was the advice?”

Me: The advice was ‘don’t.’ Works pretty well and is very easy to follow.”

Her: “That seems a bit extreme.”

Me: “Yeah, but I’ve been on some extremely bad dates. But I do have some other advice for when my good sense fails and I go on a date.”

Her: “And that would be?”

Me: “Avoid complicated women.”

Her: “So, I suppose that means you only date stupid blond bimbos with huge…tracts of land! Perhaps you should be neutered…”

Me: “First, being uncomplicated does not mean being stupid or having huge…tracts of land. Second, why do people have such hate for us blonds?”

Her: “So what do you mean?”

This is what I mean.

A complicated person is analogous to the tax code or the Windows Registry. This is to say that they are problematic, convoluted, torturous, difficult and inconsistent. Dealing with such a person requires special knowledge of all their difficult ways. Even with such knowledge, errors are likely and are almost certainly met with punitive action. Complicated people often have a serious random element as well-you can never be quite sure how they will react. Well, you can assign a high probability to behavior that leads to conflict and problems, but beyond that there is little that can be predicted. As such, it is wise to avoid such people.

It might be wondered why people deal with complicated people at all. There are many reasons. First, some complicated people are very physically attractive and hence people will put up with their complications. It might be the case that they become complicated because they are attractive-the rest of us have to work on being able to get along with others. Of course, there are attractive people who are not complicated. Second, some people like the challenge of dealing with complicated things. Just as some people really like dealing with tax codes and others delight in tweaking the Windows Registry, there are people who like dealing with complicated people. These people are masochists. Third, a complicated person can often appear to be a complex person-at least initially.

What, then, is a complex person?

A complex person is like an iPod. That is to say that they are consistent, straightforward and ‘user friendly’ while also being rather sophisticated. Unlike the complicated person, interacting with a complex person does not require special knowledge of their complicated ways-because their ways are not complicated. When mistakes are made, they tend to be very forgiving because they understand that people are imperfect. In short, they are mature, sensible human beings.

It might be wondered why everyone is not a complex person. The obvious answer is that it is a difficult thing to be. Being complicated is easy-just find a nice assortment of personality flaws and keep developing them in ways that make you an incomprehensible minefield of unrestrained emotions and poor behavior. At the same time, refuse to accept that anyone else has problems and focus your attention entirely on the most important being in the universe (that would be you). Being complex is difficult-you have to develop depth of character, emotional balance, patience, and an assortment of mature social skills. And that is just the beginning.

Do I think I’m a complex person? Well, I’m just a guy from Maine who runs, has a husky and is something of a philosopher.

75 Responses

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  1. Sydney said, on August 21, 2007 at 1:14 am

    I found your website by accident and I must say, you are very very funny and an obsession with your blog may develop. I am sorry.

  2. mlabossi said, on August 21, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks. People sometimes tell me that I’m not as funny as I think I am. But, I figure that means I’m still pretty darn funny. 🙂

  3. Harry Fear said, on October 10, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I didn’t catch on to the tone of humour but I thought it was quite profound and I am going to subscribe to your blog.

  4. Michaelangelo said, on December 24, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Hello Philosopher…Your thoughts seem to be quite accurate. Would you agree on saying that following your reasoning it would take a complex person to deal with a complicated one?
    Hence not only masochists but also deep (and bored) people like to take the “challenge” 🙂

  5. Mary Jane said, on April 17, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I know this topic is way over…many months over…but couldn’t help but put my two-cents in. Found your blog by accident – googlin’ on the diff. bet. a complex and complicated person. I found your description so accurate it was refreshing to know somebody out there pays attention to these things. I am a complex person and married for 15 years now to a complicated person. We are a match made in heaven. However, point to note, I am not a masochist. Secondly, when my husband and I started dating, I was attracted to his philosophical views because I knew he would understand my complexities…which makes a complicated person attractive to me. It just so happens, he is also physically attractive! Interesting stuff…

  6. Michael LaBossiere said, on April 18, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Mary Jane, congratulations on the successful marriage…and not being a masochist. 🙂

