Many people think that ‘need’ sounds desperate. Especially in a culture that places emphasis on being independent above all else. But does ‘want’ go far enough? I ‘want’ a takeout tonight, is that the same way we should approach a romantic relationship? I think neither of these words are helpful, and we need to remember the middle ground.
A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a group of friends. It was a lot of fun, and as I’m sure we all know, different things come up and get discussed at times like these.
The subject of relationships arose, and one of my friends declared ‘I told my new partner that I wanted to be in a relationship with them, but I didn’t need to be’.
Others in the group nodded or gave agreeing statements, but it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Is this really the right attitude to have?
‘Needing’, Good Or Bad?
In our culture, we’re constantly told to do our own thing. To do whatever makes ‘me’ happy, to make the right choices for ‘me’, to do whatever ‘I’ want. In terms of relationships, this translates into ‘you should be independent and not need a relationship’.
It’s right to say that our worth and value can’t come from one person or one romantic relationship. We shouldn’t need someone to come along to complete us. So it’s right to say we shouldn’t ‘need’ that ‘one perfect’ relationship before we feel valued.
We don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued
However, we should also realise that we do need other people and need relationships. Actually, our relationship with God is what should define us first and foremost, but beyond that, a whole range of friendships and family ties should feed into a positive view of ourselves.
We need people to support us. We need people around us who we can rely on, and who can rely on us. Meaning is found in interdependence and investing in those around us (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality). Our romantic relationship can be part of this interdependence, alongside our other relationships.
So it’s good to say we don’t ‘need’ a romantic relationship before we feel valued and worthy. But it’s bad to think we don’t ‘need’ relationships, which can include a romantic one, to find purpose, support, and a place to belong.
Wanting: Good Or Bad?
But what about the other part of what my friend said. Is saying we ‘want’ a relationship a better way to think about it?
Let me make it clear, I think there is nothing wrong with wanting a romantic relationship. If we aren’t in one, it’s okay to say we want that to change. And it’s good to know we have chosen to commit to someone when we start dating, and actively wanted to put in the effort to make it work. (Read Are You Thinking About Compatibility In The Right Way?)
‘Wanting’ makes us active participants
But the belief of ‘wanting’ over ‘needing’ can make us approach relationships at arm’s length sometimes. It can make us think that while ‘I’m happy’, I will stay, but if it gets hard then I will leave because I don’t ‘want’ this anymore.
‘Wanting’ makes us active participants, it means we commit to making it work. That’s a good thing. However, if we make it too much about ‘me’ wanting, rather than ‘us’ wanting, and reduce wanting to just my feelings in the moment, then it can have a very bad effect.
I do understand the point my friend was trying to make, nevertheless, the choice of words did make me uneasy. They are too extreme and polarising. I think we need to remember the middle ground and stay in it as much as possible.
I think it’s more helpful to remember that we need relationships and to be connected with other people, but we don’t need a romantic relationship before we feel valued or worthy. (Read What A Fishing Proverb Taught Me About Relationships)
Placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ over ‘need’, can make us feel like we can walk away
I think we also should know that wanting a relationship is fine, and choosing to invest makes the relationship an active choice and real commitment. However, placing too much emphasis on ‘want’ can make us feel like we can walk away at any moment, and actually weaken our relationship.
Imagine if we remembered that sometimes the middle ground is best. The words we use are important, so let’s use them to remind us how to approach relationships in the best possible way. (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)
What do you think about needing vs wanting? Comments welcomed below.