Am I Being Unrealistic About Relationships?

Am I Being Unrealistic About Relationships?
Hi Evan. First I wanted to thank you for creating a fantastic forum for dating enlightenment and for changing the way I view relationships. Here’s my question: I have met what most of your readers would call the man of our collective dreams. Absolutely gorgeous, smart, highly educated and very passionate about his job, which pays very well and is stable. He has a wonderful masculine energy but also a very sensitive and romantic side. He is madly in love with me and we have had a wonderful relationship that has lasted just over two years. He tells me he loves me many times a day, showers me with kisses, his family welcomes me, and he makes it very clear every day he wants to be with me for the rest of his life.

Here’s the rub: he’s not as charismatic as I would ideally want. He listens attentively and communicates clearly, but we lack the verbal banter that I find such a turn-on. We do have fun, but I find sometimes I meet people whom I “click with” verbally. I’m still young and eligible. Should I keep looking for someone who perhaps lacks his many blessings, but that can make me laugh more, or am I just being unrealistic, and that after multiple years of being together, conversations just get a little duller?


Dear Sam,

I don’t think you’re being unrealistic about relationships.

When you have a 20, you don’t take another card and hope for an ace. Chances are, you’re gonna bust.

I think, if anything, you’re being completely clear-eyed and realistic.

You realize that you’ve got a winner on your hands.

Your description of your boyfriend would make any woman want to swap positions with you in a heartbeat: gorgeous, smart, educated, passionate, stable, successful, masculine, sensitive, romantic, family-oriented, devoted.

A few readers probably had an orgasm just by reading that.

This does not mean you have to marry him.

It does mean you should think twice before tossing him away.

The only reason breaking up wouldn’t be a devastating decision is because you’re young. And if you have ten more years to date, I’m confident you will find true love again.

But even that relationship might not be as healthy as what you have now.

Put it this way: your description of your partner is a laundry list of the perfect guy and you know it.

But you want more – you want charisma, butterflies and sparkling dialogue straight of a romantic comedy. Since you’ve felt this before, you ask the very reasonable question: why not? Why can’t I get the same exact guy with just one more great quality: charisma?

I wrote about this phenomenon in my 2nd book, Why You’re Still Single in a chapter called, “Hitting on 20”. It’s a basic blackjack metaphor that says when you have a 20, you don’t take another card and hope for an ace. Chances are, you’re gonna bust.

Your boyfriend is a clear 20 and a half and you’re trying to incrementally improve on a relationship that’s pretty close to perfect. This is not to say that your boyfriend couldn’t be more compelling if he were a world class raconteur, flirt and wit. This is to say that a man with those qualities might not be as kind, devoted and loyal as your current boyfriend. And it’s also fair to suggest that even if you find a guy with whom you have crackling banter, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the safe, fun, nurturing thing you have with this guy.

Your boyfriend is a clear 20 and a half and you’re trying to incrementally improve on a relationship that’s pretty close to perfect. Smart gamblers stick on 20.

I predict that if you break up with him, you’ll go out with a bunch of tools – like most single women do – until you find a guy who makes you sizzle.

Once you get that sizzling guy, you’ll discover that while he has one advantage over your ex, there are five things he DOESN’T have.

So you gained one quality – charisma – and lost something that’s a lot more important when you’re talking about a 40 year relationship.

From time to time, I still meet women who remind me of that mythical kind of chemistry. The difference between you and me is that I have enough experience to appreciate my wife for what she is, instead of wishing she were someone that she’s not.

Eventually, the chemistry dies down and love becomes a choice. A commitment to the commitment. You don’t have new stories to tell at every meal. You’ve seen every inch of each others’ bodies. You’ve reached a level of safe and predictable consistency. You can certainly break that up to find something more exciting.

Just know that where you are right now is where all GOOD relationships end up. If you want to take a risk, just know that you’re either going to have years turmoil before you find this again OR you may never find this again – not in the same package, anyway.