  7. Chris said, on April 25, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    So you ridicule people who are complicated? Interesting, people who are so quick to judge, but if you had to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, it may be a different story. You speak of maturity, and how a complicated person will lack that and be inconsistant. I don’t find it very mature to categorize and group people together and conclude they are all going to be the same way based off of one general charactersitic. Anyone who calls themself a philosopher or intelligent, is usually a fool…

  8. Michael LaBossiere said, on April 26, 2008 at 9:36 am

    First, I’m not quick to judge-at least not in this case. While I do take a somewhat flippant tone in the dialog, my view is based on years of experience with complicated people and the problems that have resulted from such interactions. I considered the essay part of the blog for some time. Hence, I am not quick to judge.

    I freely admit that I have run a mile in the shoes of a complicated person. I’ve had my complicated times and everything I said about complicated people was true of me. So, if I am ridiculing the complicated, I have also ridiculed myself. In retrospect, I should have made it much clearer that people are not eternally bound to such categories and that people can move between them. It is also the case that people have their complex and complicated aspects. For example, a person might be complex in most ways, but complicated when it comes to dating.

    I do not think I am guilty of being immature. The inference I make seems to be a reasonable causal connection: if someone is complicated in the ways described, then this will tend to cause the results I describe. Now, if you want to present a new definition of “complicated” in this context and make a different inference, that would enhance the discussion by adding more complexity…or complications.

    I have had and will have my foolish moments, but I think my intelligence and philosophical credentials are well established. Then again, maybe they hand out doctorates to any fool…ditto for professorships and book contracts. 🙂

    In any case, thanks for your reply.

  9. christian mingle review said, on June 8, 2008 at 4:54 am

    christian mingle review…

    The last time I was here I was putting together a CD, and it was the end of August, early September, and then September 11 happened… there goes the CD. It’s a national tragedy, we all know it’s a national tragedy. Unless you’re a deaf and dumb pig…

  10. Miss Frankie said, on July 9, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    How do you talk to those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions? Or better yet how do you show them what they have done without creating a problem and playing the “blame game”?

  11. mh said, on July 10, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Hi, I thought your article about complicated vs. complex was interesting and made me think. I suppose there may be alot of truth to your perceptions. I have a question for you. Do you think that for example, person A calling person B “complicated” may be code for person A thinking “I’m not that deep or smart and want therefore to attach a negative label on person B?!” Or maybe person A unconsciously feels the following: “Person B may have more depth and integrity, perhaps amazing psychoanalytic instincts. I don’t have this. It makes me uncomfortable… I don’t have control over this… OK, person B is complicated . OK. I feel better now. It’s B, not me!”

  12. Michael LaBossiere said, on July 11, 2008 at 8:53 am


    Yes, I do think that someone could use the “complicated” label in the way you describe. This would be something like the fox and the sour grapes (the fox cannot reach the grapes, so he tells himself they are probably sour).

    Labeling other people is a common defense mechanism.

  13. SPARTAN-367 said, on September 5, 2008 at 9:00 am

    “Being complex is difficult-you have to develop depth of character, emotional balance, patience, and an assortment of mature social skills. And that is just the beginning.”

    I like that line 😉

  14. Tess said, on November 16, 2008 at 1:14 am

    hmmm this seems a bit interesting cause just the other day someone asked me how would i describe myself in one word first thing i said was “complicated” yet ppl always tell me im a complex person. to admit when it comes to relationships or dating everyone can be complicated in everyway or anyway no matter what you say. But hey im only 21 been married for a year and a half plus im muslim so my religion does not allow me to date but does not mean i have not been in any relationships to experiece any of it with ppl outside my race and religion ive observed and its the same complex is complicated also but complicated means a different meaning and thats understandable but for arguments sake i can take ur sayings or meanings of complex and complicated but to me a complex person can also be difficult to deal with from time to time and not only a complicated person but again thats my thought 🙂

  15. Yaw Appiah said, on April 1, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Interesting, all the interactions. I just landed here from google searching “complex vs. complicated” as I was revisiting my Object Oriented Programming concepts. Just one other example to consider, complexity is to complicated as procedural programming may be to oop.

