Falling in Love with Potential

falling in love with potential, falling in love, dating, relationships, love and sex, the indie chicks

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.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Julie Zantopoulos

Julie Zantopoulos

Julie is Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Indie Chicks. She's working on publishing her first book, a collection of short stories, and writing a young adult novel series. Other loves include whiskey, the Flyers, and anything LOTR, Harry Potter, or Young Adult Lit. Don't be shy about following her on Instagram or emailing her to discuss contributing to The Indie Chicks.

  1. Story of my life. You hit the nail on the head with this one Jewels. Glad I read this. I am still holding out to find and fall for someone who I don’t feel the need to “fix”.

    1. Glad you are holding out. It’s better to be alone than with the wrong person. Happy to hear this article confirmed that for you. Believe me, it’s a lesson I’d rather have read than lived. haha.

  2. Aw man, I so did that when I was younger Jewels. Glad I learnt to stop!! There’s a certain element of love bringing out the best in folk and it’s great sometimes to see and encourage potential (I’m almost still doing it as you can tell) BUT you cannot ‘expect’ of others. It’s just not fair. Especially when they’re perfectly lovely as they are, just maybe not ‘you’.

  3. Guilty! Yes, I have fallen in love with someone’s potential. And the whole debacle was my fault. I was in a low place emotionally, so I let all the not so great behaviors (like the weed and all night gaming) slide because I was lonely and wanted a boyfriend. I rationalized that he was “good enough” and “nice enough” until all the laying around and “whatever dude’s” created a time bomb like tension and I bailed.

    The thing is, like in your case, he did nothing wrong. He was just being him. I, on the other hand, was being an ass.

    1. Exactly and admitting that, facing that the whole disappointment and relationship failure was my fault for creating something that didn’t exist in my head, that sucked! Live and learn, right?

  4. Men could be so sensitive, i had never realised till he told me that he doesn’t talk to me a lot anymore because iv become negative abt him.
    Thanks to my continuous habit of ‘reminding’ him how great he COULD be if only he put his heart to it.
    I guess i didnt realise that i was letting him know indirectly that ur not worthy of being loved the way u are. Esp so, since he was stuck in a rotten routine(evn tho he hated it and wanted to get out of it,things were nvr in his favour) while i was having great success at work.
    Men hate being pushed or being reminded of all the things they are not. It really hurts their ego. They just want to be accepted as they are.
    Hes my best friend and we r not in a relationship(or maybe we are in denial).. And i tried to ‘fix’ him, by breaking him.
    I guess thats how we women care but unwisely choose the wrong expression.

    Thank you Julie. I think its time to kiss and make up 😉

  5. OMG – I’ve done this and stayed way too long not wanting to give up on the potential. He ended up leaving me though – I was a controlling “B” because I wanted him to find and keep a job. Fortunately, I came to my senses and didn’t take him back when he realized his mom wouldn’t put up with his freeloading lifestyle.

    1. The hard part is realizing that even if you know, with all of your being, that he could be SO much more if only he put forth a little more effort-that he could rock a corner office if he put in more hours-whatever it may be…he has to want it. In the end you really are a nagging B, I was too, because they’re happy the way they are. It’s when they’re left and people stop enabling their floating through life (ie; you’re gone and his mom is fed up) that they realize they HAVE to do more and that they are capable of it. The wasted years of lack of action is his regret to carry, not yours.

  6. i am a guilty of this and that’s how I found this article. He told me upfront what he did and didn’t want and I, in my infinite wisdom, thought that he was wrong and didn’t know what was best for himself, but i did. but here’s the kicker–he sent me mixed signals sometimes. which got confusing. i could have been cool with the type of “Relationship” (read: sex buddies) we had, but then he would do or say something that made me think he wanted more. so what to do in that case? set stronger boundaries? more clearly defined rules of what this is and what it’s not?

  7. I hope you can. It definitely doesn’t feel nice to know that you’re not alright as you are. It’s one thing to encourage them to chase their dreams and another to tell them they’re lazy for not having loftier ones. Good luck!

  8. Jewels, i am looking at your reply to me and to savvy girl. And I’m so confused now. I don’t know if i should let him be and realise (we haven’t bin talking for a while now)or go back and be there for him till he finds his way.. I do miss him a lot because he is overall very caring and yes i admit i am very attached to him.
    *sigh* this heart is so silly!

  9. I think if anything stick to an email apologizing for what you now know to be hurtful behavior. If it’s an email he can chose to respond or not and you can say you’re sorry. After that leave it alone unless he reaches out. I see nothing wrong with that. Apologizing and making amends is important.

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