Friday, November 16, 2012

Need? Or Want? What's the Difference

Recently, my husband and I have been in deep conversations about diving into the real world of electronics and buying smart phones. Why? Certainly, we do not need smart phones. Neither of us talk on the phone much at all, and neither of us know how to text, and neither of us need all the extra things that come with the phone. How can we justify the cost of the phones when they are only a trinket to play with?

This topic came up often when our children were growing up. "Mom, I want a new dress for this weekend." "No, you can't have a new dress. You have plenty of nice ones."
"But I ne-e-e-d one!"
Okay, so now we're down to the nitty-gritty.

When I was looking for a new vehicle, one that would be mine, nice and a little upscale, but not too much...I sat in one that was very pretty and had every gadget known to mankind. The salesman stood inside the open door while I sat in the driver's seat, checking out all the amenities. "So, how do you like this one, Mrs. Yeary?" "Oh, I like it very much. It's just that I don't need all these extra gadgets." He leaned closer, and I swear...almost whispered in my ear, "Oh, but we want all those extras, don't we?"
Ah, the seductiveness of Well, why not?

We need air to breathe; we need water; we need food; and we need a roof over our heads.
We want many things, and yes, most are useful and desirable, but probably our lives don't depend on them.
That's it. The word need denotes neediness--a support system, a dependency, a weakness we cannot overcome without it.

Want denotes desire, a feeling that if we have this thing we will be very, very happy, indeed. In fact, we might very well be happier with something we want than something we need. You need a new washing machine. Yes, you need one to keep clothes and towels and other such things in the house clean. Without it, your life would begin to...well...smell. So, you buy a new washing machine. Good. Now, you feel satisfied and very happy. Why? Because the salesman talked you into one of those enormous machines they're making now that does everything except bake bread, and you are soooo happy with your new machine. I understand--you look at your new fantastic red washing machine and feel like you've fallen in love. You love your machine, the very one you wanted!

How does this apply to human emotions toward one another? A man and woman in love do use all sorts of phrases and terms in wooing the other. (Wooing?) Anyway, we might overlook some stray thoughts that might not seem desirable and proper.

I'm working on a novel I wrote some time ago, titled Lily Marie. It's complete but needs much editing and rewriting. The heroine is a somewhat prim and sophisticated English professor at the university. The hero is the new football coach whom she just met. However, the heroine has a friend, a nerdy professor who thinks she belongs to him. When he learns of her interest in the new coach, he blows up. "How can you think about him, when I need you?"

He needs her? Does he love her? Does he want her? No, he said, "need." A wise woman once said to beware a man who "desperately needs" the woman he's involved with. She said "need" never equates with love and sharing, but instead says, "weak, selfish, and well...needy." She always said.."Do not marry a needy man."
Excerpt from WIP Lily Marie:

“Please, Edward, talk to me about your feelings. If your research paper is not accepted, I want to know how you’ll cope with it.”

“Well, Lily,” he began, in a carefully moderated voice, “you may have a point about a support person, a friend. So, I suggest we decide on a wedding date and go ahead and be married. The sooner, the better. That way, you’ll be there to help me through any rough time that may come along.”

Lily almost gasped. “Wh-what! Edward, we have never even talked about marriage! No, no, I don’t think this is the time.”

“And why is that?”

She waved her hands in the air. “You’re going about this all wrong. Two people get married when they fall in love, and want a home together, and children. Not for a support system.”

“As I see it, you’ve got it all wrong. Supporting each other is what a marriage is. It’ll work, Lily, I’m certain of it. I need you.”

Lily crossed her arms over her waist. “It won't work,” she said as she shook her head back and forth. “I can’t give you an answer. At least, we should think this through and examine our real feelings for each other.”

“Real feelings? I thought you loved me.”

“I’ve never said so, and neither have you.”

“Oh, I’m beginning to see the obstacle. Mark Majors, again.”

Edward stood and shoved his hands into his pockets, removed them to smooth his hair, walked to the window and peered across the street, and finally turned back to her. He pointed his index finger at her face once again and walked very close to her, all the while pointing.

“You’re holding out for that football jock.”

Lily jumped to her feet, mainly to get away from the finger in her face, but also to fume. She paced back and forth a couple of times. When she could speak coherently, she told him, “ That statement is beneath you, Edward, and it’s demeaning of me. What’s wrong with you?”

“You should answer that!” he shouted. “I’m not good enough for you! Obviously, you want a big, muscled man! You want a handsome one with all his hair! Right, Lily? Am I right? Compare the two of us. How can I compare to him? Huh?”

Stunned, Lily blinked and stared. Edward never raised his voice. He never cared about his appearance, and he certainly never looked at other men to see how he compared physically.

