A good friend of mine recently broke up with her boyfriend of about 4 years. Having been together for so long, it’s understandable she’s having a hard time sorting out her feelings wondering where it all went wrong. After all, they loved each other, were great friends, he made her laugh and they shared some good times. Over lunch today she said it was hard for her to see the life she had envisioned suddenly disappear.
However, it was that statement that encapsulated the reason for their breakup…the life SHE HAD ENVISIONED. That, unfortunately, wasn’t the life they were actually living. She had become enamored with his potential, and thus the potential of the relationship. The vision she had was HER vision, not the one they shared together.
Over the course of their relationship I had become her sounding board for many of their issues. She would often say things like, “If he would just be open to…,”or “if he was more responsible” or “if he could only see in him what I see in him, we would be good!” In her mind, their long-term happiness depended on what she hoped for rather than what actually was. And she isn’t the only woman (or man) to fall in love with someone’s potential rather than who they are at that very moment.
Call it optimism, or blind foolishness, but we all have looked at someone special and saw greatness in them…real or imagined. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We SHOULD look at our mates and see wonderful things in them – it’s what attracts us to them. AS their partners, we should be their biggest cheerleaders and help them to achieve their goals and reach their dreams if we have the power to. Michelle saw greatness in Barack, and she helped him realize his goal of becoming the President of the United States.
But Barack believed in himself as well. He was driven and ambitious when Michelle met him. She wasn’t simply “hoping” that he would be – he already WAS. The mistake many of us make when dating someone’s potential rather than the actual person is projecting our hopes, dreams and the character traits we WISHED they had on them rather than recognizing that they may not share our same vision. We try to mold, shape, encourage, control or manipulate our partner into becoming something that they’re not so that they can meet our expectations of who we think they should be. And when they don’t live up to “their” potential, we blame them for it – not realizing that we should be blaming ourselves for not allowing ourselves to see or love the person for who they truly are at that moment. Not who we hoped they’d become.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with introducing your mate to new things, encouraging them to reach for the stars, giving them a little makeover or helping them to explore another wonderful side of themselves. Some people don’t know what they’re capable of until someone gives them a little guidance or loving advice. We all should be with someone who pushes us to work harder and to be better. But your partner shouldn’t be your savior, they should be your help mate. They should be your biggest fan, not your mother. The perfect girlfriend shouldn’t want to change him, she should want to travel on the road to greatness with him while not losing sight of her own. But most importantly, your partner should want all the things you want for him for Himself. If he doesn’t, it’s not his fault that he didn’t live up to your potential. It’s yours for not seeing him for who he truly is – right now. It’s great that you’re an optimist and marvel at what “could” be…but unless he sees it, wants it and is willing to work toward being the man you BOTH envision, you’re just wasting your time…and his.