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What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

The stages of living in that no-man's-land between reality and romantic idealism.

What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

I have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. Maybe it's because I'm single, but also a hopeless romantic – a dichotomy that seems all but out-of-date in this free-for-all era of belfies on social media and romance gone rogue (*cough* ghosting, anyone? *cough*). Or maybe it's just because I'm an Aries.

Whatever the reason, the truth is that I'm utterly uninterested in what is boring, stark, plain and without mystery in the world of romantic endeavors. In other words, I'm laughably bad at casually dating and even worse at pretending to play games. I crave all that is textured, complicated, exciting, and yes, what usually ends up causing me heartache.

I'm also a dreamer. I tend to dive right in – going for the blood and guts and passion rooted deep at the heart of the matter, all that good stuff. Passion is what sustains me; boredom will send me running faster than a commitment-phobe from a clingy girlfriend. I'm not the clingy type, but I do read into things with all the obsessive know-how of someone who constantly falls head over heels for the other person's potential when it comes to dating and relationships.

And I'm not the only one. Think about it: Every time you meet someone new, the situation is positively rife with sparkling potential. You lock eyes across the room in a crowded bar, or at a party; you get introduced by a friend of a friend who swears up and down you two must have met somewhere before; you run into someone cute on public transportation; you actually experience that unicorn of the dating world, a promising first date.

It's exciting, it's fresh, it's more than a little overwhelming most of the time. Are you supposed to wait to text him? Is he going to call you? Is that even still a thing that happens? What social media platforms is it okay to follow him on (and by all means, do not follow on every single one, at least not right away). And wait, is that subtweet about you? (God, I hope not, because if it is you've got bigger problems than you thought.)

With all the overwhelming questions and decisions at play here, it's oh so easy to read into things when you meet someone new – and yes, to fall for their potential, and not the reality. 

You can't help but get your hopes up time and time again.

So you meet someone. This self-proclaimed "Nice Guy," this intriguing character with good taste in music (okay, so he really is a total unicorn), someone who you've got just enough in common with that it could possibly keep you interested... but not enough that you'll be bored. Which, trust me, is v. rare indeed.

What now? Are you supposed to hold back or something? That's not even something you're sure you know how to do.

It's especially hard when you're seeing a potential that the other person is blind to. Whether it's them as a person, or the relationship between you two, it's clear that you care about them, so you can't help wanting to try and help them. But how can you help someone who won't even help themselves?

Fast forward: Turns out he wasn't my unicorn. Surprise, surprise. And in all fairness, you really can't be expected to put yourself on the line for someone who won't even deign to give you the chance.

Your heart stays open.

What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

Sometimes this means you feel like a revolving door of disappointment, but hey – no one can ever say you gave up hope. In fact, you're one of the most resilient people out there, because even in the times you've felt like giving up on love, you never have. You've continued to be you, even when the modern dating world makes you feel like an outsider.

Now tell me, has anyone who's ever fallen in love not felt like an outsider sometimes? It's why we keep going back for more, even when we know the other person isn't necessarily right for us. We want so badly for it to work out. We want so badly for them to rescue us from our slowly dying hopes that our soulmate is out there, somewhere.

Maybe he's lost. Maybe he took a wrong turn somewhere between unhealthy relationships-R-us and crazy ex town. You never know.

You often say the wrong thing.

What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

Let's face it, you're not exactly living with both feet on the ground. When you're living in that blurred no-man's-land between reality, what if, and what could be (I won't even go near what could have been, because that's a story for another day – and another article), you can also be nothing if not a proponent of the whole "sticks foot in mouth" syndrome.

Either way, you often embarrass yourself – whether it's via text or IRL – and then you just have to try and un-stick the foot.

You over-think. Then you over-think some more.

What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

I like to think of this as your brain's way of protecting itself from an unruly heart. It's the inability to translate your heart's certainty – and sense of hope – with your logical mind's truly unbelievable over-analyzing prowess. I mean, it really is impressive just how much you can over-think.

Then you over-think some more. Cue the vicious cycle.

It's enough to start making you lose your cool sometimes. In fact, it's enough to even get you to start convincing yourself of things that just aren't true.

Because where did you start getting this idea that you're too much, anyway? That you're too this for the dating world, or too that? Tell me, where did you get this silly little notion that it's you, not them? C'mon now. That's just not fair to you.

And where did you get this idea that it's not going to work out, just because it hasn't so far?

At the end of the day, you stay dreaming.

What Happens When You Fall for Someone's Potential

Because if you're anything like me, maybe you're not looking to fit in to the mold. I mean, I've been a writer my whole life and never wanted to be anything but. I've never fit in, and I'm not looking for a partner who does.

I'm a creative – and I'll probably never stop arguing that the world needs more of those. So I can tell myself to stop dreaming, to stop chasing after a love that excites and pushes and challenges me, to stop looking for "Mr. Right" (or rather, Mr. Just Right Enough For Me). Or I can accept the fact that I'll never stop dreaming, and that you shouldn't either.

But you know what? Mr. Right could be right around the corner... but he could also remain nowhere to be found for the foreseeable future. And while you're busy falling for someone else's potential, chances are you're ignoring your own. Or at least, not giving it the full attention it deserves.

So maybe it's time to turn that someone you're looking for into yourself. Maybe it's time to do what's right for you; to stop focusing so much of your energy on finding Mr. Right, but instead on getting yourself right – so when that person does come along, you'll be ready.

Maybe it's time to fall in love with your own potential.