A ‘Potentially’ Good Relationship May Be A Fantasy

Marriage Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

If you’re ever in the mood for a good old-fashioned college dorm BS session that lasts long into the night, get a few friends to talk about “potential.” That’s a conversation that can quickly draw in the philosophical topics grad students love to dissect. If something, or someone, has the potential to be something, are they destined to be that — do they have a choice to become that or not?

A young couple watching a sunset

Without going down that rabbit hole, the idea of potential has a great deal of relevance when it comes to relationships. In particular, if you’re developing a relationship with someone and you see their vast potential, and you keep waiting for them to not only realize their own potential but begin to act on it, and you keep waiting… and you keep waiting. Uh oh — maybe it’s time to take a step back.

“I’ve seen many people get caught up in ‘the potential’ of their partner,” writes Leah Aguirre for Psychology Today, “focusing on the fantasy and possibility of a relationship versus the reality. And when you are in the thick of a relationship with these rose-colored lenses, it can make it difficult to see things accurately and for what they really are. You are less likely to detect incompatibility or differences in core values. There is also a higher likelihood of not spotting the ‘red flags’ and sticking around much longer than you probably should.”

With that in mind, the simple fact is that you — or anyone — cannot force a person to aspire to reach their potential. That must come from within.

If any of this resonates with you, Aguirre offers five signs that might indicate you are hoping beyond hope that your relationship develops into some ideal that may in fact be a fantasy.

The Future vs. the Present. If you’re thinking about how good your relationship could or will be, the reason might be that it’s not all that great at the moment. Not a good sign.

Ah, The Good Old Days. Relationships have fairly predictable stages. (See Developmental Stages of a Relationship.) If you spend time reliving the early days of your relationship when everything was wonderful, remember that the euphoria associated with infatuation naturally wears off, and a more mature phase should come next. If you can’t find satisfaction beyond infatuation, time for a bit of self reflection.

Excuses, Excuses. Unusual circumstances or problems can stress a relationship. But if it seems like there’s always some kind of unusual circumstance brewing, you may simply be making excuses for a basic incompatibility.

Ignore Your Feelings At Your Peril. If you’re ignoring your intuition, your vague sense that something is wrong, it’s time for a reality check.

You’re Changing. What About Him/Her? You might be trying hard to give your relationship a boost. It’s not working? Well, what about your partner? Are they trying, too? That could be a yellow or red flag.

 Everyone and every relationship has potential. It’s up to you and your partner to make that potential a reality.