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-   -   What is want? (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22396)

rory 03-19-2012 03:23 PM

What is want?
In poly we like to talk about boundaries and needs and wants. I was talking with Mya, and we discovered that the concept of want means different things to us.

This is perhaps best explained with an example of being on a diet: I go to the store and there's this chocolate. Initially, I want it, that is, I have the craving. But then I think about the fact that I want to loose weight, and that I could have something healthier instead, so I don't buy the chocolate.

Now, I would describe that the reason that I don't buy the chocolate is because after consideration I don't want it. Mya said that she'd say that she still wants the chocolate but she uses self-restraint and that's why she doesn't buy it. Thus, for me self-restraint has very little role: I only use it to take the moment to consider all aspects of the decision. So, consideration is ingrained into the want. For her, she there is a battle between want, which is the feeling of craving, and self-restraint/reason.

I don't know how other people see that, is there a difference in your mind? But looking at it more closely, I feel that there is actually quite a big philosophical difference.

If I give advice here about something and I say "you should think about what you want in the situation, so that you can do that". By that I mean that you should consider all aspects of the situation and do what you think is best. But a person with a different concept of want could well interpret it to say "you should do whatever you feel like doing".

Another example: I wrote a while back that, as a hinge, I should concentrate less on equality between partners and more on what I want. I should take the view that my partners are not entitled to my time, but I should share the amounts of time with each of them that I want. To me it is obvious that in stating that I am NOT saying that I will disregard my partners' wishes, because it is obvious that their wishes are something I will always take into consideration when making decisions which influence them. And to define "what I want" I will have already done the consideration. However, with a different concept of want that same statement sounds like "I will always do what I feel like".

Such a crucial difference in communication!

Mya 03-19-2012 04:20 PM

Just to add my point of view. This topic first came up when we were talking about sex with other people. I said I'm kinda picky when it comes to who I actually decide to have sex with, because there has to be attraction but it also has to make sense. I only want to end up in comfortable drama-free situations. So, there are quite a few people that I would want to sleep with but I don't, because at the end of the day I make rational decisions. But even if I make a decision not to do something, the want doesn't go away. I just..decide not to do it. Where as rory stops wanting it altogether. I admire that about her, because it makes living a bit easier I would guess.

dingedheart 03-19-2012 04:25 PM

Very early into this journey I dumped the word needs from all discussions for the very reasons you stated. For me its all wants. In the needs category are food, water, shelter, sleep, satellite tv (with DVR) ...Not joking the DVR really changed my life no going back.:D

Phy 03-19-2012 04:47 PM

I am totally with Mya on this one. Just because I can handle my wants/needs with logical reasoning doesn't make them go away :) I still want what I want, I just sometimes have to compromise.

ThatGirlInGray 03-19-2012 06:31 PM

My brain can work both ways, depending on what it is I want, how strongly I want it, and what the reasons against it are.

For instance, going with the chocolate example, if wanting to lose weight is the only reason to not get the chocolate, yes, I'll still want it but I might (I hope?) refrain. But if I'm trying to lose weight AND it's expensive, or it's good chocolate but not THAT good, then those other reasons will add enough to make me not even want the chocolate anymore.

Deciding to have sex with someone will of course have even more complications. Do I want to have sex with them in a, "They're hot, and from what I hear it'd be fun!" kind of way, or do I want to have sex with them to express deep feelings for them? How strong are the reasons against? Is someone not 100% comfortable with it or is there evidence that I'd be (literally) fucking crazy? The answers to those questions and more would determine if I still want to but don't do anything or if I stop wanting them completely.

Mya 03-19-2012 06:50 PM

Excellent point, ThatGirlInGray! I think I work like that too. I mean if there are enough reasons against something, then the wanting might and probably will stop as well. But for me at least, most of the time, situations aren't that clear. I'll give you a real life example. I have friend that I find attractive. We flirt all the time and I'm pretty sure she finds me attractive as well. She's bi and single, we hang out alone often, so there are opportunities. But. Our friendship goes way back, we've known each other too long. She has had sex with a friend before and that ended their friendship. She says that it's not a good idea to sleep with someone you have a long friendship with because it might jeopardize the friendship and I tend to agree (in my own life, I know people have done that successfully too!). We also have a bit different views on what sex means to us. So.. I would want to have sex with her, but I don't think it's wise. I don't want to take the risk of losing her as a friend. But still, even though I've made that decision long time ago, almost every time she jokingly says something about sex or flirts with me, I have to fight myself not to suggest anything. There's not enough reasons against it so that I wouldn't want it anymore, so I'm just constantly reasoning my way out of wanting.

redpepper 03-19-2012 07:49 PM


Originally Posted by dingedheart (Post 129393)
Very early into this journey I dumped the word needs from all discussions for the very reasons you stated. For me its all wants. In the needs category are food, water, shelter, sleep, satellite tv (with DVR) ...Not joking the DVR really changed my life no going back.:D

In Non-violent communication (NVC) there might be objection to this way of looking at "need." Its understood, in its practice, as humans "needing" more than just what "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" suggests. We live in a Western society, most of us here. We usually have shelter, water, food, etc. covered. Our needs are on a different level of the pyramid.

