SINGLE IN THE CITY: Wanting or needing love?

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First Posted: 2/18/2014

In his book, “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy,” David Burns, M.D., dedicates a chapter to “The Love Addition,” as he calls it, describing how people are, to use an oft-cited line from musician Robert Palmer, “addicted to love.”

“The demand or need for love before you can feel happy is called ‘dependency,’” Dr. Burns writes. “Dependency means that you are unable to assume responsibility for your emotional life.”

Certainly, a difference between “alone” and “lonely” individuals exists.

Lonely individuals — to use the language of psychotherapy — are probably dependent, while alone individuals remain just that — alone. The latter people are able to better cope with their situation, staying busy and harboring a positive attitude without the need for having another person in their life. With regard to the latter, I think of the 19th century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau, for instance, who famously championed solitude in his classic book “Walden.”

Again, writes Dr. Burns: “There is a difference between wanting and needing something. Oxygen is a need, but love is a want. … Just as love, companionship and marriage are not necessary for happiness and self-esteem, they are not sufficient either. The proof is in the millions of men and women who are married and miserable.”

Tips for lonely/dependent individuals:

• Keep busy. As Dr. Burns points out in his book, there are endless things to enjoy on your own. Do you like to read? Pick up a book. Do you like movies? Go watch one. Be creative. You may surprise yourself.

• Have a positive attitude. One’s mental attitude toward life is the deal breaker, determining how a person will interrupt the events around them. In other words, if you have a negative attitude, negativity is what you will find.

• Remember, it’s temporary. As the Bible reminds us: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Just because you may not have a relationship now does not mean you will never have one.

• Not everyone in a relationship is happy. That’s right. Estimates suggest that infidelity rates range from 10 percent to 25 percent of people who have been unfaithful in the past year. In most cases, being in a relationship can — and often does — make things worse if you’re already not happy.

In another self-help manual, “A Guide to Rational Living,” Drs. Albert Ellis and Robert Harper continue with the same message as Dr. Burns.

“Don’t confuse getting love with personal worth,” writes Ellis and Harper. “If you rate yourself as having intrinsic worth or value as a human, you’d better claim to have it by virtue of your mere existence, your aliveness — and not because of anything you do to ‘earn’ it.”

To conclude, love is a want and not a need. If you should find yourself in a scenario where you are without it, don’t worry because life will continue. Finally, although having a relationship is, at times, a good thing, it is not a necessity for good living.