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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Comments:

  1. 151
    Goldie

    @ Karmic Equation #147:
     
    “Out of curiosity, what did you ACTIVELY do to try to forget about him? Eating lots of ice cream watching Lifetime does not count.”
     
    Ooooh ooooh I know the answer to that one! In one word, endorphins. Pick your favorite physical exercise and do it till you’re ready to drop. (I hiked, 8-12 miles, 2-3 times a week. Picked up trail running since then, so if it happens again, I’ll be running a lot too.) Your workout will make you feel good for a while. When the good feeling wears out, go work out again so it comes back. I tried it after my unfortunate player episode and it was the only thing that got me through that month, I was so depressed. By the end of that month, I was in amazing shape and, coincidentally, that was when I met my current boyfriend. When he first saw me, he was in awe of how I looked. What can I say, I was kind of in awe myself — rarely do I work out that much! lol

  2. 152
    Karl R

    Karmic Equation said: (#151)
    “This sentiment supports the two reasons why I like being the pursued: I want men who are confident and who are attracted to me. When a man approaches me, he’s telling me without words that he is both.”
     
    I agree that by approaching, the man immediately provides very strong evidence that both are correct.
     
    Attraction:
    How important is it for you to know this immediately? Is it a big negative against the man if you don’t know whether he finds you attractive for the first month?
     
    I want women who are attracted to me. However, I didn’t always know whether they were attracted on the first date. Even with my wife, I didn’t know for certain initially. A few days of uncertainty really hasn’t made a difference in the long run.
     
    Self-Confidence:
    My wife has plenty of self-confidence, but she doesn’t have nearly as much as I do. She underestimates her own abilities and accomplishments (less than most people, but a noticeable amount). I realize that you and I have different dating criteria, so it’s possible that self-confidence is more important to you than it is to me. However, I believe I would have done myself a disservice if I’d ruled out my wife just because she had less self-confidence than me.
     
    As long as your criteria (and your actions taken in pursuit of those criteria) are getting you what you want/need in a partner, you’re doing fine. If you discover they’re not, it’s in your best interest to reevaluate.
     
    And this ties back to Evan’s example (original post) of Donna. She had criteria. She acted on them. Her criteria and actions got in the way of her goal.
     
    Karmic Equation said: (#151)
    “Stated this way, I cannot possibly disagree…as I’d have to admit either I’m pursuing stupid men or that I’m not a great woman. LOL. Touché”
     
    I should probably point out that it’s the other person’s definition of “great” that matters. If my wife had moved to the Midwest 3 weeks after we started dating, our relationship would have ended as a short fling. She would still be the same terrific person, but it would have gotten in the way of having the kind of relationship I wanted.

  3. 153
    Karmic Equation

    @Jenna 152

    Pool is FUN. If you decide to take it up, go take some lessons before heading to a pool hall to practice. You need to look competent while you do it. If you’re a true novice, guys will know it’s as a ploy.

    I had played in college and was a mediocre player when I stoped. At one of the pool halls I play at they have a lot of cute waitresses. I started showing up regularly to play in the tourneys there and got a lot of male attention as I’m good enough to compete, but not yet good enough to win regularly. The cute waitresses noticed all the male attention I got and started playing in the tourneys too, even though they barely know how to hold the cue.

    The guys are chivalrous and kind and patient. The waitresses are cute after all. However, the men know the waitresses just want attention and don’t actually love the game like I do. I get respect as well as attention.

    @Ruby 153

    When I was dumped by the man in my #2 relationship, I was inconsolable. I cried for 4 days non-stop. Didn’t eat. And I had very UN-characteristically violent thoughts, I literally dreamed of bashing his car windows in with a crowbar. This was really WEIRD for I’m SUCH a pacifist. I’m the kind of person who cradles a spider I find in the house in a napkin and then lets it out on the front steps.

    So, I had to figure out why was I SO ANGRY, more so than sad. On day 5, it finally dawned on me and I woke up laughing. I figured out my problem. Somewhere during our relationship I started to think of him as a loser…So…um…what did that make ME when *I* was dumped by this loser? Was I a DOUBLE loser? Is there a name for a person LOWER than a loser? What kind of a super-loser was I such that a LOSER would dump ME?

