Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.


A long, long time ago I worked with this woman, I’ll call her Beth.  Beth was nice enough and smart enough and certainly not unattractive.  She just wasn’t a hot commodity on the dating market.

Somehow she found herself dating this perfectly nice man, I’ll call him Ted.  He seemed really nice and was, I guess, extremely smart (he was a professor of something intimidating).  He wasn’t the best looking guy around.  He was overweight and wore these black chunky glasses, and this was way back before anyone thought chunky glasses were cool.

We had some kind of work party and Beth took Ted along as her date, at which time she announced to us all that Ted had recently proposed and they were getting married.  The ring was displayed for all to see and everyone gave their congratulations.

A few minutes following Beth’s big announcement, someone asked them if they’d set a date and if so, when.  Beth’s answer completely blew my mind (obviously, as I remember all of this from so many years ago):  “We’re putting the wedding off for at least 18 months to give Ted time to lose weight.  I’m not walking down the aisle with him until he slims down.”

Just for clarification, she announced to a bunch of her colleagues that the guy who’d put a big fat diamond on her finger wasn’t quite good enough to marry – yet.  First he had to lose weight.  Only then would she marry him.

I found that completely offensive at the time and remember talking about it with co-workers.

I still find it offensive.  But now, many years later, I have a different take on it.  Beth was, at least, being honest.  She liked him, but seriously disliked something about him.  And she was telling him that to his face (not to mention telling everyone they knew).

I can think of lots of times in the past decade where I’ve heard women and men talk about someone they liked and speak about their potential. “She’d be really hot if she dressed differently.” or “He’ll make a great boyfriend one day, he just needs to stop spending so much time with his friends”.

I’m not a big fan of looking at a guy’s potential.  I figure, I gotta take a guy as is.  People aren’t interested in being changed.

So anyway, for this week’s poll, I’d really like to know how you’d react if the person you were dating or your significant other asked you to Would you change for love (imagine this change is superficial- the way you dress, exercise more, etc)?

  • Yes. If I loved someone and their request was within reason, I’d change. (33 votes)
  • No. Anyone who loves me is going to have to take me as I am. (31 votes)
  • Maybe, it would depend on the situation. (55 votes)
  • Other. Please explain in the comments. (4 votes)


24 to “Potential”

  1. onedatewonder says:

    So here’s the thing. If I were Ted I would have taken the ring back and told her where to shove it. I’m still kind of hoping he eventually did. Because now if he went through with it, Ted is going to have to live his life afraid that if he puts on a few extra pounds, his wife may leave him. And she’s going to go on believing that’s okay. Marriage simply doesn’t work that way. “For better or for worse” the vows say. Not “until you gain too much weight” or “unless your hair falls out”.

    Now yes, everyone has preferences. But if you don’t like chunky guys, then just don’t date one. And if you think my wardrobe isn’t cute enough, then don’t stick around. (You wouldn’t be the first one, I promise you.) Because somewhere out there, there just might be someone who thinks you’re just great and you won’t have to work to be something you’re not just to be with them.

    Having said that, I will cater to things I know my man likes. Simply because I love him and it makes me happy to make him happy. But if he said wear thong underwear or I’m gone? I’d show him the door myself. And lock it after he left.

  2. starangel82 says:

    So how are Ted and Beth these days? Did they ever make it down the aisle?

  3. grad student says:

    WOW! What a bitch thing to say. There are really 2 questions in your poll story. First, would I change? Well, if it were not unreasonable and the request were made in a particular way then yes. I am fighting (and winning) a weight issue myself. I know I can look more attractive, but that isn’t the real issue. It’s health. It’s wanting not to be winded. It’s wanting the hot, repeater sex wife and I used to have (back to the great rather than good sex life). Clothes, hair, etc is less of an issue. I am not overly concerned with that so maybe changes there wouldn’t be a big deal.

    BUT… the idea of YES, I will marry you but ONLY IF? No way. Take a hike. Like ONEDATEWONDER said there is nothing wrong with having preferences. But, if you won’t marry a fat guy, don’t accept a proposal from a fat guy. My question: IF she wasn’t attracted to / was embarrassed by (which are the only reasons for what she said) the why is she marrying him?
    If I were Ted, I think I may have done what she wanted, dropped the poundage and then cancelled the wedding 1 week out. Hey, I got YOU as a fat dude; I bet I can do better now. I would be hurt, angry and vengeful.

