Have you ever been with someone that instantly made you envisage a bright future by their side? As if the honeymoon phase would be everlasting? Even when they lacked the ability to show you, there and then, that they were able to provide you with what you truly deserved? Well, I did; and just like me, many women, have found themselves head over heels with the possibility of finding the one due to what they may represent in the future.
Toni Tone describes this in her book “I Wish I Knew This Earlier” as ‘falling for potential, not reality’. This whole narrative entails our ability to misinterpret or disregard red flags and flaws in order to succumb to what our own conception of ‘being in a loving relationship’ may look like in the future.
How many of us went to the “Build-A-Man store” and invested every penny we owned? I remember meeting my ex and feeling instantly connected to him. It was so exciting since I had been single for a while. The most exhilarating part was the prospect of a romantic relationship with someone who truly saw me. Automatically, his charm and poise wrapped me and all I could think about were the immense fruits we could both reap from this relationship. From double dates with my friends and their partners to long conversations about the politics of identity of Black women (I’m a geek BTW) and cute bood’ up photos on social media (don’t judge me because we ALL been there).
Still, this same sea of possibilities that could emerge kept me away from reality and grounded in wonderland for a whole minute. Now, months have past and I contemplate today what truly held me down because even if it hurts to admit (and I’ve somehow felt embarrassed about this – I DIDN’T LIKE HIM AS MUCH AS I THOUGHT).
Although he seemed to tick all the boxes on my ‘perfect boyfriend manifestation’, down the line I understood he wasn’t the one. I fell for his potential and what he could represent next to me. I fed myself of fantasy, prioritized my ego instead of my own mental health, and neglected what my relationship truly was. It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows. I looked at him through rose-colored glasses, so all the red flags just looked like flags. I just chose to overlook it for my own benefit in the future.
Even though I’m sure (y)our intentions were genuine and led to the expectance of fruitful results, this often doesn’t happen. Therefore, ‘Potential Love’ requires you to be ready for a poor harvest, engaging in self-neglect, and understanding that your savior complex can only be utilized in yourself.
High expectations are only suitable if the person is committed to doing the same work as you. Otherwise, it’s a losing battle and the casualty will eventually be your own sanity. From getting your heart broken and distressing yourself to emasculating your partner and placing a time bomb in your relationship, acceptance is the only ideal tool possible to overcome potential disappointment. Accept who you and they are. Accept confidently your instincts, emotions, needs and wants. Accept that you deserve bigger and better for yourself.
Consequently, let’s stop neglecting ourselves while prioritizing someone else’s needs. The main priority in life is ALWAYS yourself. If we’re consistently loving someone due to their potential, we’re not only setting ourselves to failure and low self-esteem paradigms but also to feeling short-changed, burned out and bitter in the long run. Stop going above and beyond for someone who couldn’t even consider a helping hand in your time of need. The reciprocate effort and consistency come naturally, not by force. Choose wisely who you invest your energy and love on. Another factor worth noting is definitely compatibility. If you’re consecutively trying to better or adapt someone to your ‘standards’, you may have to consider the possibility that THAT relationship isn’t working for you and that those high expectations, I mentioned earlier, might be a better investment in yourself and your own personal growth.
Overall, it’s crucial to understand that change is an inner task. Waiting or expecting someone to change in order to suit our needs is simply damaging in every aspect of life. If the person has come to peace with their being, we ought to realize that we don’t hold omnipotent powers to transform them into our own imagery and we shouldn’t wish for them either. As I mentioned previously, acceptance is key and it can also work as a push further away from dissatisfaction.
Moreover, by ‘falling in love with potential’ I’ve learned that:
- I can’t be ashamed for visualizing the ‘best’ someone had to offer
- Prioritizing potential instead of reality isn’t healthy
- Their behavior represents their primary colors
- Saviour complex will get you nowhere because change is an inside job
- Reevaluation is needed if there’s no fruitful progress
- Listening to your instincts is key
- Letting go before its too late is possible
- Disattachment takes time
- Universal blessings can pour into you if you allow it
- What’s yours, won’t miss you
- The dimensions of your love HAVE to be reciprocated
In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with excitement but we still have to analyze who’s truly worth our commitment and partnership. Let’s stop ‘loving’ what they could be and start seeing their true colors. Take your time and ask yourself ‘Could I spend the rest of my life with this person or am I doing myself a disservice?’. Whatever your answer is, it’ll set the tone for the future of your relationship and your own wellbeing.
Jamila Pereira is a Bissau-Guinean IR graduate as well as a Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking refuge worker. Her work can be found at Black Ballad UK and other platforms, exhaling a "hood feminist" and intersectional lens. She's a true believer that intergenerational and gender equity is the pavement to success and development.