Expectations and potential go hand in hand when discussing red flags in relationships. Love is not defined by potential, but by the person who currently stands in front of you.

A Partner's Potential - A Relationship Red Flag

Written by Martin Douglas.

Intimate relationships are difficult things. They can bring tremendous amounts of joy or soul shattering heartbreak. When one starts you never know which side you'll end up on. Even when a relationship lasts it has its ups and downs. During the down periods it's hard to figure out if the relationship has run its course or if it's merely a moment in time that needs to be pushed through for more joyous times ahead. Even that question is tricky, and can have its own heartbreaking effect as we start to overthink things which can pull the relationship down even further.

While everyone's relationship will be different, with different people bringing different dynamics, we all likely have a loosely based list of qualities we'd like to have in our partner. Those too will be different for everyone. What sounds silly to one person may make perfect sense to another. Each relationship we have allows us to experience life and change our mental checklist of not only who we'd like our partner to be, but hopefully who we'd like to be as a partner ourselves.

With that said, there are certain things I think we can look at in relationships that can help us decide when it's time to move on. There are red flags that pop up. Some are different for different people, others hold a universal truth. For instance, cheating or stealing are huge turnoffs for a large number of people which makes it more of a universally agreed upon expectation. There are others I've found that are not so obvious but, at least for myself, there are things that signal a red flag. One such red flag I noticed was a quote that popped up in a meme the other day. It stated the following:

The hardest for a women isn't losing him. It's forgiving herself for falling in love with his potential, knowing damn well she saw the warning signs and his inconsistency.

If you read that and find yourself nodding your head in agreement, there's a sad reality that you must face. You were never in love with that person to begin with. You were in love with an idea, a picture of someone who didn't exist, a life that hadn't happened yet and may never have happened regardless of how long the relationship lasted. Loving someone for their potential is no different than love based on expectations, and we've all likely seen the quote of where expectations lead in the popular, but wrongly attributed to Shakespeare, quote.

Expectation is the root of all heartache.

Loving someone for their potential is not much different than placing expectations upon your partner, and in some cases it's worse even though there may be exceptions. For instance, the expectation of honesty and faithfulness is a valid expectation. The expectation that the person you're with will make a certain amount of money every year isn't so valid. Neither is being in a relationship because the person you're with has the potential to do wonderful things with their life. In most cases, the idea of potential turns into one of expectation.

My own personal experiences revolve around such comments as jobs an intimate partner assumed I'd take, or the amount of income they assumed I'd be making by a certain time. In other words, the potential to be successful based on their idea of what success was. For women, I'm sure comments of potential likely take on a different tone which I won't pretend to know the depths of. I'm sure most people can rightfully guess what some of those might be though.

This idea of potential, of expecting someone's life to be in a certain place by a certain time, and basing the relationship off of that outcome is the furthest thing from love one can do. Life has a way of destroying plans regardless of how well someone plays their cards. There are numerous examples of people who did everything right and end up struggling, just as there are people who make the worst choices imaginable and come out smelling like a rose.

Imagine dating someone who thinks you have the potential to age well, or the potential to remain healthy throughout a marriage. We all know that while there are things to improve our chances of doing so, that none of it is a guarantee. The same goes for wealth or job opportunities. Would you date someone who was with you because of that outlook, because they saw that potential in you? Or would you be worried that if such a thing did not come to fruition you'd be left alone and abandoned? Just as crazy is the dating of a 'bad boy' who sleeps around because he has the potential to be a great and faithful husband if only he could see the error of his ways. It sounds insane, but there are a great many people who look at the future of relationships in that way.

They love the idea of what their life could be, or what the person they're with might achieve, without a second thought to the person they're with in that moment. It's basically dating with the idea of outcomes. If life has taught us anything it's that outcomes are never guarantees. Life has a way of throwing a wrench in our plans. Other times the person has a choice to create a certain outcome, but has to weigh that against other choices. The potential to be wealthy might be weighed against the potential time lost with family or the strings that may be attached to that wealth. The potential for one area takes away from their potential in another area. If your partner's basing your relationship off of one outcome, and your values lead you to a different outcome, what does that say about the long term chances for that relationship to last?

Love someone because they're hard working, honest, or faithful and not because they have the potential to be someone they have not yet become. Love someone for who they are in that moment, their qualities and values as a person, and not for what you hope they might accomplish. If you base your relationship off of a person's qualities instead of their potential, you have the makings of a relationship that will stand the test of time. Those qualities won't disappear, where outcomes might never materialize. By loving someone for the qualities they exhibit, you'll find those things to love about that person everyday. That's true love which has nothing to do with potential.

Martin Douglas

About Martin Douglas

The author of The Bewitching novels. Besides writing, Martin Douglas also spends his time acting, making films, and working on graphic design and video FX. When he's not working on the creative and fun stuff he can often be found in a Coffee house. His other talents include web design and several programming and scripting languages.

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