    ALSO, we have not even considered the DISRESPECT. Even if she is being honest, making that kind of announcement in front of a bunch of co-workers? Completely disrespectful and rude to her fiance. When’s the date. “we haven’t set one yet” “Probably 12-18 months”. You don’t have to answer that question. Even if you said 18 months and someone asked why, you can say “want time for everything to be perfect” Even if she felt the need to say the time is for Ted to lose weight (which no one needed to know), “oh, at least 18 months. Ted wants to slim down some before the big day”.

    Honesty, in this case, was simply cruel. I hope he broke it off with her. She can be honest with herself, even with him IN PRIVATE. I think this comment was saying “yeah, I landed me a man but I know he is too fat and I expect to have a hotter dude. no worries, friends I ain’t marrying this pig unless he slims down”
    So, if a man dumps his wife cuz she put on 30 pounds and, hey, I married a slim hottie and I don’t like chubby girls. Just being honest. Bye! Really?

  4. LPS says:

    Lool! You have to find out if they ever did tie the knot! That’s a good one. Maybe, just maybe, Beth’s comment came out condescending when it shouldn’t have been? She might have genuinely meant it for his health & maybe they both wanted to slim down before the big day (since most couples do worry about their weight for the photos)? But it’s also possible that Beth might well have been getting above herself once she got the ring on her finger. Some women are like that sadly. Either way, however well intentional, if I were in Ted’s shoes, I would have been upset by that remark and told Beth to shove it, unless it genuinely was a cheeky prod?
    Would I change for someone? I have done in the past, within reason. Been less flirtatious with the opposite sex, or kept hair past shoulder length, or tried to learn his parents’ mother tongue, instead of speaking in English to them. So I don’t see why I wouldn’t again. If someone told me to lose weight though before they’d date me, or marry me, when I’m not overweight but say they wanted a more slender figure to hold, then I’d be offended & outraged. Especially if they didn’t have a perfect bod either.

  5. PMFoutofwater says:

    Beth has just replaced Larry David as my hero. Great post.

  6. That Kind of Girl says:

    Oh Beth Beth Beth Beth Beth. Come here so I can punch you. My major problem with her actions and plan is that they are so short-sighted: if she has such a huge aversion to Ted’s phenotype that she cannot marry him until he slims down, then she is never going to be happy with him. In order for him to make a lasting physical change, he needs to come to terms with the reason he is losing weight and be internally motivated. Partners can serve as our greatest fans and supporters when we are going through major life changes, but they cannot be the reason that we change. The situation is not sustainable.

    Weight loss is hard. Like, really hard. The average dieter gains back 107% of the weight lost; this is because weight loss isn’t a technical issue (eat less, exercise more, and -poof!- there you go. It’s a complex emotional issue that has some pretty powerful internal forces fighting against your success. Before you can deal with the issue in any sort of a lasting manner, you need to do some serious emotional heavy-lifting to identify those forces, figure out how and why you’re sabotaging yourself, and accept that because of the physical/chemical nature of the beast, there are going to be set-backs.

    This is seriously intense emotional work that can only be undertaken with self-examination, boatloads of perseverance, and unconditional support (plus a commitment to kicking your own ass basically every single day.) And from the way this situation sounds? Beth wasn’t giving Ted the kind of emotional support that would be successful. Instead, she was just putting even more pressure on the inevitable failures and setbacks to weight loss that are already friggin’ tough enough to deal with!

    Anyway, as for me, I wouldn’t make any sort of a superficial change just because my partner asked me to. Of course not. However, I would be willing to accept my partner’s support (not an ultimatum! just support!) to make some superficial/physical goal I already had more of a priority.

    Like, for example, I’m a smoker, an I’m of two minds about being a smoker: I enjoy it for a number of reasons, but I also realize it’s killing me. Right now, quitting smoking isn’t at the top of my very long list of priorities. But if the man I loved told me that it was extremely important to him that I channel much more of my energy into quitting, and he was supportive and firm, but not pushy or abusive about seeing that this goal came to fruition? I’d push myself harder than I would on my own to make sure it got done.

