WANT VS. NEED
Today I want to teach you one of my favorite tools for revolutionizing your love life. This strategy works whether you’re on a first date or have been married for 20 years. In fact, it works well for non-dating relationships, too. I call it want vs. need.
The current self-help-y, empowerment literature is full of the idea that people should meet each other’s needs. In this line of thinking, telling other people what your needs are and how they should meet them is supposed to be empowering.
I think this is exactly backwards, y’all.
What this framework does is tell you the way to feel good is to tell everyone what you want them to do, and then give them the power to determine your emotional state based on how much they do it. Except you call it a “need” so they are at fault if they don’t do it.
Here’s the problem: How does it feel when you tell yourself that you need someone else to act in a certain way? Does it feel amazing and empowering?
Not so much.
This is what feeling “needy” is. When you say you feel “needy,” it’s because you’re telling yourself that someone else must act a certain way for you to feel ok—so you’re feeling disempowered and desperate for them to do it.
When you’re feeling anxious or unhappy about someone else’s behavior, the solution is not to figure out exactly what you want them to do differently so you can try to force them to do it. You only want them to act differently so you can think and feel differently anyway—and you can decide to think differently no matter how they act.
Here’s what I think is the most backwards part of all this:
We’re told making other people meet our needs is how we build intimacy. We tell them how we want them to behave, then if they behave that way, we can feel close to them.
This is bonkers! When you try to manipulate how other people act, you aren’t creating intimacy or closeness, and you’re not relating to the person for who they are. You’re using them as an emotional vending machine. It’s all about you, not about them.
If you want to truly experience intimacy and the joy of connection, meet your own needs. Create your own validation. When you do that, you can just enjoy other people for who they are. If you don’t feel connection and love, it’s not because someone else isn’t meeting your needs. It’s because you aren’t meeting your own needs or managing your mind. You aren’t creating that loving relationship with yourself.
Now here’s the most common objection I get when I teach this:
“But then people can just treat me however they want, and I’ll be a doormat!”
First, people can already treat you however they want, and they do, because they have free will, same as you. And yet you often stick around anyway. Why?
Because you want them to meet your needs! You have told yourself you can only feel ok if they do what you want. So you end up trying to chase down validation from people who obviously aren’t that interested in you.
If you know you can feel how you want no matter what, there’s no reason to chase down validation. You don’t get sucked in. If you’re providing and creating validation for yourself, you’ll find you’re much less interested in hanging around with people who aren’t into the same kind of vibe you are. Why bother? That’s why if you meet your own needs, you get more discerning about your relationships, not less.
So that’s the crash course in how to never feel needy again. Your needs aren’t needs, they are just wants. And they don’t control your feelings.
Meet your own emotional needs and enjoy other people for who they truly are. You’ll get so much better at selecting for quality and attracting the right people than you are now!
I enjoyed this post and this perspective!
I really enjoyed this post. I read a post of facebook recently which got me thinking about wants vs needs in relationships your post mirrored a lot of what I was thinking and even clarified some of what I was having trouble articulating to myself as I pondered the phenomenon. I also kept thinking about how people treat wants vs needs in everyday life. It seems to me we really give bare minimum attention to our needs. As long as the minimum is done to ensure the need is met we pay it no more attention, but if we want something we will pursue it until we either get it or give it up as unattainable. I feel the same can be said in relationships. If we make it “needful” for our partners to make us happy they will just do the bare minimum, but if we fulfill our own happiness and take care of our own needs both our partners energy and our own will automatically go into fulfilling our desires. We will also be able to see more clearly that just because things hit a slow or down patch since we are recognizing and taking care of our our needs we won’t put that added pressure on our partners and it will be easier to keep a relationship, whether that be romantic or otherwise, after the rough patch is gone. Just my musings.