    I was so relieved — it wasn’t my HEART that was broken. I wasn’t mourning the loss of my RELATIONSHIP — I was mourning the destruction of my PRIDE.

    Day 6 – I was back to normal, but 10lbs lighter and a thousand times wiser.

    Lesson learned: Don’t date losers.

    @Goldie 154

    I usually just go shopping. But I bet that doesn’t burn the same amount of calories. My wallet gets lighter, though. Does that count? LOL

    @Karl R 155

    “Attraction:
    How important is it for you to know this immediately? Is it a big negative against the man if you don’t know whether he finds you attractive for the first month?”

    Well, I’m going to sound egotistical…But I assume EVERY man who doesn’t have a “real purpose” in talking to me (like coworkers, salesmen, teammates, lost sight-see-ers, etc.) — but yet initiates contact with me find me attractive to some degree. My need isn’t “immediacy” but rather “degree”. The degree being that they find me attractive ENOUGH to risk rejection or regret that they didn’t at least talk to me. For some that’s a small degree (i.e., men with experience); for others it’s a huge degree (i.e., the “shy” guy). I’m sure most men fall between those two degrees.

    By extension, the men who don’t approach don’t find me attractive “enough”; so why waste my energy with them?

    So this “attraction factor” as Michelle had put it in another thread, is just a filter. Once he passes that filter, other filters/criteria come into play to determine his worthiness for whatever he’s seeking.

    Regarding self-confidence – I used to be more flexible about this. My #5 (6 yr relationship guy) — was attracted to me enough to hold eye-contact for an obscenely long time, but would not approach even though I smiled, and even waved to him (he did smile and wave back though). I actually had to crook my finger and pat the chair next to me before he got up from where he was sitting to sit next to me. You could say I helped him with his approach.

    I would say that HE was attractive enough for me to overcome my desire for a self-confident man. I came to find out he was quite beta in many ways. But he was alpha in the bedroom (which if you read the Chateau Heartiste website, WARNING – not for the easily offended — is what they deem a requirement for a beta guy to keep an alpha female happy – I would agree). The problem was that when he lost his job, he had little motivation or self-confidence to seek a new one. Or rather, he would apply for jobs and get discouraged every time they didn’t respond. I told him over and over to not worry, just keep trying. I could support us until he found a job, however long it took. But he started drinking heavily and spent more days drunk than sober.

    Lesson learned: It’s better to date a self-confident man. He will handle adversity better.

  4. 154
    Goldie

    Karmic Equation — no way, I release spiders into the wild too! My kids used to think I was out of my mind, but now at least one started doing the same thing. Now cockroaches, that’s another story, those guys get no mercy from me. I guess I’m only a pacifist when I find a creature cute and fuzzy, not gross and disgusting. oh well, room for growth.
     
    Shopping would just leave me feeling upset the next day, for having spent all that unplanned money. Physical workout is known to give you a natural high.

  5. 155
    Karmic Equation

    @Jenna 152

    “…I’m always organizing social gatherings and having dinner parties and it’s easy and casual to invite some new guy along. I’m not chasing him, I’m just being friendly and extending social invitations to many people.”

    I FINALLY get what you mean by “dynamic” – You mean that you actively set up social events to meet men. I don’t see that as pursuing, nor even being dynamic at dating, but rather as socializing, which is indeed a great way to meet men.

    “All I meant was, it’s pointless to get caught up in who’s pursuing who — at least in my experience.”

    I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve pursued when all I’m interested in is in sex.

    Yet I believe that pursuing when you’re interested in MORE than sex is trickier. This is an interesting blog post on initiate/don’t initiate (http://www.hookingupsmart.com/2011/09/23/relationshipstrategies/should-women-make-the-first-move/)

    Even the guy who is on the Yes side of girls initiating (Dude at College Candy) writes

    “Many times, physical contact is the ‘signal’ to us that you want to get more serious. That being said, it’s important to know what you’re saying with your move. I don’t think I have to tell you that getting all up on it in the bar reads more as ‘I’M LOOKING FOR CASUAL SEX AND THERE’S A DECENT CHANCE I DO THIS PRETTY OFTEN/AM HAMMERED’ than, ‘I really like you and want to establish something long-term.” If you wanna get down, alright; but if you’re looking to let a guy know you really like him this probably shouldn’t be in the play book.'”

