Everyone used to tell me find a man with potential.  But that was back in my twenties.

When you’re a twenty-something and embarking on the dating world,  a common piece of advice always given was to look for someone with potential.  Someone that has goals and is working towards accomplishing them. But in your thirties,  when do you draw the line with potential?

A Facebook friend recently wrote something that a lot of people can relate to:

“At a certain age, a man’s lot in life can be seen as a direct reflection of his level of consciousness, courage and ambition, and that women “need to stop with this potential shit, and find someone who is proven”.

Potential vs proven?

But what do you measure proven by?

The amount of money in their bank account? The number of  degrees they have?  They type of car they drive? The square feet of their house?

Or is it something internal, that can’t be seen?

If you’re living in any major metropolitan area with large number of professionals, chances are it’s not that hard to find someone who thinks they’re already proven. This goes for not only men, but women as well. In the D.C area, successful women and men are pretty much a dime a dozen, but success doesn’t always equal proven.  The most successful or proven person isn’t always the one with the most potential.

If you’re looking for someone that is proven, are you actually bypassing those who have the potential to be proven, eventually?

Eventually? That’s another issue.

I’ve met tons of people who are still hustling and striving on a daily basis.  Waiting for their next big  break. I’ve also come across people who have seemingly been broken, by waiting for that break.  Although they realize their own potential,  others haven’t.  Eventually doesn’t always come around for everyone.


Clutchettes, (and the few gents around) So what is a single person to do? Just wait along for proven? Or go out and find potential?

  • Pseudonym

    Before 25, potential will do.
    After 25, there should be some proof in the pudding. The person doesn’t necessarily have to be at their ultimate goals, but their momentum should be very well in that direction.

    I once dated someone with a lot of potential and lofty dreams and absolutely no pro-activity. It was depressing to watch and listening to him battle with his insecurities, making goals, to then never accomplish them, then resent me for tackling my goals (especially when I was doing some of the things he spent years saying he wanted to do and never did)- add to that the fact that I was 12 years younger…well, it was EXHAUSTING!!!! Everyone doesn’t have to have lofty goals and careers, but from that experience I do think that it is most important for me to be with someone who is content with the life they’re living in order for me to be happy with them and them happy with me.

  • tee

    I just was had this very same conversation with a friend no more “fixer uppers” I want “turn key ready”. The truth of the matter a lot men have issues whether its financial, career, mommy/daddy issues etc. I want someone who is self aware & conscious enough to know what they are & handled it accordingly.

  • tolugbala

    i find these types of generalizations (potential vs. proven) to be troubling, especially in african-american heterosexual relationships. if sisters spend less time counting brothas coins and more time understanding the structural issues (racism, sexism, unemployment, etc.) that cause gender-based divisions in our community, then our relationships would be much healthier.

  • Carina Castro


  • Carina Castro


  • Treece

    Exactly tee! We all have our issues. Whether they be emotional, financial, career, familial, psychological, educational, etc., etc., etc. I just want someone who is self-aware, and has direction. I’m not looking for “potential” in the sense of potential to make money or have a financially successful career. I feel like people spend way too much time focusing on that and then end up wondering why you are in these broken relationships. Maybe it’s because you spent too much time focusing on how much financial “potential” he had and not paying enough attention at all to his spiritual being or what type of son/brother/uncle/grandson/etc. he is. Don’t get me wrong, I want a man who is financially stable (not concerned about how how MUCH money he has, or the “potential” for how much money he will make. just how he manages it) and financially independent. But when I think about the word “potential” being used to describe a date or partner, it’s always in the context of his career or finances. It’s placed high on the priority list with some women and I think that when it comes to the subject of “potential” a lot of us are very misguided.

    When it comes to using the word “potential” in my dating life at 30, I don’t want a man with potential. I want someone who already has a handle on who he is and where he’s going, knows how to manage his finances, has a source of income so that he is financially independent, spiritually grounded, and a truly good human being. If you are still working to get to where you want to be financially or in your career, that’s ok (I’m finishing up graduate school myself and not working in my desired career field). As long as you know your destination, and it isn’t some fly-by-night pipe dream you’re squandering your money on, we’re cool.

  • Cornell Ginger

    The scare tactic of scaring black women into taking black men as is, is part of the reason of the out of wedlock epidemic in the black community. At some point, what a man brings to the table has to sustain when it comes to family.

  • tolugbala

    i’m not recommending women take men “as is” OR vice versa, but instead ask that we look beyond the traditional monikers for success and well-being in this society — many of which we don’t need another academic study to tell us black men fall short on. there are few (if any) white equivalents of these dressed up “ninjas ain’t shit” conversations that pit us against one another in such general terms. let’s encourage a nuanced analysis about one’s character, integrity and tenacity.

  • Kaeli

    You are soooo wrong. When looking at potential vs. Proven it isn’t all about money. It is also about maturity, emotion health, etc. Age is also a factor. At my age (29) I can’t do potential when it comes to maturity or emotional health. I could care less about money but simply refuse to be with a grown ass man child. Unfortunately their are a ton running around at all income brackets.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    sorry ladies, i’m retired…….

  • Shareef

    I always look for potential. Proven tends to be more of a checklist of degrees, cars, houses, etc. I need someone working on taking themselves to the next level, not settling because they think they’re “proven”.

  • Travis

    I think tolugbala was merely referencing “coins” to make a point and not to narrow the discussion strictly to brother’s qualifications financially speaking. But I do think your point is EXTREMELY valid. As a community oriented black man, I truly wish all black females were as discerning as you. I have a 23 yr. old daughter who has a child with a “man-child.” After extensive consideration I chose to place substantial limitation on the material support I offered of my “grand-daughter.” It is crucial that young sisters raise the bar on who they allow themselves to have children by.

