How Do You Know When It’s “Right?” It’s Not What You Think…

guy surprising her partner with a gift behind his back

Go on, admit it.

You’ve had one or two “you just know” moments.

If you don’t know what a “you just know” moment is, it’s something like this:

You’re dating a guy and everything is clicking. There’s chemistry, passion, talk of a future — and you say to your friends about your beloved boyfriend:

“You just know when it’s right.”

Six months later, you’re single.

I’m not teasing you about this. I had a “you just know” moment with girlfriends in both 2003 and 2004.

That’s right. I felt connected to both of them. I felt alive when I was around them. I felt that they fully “got” me. I genuinely thought both of them were my soul mates.

I was dead wrong.

If you ever thought that “you just knew,” but life showed you otherwise, you’re in great company. The question remains, however:

CAN you “just know” when it’s right?

SHOULD you “just know” when it’s right?

Do you HAVE to “just know” when it’s right?

These aren’t easy questions to answer.  I’ve written a lot about chemistry vs. compatibility. Both are important components of relationships, as you know. However, most of us mistake chemistry for happiness.

I was talking with one of my former interns yesterday.

However, most of us mistake chemistry for happiness.

She was in a tempestuous ten-month relationship with a man with whom she felt incredible chemistry. And with chemistry pulling her towards him, she never really looked up to notice that her boyfriend wasn’t always very nice to her. He was highly judgmental. He wasn’t a fair fighter. He constantly gave her a hard time. He didn’t support her and love her unconditionally. He never made her feel safe about a future.

Still, she couldn’t help herself. She mistook chemistry for happiness and couldn’t pull herself away for ten long months.

When I look back on my two intense chemistry experiences, I, too, felt that I was happy. After all, my girlfriends were attractive, smart, successful, fun, and came from functional families. They did tell me that they loved me.

Which is why I thought that “I just knew” that it was right.

But I was wrong.  It takes two to tango.  While I may have thought my girlfriends were perfect, they had major problems with me.

One was very jealous of my flirtatious ways.

The other didn’t like my big mouth, my career instability, and my anxiety.

They aren’t wrong. I am a flirt. I do speak before I think. I did struggle with money, and I’m never going to entirely stop being a neurotic Jewish guy.

The “right” man doesn’t leave you.  If he leaves, he is, by definition, the WRONG man.

So did my girlfriends LOVE me? Yes.

Did they ever fully ACCEPT me? No.

Which is why I got dumped both times.

Each time, I was devastated. I wanted to know what I did wrong, how I could change, how I could fix things.

Alas, there was nothing to fix. They simply didn’t want me as I was.  And if your partner doesn’t want you as you are, he’s not really your partner.

If you’ve ever had that feeling — that longing, that wondering, that agonizing — months and months spent beating yourself up for doing absolutely NOTHING wrong, I’m here to give you a break.

The “right” man doesn’t leave you. If he leaves, he is, by definition, the WRONG man.

Thankfully, I got through my pain and realized that in successful relationships, your partner is more than willing to put up with your bad stuff.

I’m delighted to report that my wife DOES want me as I am — flaws and all.

And that’s why she’s my wife — even though I didn’t “just know” that we were right until six months AFTER we were married.

You heard me correctly.

I DIDN’T “just know” that things were right with my wife until AFTER I was married, but I DID just know that I was “just right” with two ex-girlfriends who dumped me.

So much for “just knowing”, huh?

You want to know how to judge a potential life partner?

Find the man who treats you best, the man who makes your life easiest, the man that allows you to comfortably be yourself, flaws and all   – without fear that he’s going to leave you — THAT MAN is the best fit for you.

It is NOT necessarily the man you feel the most chemistry with.

To be clear, I didn’t say to give up chemistry.

I am saying not to be blinded by it, the way you have been in the past — putting up with crappy relationships just because you’re intoxicated by chemistry.

Believe me, I could have walked away from an amazing relationship to find more chemistry, to search for the “you just know” feeling, and to find a greater “challenge” (i.e. a woman who kept me on my toes by treating me worse.)

Instead, I chose to stay and appreciate my wife’s remarkable traits.

What I’ve found was a peace and happiness that transcends anything I’ve ever known.

You can have this, too, as long as you realize you don’t have to “just know.”

Join our conversation (34 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Oy! You don’t know how much I needed to hear this! After being in what I thought was the perfect fun relationship with a man that I consider falls under the Adam Sandler Effect last year, he decided he didn’t want to be in a serious relationship. I did nothing wrong he said and he was right but it still hurt. Your post today helps confirm that even though I did “just know”, he didn’t and that’s okay! I know there is someone even better out there for me. 🙂

  2. 2

    Evan this blog came at the perfect time! But I can’t help it.. I’m so scared. I feel like I just have to know. I can’t relinquish that control especially when everything feels so up in arms. I know what at so many points you felt this way and felt like things were never going to change.  
    But I’m afraid of being in a relationship with someone who I’m bored with or who’s a pushover because I feel like I can only attract guys on both sides of the extreme. I know you can’t and probably should feel that fleeting “euphoria” feeling but it’s like I need to be kept on my toes. Help!