    (Whoops, sorry for blogjacking with this extremely long reply. I guess this story touched more of a nerve than I realized.)

  7. Analytical Diva says:

    Here’s the thing: how can you accept someone’s proposal if you’re unhappy with something about them? Especially something that seems pretty superficial. I just think it’s sad to want to change something about someone you love. If you’re going to be honest, do it in private, talk, whatever. But to be put on blast? Yikes!

  8. LittleMissAngry says:

    take me as i am. don’t think i can change for anyone superficial or not. also, i’ve learnt the problem starts when we start trying to change the other.

  9. grad student says:

    –That kind of girl: hehe. I too posted quite a lengthy comment. I think we each had ‘touched nerves’ on this one. An interesting follow-up, my wife’s first hubby was a smoker (and a number of other things, but that is a different post completely). Anyway, she had told herself she would never DATE (let alone marry) a smoker again. Well, I was a 2-pack a dayer (more if I had insomnia or worked OT). But she love me; she was supportive when I tried to quit (and tried and tried and tried). But she never issued ultimatums, just concern when I had coughing fits or couldn’t be as active as I wanted. One day, I finally quit. Finished a pack and have never bought a cigarette since. Nor any other tobacco of any sort. Nor used any or bummed any from someone. Just quit, tobacco free. Because I wanted to, no ultimatums.

  10. AF says:

    I voted “other” because it is such a huge and variable question. In the circumstances as stated in your post, maybe the answer should be “no”, but then it kinda depends what their previous converstion(s) might have been on the subject. Maybe he was nuts on her and she loved him, but just couldn’t stomach looking his fat ass and he knew full well if he didn’t change his lifestyle he was going to die in ten years time or so. Do you see what I mean here? It depends entirely on what the complaint is and how justified the subject feels about that complaint.

    Look, supposing I was going “steady” with this gorgeous girl and we were pretty serious about each other and then I developed something like GERD (google it if you don’t know what it is). It can be a very embarrassing condition and has side effects, one of which is often disgusting breath at times and, if this girl said I had to fix it (which is usually possible though not always easy) and I agreed but didn’t, then I’d expect and deserve an ultimatum, wouldn’t you agree?

  11. grad student says:

    AF… again, your first paragraph tells the story. IF she couldn’t stomach looking at ‘his fat ass’ then why accept the proposal? And, if it is truly a health issue, the comment ‘not walking down the aisle with him until he slims down’ tells me it is likely the first and not the health issue. And, whatever the issue, the fact that she made such an announcement to a bunch of people he didn’t really know, pure disrespect.

    And, your GERD question… well, no. NO one has the right to give an ultimatum. But, beyond that, it comes down to one question (for her): Does my embarrassment or dislike of the GERD and breath outweigh my feelings for this guy? That’s it. And again, what if you married said girl. She later packs on weight. Say, going from size 6 to size 14. Not “Biggest Loser” big, but heavy. Do you say “Lose the weight or lose me”? And, if you do, I wonder how folks (especially women) would feel about it?

  12. AF says:

    @grad student: Firstly, you appear to read what you expect to see rather than what’s written. Nevertheless. you’re entitled to your opinion, as I am mine, but my immediate reaction to your comments is that you might need a bit of a reality check. Still, I think I should point out that we are talking here about a relationship that’s in relatively early stages and not got as far as actually “walking down the aisle” as you quaintly put it. In the example, she might have said “no” and he asked “why?” – what’s wrong with her telling him and then giving him the assistance he’s asked for in the form of a “push” – if that’s what happened (and we don’t know about any of that)? I agree with your point about telling a bunch of strangers, but that wasn’t the question in the poll.

    However, in spite of the fact that this was not the topic under discussion, even in a very long term and well developed relationship, sexual attraction is almost ALWAYS a part of it (however small a part) and EVEN as far down the road that you suggest, if I’d let myself go that much I’d at least want to be told. Furthermore, there is no need for MOST people to “pack on weight” as you call it and there’s no goddam excuse for it – male or female – unless they have a medical condition. If it doesn’t matter to them and their partner then fine, but it’s JUST AS FINE if it does matter too.

