Sorry, Ladies. You Can't Really Fall In Love With...Potential.

Potential is a gamble. A super risky one, at that.

Love & Relationships

Whoa buddy. Before we deep dive into the topic of potential, I think it's important to say something that is very important, and relevant, about love. And yes, I'm going to broach this from a biblical perspective. I John 4:8&16 tells us that God is love and, I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, tells us that love is things like patient (bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like) and that it bears all things (think about all of this, the next time you get ready to say "I love you" to someone). When it comes to what God knows about me, I know that I can be a handful and a continual work in progress so, yes, I do believe that a big part of love's purpose is to see someone as they could or should be and not necessarily as they currently are. True and divine love is about believing in the best about someone and supporting them through their evolutions (which is what should be a foundational principle in marriage, if you ask me).

It's kinda like the quote by Canadian columnist Richard J. Needham who once said, "You don't marry one person; you marry three: the person you think they are, the person they are, and the person they are going to become as the result of being." A lot of married folks call it quits because they forget (or deliberately choose to ignore) that very profound insight.

Yeah, love isn't about feeling good all of the time or being with someone who acts like they memorized the script of your favorite rom-com. As the Good Book says, "Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (I Corinthians 13:7—NLT)

I think all of this needs to go on record because what we're about to tackle, well…it's not that I'm saying that it's impossible to love a work in progress. The truly humble and self-aware folks know that we all are a work in progress. Only delusional people expect relationships to be perfect when the two people in them are anything but. However, it's one thing to choose to love someone who is rough around the edges, you're totally aware of that fact, you don't try and make things be what they aren't and you decide to stay, deal and endure. It's something entirely different when there are all kinds of signs and red flags that you think you should overlook because you believe that your love either makes those things irrelevant or, your love is going to somehow miraculously change an individual. The first scenario is dealing in realism. The second? Well, that is someone who thinks that it's truly possible to fall in love with potential. Here's why I call BS on Door #2.

What Is Potential? Exactly.


I am always tickled when an article topic will pull up a song in my mental rolodex that I haven't thought about in a while. Today, it's Brandy's classic "Almost Doesn't Count". And yes, for context, I'm going to include all of the first verse.

Almost made you love me

Almost made you cry

Almost made you happy, baby

Didn't I didn't I

You almost had me thinking

You were turned around

But everybody knows

Almost doesn't count

Almost heard you saying

You were finally free

What was always missing for you, baby

You'd found it in me

But you can't get to heaven

Half off the ground

Everybody knows

Almost doesn't count

Almost. Almost does not count. It doesn't count because the word means "little short of being; very nearly". The saying "close but no cigar" immediately comes to mind. The reason why almost emotionally trips so many of us up is because it literally means that something—or in this case, someone—is right on the verge of being what we want or need…close but ain't. Yeah, and please don't let the definition of the word "being" escape you either. It means "existence" or "substance". A definition of exist is "occur". A definition of substance is "physical matter or material". The reason why Brandy is so right when she says that a man almost was the one but he wasn't is because he almost proved himself to be right…but what she thought was there actually didn't exist (occur) and wasn't of substance (physical matter or material). If something you thought was there wasn't…it doesn't really count…does it?

And that's what makes the word "almost" a sibling to the word "potential". Potential means "possible, as opposed to actual". The words to focus on here are "possible" and "actual". Check it.

Possible: capable of existing and taking place; having potential or capabilities for favorable use or development; that may or may not happen or have happened; feasible but less than probable

Actual: existing in act or fact; real; existing now; present; current

Lawd, lawd. The parts that are underlined and in bold? That is by design. Something or someone who has potential? That is something or someone who yes, it is feasible that they could manifest into what you need, want or desire; however, at the same time, the chances of that happening are—please pay attention here—less than probable. This means that it's less likely that what you are expecting will actually occur.

So, when a person says that they are in love with someone else's potential, what they are essentially saying is they are investing in someone becoming what is less than likely to actually occur.

The reasons why are endless. It might be because the person they are involved with isn't interested in becoming different. It might be because, in this season, that individual is incapable of growth or change. It could also be because the person who loves them doesn't actually love them; they love who they conjured up in their mind whether it was out of desperation, control tendencies or a fairy tale perception of what love and relationships are really all about. Or, it could be something else. Whatever the case may be, potential could happen but, based on the definition of the word, it's not something to bet next month's rent on. In other words, potential is a gamble. A super risky one, at that.