  3. 3

    “And let the church say, AMEN.” Sorry, I am Baptist, but this is sooooo on point! I am dating a man who is truly what Evan writes of above. I wish all of Evan’s clients, family, and friends were able to experience the love I have. I, however, would NEVER have been wise enough to put my own smugness aside and keep this man interested without the help of “Why He Disappeared”. Now, he is in love and talking marriage. That is music to my ears.

  4. 4
    Tiffany Mensah

    I totally concur with this post. I’ve dated men for brief periods who I had intense chemistry with and was so blinded by this that I didn’t look at other things that I should have. Thankfully, the relationships didn’t work out and I was able to work on myself and pinpoint what I want and as Evan said: it’s that guy that gets me and accepts me for me. I can be my neurotic, overnalayzing, doofy, outgoing self without feeling shy. Met a guy who I feel completely comfortable AND he gives me butterfiles. May not be a volcanic chemistry like reaction like I’m used to but you live and you learn…

  5. 5

    Great insight, Evan! I dug this and there’s lots to think about.

  6. 6

    When asked what I’m looking for, I say that I’m looking for, in this order:

    #1 a good guy who is good to me
    #2 a guy whose company I enjoy
    #3 a guy I’m attracted to (or could become attracted to)

    I think that if you keep these three things in mind (in that order), you can end up in a good relationship with someone who is good for you (and you for them).

  7. 7

    It takes quite a long time to find the guy with whom there is that balance between chemistry and compatibility.   There are plenty of guys who would kiss the ground a woman walks on but don’t have the masculine energy of which Evan speaks or just want a woman and they don’t care who.   On the flip side are the narcissists, players, and jerks.   Middle ground.   That’s all we’re asking for.

  8. 8

    Even within middle ground, there is a whole lot of territory. In my last relationship the position of that middle ground kept shifting. It depended on where my girlfriend was at the time.   I think (I know) sometimes I shifted too far to being too pliant, and maybe this turned her off.   On the other hand, she had some pretty specific demands. They caused me to re-examine my lifestyle and choices. In the end I found her perspective was usually pretty sensible (that’s what happens when you date someone smart!) and I would take a steps in that direction, though not always all the way.   I came out of that relationship changed in how I interact with both women and men, and for the better IMO.
    Back to “middle ground.” In a successful relationship the amount of willingness to compromise depends on the situation, and there will be periods of time, especially during times of high stress for her, where the man has to concede to do things the way she wants or the relationship will end, and other times (like during his life trials) where he ought not give an inch and compromise his principles. The thing to remember is to keep all of the topics of conversation in perspective and recognize how important the   principle under discussion really is.
    I almost always organized the dates, but I usually came up with a handful of options for her to choose between;   unless it is something I really love, I surely didn’t want to drag her through something she hated!

  9. 9

    @ InsertPseudnymhere #8,

    Yes, I get that middle ground is a rather vast area of real estate.   I think most recognize we’re speaking here in general terms because everyone’s mileage may vary.   But I was more or less agreeing with what Jackie said in #2 that its seems as though I keep running into the guys at both extremes.   I don’t accept them, as EMK tells us not to do, or at least I don’t as soon as I see what’s really up.

  10. 10

    “However, most of us mistake chemistry for happiness.”

    That is a profound insight that many people never fully grasp.   I know I’m still working on it!

    The brain experiences the “chemistry” of love just like it experiences a drug high.   Hopefully, we learn moderation and that it is not our #1 all-consuming experience in love.   Otherwise, it can completely overwhelm our judgement — just as with substance use.

    I’ve been able to say no to drugs and to drink temperately, but I’ve realized that I am challenged in the arena of balancing chemistry and companionship.   It seems that I either fall on the side of experiencing chemistry strongly or not at all.   I don’t know what all of this means, but I’m hoping that dating, taking things slowly and following EMK’s advice will help.   Thus far, Evan’s advice has been dead on and has saved me from myself on several occasions.

  11. 11

    Why does this have to be either/or? To base a relationship on chemistry alone wont work,  nor will having total compatibility and no attraction. Sexual chemistry is   what makes the difference between  just being friends.  There needs to be balance of both.Most people end up swinging wildly between the two.  You can have both and you should ! They are not mutually exclusive.

  12. 12

    @InsertPsydonymHere is 1000% on point. Acceptance is great, but accepting things (like drug use – even recreational – and things of that ilk) that compromise your values is irresponsible and stupid. I am in a relationship and I DO NOT accept everything about him. I am very judgmental about some of his lifestyle choices and I do wrestle with staying. When you are with someone with whom you genuinely like and care for, but have problems with some of their choices, you lose respect. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a little and that has made him less attractive as husband material.
    I stay because he’s a good person in general and he’s very kind, nurturing and supportive. I am kind, nurturing and supportive, as well, but not of those behaviors I see as childish and pathetic, honestly.
    Relationships are about making each other the best possible person you can be apart and together. Even if the person you thought was ‘the one’ breaks up with you, hopefully you’ll come out of it as a better person because the reason they broke up with you was something that made you realize you needed to grow and grow up. Dating smart and dating smart people will do that.

