Want me? Need me? Relationship Dysfunction By Shanyn Silinski

shanyn silinski
Shanyn Silinski

I am excited to have guest post blogger Shanyn Silinski from “the Scarred Seeker” writing for Emerging from Broken today on the topic of “I want you” vs “I need you” and the psychological abuse that surrounds this subject. As always, please let us know your thoughts ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken

Want Me? Need Me? Relationship Dysfunction  By Shanyn Silinski

Meatloaf has a song called, Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad where he sings the lyrics “ I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you, but don’t be sad, cause two outta three ain’t bad.”  

I’ve always wondered about that, and when I was younger it didn’t make sense.  It does now but raises another set of questions which maybe are more relevant to survivors.  The differences between want and need.

Considering my family, and the boundaries I’m putting in place for sanity and emotional safety I’ve discovered an amazing thing.  Not just with them but with so many other people.  It all falls into the world of want or need

A friend of mine has a sibling.  They both have children.  The grandma loves both her grandchildren very much, but one needs her and the other wants her.  Keeping in mind these are children, which one do you think she spends the most time with?  You’ll be saying she will spend most of her time with the child that needs her and you’d be right.  Before you think the wants her grandchild has less of a need for his Grandma let me assure you neither child is in a situation where they actually need anything but their special time with grandma.  But what makes the need me grandchild easier? Why is the wants you grandchild easier to ignore?  Hold on to that thought as I take you down a different path.

I’ve been learning the hard way that being wanted and being needed are not only vastly different but in a healthy relationship not always compatible.  Then there are those folks who need to be wanted and conversely want to be needed.  Sometimes in healthy ways but many times not so much.

Loving someone, wanting to be with them is very different than needing that someone.  I almost always cringe at the cards, songs or movies where the lovers need each other more than life.  That is not real. That is not a message to send children!  I survived, you survived, and we are with those we want to be with and have learned to (or are learning as I am) stay away from those who need us in an unhealthy way.  Babies need their caregivers, so do the wounded, the lost, the injured and we learn to either depend on them or live without them as best we can.

I wanted to be needed for the things I’m good at or for just who I am.  I do not want to play the need to be wanted game with anyone, for any reason.  I want to care about your heart, your health, your spirit and well being.  I don’t need to be impressed by your status and I sure don’t need you to want me to increase your fan base

Spending time with family or friends should be about wanting each other’s company not because someone needs you to want them.  That need, that drive for your full and undivided attention to them is unhealthy.  Sadly, as I’ve travelled down my healing path I’ve discovered that the people who I thought wanted me didn’t.  Not the me who is healing and not the me who isn’t impressed with them being important. They don’t want my ideas, my laughter or my songs.

They never did! I just wasn’t healthy enough to know the difference!  I didn’t know that you could stand on your own and be okay.   I didn’t know that it was healthy to want something but not need it. I had been taught that love was an obligation, which being needed for nothing was more important than being wanted for something.  After all I was taught for most of my life that at the very least I was needed for fulfilling their need for control.  I was taught to take the abuse because I was obligated to they needed me for that role.  When I STOPPED being available, when their NEED wasn’t met then my life, my wishes to be wanted were revealed to have no value.  I was being taught a very wrong lesson about need and want.   One that has taken me a very long time to find my personal key to understanding it.

I’m sure some of that is cultural and taught by circumstance but that is not an excuse.  I’m not excusing it, even as I begin to understand it.  I understood it only because it was singularly one sided.  The victim, the audience, the props are never centre stage and they have no independent role to play.  I wasn’t being a good victim anymore, so I was not filling the need to be wanted and therefore there wasn’t anything left for me to offer.  They have tried to get me back into that role but the more I resist, the less they try.  It is an effort, of course, to keep a hold on someone who knows what your game is and can stay out of reach.