  16. kernunos said, on April 2, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Complicated is damaged or confused and complex is self made mysteriousness. Trust me.

  17. originalbanksman said, on April 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    My ex wife found herself sitting beside my Senior Legal Counsel (a very erudite man who she did not know ) on a plane and the conversation eventually ( I suppose ) came around to me. Wife said that SC considers me to be a very complex person. Hence I thought that with a view to improving myself it might be in my best interest to try to determine what that term generally infers as I am presently looking for a new wife.

  18. Michael LaBossiere said, on April 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Well, at least she considers you complex and not complicated. Good luck with finding a new wife.

  19. M.A said, on May 5, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Well .. What if you are dealing with a person who enjoys being complicated!! He is as well very smart but not enough to realise that he is dealing with a person who is as much complicated as him; (and that would be me) =D

    We are both trying to prove our selves not easy to get through, complicated and hard to manage and understand!! I seriously dont know why are we doing this,am as well quite aware of how crazy it sounds and how much it makes no sense but i just cant see him win without proving that am just as complicated as him and that i do understand him but he is just not aware of that fact, and doesnt wanna accept it!

    Yes, I do find it crazy and out of order what we both are doing but i just cant help it .. He sounds challenging and i am not the type of girl who would loose a challege !

    He seems to be trying his best to prove me how much he is complicated, he wastes lots of effort into it while i simply think that being complicated is what he wants to be and not what he really is.So he is just building up this picture in his mind about himself being complicated and tough and is trying his best to reflect it onto everyone because he thinks that the true him, who is too sweet and nice, might be understood as a weak character.. makes sense? Is it even a valid point?

    But yea, as much as he is intresting he drives me insane at times but i never show it. I always make sure to stay calm which i bet annoys him the most !!
    And never mind how long its going to take me am not quitting untill i prove him that i can do the same. Be complicated and kill him with being cold!

    He is totaly fanatic about being complicated and so am i and the suprising part is that we dont fight over it or find it a problem. We both tend to stay cool and keep on trying to express ourselves.. So, how bad is that?
    I just believe that i have to fight him with the same weapon he is using!

    Unbelievable !! yea ??

  20. Michael LaBossiere said, on May 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Oh, it is quite believable. After all, people do not compare love and war for nothing.

    My main thought is that if you both see your relationship as a battle and a competition, then I would suspect that neither of you will be happy. If you are trying to “kill him with being cold” and he is trying to hide what he is under being needlessly complicated, then things will probably end badly.

    Unless you find the situation enjoyable and healthy, you should try to be the people you really are rather than being caught up in what seems to be a rather unpleasant game. Then again, maybe you are being the people you really are…

  21. M.A said, on May 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Well .. I get what you are aiming at, and yea it is quite enjoyable at the moments.
    But the thing is the real me is a kinda complicated person and as i found him to be nice and sweet i tried to be any simpler to balance up the boat and make it float !
    But again as soon as i succeded in being simpler than ever it turned out to be he thinks he is complicated and he with no doubt enjoys it !!

    So there is absloutley no need of me changing who i am as long as he can cope with it ( me being complicated ) as it is his nature too .. right ?

    Thanks alot =D

  22. Anonymous said, on June 4, 2009 at 11:42 am

    wrong way round

    • T. J. Babson said, on June 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm

      Years ago once I heard Donald Trump giving relationship advice to men on the Today Show. It wasn’t too long after he had divorced Ivana 🙂

      His advice was to avoid “high maintenance” women. He probably had a woman like this in mind 🙂

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm

        Donald is right about that. While a good relationship requires work, the level of effort should be reasonable.

      • kernunos said, on November 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm

        Well it should make your life easier when all the +’s and -‘s are added together. I know it is not that simple but life should not be harder.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm


  23. lucielaminerva said, on July 27, 2009 at 2:25 am

    That’s not a complicated person. That’s a dumb person.

    Here’s an Occam’ed version of what happened (in my eyes):

    Take it that she was speaking to you in Klingon but you didn’t have the codec for it.

