The difference between the two words “need” and “want” is gargantuan. To need someone implies dependency and a habitual sort of reliance. Needing someone in times of crisis or extreme sadness is a part of being human, but needing that person constantly is suffocating. Of course, this logic does not apply to children, or even adolescents who rely on their family for financial support and nurturing. This commentary applies more towards romantic relationships, or even friendships, between two functional adults.
A lot of people confuse “needing” someone with loving them. But they are not synonymous. When you need someone, you lose your independence and agency as a human being, because you’re constantly reliant on another person. You lose the ability and desire to complete basic tasks by yourself, you forget what it’s like to be alone with your thoughts, and you can barely remember a time when you were capable of existing alone.
Sure, that may sound like love, but it’s not. I can only speak for myself here, but I definitely don’t want a partner who I “need” in my life to survive. Just like I don’t want my partner to “need” me. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure for both people, and it is not healthy, nor is it fair.
Falling into this neediness is not a conscious decision—it often happens quickly and discretely. Early detection of this neediness is crucial, although often overlooked. To “need” someone is to buy yourself a first class ticket to the land of codependence.
Wanting, on the other hand, is the first step in learning how to love someone. You want to be around the other person because they make you smile, they make you happier, and time goes by quicker when they’re around. You don’t need them to be there to walk to CVS with you, or fall asleep next to you, or sit with you in the library while you study for a final — you can do all these things by yourself. And, while you’re fully capable of completing tasks alone, you like having the other person there with you. You don’t need them to be, you just want them to be.
When you want someone in your life, you want them there because life is more fun with them by your side. You want them because you are a complete person without them, but you know that they make you happy. You don’t need to use them as a crutch — you can stand alone.
The difference between need and want is the difference between codependence and love. Love and codependence are very, very different. And loving someone is much more beautiful and rewarding than leaning on them for all things, at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.