The difference between needs, wants, and expectations
I have reached the point in my journey where I am thinking about what exactly are my own needs, desires, and expectations. We often hear about unmet needs and sharing with your spouse what your needs are. How do you know what are legitimate needs or just a desire? Is there a difference? If so, what is it? I don’t know exactly what I want or if I even want anything and I for sure don’t want to be a demanding wife. I don’t have anything in mind, I’m just trying to open my mind to possibilities. To be honest, it was a brand new thought to actually read here about having unmet needs or desires and to share them with your spouse. What’s selfish and what isn’t?
I am sure I will have more thoughts because I haven’t had a chance to think about this too deeply yet. But when I think back on my experience when I started really questioning about my needs… all I can say is that after a while, with a need not being met, it feels like a part of you is dying. Desires, are a legitimate part of us, and there can be a desire for a need or for a preference. In my experience, preferences don’t have that spirit crushing quality about it when it doesn’t happen.
The opposite is also true, when you are receiving your need, it brings life. I have learned to recognize it like the sun is shining on me, or it’s not, and I am in darkness. I can feel that difference because I have gotten that in tune with myself.
If something that seems like it should just be a desire for a preference, but we feel that spirit crushing or dying feeling, we ought to look deeper and see what it is we are truly feeling and why.
I think SC did a pretty good job of describing the differences but the heart can and often does fool itself into thinking a desire is a need.
Expectations are, I think, a little bit easier to isolate. An expectation, first and foremost, is an expression of something we think we are entitled to, and it is the lack of fulfillment of that entitlement that creates issues. I do think there are legitimate expectations, within the scope of our nature. By that I mean that there are things that we are entitled to either by contract, agreement or even consensus. Even those, however are not guaranteed.
Seriously deep questions Brynna.
Legitimate need vs desires? The first idea that comes to mind is I desire sex and orgasm every day, what I need is deep connection with my wife. (But don’t tell her that!) 😉 I need nourishment, I desire pizza, pop, steak and ice cream. Where is that line? I don’t know because my sexuality is a significant part of who we are, and specifically, who I am. Certainly couples are made to connect spiritually, emotionally and physically through sexual union.
Maybe another way to look at it is, what are needs or desires vs preferences?
I was overwhelmed earlier this week by my wife’s thoughtfulness and generosity. We’d been making love pretty much daily for the past month. My desire for sexual release was “full” from that and my wife has been hormonally drained from being perimenopausal, so I was ok with not making love and thinking about her told her so to serve her. She on the other hand, put something on after we’d showered together and two nights in a row insisted on making love despite me saying we didn’t have to because she wanted to serve me and knows how important it is to me to feel loved and connected. I felt loved and we were both trying to serve each other.
Where does selfishness enter? I think when we start demanding our ways all the time and without thought, preference, care or service to our spouse. Ultimately, it’s about us standing before God and being accountable for our actions and did we serve our spouse with a PHIL 2 mindset.
Can you imagine what it would be like if both spouses insisted on serving and looking out for the betterment of each other? Trying to outdo and out give each other?
I am testing inserting an image.
Here’s the “Hierarchy of Needs” LBD was talking about. (The red circles, words and arrows can be ignored, I saved this off of FB and it was explaining why people shouldn’t feel bad for not maximizing their “off time”.)
I actually found this very eye opening when looking at me and my marriage. I did not need to do any flipping around. I could see why I have not been able to do and be where I was 5-7 years ago, when I was in that top spot of self-actualization. Those two years following that time, stripped me all the way back down to the bottom. And that is not a reflection of my spiritual life, because I was still very, very intimate with the Lord in that wilderness.
Just found this short article from ALL PRO DAD and thought to share it for this discussion on needs vs desires I recognize that the OP didn’t specify sex BUT since it’s on this forum, I thought it could add to the discussion .
Give it a quick read but here’s his 3 points
1) sex is a desire for an individual
2) sex should be treated as a need (for the sake of the individual and marriage)
3) sex is a need for a couple
@Brynna, I don’t know the answer to your latest question, but I have a similar issue where my husband just never got my love language. I think of it like this… our love languages are like a language. They are often foreign lauguages to our spouse, and vice versa. To some, learning a foreign language comes easier, while to others, like our husbands, it is so foreign, and for whatever reason learning that specific language is very difficult, so the communication that way is stilted, if not almost non-existent. But if we can look past the actual language and look deeper to the true need, the actual greater need is the love and the relationship. When that is fulfilled and spoken in other languages, that we seem to be able to pick up on easier than our spouse, and understand it, our true needs are actually fulfilled. That doesn’t mean we don’t long for our heart language, and we can’t struggle with miscommunication, but we aren’t going without love and relationship. Does that make any sense?
A really deep and thoughtful question that has no ‘simple’ answer. As Augustine said so well in his ‘Confessions’ “Lord, you made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee…” Ultimately, all our deepest ‘real’ needs find their fulfillment in God.
Yet, God created us with bodies that need nourishment, oxygen, shelter from weather, and physical intimacy. With regard to any of these desires, it is possible to both ‘over’ and ‘under’ shoot what we need to live, or what is appropriate. It is easy to see this with food. Clearly, we have to eat to sustain our bodies, however, we all know what happens when we over eat or eat too much of the ‘wrong’ food. Also, with sex, God has an intended purpose in mind; to bind spouses committed to a permanent relationship from which children usually come. As with food, it is possible to under or over value the act of sex. The proper balance of sexual activity within a marriage can vary from marriage to marriage, and dealing with issues regarding frequency, activities, etc. has to be done in a loving and patient manner. The burden of sin makes all of this much harder, hence the need for married couples to be constantly praying.
I think it helps to remember that Earth, with all its delights, is not our home. The intimacy we desire will ultimately come from beholding God when we are in heaven (hopefully!), where every tear will be wiped away. Ultimately, it is only in Heaven that our deepest desires will be fulfilled. That is the goal we are striving for, and one that should guide us as we deal with the problems, suffering, and struggles life throws at us.
You might look up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I have found it really helpful in teaching and talking to others about this subject, and in understanding myself and my spouse. He puts sex at the base. But what I find is that a Christian must really try to flip the pyramid. If I replace Maslow’s “Self Actualization” with “Spiritual”, (which is the ultimate goal of a Christian) then by seeking that goal first, God promises to fulfill all the rest. In this sense, one can not be so worried about needs and desires. God has promised He’ll take care of those – just seek Him first. Maybe that is oversimplification, but maybe not. Why not? Because seeking Christ first and His righteousness does require some actions, and some obedience, and some love, and some compassion, and some sacrifice, and some submission, and lots of faith.
Now, expectations…those are the problematic buggers! That is where we step into God’s role in our lives. WE want to have a say in what we need and desire, and we expect to get those filled. Trouble awaits down that path. The only remedy to expectations, in my estimation, is faith. Lots of it.
I think, depending on your spouse’s comfort with discussion, it’s a good idea to have that discussion. My wife is very awkward about sex discussion so it tends to turn into “I’m not ever going to be good enough”, no matter how tender I address it.
But if you and your spouse are okay, Discuss it.
Maybe take a list of things and rate it from “do not want” to “must have”. And perhaps a “I’m not sure” option.
For instance receiving OS would be about “want” for me, while sex twice a week would be a “strong want” and sex once a week would be “must have”. And maybe something “blindfolding” or “role play” would be a “not sure”.
I’ve heard so many stories of spouses who did a yes/no/maybe type list that came away with like “wait! THAT’S what you want? I would love to do that!”
A list may be something worth doing, and trade them up to see each person’s responses.
It doesn’t mean the other HAS to do it, but it could food for thought.