    You’re joking of course – you must be! OF COURSE people have the RIGHT to give an ultimatum!!! YOU, or I, or any of us, have an equal right to ignore it! You may think that the attitude of “I’m me and if you don’t like it **** off” is OK – it’s certainly your right – but you shouldn’t be surprised if people decide to do just that and you find yourself very lonely!

    Later on, in an established relationship, if you don’t care about your appearance or your partner’s view of you and your partner is upset by your arrogant disregard for them and their sensibilities (if they care about that sort of thing), then you might reasonably expect that, if you have THAT LITTLE RESPECT and concern for both them and for yourself, love you or not, they may indeed one day decide to walk, because you must presumably no longer be the person they fell in love with – either physically or personality-wise.

  13. sddave says:

    I think all of this “punch Beth in the face” or “lose the weight and then dump her at the altar” talk is short-sighted. Ted should lose the weight, marry sweet, compassionate Beth, knock her up, and then get big as a house. Sure you’d ruin your health and live in misery, but that’d teach her a lesson!

    Seriously, Beth was way out of line announcing their weight-loss goal to friends. Humiliating your fiance in public is not the most heart-warming display of love. I can, however, see two people agreeing on a goal and working toward it together, but to blurt it out? Tsk tsk Beth.

  14. AoC Johnny says:

    If I was looking for some guidance in self improvement Then its no big deal

    If it is something that I define myself with than HELL NO.

    Also if I needed someone to change something to walk down the aisle then I need to seriously ask myself why I just don’t go get what I really want!

  15. trilady says:

    I selected other.

    First: in terms of Beth’s announcement… how horrifying! I think she was completely out of line. I can’t believe Ted TOOK that. I wouldn’t accept those terms, and if someone said that about me, I’d walk out.

    Other: I think the range is huge. If I was sedentary, and my SO was concerned about my **health**, and asked me to go on a evening walk (or whatever) with him, and said he was worried about my heart health/cholesterol/blood pressure, whatever, that would be reasonable. Heck, my mom makes sure my dad exercises frequently and eats healthy; he had angioplasty! That’s not minor.

    If my SO told me he wouldn’t marry me unless I slimmed down, (for purely aesthetic reasons), I’d tell him I wouldn’t marry him. Other things, like style of dress, are ridiculous to have as deal-breakers. (If my SO said he thought it was sexy when I wore [insert clothes/shoes], I’d probably wear it on occasion, but… I am who I am.

  16. Hypatia says:

    Nope! I think trying to change someone is an exercise in futility and frustration. Plus, I don’t think I’m perfect, but I wouldn’t want anyone to try and change me. I’d want to give my partner that same courtesy.

    HOWEVER, if I found something truly objectionable about a partner (*sigh* as I’m going through right now with Mr.2Young and his grammar/spelling issues) I’d have to determine whether or not this is a deal-breaker or something I can live with. It’s not about HIM not being “good enough” or having to change for me… it’s about whether or not I can change MY attitude about a character trait I find objectionable.

    After all… the only person you have control over is yourself.

  17. AF says:

    @ Hypatia: I couldn’t agree more. Absolutely right. Of course some people want to be changed because they don’t like themselves anyway, but do leopards ever really change their spots? Not often in the real world.

    You’re totally right anyway because what you or I might think is bad, or good for that matter, someone else might love, or hate (in the same order). We are what we are and we want what we want – end of story.

  18. Mister G.A.G. says:

    Ah, potential. I hate that word in romance!

    Once, a guy wrote me a long list of things he promised he would and wouldn’t do if we got together. When I asked him why he was talking as if we were already dating, he replied that he likes me a lot because I have lots of … you guessed it … potential.

    3 weeks later, he got himself a boyfriend and both flew to Istanbul, Turkey to meet for the first time.

    3 weeks later, he dumped the guy and totally ruined his life after having talked him into transferring aviation school and moving all the way from Belgium to Texas to be with him. I guess the Belgian guy’s potential faded, just like mine did at the time. hehe

    Simone is right, take the guy or gal as they are, as a whole. However, if your partner is subtle enough to, for example, drag you to the gym with them so that you lose weight without bluntly asking you to slim down, then i say KUDOS!