The realization hit me like a box of bricks!  I was sad when I couldn’t do the things I was good at for people I cared about because I didn’t understand that I couldn’t be what they needed and they didn’t want what I could give so freely!  It is a strange lesson to learn, to discover that the wanting isn’t as sexy as the needing.  It isn’t as filling for those who prefer to be needed than wanted. 

What freedom though to understand that!  It hurts too.  I want them to be interested grandparents and I wanted to help my so-called friends but in the end because they weren’t needed enough, they weren’t being fulfilled by empty adoration and attention they ended up with nothing.  And I’ve walked away with some tear stains and a really clear concept of how tangled up wanting to be needed and needing to be wanted can be.

Shanyn Silinski

Shanyn Silinski is an outspoken survivor who writes, creates and lives life as fully as she can with her husband, son and the animals on their small ranch in Manitoba.  The author of a number of blogs, a book of poetry with two more in the works, Shanyn also sculpts, scrapbooks and loves having fun with photography.  Please visit her blog about emotional healing ~ “The Scarred Seeker”

17 response to "Want me? Need me? Relationship Dysfunction By Shanyn Silinski"

  1. By: Shanyn Posted: 30th January

    I’m honoured to have been asked to guest post here for Darlene. Thank you Darlene, and everyone who commented. This is amazing for me to read all of your words and see your perspectives.

    Carol – when you wrote: “constant battle for independence and respect for me as an adult in my own right” I was nodding my head. I was with you on your comment, I’ve felt that way and decided that those battles are just not worth fighting anymore. The more I worked on healing the more things came back to my parents and my relationship with them. It became foundational to understand that dynamic for me to heal further.

    Darlene – thanks for having me here! That system of control that keeps us spinning and dizzy makes it so hard to get our hands on something solid to get our bearings. But when we do – wow! What a world changer it becomes.

    Nik – it used to hurt me when that happened to me. When we are accused of things we are not (overly dramatic, needy, etc)and when I started to understand that I was those things only when they were not on centre stage, then I started to see that it was part of the control and abuse.

    Carla – knowing ourselves is so important, isn’t it? If we are going to avoid the traps we need to know who is setting them and what their bait is, then we can see how it attracts us. I used to get trapped a lot until I started studying this more, and it helps to understand and examine ourselves as well as those around us. As we heal we are becoming both stronger and more vulnerable in different areas, and that for me can cause some very interesting self-talk sessions.

    Elizabeth – your comment gave me a lot to consider, and it reminded me that want and need both have places, but what we need most is balance and awareness to see it. I think the person who is needy or the person who is a user are sometimes, depending on motive, not even a different person. great food for thought, this is an area of life that I’m just sorting my way through…I’m glad you all are here on the journey with me.

    Wendi – I love your comment, especially how you answer the question that yes we do, us humans, need relationships and love. The key is whether we keep or lose our ‘selves’ in the process. Being aware is so key.

    Elizabeth Y – thank you for stopping by and for the comment.

    Lynda – I, too, ran away from one abusive relationship right into another,and then back again until I found me in the broken pieces and ashes. I’m so proud of you for finding your way to a healing place and someone who understood and guided you through knowing what PTSD does to people. I cheer when I hear stories of survivors finding themselves, and then finding someone to share that wonderful survivor with! Hugs you. Special thanks for sharing about Meatloaf’s former mother-in-law. She sounds like an amazing lady!

    Susan – Your comment had me nodding my head, I’ve heard those same things and felt that way too. It was a hard realization that my thoughts and feelings were not more or less valid because they were mine. Authorship should not mean dismissal of what we think and feel. It’s not easy to get to that place but once the understanding is there it does help when we are sorting out those dynamics, doesn’t it?

    Angela – This does go with what I was sharing, and thank you for sharing it. This is worded so well.

    Again, thank you all for sharing!

    Bright blessings….