    She was also speaking in broken Klingon, if I may add. A very very bad, grammatically erronous and illogicality-ridded example of broken Klingon, if you wish to as well- It’s like reading a 5th grader’s account of why he should have cookies from the cookie jar, what with the primitive logic that was offered.

    As for complicated vs complex, I disagree with whatever that’s been posited (not that it’s serious anyway) because the definition did not exactly describe the qualities of complexity adequately- that is to say, there is nothing complex about being an emotionally mature person, and using the synonym ‘complicated’ to describe someone which is a complete opposite makes little sense to me. Or perhaps I may not be too sensitive enough to detect the subtle subtleties.


    Nevertheless, it was a really entertaining read and I do look forward to more of your writing.

    PS: I tend to ignore such people the moment they make the first sentence. I call them real-life trolls and it’s more worthwhile to spend my time thinking about something more productive than waste a second gracing their oddity with your audience.


    • kernunos said, on November 24, 2009 at 9:12 pm

      You wrote like Douglas Adams at first and then got all elevated and intellectual and got bored…..or lost.

  24. alex said, on November 24, 2009 at 8:19 am

    I say that if at any stage a girl reminds you of the Windows Registry, then you should get out sooner rather than later.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 24, 2009 at 5:58 pm

      Good advice.

    • kernunos said, on November 24, 2009 at 9:13 pm

      Seriously! Excellent advice. She was probably put out on the shelf too early like a Microsoft product.

  25. kernunos said, on November 24, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I say hook up with someone you are not attracted to. Not unattractive to you but not-“OMG! I’m in love!”. That should make things much less complicated and not so hard if it doesn’t work out.

  26. Keith said, on December 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I am a very complex person, have been labeled this way my whole life. I fell for a very complicated woman with very serious issues towards men and people in general. Obviously we didn’t work out, I am anxious to get through to her and make her realize that I can deal with her issues before we drift too far apart and go our separate ways forever. She is very special to me and I want to help her, mind you I would never actually tell her that at this point.
    should I not even bother trying?
    Any suggestions?

    • kernunos said, on December 2, 2009 at 8:04 pm

      Sounds way too complicated. It should not be this hard.

    • magus71 said, on December 3, 2009 at 2:48 am

      She’ll drag you donwn into her own depressing world. People like that love to make others join them in misery. Every person needs to find happiness on their own. Find someone who’s happy.

  27. Dave Snowden said, on December 23, 2009 at 2:27 am

    You might like Paul Cillier’s definition (A Prof of Philosophy in South Africa in his book Complexity and Post Modernism). He says that a complicated system is an aircraft, while a complex one is a mayonnaise. OK systems not people and in the context of complex adaptive systems theory specifically but its a similar point

  28. Nick Luft said, on January 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

    What is a person who is neither; if the person is un-complicated and non-complex. Your post seems to imply that these “ordinary” people are mostly complex – consistent, tolerant and user friendly – but not sophisticated.

    What do you mean by this lack of sophistication?

    Is sophisticated having a wide range of behaviours? Or is it a wide-range of interests? Of contrasting elements to your personality, but consistently contrasting?

    Is this ordinary person “sweet”, “boring” or “salt of the earth”?

    I suppose a complex persons sophistication is only to be found in the eye of the beholder. It is what keeps the other person’s interest in you. What others define as sophisticated.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on January 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      Depending on what “sophisticated” means, complex people can be very sophisticated. Or not.

      A complex person might be boring to others. After all, what bores a person tends to depend more on the person than on the factor that is taken to bore.

  29. […] I’ve always used a simple rule of thumb when thinking about complexity. Some folk like to get fancy with two and three dimensional models that enable us to ascribe degrees of complexity to problems. While I find these models interesting, my focus has always been on how do I solve the problem in front of me. What is the insight that will make the hard easy? For me, one simple distinction seems to provide the information I need. Is a solution complex? Or is it complicated? […]

  30. rhi said, on July 21, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    yeah thats true .. im such a complex person! labit!

  31. Cupofwrath.com said, on September 15, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Sorry for the belated post,
    I think one can be driven to the point of madness trying to understand people or relationships in general.

