I wrote a piece at According to Jewels a long time ago called Falling in Love With Potential. It was a piece that sparked a lot of conversation in the comment section and it got me to thinking…why do we self sabotage so much? This is not a gender problem; this is a universally human problem. There is nothing more detrimental to a relationship’s success than falling in love with potential.
Remember that college boyfriend who you thought you were so in love with, but who gamed all day/night while smoking pot and eating crap food? Remember how you thought that would change when you guys graduated? That guy who could take over the world if he applied himself but he just didn't have the desire to ever do more? Remember how nothing you said motivated him? That wasn't just me, was it?
Falling in Love With Potential: The Beginning of the End
We’ve all done it; don’t deny it. We’ve all fallen in love with somebody for who we thought they would/could/should be instead of who they are at that very moment. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when change, growth, and a bit of bending are essential to the evolution of a relationship and a person, but to be constantly judged on the merits of who you ‘could’ be is exhausting. You see a guy who's all but perfect 'if only'. It is those 'if only' thoughts that signal the beginning of the end. Those thoughts imply that the person isn't good enough on their own, that you wish they'd change x, y, z about themselves and we all know that's not fair.
Why You Do It
Maybe you meet the guy/gal when you are young with the expectation that one day they will eventually spend more time on work goals than gaming. Or, maybe you were hoping that he’d eventually get bored of working in retail and then 5 years later he’s still selling people sweaters by day and gaming until 2am. Suddenly, you are screaming at him day and night to get a real job, to get off of his ass, and do something with himself. All the while he's rolling his eyes, shutting you out, and calling you a nagging bitch. You mean well, right? You just want him to be the best version of himself, right?
"I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Why it’s Cruel
What could be more soul crushing for the other person than realizing they aren’t good enough for your love as they are? Isn’t that all that we want out of love, to be loved for who we are? Yet, there we are asking others to be more, do more, and change to suit our expectations. There is a limit between what is fair to ask for compromise on and asking somebody to change what is fundamentally them. Sure, you want what's best for them, to see them succeed, but there is a difference between motivating, demanding, and tearing down. Supporting your loved one is essential and making them want to be a better person and encouraging them while they make changes is GREAT. What's not great is demanding they change.
Why It Will Never Work
You are asking somebody to change who they are when they are perfectly happy with who they are. More to the point, they've never claimed to be anything but who they are, it's you who made these goals and aspirations for them in your head; not them. They never wanted to change. They are happy the way they are. They may change in short bursts, heck they may even attempt long term changes to keep you around and happy, but resentment will build. Falling in love with potential is your problem, not theirs. They've always been themselves- you're the one who thinks they should be more. They're happy with the way their life is.
What To Do
Get over it or move on. Asking your significant other to change isn't fair and it isn't right. It isn't their fault you fell in love with who you think they should be instead of who they are. If you can't resign yourself to the person they are right now, if you are constantly looking for ways they could improve, do yourselves both a favor and walk the hell away. Once away, stay away. Then, take a long look at yourself and decide if you're so perfect you have room to judge like that. Everyone has flaws, room to improve, and character cracks...and I'm sure you'd hate being asked to change who you are. We all just want to be loved for who we are...so return the favor.
Have you ever fallen in love with somebody's potential? We want to hear about it.
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