Falling for potential

When we are younger, with our lives yet to be determined, we can fall in love with someone’s potential, not who they are at the moment. I know I have.

A pal wrote today, “I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a woman, rather than with the woman herself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the woman to ascend to her own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”

Which makes me wonder: Are we just seeing them as we think they can be? Or are we projecting our desires onto them when they have no inclination to become what we see?

When we see them as “bigger” (more successful, fulfilling a future we see they can have), are we tapping into the best we see for them? This can be empowering (“I believe in you, baby,” “I know you can do it”) or demeaning (“I know you didn’t do your best,” “If you only did what I suggested you’d be more successful”).

But if our beloved doesn’t share our vision for him and has no desire for what we think is possible for him, both become unhappy. You are constantly disappointed by his lack of progress toward what you see as his greatness, and he feels a constant environment of disapproval and failure.

At this point in our lives, most of us have achieved something — yet not all that we imagined for ourselves. So seeing your sweetheart’s potential can be a marvelous gift to someone who may feel they are treading water toward retirement but had hoped to accomplish more. They’ve just become burnt out at how hard it has been to accomplish what they desired. Some people have abandoned their dreams and a cheerleader may be just what they need.

However, if your snookems is content to glide by at their current state and not aspire to more, your prodding him to reach his potential will be irksome.

When starting to date someone, I think it’s important within the first few months to discuss each of your visions for the future as well as dreams. If you are an achiever who believes in constantly improving and striving, you’re probably not going to be happy with someone who sees no need to change the status quo.

It can be sad to realize you see someone’s greater potential and your sweetie doesn’t see himself similarly. But if this is important to you, best to move on as otherwise you’ll be doomed for decades of disappointment.

I guess it shouldn’t be “love is blind” but perhaps “love sees the other as they may never see themselves.”


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4 responses to “Falling for potential”

  1. Richard Avatar

    At our age, it is the rare person that has not realized their potential. Strike that. Try again…. At our age, most people are what they are. Yes, almost all of us could be more. But, most have reached what they are going to be. No use trying to hope the person changes. Accept them for where they are and how they are, or do not. Your choice. But, those are your choices.

    “I think it’s important within the first few months to discuss each of your visions for the future as well as dreams.” – I think that is important for commonality of goals. But, I do not think it is useful to guage if the person is going to grow into the potential you hope they will be. An exception is the person working hard toward their goal who looking for their lucky break. Or, the person who never had a chance until now to pursue their goal. But, if he is a mid-level manager, and you think he has the potential to be a CEO – me thinks the person does not really have it in him.

  2. Mitsy Avatar

    I can relate to falling for “potential” big time. It’s happened to me more than a couple times now when dating anyone for any length of time. I fell into that with my first serious boyfriend. He had a lot of good qualities but refused to grow up & mature. (To this day, he still lives w/his Mom.) He was smart (book-wise), was college educated, and given the fact that both parents had Master’s degrees & his brother was a doctor, the odds for him to have a bright future shouldn’t have been an unreasonable expectation. But, after years of dating him (was engaged with no wedding date ever set), he refused to find a job within his field that would have given him some confidence, status, and accomplishment. He’s a janitor who has a degree in Industry yet he’s content to push a broom. He was also a tightwad & didn’t like “change” yet I kept hoping for change. I wasted a lot of years w/him & I still regret that.
    My last serious boyfriend ended up being an alcoholic & I also saw “potential” for him which never happened because he continued to drink. He still drinks & I give Al-Anon the credit for helping me to see the light about helping someone who does not want to be helped.

    Bottom line is this: you really can’t change someone. What you see is what you get. Change only occurs if the person has a sincere & deep desire to change a behavior. No one else can wish or hope that it will happen if the person doesn’t also want to change for the better.
    So, I fell for “potential” several times with disappointing results each time.

  3. J Avatar

    Potential is great. So is believing in someone’s potential. Just make sure you’re fine with who they are right now. That doesn’t just apply to the guy who’s going to write the greatest novel ever; that goes for people who are unemployed, recently separated, returning to school, overweight, etc. They just might make the changes they’re talking about. But if they don’t, then you’ve got to be sure you’re happy with them the way they are today, right now. If you’re not, then you’re wasting your time AND theirs by saying you’re okay with it in the short-term. Because it could be the long-term, too.

  4. Keith Avatar

    The old saying that love is blind fails to mention that it can be a little deaf and dumb too. But that’s what love is all about. It’s a little like playing the lottery you seem to lose more than you win. But it’s that one big win that keeps you playing the game over and over agian.