Relationship: Need vs Want

A few months ago, my therapist told me something that blew my mind. She said that in a (romantic) relationship need and want are paradoxical. If you need someone, you can’t want them. You can’t have both.

It was a revelation…a “dawn on marble head” moment. I thought, Wow! I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a relationship where I was wanted and not needed and vice versa. My relationships have always been co-dependent, or worse, abusive.

I try to imagine what that would be like. Two emotionally and financially independent people who are together because they choose to be. They want one another as an addition to their lives, not because they can’t live without each other. Each is complete on their own.

These lines between love/need/want seem pretty faint. I never even knew they existed. How do you know the difference? I had to do a little research to better understand this new phenomenon that my therapist had laid on me.

“We should not confuse the perfectly natural yearning for a close relationship with an emotional need for one. An emotional need is a preference or desire that you’ve decided must be gratified to maintain equilibrium, that is, you can’t be well or feel whole without it, and once the brain becomes convinced that it needs something, pursuit of it can easily become obsessive, compulsive, or addictive” says Dr. Steve Sosney from Psychology Today.  Simpler stated, “When you fall in love to escape from your problems, to feel better, to reduce bad moods or to feel good about yourself then know that you need the relationship instead of wanting it.” by Mr Radwan in his book, The book Psychology of Falling in Love. 

This makes sense to me. I have believed for a long time that people need to heal their own wounds; otherwise they are always looking for others to fill the voids.

“We do not need someone else to provide us with some element we feel we are lacking either as a person, or in our lives. We are the only ones who can provide that to ourselves,” from Path of the Butterfly.

My present relationship was definitely built on need. When we met over 3 yrs ago, we were both a mess. He was laid off, without a license and leaving his apartment to move in with his parents. I was being evicted from my apartment; and I had recently sent my daughter to Alaska to spend time with her dad for a few months. She had started cutting herself and I thought building a relationship with her father would help her. My good intentions were crushed when they (her father and his wife) threatened to keep her. They blamed me and they wouldn’t let me speak to her. I was an emotional disaster.

My boyfriend and I latched on to each other. It was him and I against the world. We teamed up, took care of one another and good things started to happen. He got a job. We got an apartment. He hired a lawyer. My daughter came home. Regardless of these accomplishments, our relationship suffered later. We’ve been living separate since second incident in August.

I find it terrifyingly intense to face that someone I ‘love’ may have just been ‘need’. What happens when the need is put aside? Each day I agonize and analyze my relationship; but, the truth is it will take time just to trust again. It’s impossible to know my true feelings about my boyfriend, until I am whole within myself. I have a lot of healing to do.

Hopefully we both continue to heal and grow; because then will we begin to know the true potential of our relationship.

9 thoughts on “Relationship: Need vs Want

  1. This is a really interesting idea. It makes me wonder whether my relationship would be different if my boyfriend and I had chosen to do different things with our lives. We’ve spent about half of the time living in different countries so we had to ‘want’ rather than ‘need’. I think it made our relationship more healthy.
    It sounds like you need time to be with yourself rather than someone else. Co-dependency is never a good thing (I had brief relationships like that when I was younger). Since getting through the ‘need’ to be with someone, I have found that my relationships have been stronger and less troublesome – and that includes non-romantic relationships with my friends and family.

    • Thanks Laura for the encouragement. Working through this need is painful; but it’s good to know on the other side are healthy relationships with self&others! Thanks for your support! 🙂

  2. When I met my husband, I was surprised to find that the relationship decisions that I was making, for the first time, were conscious decisions of the will. It was exciting to not be filling a void, because there was none to fill. I wanted to open my heart to him, but I didn’t need to. You are stepping in the right direction. 🙂

    • I can’t wait till I reach that point! One step at a time I guess! As long as I am heading in the right direction! Thanks so much for the words of encouragement! 🙂

    • Wow, I’m so glad you got something out of it & good luck with your decision! Thanks for reading and for your comments! 🙂

  3. Hey, this is really helpful. Mind opener, I must say, really glad to have read it. Self healing is very importan, I too am on that pat. Have faith and be calm, concentrate on yourself for now. 🙂 Wishing u happiness n success in your journey to a better life. A better self. 🙂

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