Smart gamblers stick on 20.

Join our conversation (108 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Wow. My current guy has only seven of the qualities Evan mentioned (gorgeous, smart, passionate, masculine, sensitive, romantic, devoted) and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. I don’t think I’ve ever dated anyone with all of these 11 qualities, and she wants 12? I can see her next post: “Evan, I’ve met a guy who is gorgeous, smart, educated, witty, stable, successful, masculine, sensitive, romantic, family-oriented, devoted, but he lacks the passion I require.” Then her next one will be “Evan, I’ve met a guy who is witty, smart, educated, passionate, stable, successful, masculine, sensitive, romantic, family-oriented, devoted, but he lacks the physique I require.” I suspect someone like her will never be happy, no matter who the man.

  2. 2

    Yep, dated really charismatic, funny, masculine, passionate, educated, successful and attractive guy with a great career and “lost of money”. Fact is he was consistent in our relationship, but intimacy, love and above all loyalty were words he didn’t know. Oftentimes I would cry myself to sleep wandering if he was with some other. I’d swap loyalty over charisma.

  3. 3

    Evan, I could not agree more. Sam, I’d add one thing (and I know Goldie and amy among others disagree): the “verbal banter” that you find “such a turn-on” is just not that important to a marriage. How do I know? Because I used to be a sucker for verbal banter myself, and still am. When hub and I were young, we had those kinds of conversations all the time (not witty, but deep and philosophical). But that has a way of disappearing when you have kids and a busy life together, and you have to have other elements holding the relationship together down the years. Affection, a shared sense of humor, willingness to let each other off the hook for minor slights, kindness.

    I’m not too sure much else matters. You describe this man as being the man of all women’s collective dreams, but honestly, the looks don’t matter much, nor does the excessive education or showers of kisses. That he is sensitive is good, as long as you mean sensitive to your feelings and not just his own. That his family loves you and that he has a stable job are terrific. Does he have those other characteristics: kindness, a sense of humor, and easygoingness? That matters a lot more.

  4. 4

    Standard advice given to girls like Sam:

    “Sam, never settle for anything less than everything you want in a man!!! You DESERVE the most absolutely perfect man. Don’t worry, Prince Charming is right around the corner. He can be the very next online dating profile. He’ll sweep down on his white horse to whisk you away to a life of bliss, affluence, and healthy babies! You go grrl!”

    Then, Evan steps up to the podium and tells Sam the real deal. He gets the golf clap for that.

  5. 5

    two years later and she wants rom-com banter and butterflies? Oh, brother….

  6. 6


  7. 7


    Are you sure you just aren’t bored? “Charisma” and “witty banter” just sound like you need entertainment. I actually prefer my guys not to be so charismatic, because I find them to be more flighty and sometimes bordering on obnoxious.

    I also think there was a fact in Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him” (Evan, did you tell Lori this?) that the average happily married woman can name 10 “flaws” with her partner. None of which are actual flaws, such as “he is abusive”, but things like “could be wittier”.

    I do agree one should live without regrets, so if your preference is to see what life is like with someone else, go for it. I just don’t think you’d write to an advice columnist if you thought you wouldn’t have regrets… I think your letter would have said “I met Mr. Wonderful but I’m only (age) and don’t feel ready to settle down yet. Would it be stupid to break this off to pursue career/adventure/excitement?” Instead, you wrote “I’m dating Mr. Wonderful, do you think if I break it off I will find Mr. Wonderful +”. I LOVED Evan’s blackjack analogy.

  8. 8

    A quote a friend once sent me, “Never leave someone good in order to find someone better, because once you realize you had the best, the best will have found better.”

  9. 9
    Lemon Zest

    Is witty banter even a realistic expectation?