  2. By: Angela Contreras Posted: 29th January

    Shanyn this is great it is hard to find the difference of needing and wanting. I have found spiritually I have all I need and some things I have that I want. With the relationship I had with my mom she adopted me to make me what she wanted me to be and because I did not want what she wanted for me she became very angery. She did not get what she wanted. She was not the mom I wanted or would wish for anyone to have a mom like she was. I saved this to share with others. One thing I am learning as I get older I stopped asking God that I want this or that I thank God for it as if I have it already. So I stopped asking for love in my life and I thank God for love and now I have the love I want. Not sure if this so much goes to what your sharing but it is something that really helped me change my life.

    Thanks Hugs Angela

  3. By: Susan Posted: 29th January

    Shanyn, this is such a great post. Understanding the difference was confusing at first but in time I began to see that in my family and friendships I was valid and accepted as long as the relationship was all about “them” and if it was about me at all it was about them dismissing or denying me in some way or insisting that they had the answers, that my thoughts and feelings were wrong simply because they were mine and not theirs. And when I began to ask for adult relationships where my thoughts and feelings were validated instead of dismissed or “fixed”….well, it didn’t go over well:)

  4. By: Lynda Robinson ~ Coming Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 28th January

    Great article, Shanyn. Here’s another side to the Need vs Want dynamic:

    Coming from an extremely abusive, crazy childhood home, I was badly broken, scarred, and desperately needy when I was first married at the age of 16. Emotionally I was as badly wrecked as someone who had been run over by a frieght train. I needed a rescuer. I needed a Prince Charming, a White Knight in Shining Armour. I needed a Savior! I needed someone to slay all my dragons, vanquish all my enemies, and love me back to health, wholeness, and beauty.

    It’s a funny thing about being badly broken and desperately needy… No Healthy People Are Attracted to You. But, Abusers can see you coming from a mile away.

    After my first abusive marriage ended, I was left even more needy, scarred, and broken. More than ever, I needed a rescuer, a Prince Charming, a White Knight, a Savior. And, even more than before, all the healthy men ran the other direction, while the abusers got in line.

    My last miserable divorce came through just a few weeks before my 50th birthday in early 2003. By then, I was at my rock bottom. I mean that I absolutely, literally couldn’t take the pain of my life any more. So I took the settlement money from my divorce and, instead of paying cash for a modest home to live in for my old age, as I’d intended to do, I took that money and checked myself into a renowned mental health clinic. I paid cash, having lost my health insurance, as well as my monthly support, in the divorce. I was too mentally and emotionally broken to hold down even the most menial job, and too old and worn out to go looking for another Prince Charming to save me.

    When I checked myself into the clinic, I had my mind made up that if I wasn’t feeling significantly better by the time I left, I was going to kill myself. I told no one about my plan, because I was deadly serious and didn’t want anyone to stop me. I couldn’t live with my loneliness and pain anymore. Most of all, I couldn’t live with ME, with the self-hatred I felt for having messed up my life so badly. “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me,” was the refrain that kept running through my head.

    After a full battery of psychological and physical tests at the Meier New Life Clinic (formerly Minirth-Meier Clnic) in Richardson, Texas, I finally learned what has been WRONG with me all these years: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When Dr. Paul Meier gave me his diagnosis, he told me very emphatically that having PTSD did NOT mean that I was “crazy,” as I had been told I was by my abusive parents, and my abusive husbands, all my life. Dr. Meier emphasized that it is perfectly normal to have PTSD when you have gone through extreme trauma, just as it is perfectly normal to bleed, if you are stabbed!

    I left the Meier Clinic liking ME for the first time in my life. I left there full of hope for a better future, with the certain knowledge that I didn’t NEED to be rescued, I didn’t NEED a Knight in Shining Armour, or a Prince Charming, ever again. I left that clinic knowing that the God who created me had given me everything I needed to stand on my own two feet, and take care of me. I wasn’t a broken child anymore.

    THEN, after a year of living alone, dating no one, working and supporting myself and having a ball getting to know who Lynda is, at the age of 51, without looking for it, I found LOVE. Or rather, LOVE found me. I have been very happily married now for almost 7 years to my Best Friend Husband, Stan. I don’t NEED him, but I do WANT him, and that is the biggest reason why this is the best relationship I have ever had, by far.


