U2: With Or Without You Meaning
Song Released: 1987
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With Or Without You Lyrics
see the thorn twist in your side
i wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you
With or without you
With or without you
Through the storm we...
anonymous Sep 27th, 2007 9:31pm report
I can see why everyone relates this song to a christian with lines like "See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side" that however is not enough in my opinion to support that. I believe this song is more related to a woman. "Sleight of hand and twist of fate" Sleight of hand is another way of saying trickery twisting fate. Talking about a love deceiving him/whoever. "You give yourself away" is saying to me she is with another man and he/or whoever the song is about doesn't want that. Now that she has been with another man you get "I can't live
With or without you" He is still waiting wishing things had been different. However, fate is set and he now feels that he cannot live without her as it has always been yet now he cannot live with her always thinking about the other lover she had chosen over him. Their is a lot more in the song to support this. Also suppose that "See the stone set in your eyes" is relating to her decision to chose another man. You can say I am wrong but this is how this song relates to me because I have lived with this situation for many years.
anonymous Mar 13th, 2012 3:31am report
The song is about a woman who does not want/afraid to commit.
"See the stone set in your eyes" Cold and firm in that she won't commit but 'the thorn twisting in her side" is that she loves him and is struggling to maintain her safe distance from him.
"Sleight of hand and twist of fate" in life's irony he has fallen madly in love with a woman who won't give her heart totally to him. He waits...hoping that she will give him, her heart.
"Through the storm we reach the shore" Despite the tempestuous situation of being at such odds, they reach an understanding. She gives what she can, but it is not enough for him.
"You give it all but I want more"
Still he waits and hopes the situation will change.
"With or without you"
He doesn't feel that she is 'with' him because she has not fully committed and feels he is 'without' her because she is not fully committed.
She 'gives' of herself to others she is not committed to as well. Giving herself 'away' rather than to him.
His hands are tied because the decision to commit to him can only be made by her. His body bruised, hurting because he is waiting for her to make this decision to finally commit to him.
He's done all he can, now he truly has nothing left to win and nothing left to lose, because although they are a couple, he doesn't feel that she is really 'with him'.
anonymous Nov 13th, 2006 11:54am report
This song is simply about a person who can't live with or without a person. If they live with them - they cause grief "thorn twist in your side" & "you give it all but I want more" relates to him always finding faults in the person they love. Its about a girl that gives all she can....But was never enough for the man.....Now he is lost without her....He has nothing left. Dvr
anonymous Nov 19th, 11:46pm report
This song is about being in love with someone so much and u are in a relationship with her and she cheated on u and u find out and it breaks you and she is sorry it was a mistake she tries to recononcile and you love her so much and want to make it work you can't live with her but her betrayal is too great and the pain is too much to bear hence you can't live with her,..... With or without you... I can't live
someone wants to reach out and discuss more mail me Kenyan.firstname.lastname@example.org
anonymous Oct 9th, 10:56pm report
With Or Without You song, so easy to interpret.
To the person who made an interpretation the previous month, seems like you are still madly in love with her. It seems you are still with her or not, I'm not really sure. If she wants to really be committed and be exclusive with you, she will choose you as her ONE & ONLY. But she is already in a committed relationship with someone else. I don't think she is the right girl for you. But it's your choice. Peace.
Same person who made a comment today at 17:48 pm
anonymous Oct 9th, 10:48pm report
The lyrics ostensibly describe a troubled relationship between two lovers, although the lyrics have been interpreted in religious contexts. The Washington Post interpreted the song as both an acerbic love song and a tune lamenting the moral contradictions one faces with their religious faith. Toby Creswell echoed these sentiments, saying it "can be read as a song about either marital romance or spiritual need". Bono explained that the lyrics had romantic intentions, saying, "there's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other. One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do." In 1987, Bono explained that "And you give yourself away" lyric refers to how he sometimes feels exposed being in U2, and that his openness, both to the public and music press, can do damage to the group. Author Niall Stokes interpreted the line as encompassing the theme of "surrendering the ego" to one's love and spiritual faith.
According to Bono, the song was heavily influenced by Scott Walker's album Climate of Hunter. (wiki)
Browse some recent posts at songmeanings
anonymous Sep 14th, 9:09am report
This song is definitely about a couple who are unable to be in a committed and exclusive relationship because the woman in this song to me, sounds like she IS in fact already in a committed relationship with someone else. “See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorn twist in your side..I wait for you” he sees the [hard] look in her eyes. As if he sees in her eyes that she has already made the difficult decision to stay with the other person even though she knows herself that she isn’t truly stable & happy with that person, yet, even so, & knowing so, the singer is willing to take the risk & wait for her. “Sleight of hand & twist of fate on a bed of nails she makes me wait” meaning potential & unintentional or perhaps even intentional deceitfulness from her, as well as confusing fate. but again even so he is taking the risk willing to wait for her to give him her heart & leave the other relationship she is in which for some reason she is unable to end (may be because of comfort zone, afraid of getting hurt, etc) & even though it hurts him So much as he is in a “bed of nails” he is STILL going to wait for her with high hopes... that of course she leaves the current unhappy relationship she is in to be in a happy one with him. “you give it all but I want more and I’m waiting for you, with or without you... I can’t live with or without you... and you give yourself away” this is pretty self explanatory, basically he is saying that she gives ALL to him, so much love, he feels joy with this woman, & happiness but he wants more! He wants to be exclusive, committed -ONE. He doesn’t want to share her. He wants her to be his one & ONLY & of course leave the other relationship and just be with him because he is waiting for her. At the same time he realizes that he can’t live with or without her because deep down he knows she does not have the strength to end her relationship with the other person as he says: “and you give yourself away” which is she keeps going back with her unhappy relationship. yet the singer says he can’t live without her either because he has fallen madly in love with her already & is going crazy waiting for her. It has to be so because this feels exactly what I was going through at one point in my life. <|3 literally felt every word & no song had ever fit so perfectly. Love listening to it every now and then & reminicing... bittersweet.