  10. 10

    Totally agree with Evan. Weren’t we all told at some point that there it’s no such thing as the textbook perfect person? Relationships require a level of sacrifice. I’m sure you have qualities that he might find to be less than ideal so don’t be so quick to leave such a wonderful man. There aren’t masses of good men and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Besides, imagine you have children someday. Are you just going to put a child up for adoption because it doesn’t fit what you would like?

    This isn’t a fairytale and Prince Charming is generally unrealistic. Appreciate the exceptional qualities that you find in your man and don’t focus on what you wish he had instead.

  11. 11

    Is humor in general lacking from the relationship? That’s the thing I wonder about from her letter. It’s one thing to obsess over a lack of wittiness (which isn’t that important), but it’s quite another to spend a lifetime with someone who doesn’t inspire laughter and joy. Having “fun” together may, or may not, indicate the presence of laughter and joy. So, if those qualities are truly missing, then perhaps she needs to reconsider. However, if it’s just about witty banter, I seriously hope she can find a few friends to banter with, and get over the need for rom-com perfection.

    1. 11.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Nathan – Sounds to me like she’s been perfectly content with this guy for a long time. It’s just that there are other men in the universe who are funnier/more charismatic. And to flip it around, Sam, do you think there are other women who are more attractive than you? What would you say if your boyfriend said that he questioned your relationship every time he met a hotter woman? You think he should pursue those options? Somehow, I doubt it…

  12. 12

    Sam, if you leave this guy, you will be sorry. It happened to me, three years ago. I met a guy who was shorter, younger, and alot more quiet than I really liked. I really tried hard to make the relationship work, but for whatever reason, despite that, I wanted out, and I did get out. And what happened next were almost three years of heartaches. Oh I found my taller, more witty, more talkative types. One broke my heart, not intentionally, he had his own issues to settle and I had to let him fade away. And one became verbally abusive.

    Flash forward some time, and I meet my guy. Tall, rather handsome with beautiful blue eyes (OK he needs to lose a few pounds but who doesn’t when we’re in our later 30s, ha). Extremely smart (MBA and has a great job with the federal government), romantic, caring, mostly pretty darn thoughtful. My friends and family adore him. He stood by my side during emergency surgery, and has supported me during my Mom’s battle with cancer, held me as I’ve cried my eyes out too many times to count. He is patient and kind and just great. Do I wish he’d read more? Yes. Do I wish that a couple of other small details were different? Yes. But I am not about to toss this guy overboard. I’ve learned and learned well, that it’s better to keep a good man who loves you and wants to make things work. Chasing after a guy who has it “all” is going to break your heart. Been there, done that, got the bumps and bruises and hurts to prove it.

  13. 13

    Forget ‘witty’. I had hoards of guys coming onto me and taking me on dates. I use to shift them by choosing on the witty ones. Ill tell you something about witty guys. A lot of them have pocker faces and are more focused on their views but yours. I refused to marry a guy a whilke back because he wasn’t witty. He should have looked at his other qualities. Don’t make the mistake I did.

  14. 14

    If verbal banter is such a turn on for you, how is it that you are with this guy two years later instead of one of the funny fellows in your past? Did you find charisma is sometimes accompanied by other undesirable traits?

    If you thought this guy was dull as dirt, or a terrible communicator your dissatisfaction would be understandable – but your complaint is he doesn’t banter with you? Do you have friends you can banter with? I’m guessing you do. Why isn’t that enough? If you want to laugh more, prevent conversation getting dull are you putting any effort towards that, or do you expect him to be the one to entertain you?

    Lack of witty banter seems like a ludicrous reason to end a good relationship to me. You say you’re young – perhaps you are not ready for a permanent relationship and looking for a way out? Give it some thought.