    PS~ Shanyn, you mentioned Meatloaf’s song at the beginning of your post. When I lived in Pennsylvania from 1994-2002, I had a dear friend who was Meatloaf’s mother-in-law. (She’s ex-mother-in-law now, as Virginia’s daughter Leslie and Meatloaf divorced a few years ago.) Virginia, a beautiful, fiesty, elegant, ageless woman, often used to say, when people would make a big fuss over her relationship to a rock star: “I WAS SOMEBODY BEFORE MEATLOAF!” Indeed, Virginia Edmonds was, and is, Somebody very wonderful and beautiful, in her own right.

  5. By: Elizabeth Young Posted: 28th January

    Great article Shanyn, really got a lot out of it and beautifully written.

  6. By: Wendi Posted: 28th January

    wow…what a complicated and confusing topic. When it comes to needs and wants I think they are indeed interwined. I think most things that I need, I also, obviously want…and most things I want are driven by a real need, just that I might be looking in the wrong location thinking I need it from a particular person that I may never be able to get it from…and that sometimes (especially as an adult I can satisfy my own real needs by taking care of myself by avoiding negative or stressful (and un-needed) relationships rather than continuing in the childhood fantasy that someone, those particular someones, will take care of them (ie love them).

    As far as needs I love Maslow’s Hierachy…in this I see that as a child taking care of me was accomplished by meeting the most very basic needs, and in some ways I consider myself fortunate because I know there are many children who do not even get those needs satisfied…or do not have the safety of knowing that they will be satisfied by someone, if not their parents. Beyond the physiological needs and into the safety needs, I feel less and less of my needs were met but I truly believe my caregivers could rationalize these as not the standards of taking care of a child (me). Afterall, I did have food, water, and a roof over my head (and for this I was told I should be grateful – I was told I should even be grateful to have been born, and reminded of the alternatives), as well as clothing and went to school…etc. BUT, my family was abusing me…either directly, or indirectly by not paying attention to the signs and protecting me from initial abuse or even from further abuse once it was actually known; and even from things that one would obviously call abuse but for some reason (denial?) involved parties have rationalizations for everything. I needed more than food and water and such…I needed to know my value and that was set forth in how important the rest of my needs were to them and what level of interference they would tolerate in their own needs/wants in order to protect or satisfy those of me, the child, who had no one else to help or provide those needs. This makes it so hard for me as an adult to discern good relationships from bad. Because I think in truth, I need relationships and love, but not at the expense of losing myself…and that is what makes it so tough.

    Like the child in the example that needs the grandparent…my thought is that they probably do need the grandparent…because another need is not being met. But, does the grandparent provide it by being available to the child when she can, or does the grandparent step in and see that the child is getting higher needs met by those they live with and make sure they are not actually in an abusive situation at home, or does the grandparent not dare address this issue? Or is the grandparent actually needy and the grandparent is using this child to satisfy their own needs? Who knows, what a tough and confusing topic and when it is confusing for adults, it is near traumatic for children as they don’t even know what is they are feeling and have no idea that they are needing something from people who are surely supposed to give it to them, but probably never will.

    For me the biggest tell tale now in whether I need or want something or a relationship with someone boils down to how do I feel, can I live without it/him/her/them, and can I get it some other way? I have learned I feel certain ways for a reason and if what I am feeling is discomfort or obligation…even if I don’t choose to exit right away, I am well aware that this is probably how it will end…because when it feels like that I don’t want to have to feel it forever…just takes the courage to realize it won’t change and that it has to be let go.

  7. By: Shanyn Posted: 28th January

    Wow thank you all for your comments, I’ll be back later to respond to each one. You’ve given me lots to think about as well…

  8. By: Elizabeth Posted: 28th January

    I meant to say in the last sentence:”Does ‘wanting’ someone make them healthy, and does needing someone make them ‘needy’ or a ‘user’?” Not necessarily.