After a few awkward moments of silence, Edward spoke. His voice was soft and slow. He shook his head back and forth, as he looked into her face. “Oh, Lily, Lily. I’m so sorry. I...I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I...I can’t believe I yelled at you and said those horrible things. Please, Lily, can you forgive me? I don’t want to lose you. Don’t you see? You’re my girl. Mine, Lily. We belong together; we’re alike; we need each other. Don’t we?”
Ahhh, Edward. Such a needy, clueless man. Ewww. Will Lily succumb to Edward's pleas, or will she continue her new relationship with big, confident, fun, handsome Mark Majors?

The difference between Need and Want is very clear.

What do you think? Suppose a man begs and says he "needs" you instead of, I "want" you? Which is best? Suppose a little of both is good?

What kind of heroes do you write? Needy like Edward, or Wanting like Mark? Or is there a common ground between the two?

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. Celia, as always a good question to ponder...I think there are different kinds of "need". If the hero DOESN'T need the heroine in some way as time goes by, he could ride off into the sunset and never look back. Here's what I mean: Of course, in the beginning there is an attraction between them--even if it's angry, there is some kind of pull between them, or there would be no story. As time goes by, love develops, and the "wanting". But go a little further down the line. Usually, the hero discovers a missing part of himself--something that he never thought he could feel or be, brought on by the relationship between the heroine and himself. (As does the heroine.) I don't believe this can all be chalked up to "love"-- because as we know, we've all had love relationships that ended badly at some point and life went on. But what about those love affairs you hear about where something happened to prevent the lovers from being together, yet they never married anyone else? Wouldn't that be classified as a step beyond "want"? Maybe it goes into the "need" category. No, I wouldn't ever write a hero who only needed the heroine. He needs to discover the desire first, the lovely ache in his bones when she enters the room. Then comes the need--the realization, as she turns and walks away, that she is a part of him he can never be without. AHHHHH... Great post, Celia!

  2. And as usual, Cheryl--you always have a teaching moment. I took notes! Yes, of course, there are different kinds of need, and I understand your explanation. This is why you write those good westerns--a lot of angst from both hero and heroine.
    I was thinking more along the lines of a man begging a woman not to leave him--because he was maybe abusive in some way--and he says he needs her.
    Also, I have read romances in which the man declares his love, and to make the point even clearer, he explains how he "needs" her.
    The excerpt I used is about Lily's nerdy professor friend--not really a boyfriend, but two people who work in the same place, and do the same thing, and both think they operate best in a routine.
    I'm redoing this novel, dragging portions from the edit dump that I know will make the book.
    Both Lily and Edward find someone else, unexpected kinds of people for both of them.
    One publisher rejected it because I have two couples, and four POVs.
    Another rejected it because it sounded like Lily was "a cheater."
    Thank you!

  3. Celia, you crack me up! LOL Thanks for your kind words. I love your posts because they always make me think. But yes, I do agree with you--it would be awful to have a hero who was too needy. I had an aunt whose husband was always cheating on her and then when she'd threaten to leave, he'd cry and tell her how much he needed her. Then he threatened suicide at one point. She left him anyhow when he got shot in the butt by a jealous husband. And I have definitely worked with a guy or two like Edward. Kind of stalkerish and scary. LOL Great excerpt too. It's going to be another winner!

  4. Sounds like a good book, Celia. It's easy to confuse need and desire.

  5. This kind of need is so very blatant - more on a business level. A much harder to define or detect would be the emotional need. Love is there, but independence is not, or it has been allowed to atrophy.

  6. You're right, Caroline. And someone may use one but actually mean the other. Thanks!

  7. Anna--you've added a new facet to this. I'd never thought of exactly what you say, that "Independence has been allowed to atrophy or not there at all. I think you said it very well. Thank you so much for your input.

  8. Celia, I think need is a great ploy for an abuser to use to control someone else, and it can work for both male and female. I know someone personally who actually married her first husband because he threatened suicide if she didn't. Need seems to be more about passive control of another person than love of that person. Just my POV.

  9. I would run from both of those kind of heroes. I don't want a relationship where it is only because they need me or they want me...I waited a long time (I was 24 when I got married) because I didn't find someone who complimented who I was, someone I could share my life with, build together and create a happy home...equally. I found him. It's 44 years for us on December 8th.

  10. Linda--yes, I think "need" intimates control, but it hadn't occurred to me. The plea just turns me off if I read it in a romance. I much prefer the hero--or heroine--to just say "I love you, and want you in my life...or" I love you and I'd like to share my life with you."
    There are so many interpretations.
    Thank you for visiting.

  11. Paisley--what a beautiful, poetic way of expressing the idea. You are a master with words. Thank you for the comment.