One of my formative love relationships was with a charismatic young man who dazzled me.
He was worldly, intellectual, articulate, passionate, and sophisticated.
I was so inspired by many facets of him that I am grateful for our experience together.
But I am even more grateful that I have finally extricated myself from the clutches of his energetic residue on my self-esteem.
While we were together, I couldn’t escape the sense that he saw me as a project.
He would point out my awkwardness and silliness as character flaws. Qualities that endeared me to my closest friends, but embarrassed him.
And he would say “Lea, you have so much potential if you would just… “.
When he unexpectedly ripped his love away, I spent the better part of the next five years attempting to become his potential vision of me.
I read modeling magazines, changed my hair color, studied harder, listened to his favorite music, wore expensive clothes, tried to be less clumsy, acted “cool” and less excitable.
Anything to arrive at the person I was meant to be…
…or rather, the person he needed me to be.
And it almost worked. We reconnected several years later and he was impressed with “Lea 2.0”.
We had another whirlwind love affair, but it wasn’t meant to last.
He swiftly replaced me for another and I saw that all my effort had been in vain.
I didn’t realize the more important question I should have asked myself was, “who did I need me to be?”
Who did I want to be?
Years later, when I stood at the altar of my wedding to my now ex-husband, there was a rustle of disquiet in my body that I couldn’t face.
I remember thinking, I love him so much, and yet…maybe he’ll change.
The inconvenient truth was that I had a potential vision of him who would be perfect if he would just…
Read more books…
Drink less alcohol…
Improve his work ethic…
Care about personal growth….
Be passionate about things that “matter”.
In other words, become the person that I needed him to be so I would desire him, but not necessarily someone he needed to be.
As the years passed, he didn’t change. But I did.
I was fortunate enough to pass through a painful shedding process all of the masks and layers that no longer that were obscuring my true self.
What was revealed was a person he didn’t recognize, and could no longer make him happy.
As we entered the sunset of our marriage, we stood before each other in the most truthful and authentic place we had ever been.
Which is typically the place we arrive when our relationships are in their final chapters.
My ex-husband pointed to our wedding portrait and said, “I don’t know who that woman is anymore. I just wanted you to never change.”
I responded, “I don’t know who that woman ever was. But she was never me. “
I realized in that moment what had happened.
We had both unknowingly signed a silent contract with clauses we were destined to break.
Falling in love with your potential vision of a person rather than who they authentically are is a slippery slope.
It’s like waiting for a train to come in that may never arrive, especially if they’re not interested in climbing aboard.
So we must be aware if we find ourselves falling into the “potential” trap of “my partner would be perfect if they would just…” or “I see they have so much potential”.
If you find yourself struggling to maintain your desire for your partner because they are not achieving your vision, this is worth examining.
Ask if your potential vision has become a silent contract they didn’t know they signed to maintain access to your love.
If you want a true litmus test of where your relationship stands with you, ask yourself these questions:
- “If all my partner ever became was who they are today, would I accept them and love them unconditionally?”
- “Does my partner want to become the potential vision I see for them?”
- “Do I need them to become this in order to be happy?”
Now, I’m all about relationships being a vehicle of growth for all parties…ONLY if it’s opt-in.
It’s wonderful if you can see their innate strengths and gifts, even if they don’t, and be a naturally inspiring force for good in their life.
It’s OK to want a partner with a passion for personal growth and evolution. I know now that in order for me to be happy, that quality must be built-in because continual self-improvement is one of my deepest value systems.
I’ll never partner with someone who doesn’t share this value and rest my happiness on the shoulders of the possibility that may come to adopt it.
It just wouldn’t be fair to them.
You may find success in forcing them to grow, but know that it may be to meet your need for them to become what it is YOU need to be happy.
If they are generally content with who they are today, who needs them to change?