    Great topic Shanyn! Lots to think about for me here!

  9. By: Elizabeth Posted: 28th January

    I wonder if its really possible to totally separate and quantify ‘wanting’ from ‘needing’ and vice versa. It seems to me that its possible for both to be present in a fluid easily flowing relationship.A healthy relationship.Its all interdependent. We are all interdependent.When its a fairly healthy relationship there is no need to tease out which parts are ‘want’ and which are ‘need’. Why would you, when we are all made up of needs and wants both.

    My grandmother needed us/me, especially when her health failed,and before as well; but I knew full well she also WANTED us there and around her.I wanted her and needed her as well.For alot of reasons. I could feel her love and I hope she could feel mine.Whether I define this or that as ‘want’ or ‘need’ is irrelevant to me.It was a relationship with decades of love, want, need, giving, taking, reciprocal feelings…AND conflict at times. But to try to decide which actions and feelings were born of ‘want’ and which were ‘need’ seems contrived and false because it was all a part of it.I loved it all.

    My family ‘needed’ me to care for our mother.So I was ‘needed’. They ‘needed’ me, in that sense. But I was not ‘wanted’, or ‘needed’ in any other sense. I cared for my mother because she definitely needed me to, but I also knew she wanted me to and I wanted to as well- But I could have used some help…lol .I base all of that on my observations and our interactions over a very LONG period of time around them.

    Strictly speaking in this way, its possible to have a discussion about ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’, but it feels dangerous- or rather a little hasty or inaccurate to define how someone else feels about someone else in this way; without long observation, checking and sharing; about other people’s motivations.

    I just don’t know their motivations, or thought processes or how they feel; but sometimes have to make an assessment if I’m involved in the situation and make my best guess about it and what I want to do about it.

    Having said that-
    Lately I have been ‘friends’ with a man who SEEMED to want me around because he WANTED a dinner companion once or twice a week, at HIS choice of restaurants, near HIS home,and put me on his dr.’s contact list in case I was NEEDED, in the event of an emergency in his life.He only called me and left voicemsils at times when he knew I could not answer the phone.Never or rarely during my off hours..lol… Left messages to set up times to eat dinner, requesting me to call back and confirm.Never wanted to just ‘talk’.

    Never WANTED to go to a movie, museum, outdoor market, or anything where you might wander around and enjoy another person’s company.At dinner, the discussion revolved around HIS life mostly.I was there across the table at a restaurant he was going to eat at anyway.

    So did he WANT me around, or did he NEED me around. He NEEDED me for very specific functions- like being on the dr contact list; WANTED me for the appearance of being companions at these odd dinners;and didn’t seem to WANT OR NEED me for anything else; but stayed in what seemed to be obligatory contact to achieve this ongoing scenario… all at a very small investment of time on his part….Hey I didn’t even have him offer to pay for any of these dinners…lol…

    All in all he could have paid someone to do what I was doing;a dinner companion, and a health advocate – IF needed- but no one likes to think of themselves as ‘buying’ people I suppose.

    This has been the only time in my life, other than a business situation, where it was very clear cut what the difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’ was- and I could figure out the dynamics in a ‘relatively’ short period of time…after overcoming the disbelief at the ODDNESS of it all.

    I think for the most part, humans are SO complex and wonderously messy emotionally its a little unfair to judge their motivations in relationships…Its complex IMHO. The above situation is almost laughable its so detached emotionally-In fact its almost INhuman, its so detached.

    I can say I do not NEED this person; nor do I WANT this person in my life anymore.I don’t operate this way and it distresses me.

    Its an interesting topic but full of a lot of variables; and is specific to individuals and their interactions and I guess their history..

    Does ‘wanting’ make someone a ‘user’; and does ‘needing’ make someone ‘needy?’ Not necessarily.