  • Hello

    “Before 25, potential will do.
    After 25, there should be some proof in the pudding. The person doesn’t necessarily have to be at their ultimate goals, but their momentum should be very well in that direction.”

    This is what my good male friend says, and I agree.

  • My Name is My Name

    Why do you refer to yourself as a ‘black man’, but women as ‘black females’?

  • ebony82

    It isn’t about counting coins but about being a stable provider, which “other” men don’t seem to have a big problem with as they know what is expected of them. The “counting coins” statement is a cop-out and a cover-up for laziness. So, you can stop.

  • ebony82

    You would think it was common sense, right?

  • Marisa

    One should at the very least look for effort but, a track record of some kind that at least says your headed in a solid direction. This question reminds me of the movie Crooklyn with Alfre and Delroy they already have 5 growing kids and he was still pushing to make that music career happen, when they had issues with paying bills the lights being turned off, having to borrow from family. I don’t think having a life with somebody just based on hoping it happens is going to work out, if after all you got to show for it is to be still parked in neutral, especially if the other person has been advancing in someway themselves. Granted if your with someone who is aiming for a career that requires years of education, while that can be trying it does show the person is not aiming for a get rich quick deal, and wants something solid a reliable.

  • tee

     “…if the person who stands before you todayisn’t compelling, don’t gamble your life on their potential to become compelling.

    Also, don’t waste your time!

    So often I see good-willed people focus much of their energy on attempting to “rescue” or “upgrade” their partner. They give unreciprocated time, love, money, energy, and advice. I’m sure you know someone doing this right now. If so, do them a favor and have a good Come-To-Jesus talk with them. The truth is they’re not in a relationship, they’re working on a science project. They haven’t fallen in love with the man/woman, they have actually fallen in love with the “ideal” of the man/woman. This is dangerous, simply because often times the “ideal” is never realized.

    Having a healthy relationship with your partner means loving them for who stands before youtoday, not the hope of who they will be tomorrow.” Paul C. Brunson, Modern Day Matchmaker

  • Cornell Ginger

    Those “other” men typically come from a patriarchal community. Something the black community is everything but. You’re simplifying a complex issue.

  • Kaeli

    I am tired of people saying that the black community is not patriarchal. Men electing to leave their families and women picking up the burden is not matriarchy. Is patriarchy as it’s worst form where men don’t even feel obligated to providefor their offspring.

  • Cornell Ginger

    Men electing to leave? Or are women electing to choose men who are electing to leave? 9/10 when I see a man who has “elected to leave” he wasn’t much of a man to began with. Going up to a man who has children yet doesn’t provide is a hard thing to do. You can’t force someone to better themselves. Since we all know you can’t force someone to better themselves, what’s the EASIER thing to do? It would be to ONLY date/reproduce with men who have shown themselves to be men who can provide for a potential family. If men who have means to provide for a family are the same men who are electing to leave, then that’s one thing. But in all actuality, we all know that’s not the case 90% of the time. A man of character and integrity doesn’t suddenly disappear and do a 180 when it comes to responsibilities.

  • Kaeli

    You mention a lot of interesting points in your reply but nothing that discusses your incorrect beliefs of patriarchy. Keep making excuses for men who CHOOSE to not take care if their responsibilities.

    BTW, your putting all responsibility on women and not acknowledging the high percentage of black men that are irresponsible is an example of patriarchy.

  • Cornell Ginger

    My incorrect beliefs in patriarchy? Who are you to tell me what my beliefs are? If anything, we’d just have to agree to disagree.

    Secondly, women in the black community are primarily raising the boys and girls hence the matriarchal upbringing. Black boys are seeing women with the power and final say so. Those black boys grow up to become black men. If you and other black women want that cycle of black boys only seeing black women in charge, then for the next generation of boys, black women must pick better men to date/marry/reproduce with.

  • Travis


  • Travis

    Mr. Ginger makes exceptionally valid points. The issue of absentee fathers is a manifestation of another issue which a substantial number of black women seem very reluctant to address or even draw attention to. The issue I speak of is choosing the wrong man to father your child(ren) to begin with. The issue of absentee fatherhood can be solved by women very very easily. Do not have a child w/ a man who has not demonstrated a necessary measure of stability required to adequately father (rear) a child. That solution is as obvious as the nose on everyone’s face. Is there any women in this discussion who would dare say that women are merely passive agents in the determination of who fathers her children? The complication is that because so many sistas have allowed themselves to be a part of this circumstance that they considered it a self-indictment to admit/own their dysfunctional behavior. The first step to solving the problem is admitting it exist. Someone in an online discussion made a very interesting point one time that I think has merit. The person asserted that the African-American community is one of the very few communities of which he was aware, that does not frown upon “out of relationship/wedlock” child birth. Though it was frowned upon in the very recent past, it no longer is. Partially as a result, “out-of-wedlock/marital union” children exploded. My 23 year old daughter had no shame in birthing a child by her “baby-daddy, man-child”. Perhaps that’s my failure or more so her mother’s. I do accept partial blame. The key is accepting accountability for allowing dysfunctional behavior to propagating. I refuse to cover up or legitimize my short-comings as a parent because I failed to teach her that the circumstance he’s allowed herself to become a part of is totally unacceptable. I think that in refusing to address the issue of poorly choosing fathers, a substantial number of black women are shunning accountability, thus unintentionally legitimizing a gross social dysfunction.

    The issue of absentee fathers is the single most critical issue affecting the black family in America. It absolutely has to stop. Imperial evidence seems to state as clearly as possible that children reared under this circumstance are destined for a less than optimum adulthood (i.e. incarceration, poverty, criminality, under-educated, etc…) We’re not going to solve anything unless we keep it 100.

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