Need Vs. Want: How to Tell the Difference When Looking for Your Person

By Beca Grimm

There are so many potential matches on Bumble that sometimes it can be overwhelming. To narrow in on—and find—what you’re looking for, it helps to identify what you need versus what you want in your person. To get you started, we rounded up some stellar advice from dating experts on separating your relationship necessities from your relationship wants. 

Recognize your patterns

First, see if you can identify any dating patterns that you may have. “We tend to be attracted to the same type of person,” says Samantha Burns, millennial love expert and author of “Done with Dating: 7 Steps to Finding Your Person.” If you find yourself habitually being interested in a type of connection that’s not working for you, “it’s important to realize that often we feel drawn to people who validate internalized negative beliefs about ourselves, such as feeling unworthy of love, not being good enough, and fearing that people will leave us,” explains Burns. Love and relationship psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh agrees. “So often what you want is not what you need,” she says. Recognize what’s going on, and then “make conscious decisions to try something different,” advises Walsh.

Identify your priorities 

One way to be proactive about trying something new is to take the time to think about what you truly need in a relationship. To do so, spend some time writing out your personal core values. Get them all out, and be exhaustive. Burns suggests reflecting on whether you want children, your political views, your health and wellness practices, your environmental beliefs, your religious preferences, your money management, your career goals, your sexual desires, and really anything else that you might feel strongly about.

Then cut that list in half, eliminating what’s less important to you in a partner. Do it again. Do it until you unearth the top few that feel truest to you, and keep in mind this looks different for everyone. Your friend might have “willing to camp with me” at the very top of their list, and you might instead list “regular, deep philosophical conversations” on yours. The only thing that makes an item right is that it’s true for you. The few that survive the cuts are your needs, so prioritize finding a partner with those attributes.

Think about how you want to feel  

Sex and relationships columnist Simone Paget suggests adding another layer to your list. “I always tell people to ask themselves, ‘how do I want to feel in a relationship?’” she says. “While it’s okay to want to be with a person who has certain attributes, it won’t matter if the relationship doesn’t feel good. That’s why it’s important to also prioritize how you want to feel when you’re with this person.” Think about how you want to feel in a relationship, and write it down. “For example,” says Paget, “I want to feel safe, respected, and truly seen or heard when I’m with my future partner.” Then combine that with the list you made before for a good idea of what your ideal partnership might look like. 

Put yourself out there 

Next comes putting it all into practice. You might not know what really works for you until you put those ideas into action in your dating life and give yourself time to experience different kinds of people and relationships. “It comes down to trial and error,” Paget says. “Just because you think you should like a certain kind of scenario, relationship, or person doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.” So if something doesn’t feel good, don’t force it. Instead, take that as a learning experience about what you don’t want moving forward. The same goes for things you find that you do want in a relationship—seek that out in your next Bumble connection. 

It’s easy to feel impatient to meet your person, but try to instead use this present moment to remember that dating should be a fun way to meet new people and get to know yourself, and your needs, more deeply.