For years, I have heard and read people saying, “That’s not a need, it’s a want.” Often this comes up about sex, with the one who desires less sex, or less sexual variety, telling their spouse who wants more that what s/he claims to need is really a want. The wants versus needs issue comes up in other areas as well. It is usually used to devalue what the other wants, making the person who calls it a want feel justified in refusing or limiting what is “wanted, not needed.”
There are two separate issues here, both rather important, so I will give each one a separate post. First, how we define wants and needs.
In the strictest sense, we could say needs are those things required to live: air, food, water, shelter. The list is actually very small, and the vast majority of what we spend our money on either has nothing to do with what we “need” or it’s a vast exaggeration of what we need. If we are talking needs, forget about coffee, more than one pair of shoes, more than a few items of clothing, a home bigger than a couple hundred square feet, and anything but the simplest food.
The big problem with the above definition of need is that it is based on survival of the body, and nothing more. If you gave your children only what they need to survive physically, they would not be emotionally or mentally healthy, and child protective services would take them from you as soon as someone reported you. Why then would we use such a definition in our marriages?
Let me suggest a few other ways we can look at “need”:
- I need this to feel safe.
- I need this to feel loved.
- I need this to feel mentally balanced.
- I need this to feel emotionally healthy.
- I need this to feel like you care about me.
Get the point? See the validity in what I am saying?