The Dangers Of Loving Someone For Their Potential

by Alice Panikian

Nobody's perfect.  We all have issues, flaws and insecurities. Most of us have baggage from previous relationships. And some of us are just plain impossible to please.  So why is it so difficult for us to acknowledge that this may be true of our significant others as well?

When you make the decision to be in a relationship with someone, you are agreeing to accept the person for who they are and work through any issues together.  But often someone (usually the woman) sees the “potential” in the other person. They see the possibilities and they look into the future and envision who their partner could become.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, it's not necessarily as long as you don't develop enormous expectations and project them onto the other person. But inevitably, that often winds up happening.

It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the other person and the relationship, and can lead to resentment on both sides. One person might feel like the other isn't trying hard enough.  The other might feel like nothing they do will ever suffice.

Personally I've been on both sides of this. I've been the nagging girlfriend, constantly pushing for change, endlessly complaining about one thing or another only to be disappointed time and time again and watching my relationship fall apart as a result.

I have also been on the receiving end. Feeling inadequate, not good enough, judged… It only dawned on me recently that dishing out unsolicited advice, suggestions or criticism is not only unconstructive, can actually be very damaging.

Unfortunately some don't realize the error of their ways until it's too late and the relationship can't recover from the damage. Or they don't realize it at all and go through life repeating the same ill-fated mistakes.

When is it okay? Support is acceptable. Pushiness is not. Everyone chooses to change in his or her own time and on his or her own terms. Before judging someone, criticizing or pressuring them to change, take a good hard look at yourself.  Are you perfect? Are you everything this person wants and needs?

How would you want to be approached about changing? And how would you feel if you were on the receiving end of it? Sometimes we don't realize the damage we do when we ask someone to change. Depending on the issue and how you present it, it may come across as saying, “You're not good enough. You need to change because you're making me unhappy.”

Men and women simply communicate differently. Could it really be that simple? Women are more emotional, like to talk things out. Often exhaust a topic until they feel like they have come to an acceptable conclusion.

Men often hear the first few sentences and once any sort of criticism is detected they break down and zone out. Nothing is really solved and the seed of resentment is planted. A seed that can grow to infest a mind like a weed in a garden.

What's the solution? Well I'm not a relationship therapist. All I have is my experiences to go by, and by them all I can tell is that the only way to keep a relationship working and healthy is to accept each other just the way you are. Today.

Change is good and necessary, but it is always a personal choice. Someone can inspire you to change, but ultimately that choice is singularly yours.  And when two people are in a mature, adult relationship, they will sense what the other wants or needs.  They will ask, and they will make the effort to be the best partner they can be. And these efforts should never go unnoticed.

It is important to make a list of the things you NEED in a relationship; for example, monogamy, respect, affection, quality time, etc. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is not fulfilling your basic needs, it's time to move on.

These are usually not things that change about a person's character.  If you are unhappy with who your partner is today, then stop being unfair to them and to yourself because it is wasted time.

But your wants are very different from your needs. If you want your boyfriend to buy you flowers every month, and remember your anniversary every year… clean the sink after he shaves or cut back on the fried chicken, consider yourself lucky.

Don't sweat the small stuff. And while it might piss you off, ask yourself if it's really worth destroying your relationship for. Am I saying be passive aggressive? No. I'm saying don't take this shit too seriously because if your fundamental needs are being met, then you're a hell of a lot luckier than a lot of people out there.

Change takes time, and yeah a soft nudge might help get things moving in the right direction.  But the only way to get it to backfire quicker than you can say “break-up” is by criticizing and nagging. The illusion of potential is just that — an illusion.

Alice Panikian | Elite.

Alice is a Canadian model and former Miss Canada. She is currently working on a beauty blog and splits her time between New York City and Toronto. Follow her on twitter @alicepanikian