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


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).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 21

    Evan, sounds like your past experience was part of the journey of appreciating and valueing what you have now. You needed to go through it, to understand it. Some folk seem to get it straight away and have fulfilling relationships from the get go. Others struggle and keep getting hurt. It really  is about the inner journey. Thanks for a great blog.

  2. 22
    Ms. Trace

    Sometimes “just knowing” is really wishful thinking in disguise. You may “just know”, but I bet you anything that there was still a small voice inside that told you otherwise.   You might not have been certain that you should marry your wife, but there was another part of you that probably “just knew”.  

    Now having said that, what makes you sure you will stay married? what if you divorced 5 years from now? Would your “just knew” feeling be wrong? After all, wasn’t your wife certain of her first husband?  

    Divorce is pretty common and you can’t blame it all on the fact that people chose chemistry over compatibility. Marriages have also fallen apart because there was compatibility, but no chemistry.   

    Why not give your readers a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt? We’re not all so out of touch that we all mistaken “chemistry” for true love.

  3. 23

    Thank you for more gracefully wording what I was trying to convey. I am not trying to change anyone, nor should anyone be in a relationship to change anyone. The improvement comes from learning positive (and negatives) about someone and yourself. If I want a fix ‘er upper, I’ll buy a house. Not interested in changing someone.
    As I said, I don’t accept everything about my fiance’ and his behavior/lifestyle. I am also on a journey to find out if he and what he brings to the table is what I want and is good enough on balance.
    Evan is right. You have to accept your relationship for what it is – benefits and limitations. Just like you accept people.
    To each his own and good luck to us all.

  4. 24

    While I think we should accept peole for who they are, it’s a little too self-indulgent for me to say “Hey, this is who I am, the good and the bad, and if you *really* loved me, you’d just put up with the bad”. There is a fine line between wanting someone to accept who you are and be there for when you aren’t your prettiest vs. walking all over someone in order to get your needs met first because of “this is who I am mentality”. It’s easy to over abuse this kind of standpoint in the name of who we are and making our partners compensate for where we lack. It’s a balancing act. So in theory the “accept me for who I am” has good merit but it also has the ability to be dangerous, harmful and hurtful because it can be used an escape to not better ourselves.

  5. 25

    I agree w/ JerseyGirl.

  6. 26
    Charlotte Jay

    Love this article!   I definately needed to hear this.   Compatibility and whether you two make each other laugh and a give/take relationship is so important!   More than just attraction. Attraction is great and is important but someone who “gets you” is priceless.

  7. 27

    I think the word “knowing” just means “deciding” someone is for you. Sometimes you’re wrong and sometimes you just make abetter decision.

  8. 28

    I met a man online. The first date was nothing to write home about, he’s nice but rather frumpy..but a great smile and amazing eyes. Even though there was no chemistry to speak of on the first date I decided to give this a chance…the fact he made me laugh was a good start. Second date, we did nothing special, hung out and talked, looked at art, saw a movie. I started to feel a little something. There was a brief, not entirely interesting kiss, at the end of the date. Third date, yes we’re only on the third date, and this frumpy, open, honest, funny man, has me all twisted up. The chemistry on the third date was so intense for me I am questioning if this is even possible, right, or healthy for me. Still figuring that out for myself. The main issue I have with “chemistry” is that is can get in the way of cultivating a real connection/compatibility. Because of this I am a bit on guard to see how things unfold here. In the meantime I will try to relax and have fun…especially since my last relationship had neither chemistry nor compatibility.

  9. 29

    So it’s not all like a fairytale ending!

    Ive been in relationships that felt like a fairytale ending and they didn’t work out….this feels so different, it’s nice to read it’s not all about the knowing straight away, the fact I feel nice in someone’s company, they say nice things, we only have to look at each other and we smile and have fun together – it’s these things I don’t want to loose from my best friend.

  10. 30

    Hi Evan.

    Thank you so much for all the effort you put into writing these articles. This one was so apt to my situation.   I am back in  the same  relationship the second time around. We were together for 5 years and I ended up leaving because I never fully accepted him for who he was. After reading this blog and all the comments I’ve come to realise how selfish and unreasonable I was, contributed to by commitment phobia. All this talk about alpha males.. Well I have an alpha male who is not only handsome, assertive, decisive and ambitious, he is also sensitive and caring and he adores me. The problem was that I am an intellectual and I work in a professional corporate environment while he works with labourers at a chemical plant, often participating in labour himself. I always pictured myself with an accountant or similar, not with someone who frequently works in an overall. He is intelligent and has loads of common sense but he’s not intellectual. I overlooked all his wonderful qualities because I felt I was missing out on being able to have deep philosophical discussions with him.  So while it was the   best relationship of my life, I couldn’t accept that I was going to end up marrying someone who wasn’t at all who I expected myself to end up with. So every time he brought up marriage I panicked and pulled away. Also, after 5 years, the chemistry had faded a bit, as it does, but I had this idea that I would not settle for less than a 10 in all areas, even though I was more like a 6 myself.

