Conversations with this and that family member over the last few days has prompted me to once again expound on relationships of the intimate variety. If I was only allowed to give one bit of advice on the subject, it would be this:
If you cannot love someone for who he/she is right now, the odds of his/her ever being anything other than a constant source of vexation and disappointment is close to nil.
Yep, the odds are that bad.
Here’s the reality. When we meet and feel attracted there is little by way of actual fact on which to base our warming feelings for this new person. We assess our attraction, add this to what little we glean through the rather stilted courting phase and then we make up the rest to suit our own needs. In short, we invent them.
For a while, our projection of who we think our new love is works fairly well for us. They accommodate by donning their best faces and putting on their formal dinner party manners and all is truly well. But the inevitable day will arrive when something goes wrong. In these less than perfect instances our mortal, non-super hero/model personae are exposed, and depending on the magnitude of the shock to our new relationship, we’re toast. Or we live to impress another day, and another day after that until we find ourselves living with, married to and possibly breeding with someone who isn’t at all what we’d hoped they were and who stubbornly resists all our attempts to cajole/shame/nag them into being the person we wanted them to be.
Disillusionment. Betrayal. Woe.
Well, this sucks, you think. How dare this person I love not be exactly who I thought he/she could be. And they had such potential too.
And here lies the problem. You never really loved the real person at all. As Yoda might have said, “Never your mind on where you were. What you were doing.”
It’s not your fault. We are taught to believe that even the most unsuitable for us partners have “potential”. That guy who drinks too much? He’s just young. Give him a few years, a mortgage and a kid and he’ll settle down. Little Miss Negativity? She just needs positive affirmation. Mr. Proud to have Never Read a book in his life? Exposure to the classics is the answer. And on and on the excuses roll in and pile up like Tribbles until they spill out of the closets and we are wading through them.
Some people do indeed grow into their potential, but it’s usually not a future that someone else dreamed for them. These are folks who have goals and hopes of their own, and who don’t believe that tiny fairies and luck are responsible for dreams coming true.
It’s a disservice to the person you love to not love them for who they are right now. Certainly, encourage him/her to grow and achieve – that’s part of what couples do for each other – but don’t fault him/her in the future if he/she hasn’t fulfilled the ambitious template you created out of thin air, your childish fantasies and some Disney princess movie you saw once upon a time ago.
And never forget that not living up to one’s potential is a two-way street.
*In case you missed my BlogHer post today. Here it is.