“But they have so much potential…”

21 Aug 2018

Did You Fall in Love with a Sales Pitch?

Have you ever said of your narcissistic and abusive partner, “But they have so much potential…”? If you have not, I would be truly surprised. “But they have so much potential…” is the thing that all partners of an abuser say.

Nobody that I have ever come across consciously and deliberately falls in love with an ill-tempered, small-minded, hostile, destructive person.  Rather, you fall in love with that person’s sales pitch.  During the early days of the relationship (while they are intent on making the sale) you are likely to hear how great they are and/or how great you are.  The two of you, together, can surely achieve something that really matters to you.

How could you not achieved something that matters to you, when your partner has “so much potential”?

Of course, all that “potential” never actually materializes into any kind of meaningful partnership.  However it still could.

All that “potential” serves both to explain and justify why you stay with them, as well as why you still love them.

The subtext to “But they have so much potential”

Just saying, “But they have so much potential…” is curiously reassuring for the person that says it.  It is a little like looking in your refrigerator at some foodstuff and realizing that it is still well within its expiration date, after all.

While a partner is still within their “Potential Date” it would be downright wrong to get rid of them.  After all, you could still make them – or they could still make themselves – into something fit for human consumption. Allegedly.

When it’s put into those terms, I’m guessing that the problem with the whole question of “potential” jumps out at you.  All this wonderful “potential” that an abusive partner has is, ultimately, nothing more than a splendid statement of denial.

The word “potential” allows you to look beyond how the person actually shows up to who they could be and – in your opinion – should be.  That may well be who they  promised (and boasted) that they were at the start of the relationship.

Unfortunately, as you already know to your cost, “Fine words do not a fine relationship make.”

Do they have the WOW factor or the Woah! factor?

You are forced to fall back on their “potential” because the reality of living with them …lacks the “wow factor”.  Although it certainly does not lack the “Woah! Factor”.

The bottom line is that it is really hard to accept that a narcissistic partner is totally different to you.

To his credit, “my” wasband did his best to explain this point to me.  He used to get incredibly annoyed with my assumption that he and I, ultimately, shared the same values (amongst other things).  So, he would shriek at me,


I was so heavily invested in protecting the endangered species that was his “potential” that I   assumed that he did not know what he was talking about.  (No prizes for that!!)

It never occurred to me to ask myself,

“If he is not like me, then what is he like?”

What are they really like?

I had a real issue with admitting to myself that my partner might not be a good person.  Despite frequently observing – accurately – how horribly he behaved, I still did not truly believe that this was someone who  took pride in being a horrible person. 

The wasband had not just mastered Being  a Horrible Person 101, he had a PhD in it.

Nevertheless, I did not want to believe that.  Like so many of my clients, I had this deep drive to believe that, in the end, people are really good.  So much so that, with enough coaxing, even the most horrible among them would drop the mask to reveal their inner goodness. (Thank you for that, Disney!)

My life, prior to meeting the wasband, had not been a walk in the park. That, too, I share with my clients.  You might have thought that that would teach me that some human beings  are quite comfortable with  hurting others.

Instead, it taught me denial. I saw it as my role to guide  someone with shedloads of Woah! Potential to liberate their – assumed – Wow Potential.

Needless to say, that did not work out  any better for me than it does for anyone else. Fixating on a person’s elusive Wow Potential while ignoring their – all-too-real  Woah! Potential is never going to end well.

Do not disregard expiration dates

In the end, just as you would consider the contents of your refrigerator, I guess that we need to approach the whole issue of “potential” from a practical point of view.  You grade the edibility of foodstuffs  by the length of time that they have been sitting in your fridge.

By the same token you need to judge the longevity of a person’s “potential” by how often it continues to make a credible appearance.  You need to ask yourself if, and when, their “Wow Potential” reached its expiration date. You also need to ask yourself if, and when – based on the evidence that you have in front of you – their “Woah Potential” will ever reach its expiration date.

Narcissistic and abusive partners really do have so much potential. However, you have to ask yourself what kind of potential they reveal most of the time and whether or not you can bear more of it.  Wishful thinking alone, no matter how hard you work at it, will not turn a toxic partner into the person that they ought to want to become.



Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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