  10. By: Carla Logan Posted: 28th January

    Thank you Shanyn for this great post. It really has helped me sort through some things that I struggle with, not only in setting boundaries in current unhealthy family and friend relationships, but to also examine my own motivations, to help me bring myself back to a centered and healthy way of thinking and feeling as I move into new relationships.

    I think as survivors, we get caught in this ‘need’ trap on both sides, and it’s important for us to see these things clearly as we forge ahead in the healing process, knowing the weak spots inside and outside of us.

  11. By: Nik Posted: 28th January

    I can totally relate Shanyn especially where you said “The realization hit me like a box of bricks! I was sad when I couldn’t do the things I was good at for people I cared about because I didn’t understand that I couldn’t be what they needed and they didn’t want what I could give so freely!”

    I have been accused of being needy etc. however 20/20 hindsight has taught me that in a lot of those cases I wasn’t the one being needy at all instead I was fulfilling their own wants and needs. However when I stopped or I took a stand for myself I found out quick like it was truly one sided. And this has broke my heart to no end!

    Thank you for sharing this there is a lot to take in from what you have written here!

  12. By: carol Posted: 28th January

    wow, i so get where you are coming from and has taken me alot of years to figure out. i went through the angry stage where all i did was argue with my mother over her perceptions of what i thought i had gone through, the years of dismissal and being told that my memories didnt happen like that because of this. i found darlene just as my heart was breaking over how i could stay in contact with her and not agrue all the time. i respect her tragic life story as a survivor i can understand her reasoning, what i cannot deal with is how she can only and WILL only see what happened through the lens that places her as the central figure in the event. i have learnt how to distance myself and not feel guilty for enjoying the peace that has follwed her exit from my daily life. i miss her but until she has grown i cannot put us through this constant battle for independence and respect for me as an adult in my own right. one of the hardest issues and one i have not really touched upon unless it came up through a different thought pattern in therapy. and i avoided speaking about how my parents treatment of me has affected me. as to know why i feel the way i do, even though i only have vague niggling suspisions as to what actually happened by analysing my behaviour as i gained knowledge and awareness to know the difference between me n the trained me.
    thank you for highlighting some of the grey areas that come with family

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th January

      So much of what you wrote “struck me” but I wanted to comment about the part where you said that because you weren’t filling the need that THEY wanted filled… your importance diminished. YES. That is what happened to me too. My Value to them was no longer there because my value to them was about them. It was filling a need THEY had. When I drew my boundary, it was painfully obvious that if I refused to play it their way, then they didn’t want me. And that hurts like hell. If I am not going to be the puppet on a string, then goodbye. That is what they said. And if feels like they are saying that I am not worth anymore then just to fill their needs. SHOOT… that is so wrong.

      I love the way that you present this topic. It is very difficult to come out of this particular fog, and to articulate it is even harder. I had learned my role from a very young age, and continued to learn how to fulfill that role with each new person who came into my life, believing my worth was in filling a need or want in someone else ..but that is not our reason for being.

      Some of the people that I drew my boundaries with no longer want any relationship with me, but when my husband and I worked all this stuff out between us, (because he also mistakenly thought that I was there to fill his needs too because he was raised in a similar dysfunctional family system also) I had to tell him several times that I was staying married to him because I wanted to not because I made vows, or because I should or because I NEEDED him. I don’t live in that sick system anymore. I was raised to believe that I NEEDED people that didn’t care about me and the truth is that they needed me to make them feel worthy. So instead of mutual value, I learned this sick system of obligation and that “love” is about making people feel good enough and doing what they want. I was taught that love was about restoring someone else, but that for some reason I didn’t;t deserve it.. and the reason love is withheld in that system is because it is the only carrot that they have to dangle. If they gave me love, they might lose control over me. And if they let up on the control, I might come out of the spin they had me in, and if that happened then maybe I would have seen how pathetic they were and what a one sided sick system they live in.

      Thanks so much for your guest post!! I might have more to comment on later!
      Hugs, Darlene

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