Is it Foolish to Date a Guy Based on His Potential?

Is it Foolish to Date a Guy Based on His Potential?

Hi Evan,

Is it ever okay to date a man for his potential? I met a nice, smart man, but let’s just say he’s going through a transition right now. He just recently switched careers and is starting from the bottom at his new career. He was successful in his last profession, but wasn’t happy with his job anymore and decided to leave. In the midst of switching careers in a tough economy and getting his second Masters degree, he has accrued some debt (and maybe a little chip on his shoulder, but that’s a different dating question!). He is very smart and I am sure he will get on his feet again, but is it wrong of me to not want to be with him until he does or unless he does? I’ve dated men before who were trying to change or trying to reach their potential, but they never did. I don’t want to get caught up in that again.

If I wait for him to become more stable professionally and financially before committing to a relationship, does that make me a bad person?

(Background so you can better assess the situation and have context:

This man is 40 and has never been married. I am 32 and a successful lawyer, so him not being financially secure right now is not really an issue for me. However, him constantly hinting that he does not have money is kind of off-putting, especially after only the third date. Mind you, I don’t expect extravagant dates and I have paid for half our dates.

We’ve been seeing each other at least two to three times a week for two months. He has asked to be exclusive. He is funny, smart, and attractive. I would not hesitate to get in a relationship with him if he was more stable.) –Jane

Dear Jane,

Once upon a time, I met a 31-year-old woman who we’ll call Donna.

Donna owned her own small business, traveled around the world, and made upwards of six figures. She was also divorced and really wanted to settle down, get married and have kids.

At the time, I was 30 and was a customer service representative at JDate. I was paying my way through film school, where I was getting an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, so that I could become a college professor and teach the one thing I knew how to do. My income at the time? $32,500 – and all of it went to pay for my cost of living, film school, and my regular dating habit.

My financial state was temporary. My character was permanent.

Donna and I had great chemistry. She was very feminine and playful, and would undoubtedly be a good wife and mother.

We went out maybe 5 times before she told me that she couldn’t continue to see me. She said that I was a great guy. She said I made her laugh. She acknowledged our great chemistry. She basically said what you’re saying about your new guy, Jane.

“I’m ready for the real deal. You’re in transition. I can’t wait.”

I understood her logic, but I also knew something that she didn’t:

My financial state was temporary. My character was permanent.

This is what I told her, in response:

“You can break up with me if you want, to find some safe, older, lawyer to live an upper middle class lifestyle. I respect that. Just know that one day, I’ll have money. But your lawyer won’t make you laugh like I do. And he won’t turn you on like I do. I hope I’m wrong, but I know I’ll be right.”

Am I suggesting that women everywhere should bank on their man’s unrealized potential? Absolutely not.

Was I lashing out a little? Sure. But I meant what I said. My situation was based on choosing a highly risky career in Hollywood in my 20’s; it wasn’t some sort of slacker/character defect. At 31, I might as well have been 21. I was starting over. But I was going to make it. Anyone who knows me for a short time knows that I’m a doer, not a talker.

Donna heard my speech, smiled, kissed me, and told me that she may have been making a mistake, but she was doing what she had to do.

I was hurt and used it as fuel to further my career. One year later, I wrote a book, dropped out of film school, and started e-Cyrano profile writing. Five years later, I was married to a woman who believed in me and saw my potential. And yes, we ran into Donna at a party once in Hollywood. She’s 41 and, while she’s now in a relationship, she’s not yet married with children, as was her intense desire ten years ago.

Does my story mirror yours? Maybe. Am I suggesting that women everywhere should bank on their man’s unrealized potential? Absolutely not. In fact, as a policy, it’s usually a bad bet to see a man for what he could become and it’s a much safer one to see who he currently is.

There is the 50-year-old dreamer who refuses to get a real job because he wants to be the next Channing Tatum.

There is the 40-year-old guy who stays in a safe low-end job because he has no real ambitions for his career.

There is the 30-year-old guy who is content playing video games and smoking pot and doesn’t take any initiative in getting an adult life on track.

And then there’s your guy.

“Successful in his last profession, but wasn’t happy with his job anymore and decided to leave. Switched careers in a tough economy and got his second Masters degree. Very smart and I am sure he will get on his feet again.”

There you have it, Jane.

Your guy is going places, whether you’re with him or not.

And unless you want to be the Donna in his life story, I’d get on board his train now.

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