When the first guy I ever loved broke up with me, one of the things he said was, “You never needed me and that hurt a lot.”
It stunned and confused me at the time. What did he mean? Of course, I needed him. I thought we needed each other. What did being “needed” have to do with anything? After all, I prided myself on my independence. But in my rush to prove how strong and independent I was I may have broken his heart by making him feel like he was not needed.
Years later, I understood what he meant. It opened my eyes to something vital about attraction and love. We underestimate the value of need when it comes to love.
Yet it’s in our very language. “I need you” can be synonymous with “I love you”.
“I can’t live without you” can express both “I need you/ I love you”. A lot of our language uses “need” when describing love. While we fear appearing “needy”, we can hurt those who love us if we act like we don’t need them at all.
Don’t we feel most loved when we are needed? Isn’t that true for others? Are love and need deeply intertwined and impossible to separate without losing both.
As a child my mother did everything for us. When we needed her, relied on her, and let her baby us she swelled up with pride. I never understood why, but I think she felt loved through our dependence on her. As we grew up and did things for ourselves, she seemed hurt. While she liked having less to do, she didn’t seem to like us needing her less and less.
I don’t think she thought about it that way, but my mother always invites people into her life that desperately “need” her. Being needed seems to be how she feels loved. And not being needed feels like rejection to her.
We never meant it that way. We just liked taking care of ourselves.
In movies and books, true love is often portrayed as a process of “completion”. Two halves make a whole. “You complete me,” the lovers might say. I never liked that idea. I am a whole by myself. Mr. Waka and I are partners, not co-dependents.
But even I can’t escape this. I love helping people and I have a lot of my mother in me. The friends I invited into my life were often people that seemed to need my help. I felt drawn to those that needed me. While that may not have been love, I certainly was drawn to them like a moth to the flame.
Children are the same. They love to feel needed. Parents who do everything for their child believe they are showing love to the child, yet in the long run they are hurting their kid. This is because when parents do everything and never let the child do anything they make the child feel worthless. They make the child feel they are not needed. I remember helping my dad built a cabinet. All I really did was pass him his tools, but I feel so “needed” and I was dazzled by that warm feeling as a precocious six year old.
When my dad said, “I need your help” I was glued to his side, running to the fridge to get him more cold drinks. Running around to get him an extra box of nails. I felt like I was needed. I felt loved.
No one really grows out of the desire to feel needed by others.
Once I had a co-worker who was the Prince of the office. All the ladies loved him. I wasn’t so impressed by him, but I was surprised when he offered to help me carry a heavy plastic bin. I replied, “Oh I got it” and was surprised when he actually looked disappointed and annoyed. I knew that look. Declining his offer of help I had actually hurt his feelings. I had worried he’d think me weaker if I didn’t carry the bin, yet that wasn’t the issue.
We are so caught up in proving how “we need no one” that we hurt others more than we realize. And we are hurt the same way when they don’t need us.
“I got this,” they say. And you feel a bit silly that you offered to help at all.
But what do you do?
I think this deep desire to be needed leads people (like myself) into sometimes very foolish decisions. My uncle (who passed away recently) always married the wrong sort of women. He ended up divorced four times and probably lost eye-popping amounts of money to all of his exes. These women only married him for money and left with all his bank balance.
Why do men so commonly try to attract women by flaunting wealth? That will attract a type of women, but it’s the type that’s going to leave you high and dry. So why do they do it?
Some would say “the way society raised them”, but I think that’s too simple. Men across all societies try to draw in women this way, either directly or through her family. I think men are attracted to women who need them, and money is the most obvious way to make a woman need you.
Not that women don’t also want to be needed. Just in a different way. There is the stereotype of the “bad boys” that women fall for. The tortured soul that only they can save. A cold-hearted man with an icy exterior who needs a woman to remind him what love truly is.
And at the end of the love story, the cold, rich billionaire tells the impoverished Plain Jane with a heart of gold, “I need you so much it’s killing me inside”.
And like many women, I sigh at that point and cuddle the book even if I’d laugh if I a guy ever said something like that to me in real life.
It’s hard not to feel drawn to someone who needs us, depends on us, turns us into their personal hero. To most, that is love. You feel worth in their eyes when they need you. If you were gone, what would they do without you? They need you.
Since I was never emotionally needy, a lot of the guys who approached me left broken-hearted. I never meant to do it. They wanted to be my hero. They wanted to fix my pain. However, I could fix my pain, thank you very much.
I never understood that look of hurt when I did not need them to be my emotional savior. I thought they’d be pleased by my independence. Far from it. What they really wanted to hear was, “Pl-please, help me. I need you so much. I can’t live without you. You are everything to me.”
Preferably with misty eyes and lower lip trembling.
When I met Mr. Waka he was a breathe of fresh air. We are too very independent people who rely on each other, but can take care of ourselves. We don’t want to be apart. We can’t even imagine it, but we are not “two halves that make a whole”. We do need each other, yet can be our own person.
I remember the How I Met Your Mother episode where they go on a road trip drinking tantrum and one of the characters, Ted, notes how Lily and Marshal are practically melting into one entity.
I think this is the norm of most modern relationships. People are often attracted to someone they need and who needs them.
I’ve often been asked, “Don’t you feel lonely when you’re husband’s way?”
I do, but I also enjoy having the house to myself for a couple days. He is the same. I learned that answer was alien to most people. They were startled either of us would admit such a thing. Apparently, the only acceptable answer is “I need him around me at all times and feel desperately alone when he’s not near me.”
That’s more like it. That sounds like true love.
Because the idea of being needed is so attached to the idea of being loved, it can hurt us or others when we are not needed by someone we care for. This can puzzle them as they though they were helping us by not “needing” us.
When one does not feel needed, most feel they are not loved.
I think most romance stories are more about “What you do for me” than “who you are”. How do you need me? How do I need you?
I’ve read countless love stories and the lovers were usually brought together by need. Their “happily ever after” ends with how much they need the other. But is that really love?
Have we confused the two?
“Nothing feels worse than feeling unneeded,” a friend once told me when they broke up with their boyfriend. It feels like a death knell in a relationship.
Another person once said, “Sometimes I feel like I could disappear and no one would care. Nobody really needs me”.
What they really meant was “Nobody loves me”.
“I love you” and “I need you” can both be used in confessions of love.
I think we are all deep down searching like a child for a special someone who needs us above all others. Being needed fills us with a sense of worth and love. We feel respected and loved when we are needed.
But I think it is a dangerous folly. I think love and need are confused with each other. Mistaken. And this causes people to get hurt over things that they shouldn’t. Just because I didn’t need my ex to take care of me, doesn’t me I didn’t care about him.
Mr. Waka and I take care of each other. We do need each other, but our love is not based on feeling needed. It is based on who we are, not what we do for the other.
I don’t know. What are your thoughts? Can love and need be separated? Are they different things? Do you feel loved when you are needed by others? Let me know in the comments.
I need your thoughts.