    I never wrote the following reason as why I don’t think women should pursue, but I feel this on some instinctive level, and is probably one of the many reasons why I instinctively resist pursuing guys I may want to have a relationship with:

    “In fact, that cute guy who flirts with you and acts interested, but never actually does anything about it, can turn out to be a totally different breed of guy. He’s not timid, or awkward, or nervous. He’s manipulating you.

    This is the guy who’s not looking for anything serious (or, more specifically, not looking for anything serious with you), but wouldn’t be opposed to a casual fling. This may also be the guy who prides himself on being a “good guy.” And true to his self-professed nature, he doesn’t want to play you. That’s why he never comes right out and makes any overt moves on you.

    On the other hand, if you initiate all the moves, he’s certainly not going to stop you. And whether consciously or subconsciously, that’s the trap he has set for you.

    <snipped>

    Here’s the bottom line:

    If I really like a girl, I’m going to make the first move.

    So, go ahead. Make the first move on that cute, coy guy if you want. Just remember the Get Out Of Guilt Free card you may be handing him if you do.”

    Excerpted from: http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-09-05/guy-talk-the-real-reason-women-shouldnt-make-the-first-move/

    ********************
    I’m sure that there are exceptions to the rule (Helen, for example) — but if all the women (and men) here do post-mortems on their relationship outcomes based on who initiated, I would bet that the majority of the ones that resulted in marriages or in LTRs that lasted more than 2 years (beyond the honeymoon period), were initiated by men.

  6. 156
    Lia

    @ Karmic Equation # 158
    “In fact, that cute guy who flirts with you and acts interested, but never actually does anything about it, can turn out to be a totally different breed of guy. He’s not timid, or awkward, or nervous. He’s manipulating you.
    Wow, the light bulb just went on.  I can remember one guy in particular that that statement brought to mind.  I knew something was “off” with him but I couldn’t really verbalize what it was I picked up on. That statement right there did it.  Oh sh*t make that two guys…
     
    Thanks!  This is why I look forward to your posts. 

  7. 157
    Shannon

    I ain’t saying she a gold digger. But she aint messing with no broke…YOU KNOW THE REST!
    Anyway, I agree with Evan. Like always!

  8. 158
    Mickey

    About 20 years ago, I had a conversation with a co-worker in which she told me that she wanted to date an attorney. When I asked her if she would be willing to date that same guy while he was in law school and trying to establish his career, she responded HELL NO!!!
    So much for “potential.”

  9. 159
    Karmic Equation

    @Mickey 161

    This post (http://www.therulesrevisited.com/2012/04/analogy-between-confidence-and-beauty.html) makes an interesting analogy between beauty and confidence (which I completely agree with).

    However for most women, it’s really “status” that’s desired (and if a guy has status, he’s usually confident also, so those qualities do go hand in hand). So for MEN to understand women better, substitute the word “status” where you would normally says “beauty” and you’ll finally see the light.

    While I don’t think it’s to women’s advantage to look for “status” in a mate when she herself has achieved a high status, I understand the desire. By the same token, I never rip a man for admiring/desiring beauty in a mate. Opposite sides of the same coin.

  10. 160
    Marie

    I had worked for over 30 years at the same employer. By all accounts I had a very successful career as an executive, routinely topping $200k in annual income, and to the outside world, had the world by the tail. Then I got fired. That’s right, I lost my job in a massive company restructuring. I was in my early 50s. The person I am, and the values I uphold, didn’t change. Only my job status did. I happened to go on two dates shortly after that happened. What surprised me was their reaction to me when they found out what had happened. When they asked me what I did I told them. I didn’t dwell on it, and I was always very positive, expressing gratitude for the years of experience I had and the wonderful people I got to work with along the way. And how I was optimistic about the future. You should have seen their body language! I could see what they were thinking. Woman, early 50s, let go recently, wondering why, etc. Their faces told me nearly everything I needed to know. Then they’d grow cool. What they didn’t realize is what I did for a living wasn’t who I was. My circumstances were temporary. They never looked further to see the real me, and my work ethic, my resilience, my fortitude, my desire to get back on my feet, to take responsibility, not feel anger or pity, etc. They didn’t stick around long enough to see me successfully start my own company, to earn as much as I did when I was employed full time, not because I set out to earn a lot of money, but because I set out to be the best I could be at what I did! In the end, my long-term job with an established company was nothing more than an illusion anyway. There is no such thing as long-term guaranteed stability. A major setback can occur at any time, and to anyone. As Evan said, it’s your character that defines you during those times, not the job title, wage, bonus, perks, etc. you once enjoyed along the way and later lost. But that’s not always how people perceive you. God bless the ones who stick around long enough to know.