  15. 15

    Wow, my boyfriend is passionate, stable, masculine, sensitive, super-romantic, family-oriented, devoted. He’s also cute and sexy, and although I actually like balding guys, I must admit his dark, slightly curly, ‘superman’ hair is fantastic (it would even get a curl at the front if he didn’t get it cut every 3 weeks). He is passionate and proficient in his hobby, and at work, but he is a high school graduate so it’s not in the corporate world. I have a masters degree, I’m a very smart cookie and I generally hang out with people smarter than me. My ex was smarter than me too. His favourite emotion was anger, and I think the daycare workers are afraid of him. We had intellectually stimulating conversations about science and medicine and politics, but we were a terrible team and I was so lonely. Not only can my new guy articulate a variety of feelings in a healthy way, he ASKS me about MY feelings and expresses his love and affection for me regularly. He has no interest in politics and his spelling’s atrocious. I am a bit of a grammar Nazi (I don’t point out other’s mistakes b/c I know I make mistakes, but I do tend to laugh at them, privately) but I’m not going to dump him b/c there are typos in his love notes. I’m just ecstatic that he writes love notes! He’s an absolute treasure and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. There is nothing greater than feeling loved, supported and accepted.

    Sam, follow Nathan’s advice and find some witty friends, or hang out with them more. You’re two years into your relationship? Any chance you’ve let your friends fall by the wayside? Go do something with them. Go on a road trip with the girls. I bet you will appreciate your guy when you get back.

  16. 16

    Maybe Sam needs to get some entertainment or stimulation outside of the relationship, through learning some new skills, volunteering, or making new friends. I’m guessing if her boyfriend is truly dull as a doorknob, she wouldn’t have made it this far with him. Maybe she should take her boyfriend to a comedy club for some extra laughs. I’m not entirely joking here.

    Finding a wonderful guy who tells you he loves you many times a day, showers you with affection, and wants to marry you, is a man not to be thrown away lightly, no matter how young and eligible one may be. In fact, as Selena said, is it possible that Sam isn’t really mature enough for marriage herself, and she’s picking at her man’s “flaw” as a way out? No one, including Sam, is 100% perfect, not even for another person.

  17. 17

    My advice would be to keep the man for all of his wonderful qualities and then forge some friendships that meet the few other needs you seem to have. No one person will ever meet all of our needs, it’s just to much to ask of another. I have my love and we share so much, but then I have my friends/family/career/hobbies to fill other needs. If he is kind, generous, respectful and honorable, those matter WAAAAY more then a little random banter every now and then.

  18. 18

    Two years is the point by which the first set of attraction hormones have worn off. You probably have a realistic view of him now. The next man will float in on a stimulus of novelty and your judgement will get warped. If you seriously want to settle, review your present options. Don’t chase new ones.

  19. 19

    I pretty much agree with what everyone is saying here, especially if you are in your 30s. You say you are “young and eligible” and I don’t really know what age that is. If that is 24, then maybe you should move on because you may need to lose a great guy to ever appreciate the right guy. At 24 I’m pretty sure my ex broke up with me over something very trivial, but it was his first real relationship. Had he stayed with me he probably would have thought he could have found someone that was great plus that missing thing. I don’t think he has found it yet, but I think he wouldn’t have walked away that easily had he experienced more relationships. As I said I don’t really know your age or how many relationships you’ve had. Now in my 30s I would certainly be happy with someone who has half the things that your guy has.

  20. 20

    It sounds as if she has come down from the romantic high of the honeymoon phase of a relationship. When the neurotransmitters in the brain begin to settle down, it is only human nature to want to seek a new mate that can create the high all over again.

  21. 21

    hehe, she’s obviously very young & most likely never been married. I’m a 40 year old widow. The traits of charisma etc that she is wanting at my age pretty much all boils down to a guy who’s possibly just full of ‘hot air’. Not really traits that will ensure a long & happy relationship. Gee, what ever happened to gratitude?