    This is all semantics, but when I think of a complex person, they are more like a politician. They monitor themselves and their actions and words based on those around them, and situations, and potential situations, and so it can be difficult to always know what they are thinking, feeling, or who they are. They are guarded, so as to not hurt others feelings or look bad themselves. Its not really being dishonest, just scrupulous and being aware of others. Its more a combination of sensitivity and social intelligence, but not necessarily raw intelligence. They generally think more than others.

    What your describing with a complicated person, just sounds like a selfish and messed up person lacking discretion and self control. Their emotions are all over the place. It’s more of a feminine trait (men have their own bad personality types like the classic narcissist).

    Both groups probably tend to be more sensitive and possibly more intelligent than average. I suppose complex is more introverted and complicated more outgoing.

    • yana said, on October 30, 2011 at 7:51 am

      Love this explanation.. sounds more reasonable

  32. murraygal said, on November 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    During a johari window exercise in college, we were all asked to give one word to describe the person next to us. Someone described me as complex – yet they have never taken the time to get to know me? can they see this in me without every talking to me?

    • kernunos said, on November 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm

      Sounds like an easy way out answer that anyone would find difficult to prove them wrong. The real reason is probably much more complex though. 🙂

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      Depends on how much observation time they had of your behavior.

  33. waezashamsiaafzal said, on October 1, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I sometimes wonder whether a complex person was once a complicated person who was aware enough to reflect on the multitude of character flaws they had and decided to rise above it. As in their past experience lent itself to latter becoming a person of much more depth than they would have been had they not had all the the negative flaws to deal with, understand and overcome as a complicated person in the first place.

    Great post by the way…

    • Kellie F. said, on February 14, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Nahhh! 😀

  34. kitchenspinster said, on September 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Reblogged this on kitchenspinster's Blog and commented:
    Complexity vs Complications – I wanted to write something on this, I searched on the internet, and I found this! Similar to what I wanted to convey so I’m just going to reblog it. Kudos to the writer! 🙂

  35. Andy said, on October 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    You’re somewhat of a philosopher? Don’t think so..Most philosophers would indeed be very complicated people. I think you are just another waspy-looking hedonist…

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  39. […] complex woman has many depths.  One guy put it this way, “A complex person is like an iPod.  That is to say that they are consistent, […]

  40. Wu mah said, on January 19, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks much

  41. Wu mah said, on January 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Complexx meter box

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    I loved this article!!!! It was great

  45. david halbstein said, on July 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Michael – so now it’s been almost ten years since you posted this. As my Yiddish-speaking aunt would say, “Nu?” Ten years ago you were struggling with the complexities (or complications?) of dating. Where are you now?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 28, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Odd that you should mention this. I was in a long-distance relationship that ended (we tried for two years to get jobs in the same city and she decided that was enough time spent). So, back to being single. Tried to address that. In short: I have been digitally defeated by online dating. Main lesson: I need to have half my age or twice my income. 🙂

      • david halbstein said, on July 29, 2016 at 6:27 am

        I mention this now only because this topic showed up yesterday based on a new comment. Maybe that’s the odd aspect.

        I think that achieving either of those goals might land you a very complicated partner. Long distance is tough.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 29, 2016 at 3:13 pm

          True on both counts!

          The only good reason I’d want to be half my age is to get back to running fast. 🙂

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  47. dark passenger said, on October 16, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Wow! Enjoyed the short read.
    Now, it is really hard to tell if I am complicated or complex!

  48. Ray Morken said, on March 15, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    +1 I like it.

  49. ANONYMOUS. said, on January 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/complex proves that COMPLEX as going by your description is wholly inaccurate. plain old wrong. I literally does’nt make sense. Complex means has ‘issues’ unsolved, unresolved, ‘needs therapy’ ! complicated is just another word for complex, it is in fact, almost the same meaning as ‘complicated.’ see dictionary.

    • ANONYMOUS. said, on January 3, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      when a bloke says hes complex..trust me that doesnt mean a perfectly balanced normal easygoing bloke.it means the precise opposite.

  50. Kellie F. said, on February 14, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    This was a very good explanation as many people are not privy to the difference. 😉

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