  13. 13


    “Relationships are about making each other the best possible person you can be apart and together”

    This may have been careless wording on your part, but if you meant it the way it sounds I disagree. Relationships are not about making someone something else.   In a relationship I do have more energy and inspiration and I believe I am a better person, but that is because of *my* experience in the relationship and not because of what my partner does to ‘improve’ me.

    You can’t take on changing someone.   It is up to them to change if they want to and if it is right for them. You *can* hold up a mirror to help them examine and understand themselves. They might use that information to decide to change themselves, and maybe they can ask and receive support from you to help them change but that is the most you can do. You have to look at who they are and decide for yourself if they are right for you more or less as is, warts and all.

  14. 14

    I think that whole “chemistry” thing is way overrated myself.   In my opinion chemistry is exactly what it’s name infers, and that is the chemical reaction inside us that happens when we are with someone new, or falling in love, or infatuated. The thing is that it *always* wears off or at least lessens greatly in its intensity.
    The happiness comes from knowing you are with someone whom you accept with their flaws, yes, but also knowing that you didn’t settle on someone who had flaws you cannot accept.   Sometimes that is a tall order, but worth waiting for.

  15. 15

    Thank you for making this point, you have articulated this better than I ever could have. I had to be on the receiving end of someone trying and wanting to change certain things about me, instead of just making that decision for himself to stay or not based off of my pros and cons. It’s important to know what your “big picture” is (hopefully BEFORE you get decide to get serious with someone) and not get down to nitpicking on the “nice-to-haves”. It’s so easy to push an otherwise wonderful person/potential life partner away that way.

  16. 16

    @ Laine #11,

    There’s this part in Evan’s post, see, where he says quote “to be clear I didn’t say give up chemistry”, and “to not be blinded by it”….see that?   He said it.   He really did!

  17. 17

    @16   Evan said he didn’t know it was right with his wife until he had been married 6 months. If he had compatibility and some chemistry and was attracted, why did it take 6 months? And why did he marry if he wasnt sure? On the other hand Is anyone ever that sure? Allindividuals in  relationships are in a paradigm of moving toward or moving away from each other. This is healthy, nothing is stagnant. And no matter how he sees his relationship now, it will change  with the years and  with the growing of children and each other.

    1. 17.1
      Evan Marc Katz


      You answered your own question. You can have chemistry and compatibility and still not be SURE. I made an educated guess based on many years of dating and dating coaching that I was taking a chance on the right woman. And, following our first real trial together – our miscarriage – I finally felt like I KNEW. However, there is absolutely nothing different about my relationship. It was that I never fully appreciated it with the clarity that it was due.

      The truth is that if you accept your relationship for what it is, it will make you happy. If you constantly second guess it, it will make you miserable. But it’s the same relationship either way.


  18. 18

    You are great I just love reading this blog. I cherish what you always have to
    say as is realistic and does not give us women false hopes.
    Your blog  are absolutic great! Thank you for   help your hard work.

  19. 19

    Wait…How do you accept flaws that make you feel bad just because you love that person? Wouldn’t that make you a push-over? If you flirt with other women, doesn’t that make your wife feel bad? Not because she doesn’t trust you but because it’s disrespectful to her. Are you saying the right person just lets that stuff go and allows you to continue disrespecting her, aka “accepts you for who you are?” Where is the line there?

    1. 19.1

      Leslie, #20: To read the finer points of what Evan thinks about flirting and whether it’s “disrespectful,” read this post.

      “Let’s also distinguish the difference between flirting with intention and flirting without intention.

      Flirting with intention is when you have a stranger on your lap at a party and you ask for a phone number.

      Flirting without intention is when you smile and ask for your waitress’ name. One is inappropriate, the other is benign…. “

  20. 20

    @Leslie #20
    I think the point that Evan’s making (I hope this is what he meant) is that you have to gauge for yourself what that balance is. And it will only come through time and sound evaluation of your own experience and personal thresholds. To “accept a relationship as it is” doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to put up with feeling disrespected or being a doormat for someone. It just means not to delude or lie to yourself. If flirting is a big deal to you and your mate never honors your feelings about it, then you have to “accept” that he’s a flirt (hopefully a harmless one) and then decide for yourself if that’s a deal-breaker for you or if there’s enough there for you to continue to make it work. You never HAVE to stay where you don’t want to be. There will always be a certain amount of risk no matter how SURE you are, no matter how perfect it may seem. In Evan’s case, he saw and felt enough of what he needed to feel to have clearance about his wife and he simply stepped out on faith. Isn’t that what we all do with almost any decision? Sounds like he knew he was already happy with her and knew he could probably continue to be happy with her for the long run based on what he saw in her. He “accepted” what she showed she could bring to the table. Sometimes we don’t get our “sigh of relief” moment until AFTER we make a decision – Yes, even when it comes to choosing a mate. If Evan had kept trying to find reasons to doubt or turn himself away from his wife, he probably wouldn’t have the relationship he has now. I bet he didn’t choose her because he felt constantly disrespected by her. NO one has to “accept” that. I hope all that makes sense. 🙂

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