  22. 22

    “…am I just being unrealistic, and that after multiple years of being together, conversations just get a little duller”

    In fairness to the OP, and to provide a balanced perspective (though not necessarily a solution) I have to say that no, conversations do not necessarily get duller after a few years together. My ex husband had his share of faults, but our verbal/intellectual connection was extremely strong and interesting thoughout our 15 years together, and continues to be so, 8 years after out break-up. He was exasperating, exhausting and insisted on the forks going in the dishwasher “prongs up” (or was it “prongs down”?!) but he was never boring. And I’m sure he would say the same about me. In fact, i would go so far as to say it was this connection that kept us together all that time, despite the other issues that eventually drove us apart.
    Its all a question of what you need to feel happy and alive within your relationship. For some people, security is their top priority, for others its intellectual stimulation, for others its a strong sexual connection. I understand the OPs concern about the lack of a “verbal click” with her otherwise wonderful boyfriend, but its all about asking herself what she’s prepared to give up to achieve it. Sure, she wants it, but does she want it MORE than all the stuff she already has? One thing is certain, there’s basically no “trading up” from her current boyfriend – there is only exchanging one deficiency for others. That may be a trade off she has to make; which is fine as long as she it totally realistic about the fact that it IS going to be a trade -off.

    1. 22.1

      i agree with you one hundred percent. pick your poison is what i usually say. I just want someone who is not clingy, who is my best friend, kind and faithful. If i find someone with more traits than that ill be grateful but those qualities are the non negotiable’s for me and the absolute minimum.

  23. 23

    Can I just add that I think one important consideration is whether the OP is planning to have children soon? Someone like her current boyfriend would make an excellent father, wheras someone like my ex-husband would not. Men who are charismatic, witty, with high levels of intellectual curiosity tend to dislike anything mundane or routine, and can struggle to handle the humdrum nature of daily life that childrearding inevitably brings. Sure, my ex would have been a great dad from the KIDS point of view, teaching them to build a steam engine or understand the solar system or breed butterflies, but as a supportive husband, talking them to get new shoes or visit the dentist or get them ready for school – forget it! Witty banter is a poor substitute for someone prepared to change daipers, get up in the night when a child is sick or be home when he says he will to be at their birthday party.

  24. 24

    totally agree with helene. i had sparkling banter with my ex-boyfriend, but he was totally uninterested in boring things like being on time and making plans that worked with my schedule. if we had had kids, i’m sure he would have planned awesome trips…and never packed a lunch or changed a diaper. charismatic men are awesome, but a lot of them can’t do the consistency thing, and being with them can make you feel really, really lonely. as others are saying, it’s a trade-off, not necessarily a trade-up. that said, if you really don’t get each other’s sense of humor, or don’t really enjoy talking to him– then i think it’s going to be hard to make it work.

  25. 25

    I tend to agree with what helene and nathan have written.

    Sam, you have to decide what you value most. If you dated someone who was perfect in every way, he would also likely be arrogant or taken. For you, is the verbal connection more important than other elements? For me, it is very important and I’ve made concessions in other areas (usually in the looks department) so that this element has been present in my best relationships.

    I would tend to agree with helene that — in general — these verbally gifted guys don’t necessarily make the best fathers, but I don’t think that is true across the board. Some of them are more in touch with their feelings and their “inner child” and therefore make excellent fathers. Everyone is unique and people have all kinds of strengths and weaknesses.

  26. 26

    this is a bit controversial for me…i don’t really think people should settle and if she’s not happy maybe she should move on. i mean would the guy be happy knowing that she just settled for him? then again i’m 30 and still single so maybe don’t listen to me lol.

  27. 27

    i’ve also been told i’m way too picky…but just haven’t found that “connection” i’m looking for.

  28. 28

    I personally think having a verbal click with someone could be more important than him being gorgeous and well-educated and having a good family. I’ve been with those guys who are kind and adoring but with whom there is just not much of a deeper intellectual connection and they were NOT the right guy. I don’t need someone to entertain with witty banter, but I’d like to be on the same wavelength. This woman seems like she struggles with having a guy who meets checklist requirements but may not connect with her on a deeper level … However, she should realize that if she goes in search of a guy she better connects with in that way, she’d better be prepared to be compromising on other traits less important to her.