  11. 161
    Ana Garcia

    “My financial state was temporary. My character was permanent.” 
    Best phrase ever!!! A relationship IS about character. 
    Evan, can you write a post about Character traits in a woman that attract men  or Character traits in a man you want to look for

  12. 162
    marie

    This is not a question for Evan because, clearly, he is unable to be objective; he still holds resentment towards Donna and, in what would seem to suggest a less-than-stellar character, a bit of satisfaction that she is still single. Jane is not wanting to break up with a man because he makes a bit less money or, as is often the case with older men who are single and don’t have financial responsibilities to a family, has less ambition than she (though if she were to break up with him for either of these reasons, I would find that understandable as well), she is speaking of a man who cannot afford the most basic of expenses. She is not asking to be wined and dined at the most expensive restaurants in town. She wants a man who is able to call her because he can actually afford (at 40 yrs of age) to pay his phone bill. He got a second Masters? Big deal. In what field is that MA? Clearly, it doesn’t seem to have afforded him more job opportunities. He seems he has simply accrued more debt. Getting a second MA in something pointless is…well, pointless. While an MFA, for example, might include some interesting course work, it is not often a path to financial or career stability. Evan seems to have recognized this as well and, very smartly, pursued another path.  I was not one bit surprised to hear that Jane’s unemployed, flat-broke man wants to be exclusive. This man needs to “lock it down” with Jane so someone can help him pay his bills. The fact that he complains to her about her financial situation is just a step on the road to asking for her help with his bills. Jane – date a man who knows where he is going and is already well on the path. That is what I did at your age, and I am so, so glad I did. I now have a successful husband in every way that “successful” can be defined. Not only is my husband kind and thoughtful and of stellar character, he also takes great pleasure in taking care of his loved one financially, and that is a beautiful and very attractive quality in a man. Nowadays, women are having to take on so much. Unless you truly want to support a man and a future family on your own, you cannot take this sort of risk.  

  13. 163
    Meg

    Before I even finished reading this article, I had already saw a lot of potential in this man, he is already pursuing a second Masters! I am in a similar situation, mine?  “There is the 40-year-old guy who stays in a safe low-end job because he has no real ambitions for his career.” and who is that guy content as that, “guy who is content playing video games” and smoking pot (in his past he says) “and doesn’t take any initiative in getting an adult life on track.”  On the other hand, I have 2 Masters and run my own business, and I feel that this guy is waiting on the sidelines for me to make things happen. I have not taken care of a man because I always dated affluent guys but I thought I found something real with this one. However, I noticed a trend in him where he’d expect me to pay for stuff for his place when I visit. I already have a home with 2 kids in another state, so I asked him if he depended on his women in his past relationships, and he agreed. In his mid-40s, he tells me something new that he wants to do including being a musician. Even though I always believe that “it’s never late to be what you could have been” I don’t see the drive in him. Yes, he made a lot of mistakes and poor choices in his life and I feel that he plays victim of his past and his parents. I think the more I write, the more I know my answer but like Lance said up on the responses, a man should not pursue a relationship if he is not stable in life – career, financially etc. I could see if he had solid plans and followed through with anything. The Author said, he was/is a doer despite Donna not seeing that back then. I am hoping for that but all I have just seen is a talker in my guy.

  14. 164
    sallysue

    Gonna disagree with Evan here, in my experience men aren’t ready to get married until they are financially able to provide for a wife and potential children, regardless of the women’s opinion on it. So that’s why she shouldn’t wait for him, it could be years before he is making enough to marry and that’s years she could spend finding someone who is ready for marriage. 

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