The Illusion of Potential
During my early years as a young working woman, older colleagues would advise us to look
for “potential” in a prospective marriage partner. While you might not like who this man is when you meet, we were advised to visualise and fall in love with what he could potentially become in the
future. What an illusion!!
With this in mind, one meets a man and adopts a strength-based approach or an optimistic, positive
outlook. Dr Kai Swigart defines the strength-based approach as a phenomenon where one focuses
on the positives by magnifying the little good there is in a person and minimising the most glaring
short-comings or red flags as it were. An overly optimistic outlook sees the best in people, puts them
on a pedestal because, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, you believe that “everyone is emotionally
capable of reaching his highest potential”.
You genuinely believe that you can love the identified flaws away in time because love conquers all and
that your love will make him change to become what you want to see him become. You tolerate
things and go through great pain and suffering in the meantime because you are in love with the
person you believe he would become in the future. Essentially, you are a martyr; this man’s saviour
because you think that this man needs your love to live a truly fulfilling life in which his wildest
dreams can be realised. What an exhausting and time-wasting exercise: you might regretfully realise
As it were, expectations for change escalate rapidly putting undue pressure on the partner from
whom the change is expected; creating disharmony in the relationship. Both parties become
resentful and bitter towards each other, and the resultant heartache is inconceivable. A sense of
worthlessness sets in on the part of the self-appointed saviour with the realisation that the man you
fell in love with was not willing to change his ways for you. You lose yourself in the process of
managing your project!
It is well and good to inspire each other for positive change in a relationship. However, change is
intrinsic and people change when they want to change and in their own terms.
Truthful acceptance in relationships therefore when getting into a relationship, we need to be circumspect to avoid some of the pitfalls we often fall into.
Bustle suggests making a dating checklist from the onset which
– Focusing on your core values
– Knowing your deal-breakers and remaining open-minded about things not on the deal-
– Ensuring that what is important to you is already there.
In a nutshell, rather than making decisions too quickly about men, perhaps one needs to take the
time to observe, identify issues, seek to understand by engaging and experience things yourself. It is
crucial to also make an effort to be the best version of yourself into the relationship. If your
partner does not fulfil your basic needs which you would have outlined from the onset, leave the
relationship. It is emotionally draining to hang onto a relationship too long while waiting for your
partner to ascend to their highest greatness as defined by you.
Truthfully accept people for who they are and accept that people change when they want to change
and that is OKAY. Also accept that sometimes people do not want to change, Finally, get into a relationship with an open heart and sound mind to acknowledge that loving potential is all part of the fairy tale even though it might feel exciting and wonderful.
Never lose the essence of who you are because of an illusion!!
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