    When he got a job in another town, we separated for about 8 months, I had a rebound with someone who was his opposite (very intellectual). We had amazing chemistry but he pushed every button I had and we ended up having massive fights. Then I called it off and found myself back on the Johannesburg dating scene at   37. Every meet-up I went to consisted of two thirds of successful, beautiful, strong women who were all single and struggling, like your readers, to find a man who met their standards. The men I met were interested in casual dating and nothing serious. One of them pursued me by tracking me down on Linked in and then disappeared the moment I showed interest. It felt very familiar to me (story of my 20’s).

    All this time my ex was waiting for me in the wings to come back to him because unlike me, he  knew that I was the one for him. He just knew. I started reading your blog in January and I’ve really been paying attention. I have realised that I am incredibly privileged to have a man like this and that I never appreciated it before. I am now doing exactly what your wife suggested in her article – letting the unimportant things go. Our relationship is everything that you say a relationship should be and I didn’t have to change who I was, I just had to change my expectations and start realising how lucky I was. We don’t always appreciate what we have when, as you said, we are chasing novelty.

    Your post on acceptance really struck a chord with me. It’s SO important for two people in a relationship to accept each other, warts and all. I have always had that from my partner,  and thanks to all your advice, I am now finally able to accept him in return. I know I sound like a terrible, selfish, shallow  woman who doesn’t deserve to be loved so much, but there are men out there who can see through all your issues to your good qualities and for those good qualities they will stick around. So thank y0u so much for your advice Evan. It’s really helping me this time around. I just wish I could get my friend to read your blog because she’s also with a man who she’s constantly trying to change and it’s causing so much drama in her life.

  11. 31

    ‘Chemistry’ is, while somewhat important, still just a superficial attraction.

    You will need someone who fulfills you emotionally as well as spiritually, just by being who they are.
    The one who is right for you may or may not  achieve this effortlessly……but you WILL know.
    And then you’ll realise that all your previous infatuations and feelings of love, were based on something different than you thought.

    It will be someone with similar values, and similar life goals – not neccesarily someone with common interests, although you will probably naturally share some, because you match emotionally and spiritually.

    You will communicate with ease, even on the tough topics, and you will accept each other for everything you are, and work together towards a happy life together.
    You will put emphasis on making each other happy, and not focus on what YOU want.
    And it will come naturally, because you share an emotional bond and want similar things in life.

    All of your checklist demands will be null and void when you realise.
    You may try to fight it, because of what you think you want and need – which are often really stupid things.
    And you can stick to your guns, and jump from one failing relationship to the next, for eternity.

    My woman soothes me and nourishes me, just by being.
    By standards no supermodel, and not a girl I would turn to look at if she passed me in the street.
    But her soul shines so brightly with love and kindness, and fills my heart and soul with emotions of love, just by being who she is.
    And that makes her the most beautiful girl in the world.

    She’s 12 years younger, and we met by chance……or maybe by fate…..I don’t know.
    As I got to know her, the emotional attraction just became stronger and stronger – and I just knew.
    Was quite a challenge winning her over though, and she initially rejected my advances repeatedly.
    No doubt, the age gap was a big deal to her.
    And me being a  divorcée with a couple of teenage kids didn’t exactly make it easy for her either.
    But I kept going, because I couldn’t even find myself attracted to anyone else.
    I tried many times to let her go and date other women, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
    And  as our friendship grew, she gradually let her guards down, as she began to realise that the image of what she wanted, that she had created in her mind, was absolutely worthless.

    But we’re happily married now, and we have a son.
    Everything is bliss, and pretty much effortless.
    Disagreements are handled easily and gracefully, because the relationship has a solid foundation in ‘belonging together’.
    And by putting emphasis on nurturing the relationshp, instead of selfish goals and the flaws of the other person, we’re building something rock solid.

    So… may not know right away, but at some point you will.
    And it will be very different from all the other times ‘you knew’.

    All that is required is that you close your eyes, and open your heart and connect emotionally.
    What you need is probably very different from what you think you want – as we both came to realise.

  12. 32

    My problem is the guy  who makes me feel comfortable in all those ways you suggested isn’t attractive to me. And therefore I don’t accept HIM as he is. Isn’t that a shame?

    I  rarely meet a guy I love warts and all, and when I do, he is ALWAYS  uninterested in me. Sigh. I’ve bee. Single far too long….

Leave a Reply

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