  29. 29

    “And if you have ten more years to date, I’m confident you will find true love again.”

    I didn’t quite understand this sentence. Is there a time limit on finding true love again? Unless one is terminally ill . . .

    I remember you describing meeting your wife and not rushing, even though you wanted to have kids. And everything happened the way it happened and you’re happy. So why should anyone rush? This reader is definitely hitting on 20 but are you saying it’s okay to hit on 20 if you’re young enough?

    I think she’s taking her chances if she lets this one go. Young or not. Someone good doesn’t always come around ten or even twenty years later. I’m a take the money and run kind of person myself but if Sam isn’t feeling this man or this relationship she isn’t. No matter if she’s 20 or 60.

  30. 30

    I rarely feel compelled to post here but MY GOD how UNGRATEFUL is this woman? The only thing missing is some witter banter? Wow. So many should be so lucky. And trust me, I love intellectual conversation and banter more than most but to have all those other things and give it up for that?

    1. 30.1

      Umm I don’t think you are right about this.  I’ve dated a lot of jerks too and I agree this man seems like a perfect guy many women would love to have except he’s not the perfect guy for her.  She’s not ungrateful she recognizes what she has and is saying this man is wonderful.  Appearances are deceiving and we are on the outside looking in.  What I think is a perfect man you may turn your nose up at,  I would not call you ungrateful?  It’s almost like all these commenters are trying to force this man down this poor woman’s throat because she’s in her 30s he’s the best she’s going to get she’d better hurry up before she shrivels up and has no eggs or is too old and no one wants her or gasps she ends up alone!  So okay let’s say she listens because I’m sure she’s hearing this from all her friends and family too which is why she wrote Evan for a neutral opinion.  All her single friends who can’t find a good man to save their lives.  She listens she marries him against her better judgment against her gut because she can’t articulate it but whatever is supposed to be there it’s just not.  I don’t think it’s banter.  I think when she says charisma it more clearly describes it.   It’s just a feeling.  It cannot be put into words.  It is not chemistry, it is not attraction or physical.  I have had it with female friends with coworkers etc it is just the feeling that someone gets you and you just fit.  You fit on a different level.  That cannot be created and I think many people don’t even realize it’s there except when it’s not you know it.  Ever meet someone and immediately feel comfortable?  Or certain you have known them forever? It comes in different forms for different people but it’s there if anyone that has a good happy relationship thinks about it it’s there, friendships too think about your best friend? Of course you need things Evan mentions and they are important on different levels to different people. Watch couples that have been together for years you will see it.  It’s not lovey dovey.  It has nothing to do with education or jobs or money.  Political views religion, family looks, sex, none of these things, But you need this too. I can’t tell her if she has it, ans neither can you.  She cooks have it with McDreamy or an average looking guy she never thought she would.  But she does not have it with this man and she’s telling people that and no one is hearing this poor girl.   If she marries this man and has children and that connection is not there now it certainly will not be there then!  So she will have appeased her friends, lonely angry women, society, but she will be in a miserable marriage, lonely and he will feel unloved and the children?   Followed by divorce you know the drill.  Ever know women like this?  I’ve know many.  I’m 35 he’s perfect I want kids etc and they are divorced 5 years later and miserable.  The click needs to be there it’s not.  We don’t know why but she’s telling us it’s not.  Being ungrateful would be for her to stay with this man and not allow him to find a woman who loves him fully.  Personally I would rather die alone than be with someone who I am not happy with and I would never want to be in this mans shoes so I would never put a man in those shoes I would respect him enough to leave him.  I disagree with all of you she needs to leave.  Don’t let other people’s opinions, fear,of being alone, or society’s belief of what a perfect man is let you make a decision that does not feel right for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *