How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect of “Women date men to change them and men date women hoping they will never change”?
It is a classic quandary and most often women bear the brunt of being on the losing side. After all, another classic common-knowledge colloquialism is, “You can’t change somebody (a man) unless they want to change.”
Yet every day there is a woman who is busy trying to shape a man into her image and likeness (because we are bias to what is familiar).
When it comes to dating and relationship, some women have a God complex or a mother complex in that they see potential—nothing can be created into something.
Another way to look at this is through the lens of evolutionary psychology.
Generally men are hunter/gathers and women are nurturing. These innate characteristics both express different aspects of the survival instinct as well as biological imperative and therefore display differently. Women plan. Men take action.
In the 21st century gender is viewed as more of an energy balance than as clearly defined roles—ie. masculinity and femininity. Granted, there are still plenty of pervasive gender assumptions that stem both from patriarchy and biology. It is important to acknowledge assumptions before being able to move past them.
One major assumption that gets recycled in relationship is that imposing one’s beliefs on another person will effect positive change. In other words, “My way or the highway.” Further, the giving and receiving of affection, accolades and criticism happens through the filter of personal preference.
Due to the eons of teaching and country songs most people ascribe to the notion that, “If he/she really loved me he would just know what I like, don’t like, want, don’t want and how to please me.” The assumption or expectation of what could be or should be often trumps the reality of what is.
The truth is that everyone is a victor and everyone fucks up.
So when engaging in a romantic relationship, how do you love the person and not the potential?
It takes some advanced assessment skills to be able to see a person for exactly who they are.
People are various configurations of the same thing. It is like going to Chipotle and ordering a burrito. You are always going to get a burrito but what is inside of said burrito is a unique combination of ingredients.
Humans are composed of common ingredients.
First, in order to be human you must have a body. Second, that body is composed of a cascade of similar molecules and systems. So, on the ground level, you can’t really love a person for who they are unless you love the body they are in. And bodies are weird. They grow and shrink. They get moles and age.
They fart while cuddling.
Bodies aren’t really sexy in the long run and they are what we have to live in.
The second step to loving the person and not the potential is to be clear about ratios. It takes more energy to be around some people than others. You might be dating someone who is emotionally unavailable which means that in order to be around them you will be emotionally exhausted. It isn’t a fair trade but it is what is required in order to continue to have such a person in your life.
Further, in order for a person to be around you, you may find that you have a list of stipulations. It is good to know your own standards and your flexibility with those standards.
Everyone has a price of admission.
In order to love someone for who they are it is important to understand exactly what is costs to have them in your life and if you are willing to pay their price of admission. Ironically, individuals with the least amount of self-esteem unwittingly pay the most.
I have witnessed countless women exhausted from giving because they didn’t know how to ask for help all the while wishing to feel the powerful boundaries that true masculinity can offer. The attempt to manipulate their man into being all he can be backfires.
Women can become someone and something they never thought they would be: their parents.
When a person loves the “could be” in relationship they often sacrifice who they actually are. The focus becomes paying everyone else’s price of admission to the detriment of establishing their own.
The biggest reason people fall in love with potential over the person is that they do not like who they actually are because who they actually are is empty.
Receiving requires knowing oneself. And to give is to receive.
Healthy relationships require reciprocity. This means that in order to love, one must first know themselves.
This argument always frustrates me because it sounds like masturbation—both mental and physical—is the key to true love. It is only a piece of the picture. And it takes failure, relationships, disappointment and achievement to know thy self.
Therefore, to truly love another person for exactly who they are in any given moment means liking the person you show up as.
If it hurts to pay someone else’s price of admission don’t do it because it won’t make you like yourself more.
It may make you a martyr and martyrs are great at guilt trips but suck to be around.
We are all endowed with the same resources: A body, time, physical action, thoughts and feelings. Having equal resources does not mean that everyone begins life on an equal playing field. And life is about learning how to wield those resources. They are valuable. Therefore the owners of said resources are also valuable.
Love your time and be aware how you spend it. Love your body and be aware how you use it. Love your thoughts and be aware how your focus them. Love your feelings and how they move you.
If you can do this then you will love beyond potential.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Caleb Roenigk at Flickr