“You have to make him feel like you need him.”
For as long as I can remember, this is a piece of relationship advice I’ve heard. It seems like generations of women think this is the way to keep a man around. Things aren’t going well? Ask him to do something, and make him think it’s something only he can do. He’s drifting? Make sure you’ve let him know recently how helpless you are without him. Is he distant? Have you told him recently that you need him, but did you do it in a way that doesn’t make you seem needy?
As a happily single 30-year-old woman, I find this an extremely difficult piece of advice to follow. If I truly needed a man, would I have survived a whole 30 years without one? I once told a guy I was dating that I didn’t “need” him, but that I did want him. That didn’t go over very well. He seemed to be profoundly and personally offended that I could survive without him. I wasn’t even upset that he took it so personally because this seems to be something that is so ingrained in men and women, and it also seems to be a huge part of “the game” people claim they don’t want to play.
My question is, isn’t it better to be wanted than needed? A codependent, unhealthy love says “I need you around because I don’t think I can live without you,” but a healthy, well-rounded love says “I know I can live without you, but I’m choosing not to.” Wouldn’t you rather be someone’s choice than their necessity? If I’m choosing you, knowing that I can do just fine on my own, doesn’t that say more than if I were only with you because I didn’t think I could survive without you?
Our generation (ugh, Millennials) seems to be one of independence. I couldn’t quote the exact research, and maybe it’s something completely contrived in an effort to make myself feel better, BUT I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the age of procreation is increasing at a pretty steady rate. This seems to point to either our generation’s fear of commitment (probably) or our feelings of independence (less likely).
Seriously, though, I do think this relationship trend points to a combination of both. So many of us saw our parents marry at a young age only to find themselves stuck in an unhappy relationship “for the kids.” Others of us saw our parents marry at a young age then divorce at an equally young age despite the kids because they were only kids themselves. The fortunate few had an idyllic childhood with parents who loved themselves, each other, and their children. Regardless of our upbringing, it seems that most of us are fairly reluctant to enter into anything officially permanent, whether that be a committed relationship, marriage, parenthood, etc.
This circles back to the original point of making a man feel “needed” in order for him to stick around. Am I, or are we, really fated to pretending to be less than we are just to elevate the person we love? And if that’s the case, is it really even love?
Knowing how things have changed since our parents, grandparents, or whoever came up with the idea of two people needing each other, were in the dating world, are we okay with resigning ourselves to a feigned sense of inferiority in order to make someone else feel important? I can’t speak for the general population, but I can say there is no part of me that wants to minimize who I am to make someone (anyone) else feel like they have the space to exist in the world. If we can’t both exist together at our full potential, then we’re probably not for each other.
Maybe instead of “you have to make him feel like you need him,” we should be saying “help him understand that wanting him is better than needing him.”