KNOW the difference — it's important.
There was a period of time — say, up until I turned 25 — that when I thought about love, I felt anxious. At that time, I had already had a few significant relationships, but nothing that felt how I was always promised I would feel.
Falling in love felt like this absolute, intangible experience that was meant for a select few, but not something I had been blessed enough to find or experience. I felt desperate to find someone — anyone! — that would prove to me all men were different. That they weren't cowards. That they weren't unavailable. That they weren't just there for the good times but could be partners during the bad.
But after so many dates, so many disappointments and more soul-searching than I'd ever do during my quarter-life crisis, I decided to take the attention away from this so-called visionary creature I was impatiently waiting to meet and put the focus on myself.
And the last few years, I've been figuring out how much more powerful it is to want a person, instead of needing a person. There's a strength that comes in relying on yourself, no matter what does or doesn't happen, that can really turn your perspective on dating around.
I'm in a happy (dare I say, easy!) relationship now, and I don't need him. But I definitely want him. Here's what it means to prioritize desire over necessity:
1. Needing a man means feeling desperate. / Wanting a man means feeling empowered.
If the thought of being a relationship seems so far-fetched that you claw at any opportunity to be in front of single men or spend hours upon hours aimlessly swiping, co. Instead, focus your day-to-day life on what makes you happy.
Exercise? Cooking? Traveling? Whatever it is, join organizations and clubs that support that, thus empowering yourself to be satisfied, regardless of your Facebook status.
2. Needing a man means you need a confidence boost. / Wanting a man is knowing you're worthy.
To be fair, we all need to be told we're awesome every once in awhile. It's human nature to want to feel lusted after, especially with someone you're romantically into. But if you need a man to constantly reassure you that you're beautiful, that he loves you, that you're amazing, then you're missing a big void in your life.
Before you ever get into a relationship, it's important to know your self-worth, your value and the unique things you bring to the table in a couplehood. By already defining who you are (and what you're made of), you won't need to be reminded daily of it. Instead, when you get a compliment (or three), it'll just be an extra nod to what you already know to be true.
3. Needing a man means saying "I can't live without you." / Wanting a man means saying "I can live without you, but I choose not to."
I don't know which romantic comedy actually said it (maybe all of them), but when you're saying "I love you" to someone, you're really saying "I choose you." You're saying that out of all of the possible suitors, the men you've dated, the ones you've slept with — you're picking this person to share your life with (or at least a portion of it).
Choice is way more powerful than feeling like you can't make it through a day without a guy in your life. Wouldn't you want to feel handpicked instead of handcuffed?
4. Needing a man means you want to feel completed. / Wanting a man means letting someone love all the good and bad.
You've heard it all before: "You complete me," "You're my better half" and "A soulmate is your soul finding its way home." Excuse us while we say, C'mon, really? Instead of looking for another person to fill the parts of you that feel incomplete, why not invite someone to love all of those parts of you?
No matter who you're with or what stage of life you're in, you're always going to have things that are missing. As you have children, your social life might take a hit. As you move up in your career, you might not be able to grab drinks as often as you once did. When you start traveling more often, you might make efforts to save more money.
Life ebbs and flows, so why not have someone who rides the waves with you, instead of depending on someone to fish you out of the water?
5. Needing a man means trying to say the right things. / Wanting a man means saying what you really think.
One of the things my dad loves the most about my mom is that he never knows what she's thinking. It's kept him interested for 30 years, and it's something I hope for in my marriage.
If you can't say what you really think and are always concerned about saying the exact right thing to keep someone interested in you, then you lose out on someone loving you for who you are. And who you are is pretty fantastic, so why downplay it?
6. Needing a man means you're not ready for a relationship. / Wanting a man means you are.
Hate to break it to you, but as long as you feel like you need a man in your life to be happy, you're not ready for a relationship. The moment you know you would be just fine — and thriving! — without one, is when you know your healthiest love is on his way.