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Dating For Potential & When To Say When

People show us who they are long before we choose to see it.

Love & Relationships

When it comes to matters of the heart, I've found that in many cases, people show us who they are long before we, ourselves, choose to see it.

Before we're ever blinded by love. Before we even see the prospect of love coming, we're overwhelmed by thoughts of potential and even more so, overwhelmed by our ability to unearth this potential from the next person. This, potential, is typically the thing that allows us to ignore the blood-red flags that come at us like darts in the beginning of relationships that we eventually convince ourselves became shaky overnight, when in reality they were never built on solid ground. Just on potential.

However, for every couple of horror stories we've heard about choosing a mate based on potential we've heard a fairytale or two. You've heard about the woman who stayed down while her man was down and out, and eventually reaped the benefits of this unrelenting loyalty. The other side to this story and the part that we all fear, is being the woman who stays down and ends up with a do-nothing type of man. Shamyra Howard, a licensed therapist specializing in sex and relationships confirms that it's not uncommon for women to feel pressure to remain with a partner who has "potential" in order to prove her loyalty and support. And, none of us want the latter.

Leaving me to wonder, can dating a person solely based on charm or any other stunning characteristic combined with potential ever lead us to the promise lands of a healthy, symbiotic relationship?

To bluntly answer these questions, Howard reminds us of one major fact: most humans possess potential.

She further elaborates, explaining, "Potential is great, but how a person uses their potential is way more important than just possessing it. Potential is having the will and skill to be effective. Reality is actionable proof of how will and skill is executed. My family would never eat if they solely relied on my potential to cook everyday!"

Her advice? Well, really it's simple: "Don't fall in love with someone's potential, fall in love with their reality." She along with several other relationship experts warn us against dating on the merit of potential that hasn't been backed by action.

However, should you try your hand at choosing a mate on the strength of potential, make sure that it's flourishable. In other words, certified relationship coach J.L. Kirkwood, suggests that you get out the moment a person's potential isn't paired with actions that lead to growth.

"If you are with a person who says they are going to do something and doesn't keep their word — has a lack of consistency, cannot find self-motivation, isn't interested in taking his career or relationship to the next level, doesn't have direction, then you may have to begin looking elsewhere."

Kirkwood adds, "This is especially true if you're leveling up. In the end, this person could begin to bring you down. It's draining trying to keep pulling the train along with no help."

As far as potential is concerned, it seems that there's really only one thing to be said about it: actions speak louder than words — a universal truth that we should hold onto. For better or worse.

Featured image by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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Featured image: Getty Images

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