“Need” (the way I’m using the word here) is about survival: we need water, food and rest. “Wants” are about pleasure: we want fame and fortune, fun and health. When pressed, we may concede we could survive without satisfying these wants, but it wouldn’t have much sparkle. Still, seeing the difference is helpful.
Several of my friends are presently single, having married, raised children, then become divorced. Usually they seem vigorous and content, pursuing their interests, enjoying their accomplishments and leisure times.
But when they “get involved,” a old side of their personalities re-surfaces: they get Needy. Their center shifts to another person, and companionship becomes their primary concern; what had been a Want now seems to escalate into a survival Need.
And they become a little sad, hesitant. They linger when it’s time to go, the goodbye hug lasts a moment too long. They whisper that they . . . “need” to talk.
The Tale Wagged
I have been single, single with children, unhappily married and (now) happily married, and I certainly prefer my present state. But I know my wife could be taken from me, and I try to practice life without when she’s absent. I don’t know if I would find resources inside me to make singleness okay again, but it’s good to examine my tendency to turn wants into needs.
So I practice Not Needing her; I try not to invest too heavily in my excellent companion. Similarly, I practice not investing in my work too heavily, and I study if my health has become an idol; these gods cannot be trusted because they’re so impermanent.
It is nice to be healthy, enjoy your work, have a partner you trust and laugh with, but these treasures do rust and wane and die. “Sad, but true,” means it has to be accepted.
It is hard to remember that pleasures are not entitlements. It’s terrifying to have to dig a well in the middle of a drought.