Don't Fall in Love With His Potential

Don't fall in love with his potential. A beautiful woman sits in the grass and looks out across the valley at a beautiful sunset."I have a history of making decisions very quickly about men. I have always fallen in love fast and without measuring risks. I have a tendency not only to see the best in everyone, but to assume that everyone is emotionally capable of reaching his highest potential. 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." ~Liz Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

I love this quote – it just so succinctly summarizes the story of our relationships for so many of us; how we inadvertently set ourselves up for such heartbreak by falling in love with the potential of a man and a relationship with him, instead of looking at what is right now.

It is such a beautiful quality we possess; this optimistic, positive outlook that we apply to the men and relationships in our lives. We meet someone and see not just the person he is in front of us today, but we see so much of what he can be, so much of his emotional capacity that is not there yet, but could be if only he were loved by someone like us.

We feel so excited to have this chance to show him this whole other side of life with so much love and giving and loving and doting and caretaking and surprising and taking to this whole other level of our love. We are so excited to be that perfect girlfriend he never had before; the one who understands him so well, the one who is so happy to make excuses for him, the one who is only too excited to help him explore his inner self. To show him how wonderful his life can be with our love there to wake him up in the morning, to cover him with kisses at night.

The fairytale continues for us as we imagine him becoming everything we have ever wanted in a man as he finds himself falling in love with us, with this magical type of promise we offer with everything we do for him. He had such a wounded childhood; he was never understood by his parents or his teachers. We come to believe that he needs us to really live and experience such a warm, rich loving life full of all his wildest dreams.

We see ourselves as his savior, in a sense, there to bring out all these qualities that are just underneath the surface of him. It is the relationship of a lifetime, the love of our life, the man of our dreams; it is just a matter of time before he sees just how wonderful this life with us can be.

If only he were open to seeing it. If only he was willing to work on himself. If only he could see all this potential within himself. If only he respected us as we turned ourselves into a martyr. If only he didn't stop taking everything from us while giving us nothing in return. If only he could see that we are worth changing for. If only he were willing to explore his own issues. If only he were open to change. If only he wasn't so scared to commit. If only he would grow up. If only he would leave home. If only he would leave her. If only he would see how much he needs us. If only he would call. If only he would return our calls. If only we could get him back.

If only we could love ourselves again.

It's such a long road back through heartbreak and so much wasted time and energy once we finally see what has happened. How we allowed ourselves to fall in love with someone's potential, with the relationship's potential.

He didn't see it. We did. He wasn't feeling it. We were. And when it is all over, we are left with the endless if only's that never came to be. All our dreams, our plans, our fantasies.

What we neglected to see was that this was our dream. This wasn't his. We made it so easy for him; he didn't have to do anything except provide us with the source of our inspiration. And slowly, as we start to understand what happened and begin the journey back to ourselves, we begin to see things in the light of reality. And what is. And what was. Not what could have been.

It's a slow journey back.

But it begins right here, right now, in the light of you, recognizing all that you are, all that you have to offer someone. It's not about his potential or the relationship's potential, it's about who he is right now, and what the relationship is right now.

It is a beautiful quality you possess; this optimism you have, but save it for someone who is truly worthy of that gift of you. In the true light of what is.


  1. Nally says


    This made me cry. But why is this such a female thing and can we really stop ourselves when each time we think it will be different this time and we won't make these same mistakes again? What is the trick to not feeling while you see whether someone is right for you and will stick around?

    • Jane says

      It truly is a beautiful thing, Nally - our ability to see beyond someone's faults and see their full potential. But it can also hurt us so much in the end. The answer is that it's a balance. It's about keeping this beautiful quality while at the same time reminding ourselves that we really don't know this person. And so we stop ourselves from getting emotionally and physically involved with someone until enough time has passed for him to shown us what he's all about.

      We do this by keeping the focus on ourselves, not becoming exclusive, still living our lives, and not allowing our imaginations to run wild with dreams and plans of the relationship and him UNTIL HE HAS PROVEN HIMSELF WORTHY OF THAT KIND OF COMMITMENT FROM US.

      Do you see the difference? It's not easy to slow ourselves down when our hearts have so much love to give and we so want this to be it, and him to be the one, but eventually we see that by waiting to commit to him until he has committed to us, we save ourselves so much wasted time and energy and ultimately heartbreak in the end. And that becomes our incentive for choosing to feel passionately for ourselves first, and him, second.

      • Alice says

        Hi Jane,
        Just wanted to say how amazing this post is, sometimes it's so difficult to put things into words but you have completely hit the nail on the head. I am currently head first in this situation, although the man in my life proved himself to me completely in the beginning and now things have changed dramatically. I even say these things to him 'why can't you do' -- whatever. It has been uplifting to read this.
        How do you deal with this in a more complicated situation? We have been together 3 years, but most importantly have a child together, is it the right thing to leave? My heart always tells me to stick it out, but it's so hard.
        Thank you for such a wonderful post.

        • Jane says

          I'm glad you've found this post helpful, Alice. It's one that resonates with so many of us and why we do the things we do - because of that all-encompassing potential! It becomes that much more difficult a decision when we're already involved to the point that there are children involved, which is, as you say, a much more complicated situation than one involving only you and him. Can you shift some of the focus away from him to you and your child? Can you get some of your needs met that you're looking to him to meet, in other ways, such as in activities, hobbies, groups, things you're passionate about, or by spending more time with family and friends that are loving and supportive and positive influences in your life? Can you go places, and do things with him - as a family - that focus on what he does have to offer, not what you're hoping he will do or become? I know it's not easy, but sometimes, a shift in what we've been doing and what we've been focusing on can help change our perspective enough to figure out what we really need to do, and what we can let simply be.

          The reality is, he is who he is. You are who you are. You're not going to change him, but you can communicate with him what you'd like to see in your relationship and you can hear what he has to say. There are some wonderful books on couples communication such as the series "Non-Violent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg that specifically discusses the use of "I" statements to communicate needs in a non-threatening way to each other, and as well, John Gottman has some great books on this subject as well. If you haven't already considered counseling, you may want to look into this as well, both individual counseling for you, and couples with him if he is willing to work on the areas you want to work on.

  2. Joyce says

    This just happens because the woman smothers the man by chasing him, so he has no room to be his authentic self. By falling in love with his potential, you are indirectly saying he's not good enough as he is. That's not exactly going to make a man want to be around you. It makes a woman look desperate too. Who wants to date someone desperate? It makes the woman appear to want ANY relationship at any cost. Not attractive. The woman has unconsciously tipped the balance to massive proportions but often ends up blaming the man for being "commitment phobic" - no, he's just not happy being around you with these desperate behaviours.

    • Jane says

      Interesting point, Joyce. Thanks for adding your perspective here; I always enjoying reading what everyone has to say. :)

  3. MB says

    Sometimes seeing potential is not wrong. Only if he has drive and can definitely do with actions. I once had a great relationship with a guy with potential. We grew succeeded but grew apart, I guess I been looking since, and they all have been loosers. I think its finding real balance of drive and actions and commitment. Another example is this guy Corey Hardrict

  4. Chewbot says

    My partner would get upset with me when I didn't hold his potential up for him. If I didn't believe in him 100% then I was a jerk. If he thought I was hinting that he might do something "bad" he would get mad, yell, slam doors or cheat. He would say that my lack of believing in him created his actions. I love him very much but it was like a terrible wheel of me being scared he would do something mean, him doing something "because I was scared he would do it" and then me being scared again because he did it once already.......always fighting with myself to think better of him because if I didn't fully believe in him at all times (even when he was already upset) I blamed myself for creating the abuse....

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