anonymous May 10th, 2018 5:01pm report
i read the bass player for u2 adam clayton said this song should be played at church. --this implys to me its about christ jesus
anonymous Sep 5th, 2017 9:53pm report
A song about the spiritual struggle of the Individual man within ''the relationship'' who's religiously confused and torn apart. He can't live ''with or without You'' Meaning Her The Woman [church] that makes Him feel He's being crucified. In similar accordance to the certainty ''oral'' beliefs and rules of the Rabbanites men that took over ''Moses' seat'' Like it was/is within the Karaite [jewish] struggle of the Individual, that assimilated with the 1st Nazarean[Christian] that ''only'' wanted to follow God's rules, according ''only'' to the written Torah as a Messianic believer for obtaining redemption. Compare ''them'' in the Individual struggle today, like was with the Pharisees[Persian jews] of the Bible that were similar to The Catholic clergy of today who symbollicaly are still sacrificing and crucifying The Lord, then putting themselves in ''Christ's seat'' that takes away, instead of following the words of Yoshua/Jesus from the old testament to the new testament. They only added progressive new ideas and beliefs that makes it difficult for the Individual believer to live with or without You- Jesus that's gradually being drained within The Couple that seems to only weaken their relationship. sad, very sad.
anonymous Jan 15th, 2017 1:01am report
The song is not clear cut, so..... I believe people will try to interpret this song in any way that fits them. Everyone tries to pick "with or without you" apart word by word and give you their own opinion. They believe their own interpretation is correct, so let them keep thinking what they want. Remember opinions vary. But 6 pages of all conflicting interpretations is unnecessary ?
anonymous Nov 29th, 2015 11:21pm report
When this song was popular, my bf was dying of cancer. To me, it tells how much I want him to stay(alive), but I know it's selfish because he is in so much pain. And he needs to go, but it causes me pain as well.
anonymous Nov 18th, 2015 11:46am report
This song is about the yin and yang of life, for instance shadow cannot exist without light. We need darkness as much as the light. This song resonates with Daoist metaphysics. In Daoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Aug 5th, 2014 8:12pm report
I see this in my opinion as a song about loving someone and wanting to be with them. You are not with them because you cant be, but they never leave mind. They never leave your mind as hard as you try to deny or get them off your mind. "I cant live with or without you".
anonymous Jun 10th, 2014 6:09am report
It's my belief that this song represents a close friend of the songwriter who's been under the influence of drugs. With lines such as "you give yourself away" being used as a motif. The rest of the song is about the pain the songwriter is going through watching his friend turn into a mess.
anonymous Feb 5th, 2014 2:37pm report
I honestly think it's about man... I mean when I first heard it- it reminded me of BellDom which is like a Muse romance.
It's like "sleigh to hand and twist of fate, on a bed of nails she makes me wait, and I wait with or without you" Makes it sound like he's saying it was just a twist of fate that made his lover of the same sex. And his girlfriend/wife doesn't make him as happy and he needs the other man. Same with the my body bruised she got me...""
In that case "I can't live with or without you" could mean he isn't PERMITTED to live with the other man- and he can't live without him...
And "You'll give yourself away" could mean he will end up revealing the fact that they're together...
But that's just my opinion. *shrugs*
anonymous Apr 22nd, 2013 4:13pm report
I see it more as a person that’s so in love with someone yet it seems like the woman keeps hurting him so like for example I think the woman is a prostitute needing money and it keeps hurting him because she’s giving her love away to other men and so he doesn’t know how to deal with the facts that it’s so torturous of her choices that he truly wants to leave her but he loves her so much he feels like he can’t live without her but at the same time he knows he can’t live like this being in love with who won’t let him help through her money problems just seem like she’s stubborn and yet even though they fight he still loves her so much he feels like he’ll die without her and lose the best love he’s ever felt
anonymous Jun 25th, 2012 6:46pm report
This song is one of the best songs written in the hole 80`s.
However, Bono is not willing to explain much what the lyrics really is about.
To me and what I have understood, is "and you give yourself away" how he feels about giving him self to the press, it is also about how he could hurt the band. Damage made to the band in the way they are giving to much of them self without really now the cons. of it....
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