I want you,
I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you.
But don’t be sad,
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad.
I think that American society (and likely other societies as well) have confused “love” with “want,” but they are two different things. I have no question that the person in my life involved in my current reframing both wants and needs me very much, but neither “want” nor “need” is “love.”
If I want someone, I desire to have him or her in my life for some reason. In American culture, “want” is frequently associated with wanting what the other person can give you, which can be anything from sex, connections, or money to companionship or camaraderie. Wanting someone isn’t really “good” or “bad” – it just “is.” The problem is that many people confuse “want” with “love,” which can cause frustration for both parties when they are seeking different things.
“Wanting” without “loving” doesn’t have to be a “bad” thing as long as you are both on the same page. As an example, if I want your companionship but don’t love you, then I’ll seek out your companionship as long as it is meeting my needs, but I am not going to make an effort to understand your needs beyond the boundaries of our relationship.
As an example, this dynamic would describe many of my relationships with members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). I wanted their help in putting together PTA-sponsored events, but I did not love any of them, nor did they love me. We understood that we were working together for a common goal and sincerely enjoyed one another’s company, but when the event was over, so was the relationship. Nobody was hurt because we all knew this was a relationship based on want (and in some cases need) without love.
The problem with the want/need confusion mostly comes into play (at least in my life) in relationships that I think are closer than they are. Many women are too free with the term “friend” when they really mean “acquaintance,” which has hurt me numerous times before and in the early stages of healing. I loved my friends, but my acquaintances/“friends” did not reciprocate that love, which caused me a lot of heartache. I couldn’t understand why my friends didn’t treat me as someone who loved me. I had to face that they didn’t: they were acquaintances who wanted me – and sometimes even needed me – but did not love me.
This is an issue in many long-term romantic relationships as well. I will see couples separate and one will pursue the other whole-heartedly, declaring his or her love over and over again despite the fact that the other feels unloved. In many cases (but not all), the truth is that despite all of the energy going into the pursuit to hold the relationship together, it’s about “want” and not “love.”
How do I tell the difference between “want” and “love?” More tomorrow…
Image credit: Hekatekris