Potential.  It’s such a simple word.  According to Webster’s Dictionary it means “something that can develop or become actual.” Sounds innocent and harmless doesn’t it?  Wrong.  In dating, this word is sabotage, deceptive, and a set up for disaster.  Why you ask?  I could rant about this forever!  I really mean forever.  I’m going to show you some mercy and just give the short version.  What brings me to this topic?  I was watching the Nightline Faceoff:  Why Can’t a Succesful Black Woman Find a Man.  There was a segment where Hill Harper went on and on about potential.  Potential has a place, but it has historically not worked out well for black women, possibly other women or men also.

Nightline Faceoff

Let me break it down.  The issue with potential is that it sets up false expectations.  This guy has potential.  He’ll be great if he gets this type of job, starts acting the way I want, et cetera, et cetera.  This woman has potential.  She’ll be great if she can get her finances together, not hang out so much, go back to school.  You get my drift.  The entire relationship becomes hinged on this man or woman becoming all of these things that you set up expectations for.  What makes it even more complicated is these “potential” related goals may not even be something the other person is dedicated to.  He or she may not really want this other career, to move to a new city, to be more sensitive, to be less crass, to have a house in the suburbs, to get different clothes, to change their hair, yada yada yada.  The biggest issue with potential is about the pursuit of a fantasy…a fantasy that may never happen.  Potential isn’t a bad word if you can accept a person as they already are.  My mom taught me that most people don’t change, so any change is a bonus.  I think we need to bury the word potential right alongside of the N word.  The key is managing expectations and having realistic expectations. If you don’t like something about someone you have two healthy choices.  You can accept that it most likely won’t change or leave.

Dating isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Men and women both need to start accepting people for who they are at the moment.  If you can’t accept them without a bunch of conditions, this may not be the time to be with them or they may not be the right person.  Remember:  realistic expectations!  It’s a whole lot less stress, too!

Much nub and health,

Dr. Ericka


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