Love and Belonging: Same Side of the Coin?
I am trying to wrap my head around something Glasser wrote in Choice Theory (1998, p.96) about how to measure the strength of our need for love and belonging. “It is important to understand,” he began, “that the strength of this need is measured by how much we are willing to give, not by how much we are willing to receive.” At first glance this seems easy enough to understand, but as I think about what this really means I begin to sense something deeper and more important.
I teach about the Basic Needs as part of the choice theory workshops I facilitate each summer, including asking participants to try to identify their own Basic Need strength levels.
When participants assess their personal need for Love and Belonging I am pretty sure they focus more on their perceived need to belong than on their need to love. Belonging has to do with our need for connection, and I think that is where participants go when they self-evaluate in this area. “To what extent do I need to connect with others?” they are probably wondering.
But that’s not really how to measure this strength, at least according to Bill. Belonging is about our need to “receive” from others, to be affirmed through membership within a group or from a relationship with another person, and to be included. Love, on the other hand, is giving affection and caring about others, without regard to receiving favors in return.
As the Love chapter in 1 Corinthians says –
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ! Cor. 13:4-7
There seems to be a distinct difference between love and belonging. Both are about relationships, yet one is about what we take from the relationship, while the other is about what we bring or give to the relationship.
Glasser hits this theme again when he describes the Solving Circle for marital discord. (He actually recommended drawing an imaginary circle on the floor that spouses would enter before beginning their conversation.) “Step into the circle,” he coached, “and tell each other not what you want but what you are willing to give.” (Choice Theory, p.98)
So what do we do with the Love and Belonging need? Is it possible to have a high need for belonging and a low need to love? Given Glasser’s view that the strength of the Love and Belonging need is how much a person is willing to give, it would seem the person with a low need to love and a high need to belong ends up with a lower score for Love and Belonging. Does that make sense? I am really thinking about how to process this piece in future workshops.
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