Today’s bon mot: Need.
“Need” never struck me as an interesting concept until the day I showed up too early for a history of science class in college and caught the tail end of an economics lecture. The instructor was asking, “What do we need?” One answer was “bread”; another was “milk”; and so on. He deftly dismissed these as not being true “needs” in economics terms; one can live one’s entire life without milk or bread, that is, they do not constitute a real need. (Apparently, air and water were givens.) At that point, I probably realised I was in the wrong class and fell asleep or tuned out, economics not being something that enchants or entrances me. Still, the idea of “need” stuck with me.
In general, most people don’t like those who are “needy” — people whose main need is to focus on themselves and their perceived emotional helplessness. It can be attractive to caregiver types, but it’s eventually so draining that it poisons the relationship — what there was of one to begin with. Need can become a means of manipulation; the example that comes to mind is, “If you don’t love me, I’ll kill myself.” Someone I once knew called his needy person an “emotional vampire.” In that case, his need was as great, if not the same as, hers, and in the short term it could and did work out — but always with the ever-looming risk of fire. In the end, however — disastrous explosion.
Recently, I got a very interesting rejection letter (apparently, in response to a misperception) that stated the sender was commencing a relationship attributable to “a realization of my own needs.” An interesting rationale, but not one that strikes me as a healthy one or one that is true to either oneself or the lover. (I don’t really know if any of this story is the truth — there are things about it that do not strike me as truthful.)
This is not surprising, as the person, if the self-portrayal is accurate (see reference to “truthful” above), has a lifelong habit of this kind of thing — and of wondering what went wrong when, invariably, it does indeed go wrong. It is amazing to me how human nature is to fall into the same traps over and over again, despite our infinite capacity for learning. Yet this resonates with me because I have fallen into my own trap — that of trusting — too many times, always swearing it will never happen again and yet succumbing when the circumstances seem right (and aren’t). “Won’t get fooled again.”
“I want someone because I need” is not the same as “I want you.” I have no trouble believing that there are those who don’t mind being wanted because they’re convenient rather than cared about and that this works for them. Betty Dodson mocks the idea of romantic love in Sex for One, although she, like Naomi Wolf, can support her declarations only anecdotally. In other words, romantic love is unhealthy for her, but she insists it is an unhealthy concept altogether — which is unfortunate, because her premise of self-love is a good one. Her need (there’s that word again), however, to make it mutually exclusive of romantic love is the result of her very personal bias — a bias that she actively seeks reinforcement for.
I can love myself — and love another romantically. Indeed, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, romantic love isn’t about “need” or “my need.” It is about wanting you. Not someone. You. In a healthy, loving, self-loving way.
Of course, “I want you” is unhealthy when it becomes obssessive. In that case, it is not about love, but about control. “I want to control you.” I do not think this is me.
I don’t know what healthy love is, although I have seen examples of it, but I do know that someone who feels a “need” should feel that need for me and everything I bring to a relationship — not just for a bed buddy who happens to be me. I could not live with that devaluation of everything that I am. And, my guess is that that will ultimately prove to be the case here. That a relationship built upon “need” is built upon a very shaky foundation indeed.
But then there are those for whom that kind of earthquake instability is exciting. Not for me.
As I said, “Good luck.” It will be needed.