Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wants v. Needs; Winning Disguised as Losing

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
-Oscar Wilde

Before you begin, read that quote again and really think about it. I'll come back to it at the end.

In the times we live in wants and needs have largely become defined as one in the same. The majority of Americans have become so spoiled by modern conveniences that we no longer want, we need. I am guilty of these feelings myself. Tomorrow is Monday morning and my first thought will likely be, "I need coffee." Do I need coffee? No, I would continue living and breathing without coffee, but I want coffee because it's delicious and takes the edge off. You see my point? Of course you do. Most would agree there are three basic, acceptable "needs," food, clothing, and shelter. I feel that there is a wild card that occasionally gets mentioned in songs etc, the fourth human need is love. (And there are at least four people that think all you need is love.) This is the need that's on my mind now, and the effect that it has on our choices. Now, this want v. need theory isn't quite the same in regards to relationships. In relationships, I believe, there are wants and needs, and confusing the two can really screw things up.

I'm going to take it a step farther and tell you a little bit about my journey and explain how wants disguised as needs can really send you down a rocky road. (Not the delicious kind either.) The stories I am about to share are all true, and some of them have taken me over a decade to talk about. I don't need to start at the very beginning because I don't feel it has too much impact on the topic. It's almost ironic because up until this year I could count the people that knew about what happened to me on one hand. My heartbreak I mentioned in the previous blog forced me to do a lot of soul searching and I started putting pieces together and eventually realized that one night really started it all.

When I was 18 years old I was on a work trip with many people my age and early twenties. The week before this trip, my boyfriend at the time cheated on me, and I found out from someone else. My heart was bruised (though I thought broken,) and I couldn't wait to get away. The company put us up in a hotel and we worked all day and then partied at night. I had never really experienced much of the party scene up until this point and was inexperienced with drugs and alcohol. How exactly it happened I'm not entirely sure, but one minute I was in a room with about 10 people drinking and smoking and the next minute I was sitting on a bed immobile and drunk. Next thing I knew, it happened. Everyone had left the room but one guy, and that night he took from me something no one should ever take. The worst part was, I was conscious enough to remember it all, including the sound of my voice sobbing and begging him to stop. I told no one. Afraid for my job, afraid to get in trouble for drinking and being underage, and ashamed. That night my views on sex and love had changed. Sex wasn't special, it was just sex, and sometimes even a chore, and love, well, love was something I didn't think existed anyway. I left that trip a cold, tainted, negative person with my first tattoo I had drawn the night after it happened, a shattered and broken heart with flames coming out.

Now here's the part where things got messy. Most of my understanding has been very recent, when I did the things I did, they were not intentional, I was going through the motions. Despite my lack of belief in love, it is one of the human needs so obviously I longed for it. However, now a relationship required more than just love. I not only needed love, but the next guy I dated had to make me feel safe, because you see, a part of me was extremely traumatized and I was almost afraid of men sometimes. I also wanted to be with someone that I knew wouldn't cheat on me, the only way to ensure that (if there even is such a thing) was to date down. Please remember I didn't know what I was doing at the time, hindsight really is 20/20. Shortly after returning home I began dating one of my managers that I knew was into me. He was over 6 ft tall, and just under 300 pounds, and came fully equipped with a closet full of Raiders jerseys. Very few men would be able to hurt me if I was with him, and at the time I was a cute little blue eyed, light brown haired, outgoing girl with a winning sense of humor...ha.

Fast forward 3 years, one break up, one make up and we got married. Fast forward another 5 months and my stuff was packed and I left with only what I could fit in my Civic while he was at work. So what happened? Why didn't I figure out I couldn't be with him before I married him? If he was what I wanted why didn't it work out? All of that back story was just to get to these questions, so I could tell you the answers, and why I believe so many people have long term relationships that initially seem so good and one day you feel like you are going to go completely bonkers if you pick up one more Q tip that he just can't seem to make into the trash can!

We need love, all of us. The trouble comes when we start to add stipulations to it that aren't permanent. How each of us shows and receives love is a little different. (Please read the 5 Love Languages for more information on this.) Here's what I'm trying to say, Husband #1 loved me, and I loved things about him. Did you catch that? The simple fact that I knew he loved me is what dragged our story out for so long. However, my needs for dating him in the first place lost value over time. Eventually I didn't believe every guy in Target was plotting to rape me in the garden department, and I had been comfortable living in the land of fidelity for almost 3 years. My "needs" changed. More accurately, my need was still love, a mutual love, but my wants changed. When those two things weren't a priority, it opened my eyes to all of the things he was doing to me or ways he was treating me that were wrong. In other words, I saw the relationship for what it really was, and the sad truth was my wants were being met, but my needs weren't. Had I figured this out then, it would have spared me a second divorce. Sadly, I repeated the process, but this time with different wants, which eventually lost value again.

So, how did I figure this out? By falling in love with someone when I didn't want anything. I was tapped out, dried up, all I needed was love. As time went on, I had the best relationship of my life. The bright side to all this heartache was without it, I wouldn't have been able to really know what I needed. I could sit here and list the things about my relationship that made it the best, but they are going to be unique to me. In order for you to have a successful relationship, you are going to have to sort through your own list of wants and needs, and be honest with yourself. If I wouldn't have found this special person, I don't know if I could have done that, because in some ways, I didn't know my needs until he kept meeting them. My theory behind that is I didn't know my needs, because I had a decade old secret, and every day after that I lost a little more of who I was, until on some level I didn't even know myself. I have learned more about myself in the past three months than I have my whole life.

The best advice I can give on how to figure all this out is:
Regardless of your current relationship status, write down 5-10 things that you feel you need out of a relationship. These can be qualities in a partners, mutual hobbies, emotional compatibility, etc. Don't think about it too much, just write the first things that come to your mind because those are likely the most important and likely honest. If you have more than 10 that's good! You know what you want, you're already ahead of most of us. Now one by one, go down your list focusing on each item and ask yourself if this was gone from my relationship in 5 years, but I still loved the person would I still be happy. The ones where you can answer yes, those are your wants. If you say no to any of those things then that becomes a need. Things that shouldn't be compromised or forgotten about. I'll give you an example of one of each for me to give you an idea.
Want-I want my partner to love the outdoors as much as I do.
Need-I need my partner to be my best friend.
It would be ideal if my partner liked to go to the mountains, the beach, and just be outdoors with me. However, if he only came along once and awhile I could live with that. Until my recent relationship I had never dated a guy that I felt was my best friend. This is one of the things I was telling you about that I wouldn't have known was a need without having it. I would not be happy in a relationship unless I felt that way, and that is something I am unwilling to compromise on.

This was a long one, but hopefully you learned something. Now if you remember the quote I began with, hopefully after reading this you can come up with an example or two of your own when getting what you wanted wasn't necessarily the best thing. My life has been filled with moments like that. I'd get an idea in my head and I'd fight for it throwing caution and rationality to the wind. The good news is now I'm aware of it, now I take a good look at each situation before jumping in blindly. It's a conscious effort, and I still screw it up, but I screw up a lot less than I did 5 or even 10 years ago. There's hope for us yet! My thought is that if I can help even just one person do things better than I did than it wasn't all for nothing. Part 2 of  "If it's not Broke..." coming soon. Hope you all have a great week!

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