What does With Or Without You mean?

U2: With Or Without You Meaning

Album cover for With Or Without You album cover

Song Released: 1987

With Or Without You Lyrics

See the stone set in your eyes
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...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Sep 27th 2007 !⃝

    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.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Mar 13th 2012 !⃝

    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'.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Jan 13th 2008 !⃝

    I think it's about a former gf/lover/partner. Its at the end of a painful yet passionate relationship - probably a girlfriend who cheated on you...so that explains the 'I can't live
    With or without you' the love and the heartbreak parallelly.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 8th 2022 !⃝

    This is a song about a relationship that has gone through a lot of challenges and trials. "Through the storm we reached the shore".) The woman is unhappy and probably resentful and angry because of all the sacrifices she's made for the relationship. ("See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorn twist on your side.") She has given all that she can give, but he still wants her to keep giving or wants more from her -- perhaps a new level of sacrifices and adjustments to his success. ("You give it all but I want more.") In Bono's personal life, his partner took care of him when they were pre-teens, and when he was struggling as a musician. She could not pursue her own dreams during that time, then the pressures of Bono's success demanded new sacrifices from her. He took for granted that she would stay and keep on giving; he never thought that she would actually leave, he never saw it coming, perhaps he was just too busy to see what was happening, or wasn't paying attention to the signs and warnings, or her actual words. She might have gone to "visit her parents", but the short visit might have turned into a longer absence, a 'break" from the relationship and his new lifestyle. ("Sleight of hand and twist of fate").

    Even though her departure might look like a temporary break', he can tell that she wants out of the relationship. ("You give yourself away"). She cannot hide her unhappiness from other people, and he cannot hide his agony; everyone can see that their marriage is in trouble.

    He waits in agony for her decision. ("On a bed of nails she makes me wait.")

    He can't do anything, it's not up to him now ("My hands are tied"); and he blames himself and beats himself up for the situation. ("My body bruised"). But he knows that the relationship he wants to save is already broken ("nothing to win and nothing left to lose.")

    Both he can't live with either outcome -- with, or without her.

  5. anonymous
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    Feb 8th 2022 !⃝

    This song is about a relationship that has gone through a lot of challenges and trials. The woman or partner has given all that she can give, the end result is her being unhappy. But he still wants her to stay ("Through the storm we reach the shore, You give it all but I want more.") She has left, perhaps to revaluate the relationship, but he will wait for her.
    She cannot hide her unhappiness and he can see that she is suffering through the relationship. ("See the stone set in your eye, See the stone twist on your side.") "Sleight of hand and twist of fate" could mean that he didn't see her departure or decision to leave coming. He probably took for her for granted: even though he saw that she was unhappy, he never expected her to leave. Circumstances and his own blindness or preoccupation with other things made him not see.
    There is nothing he can do now, it not up to him how things will turn out eventually. He also feels guilty and blames himself, beats himself up about the situation. ("My hands are tied, my body bruised.") All he can do is wait and he is suffering as he waits, because he could really lose the relationship. ("On a bed of nails she makes me wait.") At the same time the relationship he wants to save is already broken, so he is left "with nothing to win and nothing left to lose."

    "You give yourself away" refers to something that other people are seeing, especially since he is a public figure. He cannot hide his agony and that his relationship or marriage is on the rocks. He also can see that even though she says she just wants to take a break or think things through, that she is planning to leave him for good.

    As he waits for her, he is faced with two possible scenarios or outcomes as he waits -- living with, or without her -- and they are both desirable and undesirable. It's just an impossible situation.

  6. anonymous
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    May 27th 2021 !⃝

    She loves the security and stability that he gives her, but she gives her heart and her body to another man. He sees right through her stone cold eye's, but thinks it must kill her to do him that way. He waits for her, hoping she'll be all his someday. The fact that he gives her all of his love and she gives herself away to another man kills him inside and he knows his hands are tied, because it's up to her to give all of herself to him in return.
    Painful love triangle.

  7. anonymous
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    Aug 13th 2020 !⃝

    For me the song is about a human who struggles with there faith , Bono is the master song writer in that he can write words to a song that will be played on the radio that to most listeners would pick up on the religious theme , to most it a love song , as a man who found wealth and fame Bono and the band struggled with the pay off to fame and fortune to there religious beliefs, I can’t live with or without you , can I live with my religious beliefs ,

  8. Lemonette
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    May 13th 2020 !⃝

    WOWY is a brilliant lyric deliberately left open to interpretation so everyone can relate their own pain to it. It may be the greatest song. The music is evocative too. It is about the pain of being in a deep love relationship with some who hurts you but You love them so much you can’t be without them. Everyone has experienced that feeling. It’s agonizing ...but romantic love is like that. He puts in different searing poetic descriptions of how the pain feels. Sometimes it even “feels good to feel so bad” ( line from a later song”). BUT there is a Second valid religious Meaning. During the Zooropa tour in London and Dublin Bono spelled it out dressed as the devil MacPhisto. Paraphrasing, he wonders outloud about how he ( Lucifer) was once so close to God and now so far away. He questions if he could be forgiven. It’s a heartbreaking performance by Bono - the best he’s ever done ( or anyone for that matter) I wept for the beauty of it. You can watch it on “Zooropa Live from Sidney”. Watch Lemon and WOWY as they are sung as one. MacPhisto goes from giddy dancing around smugly to gradually realizing his very tragic separation from his father, God. Bono’s every slight move poignantly illustrates his grief at his fate. Masterpiece!

  9. anonymous
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    Apr 27th 2020 !⃝

    About a guy who is so in love with a girl who really doesn’t care about him. She is not faithful to him because she
    never felt what he feels, never promised him anything. He
    Is delusional and has built up this relationship in his head.He is truly a romantic fool who is blinded by passion and love
    for someone who marries someone else. She is happy
    with her choice, but feels a little sad for him. She hopes
    he finds someone who will return all the love he has to give.
    P.S. She never finds out what happens to him.

  10. anonymous
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    Nov 19th 2018 !⃝

    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.dreamz@gmail.com

  11. anonymous
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    Oct 9th 2018 !⃝

    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

  12. anonymous
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    Oct 9th 2018 !⃝

    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

  13. anonymous
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    Sep 14th 2018 !⃝

    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.

  14. anonymous
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    May 10th 2018 !⃝

    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

  15. anonymous
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    Sep 5th 2017 !⃝

    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.

  16. anonymous
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    Jan 15th 2017 !⃝

    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 ?

  17. anonymous
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    Nov 29th 2015 !⃝

    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.

  18. anonymous
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    Nov 18th 2015 !⃝

    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.

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