Maslow's list I think is at the bottom level, and the next layer up might be more where most of us are. The goal would be to work up the pyramid to become completely without "need;" fulfilled. The layer up from Maslow includes intimacy, giving and receiving love, spending time with others in group settings, positive words and energy exchanged in communication etc. Stuff like that. Can't remember exactly.

I think it very important to remind people of their needs if you think of this layer of the pyramid. We don't become fully balanced and grounded people by having shelter, water and clothing etc. The "need" discussion comes in often when talking about jealousy and envy in poly for instance. As it does when people start out with boundaries or rules. All those needs become really important. "Wants" are more to do with the icing on the cake, I think. For instance, someone might say, "I need you to come home tonight as I am feeling anxious about you expressing your love to another as it makes me think you love me less. I want you to come home at 8pm. Is that something you can accommodate me on?" (Stuck the difference between "feeling" and "thinking" in there also, which also comes from NVC :p)

I can't remember the specifics on this right now, so this might be my own rendition of what I have learned, but there it is in a bit of a nut shell... For what its worth.

dingedheart 03-20-2012 01:55 PM


Its been so long since my psych classes but I think need was defined as something which one "must" have in order to live a healthy human life. Want is something which one desires to have. The line gets blurred between the two from time to time which is why the discussion.

My assumption is or was the basic needs (maslow's bottom level are taken care of )and .... love, family, social contacts/network, career, and the spiritual aspect of me were being engaged in an on going basis. So when I expressed things it was coming from what I wanted...I wasn't going to die if I didn't get what I wanted. I wasn't going to be damaged if I didn't get what I wanted.

I'm not sure what the difference in outcome is if I'd have expressed myself with the word needs. If at the center of the conflict is apposing wants or needs how does it change things,

I can say to my guys ..."I need this done by the end of the day" ...or I want this done by the end of the day. I'm sure I've said both interchangeably ...or something much harsher with four letter words sprinkled in for color when necessary.

Did Maslow ever define Wants ?

I know he had been quoted a lot...Had many famous quote one went something like ... Man is an animal of perpetual wants. or something close to that.

Shannanigan 03-21-2012 01:09 AM

I think that there is something to be said in terms of there being "needs" to be reach happiness. My happiness and that of the people I love is extremely important to me, and I definitely need more than food, water, shelter, and sleep (I can go without TV) to do it, especially as a depressive.

So, those things that I need, I pursue and make known to those who can happily provide. Things that I want, now, fall into different levels of course. I think with the chocolate and diet example, it simply comes down to what you want MORE. In that moment, do you want chocolate less than, more than, or as much as you want to lose weight? The answer to that question will determine the decision you make IN THAT MOMENT. You might regret it later, if upon reflection your level of want shifts, but we tend to make decisions in the moment in some situations (like, I'm at the store NOW, won't be here later, so I must choose NOW).

I tend to toss out things that I want as ideas, knowing that while I'm happy without having them met, I would at least temporarily be happier if they were. Needs, those are different. I need them to be happy.

strixish 03-21-2012 12:34 PM

This is an interesting way of looking at desire.

In one way, I often want lots of things, including conflicting things (I want the chocolate, and I want to be successful at eating healthy). In the end, I always do whatever I want MOST, but the desire for the other choice is still there. It's not eclipsed by the fact that I've made whatever choice I've made.

These two ways of looking at things seem to boil down to this-- how important are those unfulfilled desires? Do you put them away once you've made your choice, or do you give them a place in your mind?

I understand that in some world views, desire is the source of all suffering. I get that. I get that people believe life is easier if you can let go of some of your desires, especially the unfulfilled desire.

I personally disagree with that, though. Kate Bornstein wrote about how desire, especially unfulfilled desire, is actually a crucial part of being human, and especially being the individual you are. "Desire" itself, wanting something that I don't have (and may never get), may be a source of tension for me, but it can be a delicious tension, almost a source of energy itself. It's part of what makes me who I am.

This is getting a little grand for the chocolate metaphor, but maybe if I think about the desire I have for my ex-girlfriends. For most of them, I still care deeply, or even love them, and I still desire the texture of their skin, the feel of their kiss, and all of that. I have *chosen* not to be with them, and not to now be pursuing relationships with them, for one good reason or another. The desire is still there, though, and will probably always be there.

Unrequited desire is bittersweet, but I do like lots of flavors...

On the want/need dichotomy, there are all kinds of things I want that I don't need. I definitely don't need to have all my wants fulfilled. My point is that I do sort of value the unfulfilled and unfulfillable wants. They're a part of me.

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