Meanwhile, when something is actual—which is essentially the opposite of potential—that speaks to what is real. Real is an interesting word too. Two of its definitions include "true" and "existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious". Real? It deals in facts not fiction. It's based on what is actually the truth. Actual also speaks to what exists right now. It's not about what could happen next month or next year; it's about what you are dealing with at the present moment. Now, keeping all of these definitions in mind, let's touch down on why it's actually impossible to fall in love with someone based on their potential.

Why You Can Never Actually to Be in Love with Potential


At this stage in my life, I'm intentionally using the word "love" less and less. As I am learning more about what the word means and what it requires, I find it to be pretty sacred. That's why I'm trying to get away from (for instance) saying I love my godchildren and I love rocky road ice cream. My godbabies deserve more honor than that. And don't even get me started on the phrase "in love" and how much it's abused. A part of the reason why I wrote the articles "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Differences", "Are You In Love Or Are You In Need?" and "5 Signs That You're In Love (All By Yourself)" is because to be "in love" with someone means that another person is actually on the same page with you—they have the same kind of feelings, they are in the same type of relationship and, for the most part, you both have the same type of relational goals and expectations. The word "in" literally means "in or into some place, position, state, relation, etc." while "with" means "accompanied by; accompanying", so no…you cannot actually be in love with someone without them being in love with you as well.

Do you see where this is going? If you actually keep what being in love means and you already know that potential speaks to "feasible but less than probable", not "real" or "existing now", how can you possibly be in love with potential? Isn't that basically like being in love with an imaginary friend? Sure, you might've been able to create something in your mind but, at the end of the day, it doesn't exist. And since it doesn't exist, it's impossible for it to be "in" or "with" you at all. IT'S. NOT. REAL.

There is one man, in particular, from my past who I totally wasted my time on. Yes, wasted. I hate it when people try and rationalize poor choices by saying that nothing is a waste of time. You can very much so make decisions that "consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return"—and this guy is a perfect example of that. It's not that he was the devil incarnate. Not even close. He had some traits that were truly wonderful; that is a real fact. Yet what I made the mistake of doing was allowing those qualities to override all of the bullshishery that he put on display, time and time again, too. I thought that, because he had some exceptional traits that they would—should and could—cancel out all of the red flags. I wholeheartedly believed that his good qualities had the potential to do so.

Hmph. After 15-plus years of knowing this brotha, the good is still good; the red flags are still flapping away. At one point, I was putting heartfelt emotions, precious time and even some of my resources into both—the real and the potential—all the while believing that my love would make him want to become a better man.

Nothing can make a man become better other than him choosing to do so (same thing goes for women). Love may inspire someone to want to change but it doesn't automatically happen unless they want it to.

Unfortunately, a lot of women refuse to believe and/or accept this. Instead, they live in what I call "mirage love". When a person is super thirsty in a desert, they can create a mirage (something illusory, without substance or reality) that there is water when there actually isn't. When a woman is so desirous for a man to become what she has created in her imagination, she can confuse potential with what actually exists—and she'll keep doing that until she realizes that what she's holding onto is all in her head. If she doesn't wake up to this reality, yes, she is totally wasting her time. The guy isn't the waste of time. Her holding onto what isn't real is.

The actual guy? Everyone's lines of tolerance are different. So, at least for today, I'm not going to get into if the ACTUAL MAN you are choosing to love is worth the investment. What I will say is the more we love ourselves, the more our standards tend to rise. What I will also say is if you are going to bestow anyone with something as sweet, special and wonderful as your love, at least make sure you're giving it to something that is real…and potential ain't.

I already know. Just like some people in the desert will swear there is a pool of water that is 10 feet away from them, some women will not budge on believing that loving the potential of a man is a good and beneficial thing. Yet for the ladies reading this who feel like they are stuck in a relationship—or situationship—to the point that it is draining everything out of them…take a moment to ask yourself if any of what I just said resonated. Ponder over the fact that you could be like a person who is boxing the air; that you are someone who loves potential…something that doesn't truly exist.

If that is you, the good news is there's no time like the present to stop. While ole' boy is out here being and doing whatever he is actually being and doing, what is real is you and who you can really love is yourself. Bottom line, being in love is defined as being in something real with someone else. Potential makes that impossible. And that's the God honest truth, y'all. All facts. No fiction.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

What If You Love Someone You Can't Have?

When He Just Wants To Be Friends, But You Want More...

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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