    Good to be back on here :)

  19. Adrianne Darling says:

    I agree with many here that it is inappropriate to ask for major changes, but what about minor ones? This is slightly off-topic, but I was just thinking about it before I read this entry — should I / how can I suggest that my partner make a MINOR change in appearance?

    I despise my boyfriend’s haircut. It is unflattering and unsexy and far too long. I would really really like him to try a specific haircut and grow sideburns. I’d like to approach him with this (not by saying that I hate the current cut, but by mentioning how much I’d love the new one). I plan to offer that I will make his chosen change of a similar scale and nature (which will probably mean a Wax, more painful than a haircut, but an acceptable sacrifice …) And if he tries it and later hates the cut, I will understand and let the issue go.

    So to you hard-line “love means never asking for a change” types, would this be acceptable? I don’t love him less, but I am finding that this cut makes him look far less sexy.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I would say maybe. I understand the situation you spoke of and I think its pretty rude that she flat out said that in public to people they know. However, you don’t know the guys story. Maybe its something he wanted as well. Love is about compromising, not specifically changing for each other. Maybe this was part of their compromise and maybe there was something she had to compromise in the relationship to make them happy together.

  21. Simone Grant says:

    I’m with you on this one. I will absolutely make changes/cater to the likes and dislikes of a person I care about. But not as an ultimatum.
    This was a job I had back in college. I know they got married, but lost track of them after that. ???
    -grad student
    I’d agree with you that it’s rather complex. She was being rather disrespectful of his to call him out that was in front of her co-workers, and that just makes the situation more complicated.
    You bring out a good point, I don’t think she meant to come off as condescending. How many times do we all say things in jest that come off as harsh… Oh, being human is so hard sometimes.
    We all need heroes :-)
    -That Kind of Girl
    There’s no need to apologize at all. You made some excellent points. I’d agree that while support from the people you love can be invaluable, a person needs to do these things for themselves to be truly successful in the long run.
    You seem to be in the majority with your other. And since not all change is the same, that makes sense. I just can’t imagine I’d ever respond positively to ultimatum.
    I’d imagine that I would have reacted differently if Ted mentioned the weight loss goal instead of Beth. Very differently.
    -AoC Johnny
    To your last point, Beth certainly wouldn’t be the first woman to grab hold of the first guy who showed interest because she wanted to get married. For some women, getting down the aisle by the time they’re 30 is really all that matters. Sad, but true.
    Yep, the range is huge. And some changes are easier to make than others. Some things matter more. But aren’t we all are who we are?
    How true, the only person we can control is ourselves. I’ve been trying to teach myself that. And it’s hard. Because no one will ever be exactly who we want and need 100% of the time. Nor will they change. We have to change.
    -Mister G.A.G.
    Welcome back. Yeah, potential sucks. I wish I could just abolish the concept.
    -Adrianne Darling
    Welcome to the blog. I’m afraid I’m not one of those “experts” who likes to pretend she knows what’s best for other people. I’m just out here stumbling around, making my own mistakes. If I were in that situation (and I have been – dated a guy with a full beard, which I HATED) I’d come right out and say that I’ve always hated _____ but I like him so much it doesn’t bother me. (Which is what I did. And a couple of days later he shaved.) Good luck.
    You’re right. We only know one side. And maybe it was something he wanted for himself and it was her, very bossy, way of encouraging him. And maybe she was giving something too. I hope that’s the way it was.

  22. klawless says:

    I’m completely with OneDateWonder and some of your other commenters on this one. Changes yes. Ultimatums, disrespect, potential and bullying no. Preferences acceptable. Unconditional love (both ways)… worth waiting for.

    (how’s that for trying to be brief? Of course, I had to spill my guts on the topic on my own blog. It’s one of my soap box issues, I’m afraid :)

    Great post/topic Simone.

  23. Simone Grant says:

    Thanks and YES. Some things are worth waiting for – unconditional love being on the top of the list. Hopping over to your blog now for your post.

  24. dmfontana says:

    I don’t even know where to start with this … but the bottom line is Ted should have just walked away.