“I need you.”

The songs celebrate it, the romance novels are full of it. A passion so intense it becomes a need.

But is it a good thing to need someone else? For you or for them?

A need is involuntary. You can decide to want something, but a need doesn’t emerge from a rational process. We don’t choose to need oxygen, or water, or touch. They are hard-wired requirements.

So if you say you need me, I don’t know if you even like me. You have a need. Today it’s me. Tomorrow it could be for a vodka gimlet or an Eames chair, I don’t know. But that expression of need doesn’t tell me anything about how you feel about me.

It doesn’t even say what you really need. My compassion? My reddish hair? My collection of Flintstones jelly jars? What part of me do you need, because it would be very improbable to need all of someone — or even to like everything about them.

Moreover, it sounds like a trap. If you tell me you need oxygen, it would be cruel of me to withhold it from you. “Need” implies a requirement for survival. So saying you need me puts an obligation on me to meet that need. That may not be your intention, but it can be a very real effect of the language.

If, on the other hand, you want me, I know that you have made a choice. That you find me appealing. That what you want is me, and not just whatever can fill your need. Want is personal; need is objectifying. Want comes from the head and the heart. It says that you could do fine without me, but you have decided things would be better with me around.

That’s warm. That’s flattering. And that’s not an ultimatum. It is the beginning of a conversation, not a demand.

One thought on ““I need you.”

  1. “Need” implies a requirement for survival….and isn’t that exactly what the love songs say and cultural message is???…and that it is supposed to be good? Yuck! Thanks for saying this so clearly. (Although the Flintstones jelly jars are intriguing!)

    Like

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