Recently a close friend called to tell me that she’s breaking up with her fiancé, who she has been with for six years.
They got engaged just last year and were even planning to buy a new house together.
Of course, it came as a huge shock, as I had always thought everything was running so perfectly for her (or, at least, that’s how it seemed on her social media).
I remember she met her now ex-boyfriend/fiancé during freshmen year of college. He was her “first love,” as she had never had a boyfriend before him. All her friends, including myself, were really happy for her.
The two of them stuck together for the whole four years of college and even went on a graduation trip to Europe together afterward.
Then, she moved to another state for work and they began a long-distance relationship. That arrangement lasted for just over one year before they got back to living in the same city again. And before long, he proposed, she said yes and they got engaged.
Everything was “going according to plan,” like most fairytales we know that center around the idea of first loves and happily ever after.
But then, like a cruel twist of fate, things began to change. My friend suddenly fell out of love with the person she would marry.
“How do you know if you are still in love with someone, or if you’re staying because of the familiarity?” she asked me over the phone.
At the time, I was pretty taken aback by her frankness. “Give me a moment to think about it. I want to give a clear answer to you,” I replied. And, after a minute or two of awkward silence on the phone, this is how I broke it down for her:
There’s a difference between wanting somebody/something and needing something/someone.
Here’s an analogy: You want a Prada bag, but you don’t exactly need one. Of course, your desire for that particular thing you want can be weak or strong, depending on several things.
You may want something really badly, with every ounce of strength that you possess, or you may only want it half-heartedly. On the other hand, you need oxygen; there is no real desire for it, but you have to have it, nonetheless, for survival.
Of course, there are circumstances in which a need may become a want. For instance, when you’re drowning, the need for oxygen gets so strong that the need becomes a want.
In those few seconds, you want oxygen like you want your life — literally. Often, we only truly appreciate the value and necessity of some things only when we lose them, don’t we?
Want and need can be really different, but at times, pretty similar. So, what is love? Here’s the answer to the million-dollar question: Love is when you want what you need and need what you want.
Now, let me spell it out for you further. I believe most love relationships start out with a state of wanting. When you fall in love, you want the other person very, very much.
And then slowly, over time, as you love, you also become more and more accustomed to that person, so much so that you might even feel as though you can’t live without him or her. This is when want becomes a need. When you want and need something simultaneously, you can call it love.
When you truly love someone, you know that you want him or her. You can feel that craving in the depth of your soul and in every nerve and every fiber of your physical being. It may feel almost like an addiction or an unyielding obsession.
You know that there is lust, but there is also something more. It’s something that truly satisfies, yet leaves you wanting more. Indeed, love can leave you in a vulnerable state. Perhaps this is where “want” transcends into “need.”
It’s when you have become so dependent on the other person for your emotional and physical demands that you can’t live properly if he or she disappeared from your life completely.
With this person, you can feel a sense of familiarity and assurance that comes with his or her acceptance of you. You feel safe with him or her.
After a breakup, it’s unavoidable that you will feel slightly needy because now that you’re out of your comfort zone, you just want to feel safe again.
My friend did admit to me that in her head, she didn’t want her ex as a boyfriend or lover anymore, yet in her heart, she still had feelings for him, and thus she felt deeply perplexed.
“This is not love that you’re feeling,” I tried to explain, “It’s nostalgia. Even if you were to get back together after he comes begging at your feet, you might be satisfied for a while, but you won’t stay satisfied for long.
Because, in the end, he is still not what you want. He was, but that’s the past. You loved him, but now, you don’t. Now you feel like you need him only because he’s part of what that feels familiar.
Undeniably, he’s the safer choice, compared to being single again after such a long time. But, I can assure you that if you settle for this half-assed love, you are risking nothing but your future happiness.”
My friend knew that I was right, and I knew I was right, too. Yet, I was also fully aware that it might be slightly hypocritical of me to set such high bars for her. At the end of the day, it’s not me who will suffer the consequences of my advice — she will.
Still, I wouldn’t have given her advice that I would not personally follow. No one said going through breakups is easy, let alone leaving the person you thought you would marry. Yet, it’s definitely better than running away on the wedding day, right?
The truth is, love is never completely black and white. In fact, I think 80 percent of it is grey matter. Love can fade just as quickly as it can surge and fill your entire being with its magical feelings of happiness and bliss.
Lust is part of love, but love cannot be defined solely by the feeling of wanting someone. Desires can be ephemeral, just like feelings are mercurial.
And, when you need someone but do not have that insatiable want for him or her, it could be nostalgia or just lazy dependency.
Don’t settle for less. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone in search of a person who could be better for you either. Like they say, you accept the love you think you deserve.
Take some time and think about it. Some things are better late than never, and love is certainly one of them.