How to Know If You’re Wasting Time on the Wrong Men

One of the most common things I hear from my clients is this: “I understand that I have to compromise on some things to be in a relationship, but how do I know WHAT I should compromise on?”

If you’ve ever asked yourself the same question, I understand.

There have been a number of times in your past when you thought you met the “right” man…and yet he turned out, like all the others, to be WRONG.

The entire time I was dating my wife, I wasn’t sure whether I was making the right decision.

I wanted to be sure in my heart.
I wanted to feel that sense of blind confidence.
I wanted to “just know” that she was the “right” person for me.

But as you know, there have been a number of times in your past when you thought you met the “right” man…and yet he turned out, like all the others, to be WRONG.

So much for “knowing”.

As a dating coach, I’m constantly working with you to refine your choices – to ensure that you don’t waste time on the wrong men, and learn to invest in the good ones.

It’s not easy. It doesn’t always come naturally. But it has some incredible rewards.

Which is why I want to tell you what REALLY matters in a man…

Yesterday, I was instant messaging an old friend on Facebook. Tami’s a delightful person whom I’ve known since early childhood – attractive, athletic, intelligent, funny, successful, and the mother of two beautiful children.

She also told me that she’s getting divorced.

Her husband cheated on her multiple times – and Tami’s rightfully furious.

She’s questioning the meaning of her entire relationship.
She’s questioning how she’s ever going to find love again in the future.
Most of all, she’s questioning her own judgment, which is the hardest thing to do when you pride yourself on being intelligent and rational.

From what little I learned about Tami and her husband, it seemed clear that she willfully ignored his selfish, narcissistic tendencies because of what came with the rest of the package – cute, smart, successful, etc.

Have you ever done the same thing? I’m betting you have. And I’m betting that you’re a lot better off without that guy than you are with him.

Which brings me to the crux of today’s post: how do you KNOW if someone is a good guy or a bad guy?

For this answer, I want to enlist another story – that of Jean-Dominique Bauby – the former editor of French Elle magazine, who, after suffering from a stroke, became completely paralyzed, except for his left eyelid.

Bauby’s story was immortalized in the movie, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, but it really got me to thinking:

If you had EVERYTHING taken away from you – your body, your job, your whole self-definition – what would you be left with?

You’d be left with your mind.
You’d be left with your heart.
You’d be left with your spirit.
You’d be left with your kindness.
You’d be left with your generosity.
You’d be left with your sense of humor.

Strip away your looks, your home, your career, your money and you’d be left with everything that’s on the INSIDE.

The guy who doesn’t prioritize you now is NEVER going to prioritize you.

So if Tami wants to know where she went wrong in choosing her husband…

…or if you’ve struggled for years to figure out why you choose the wrong men…

Your answer is right here in front of you.

You’ve been investing in the least important qualities.

Looks come and go. Jobs come and go.

Money comes and goes.

What lasts forever is CHARACTER.

I’ve already acknowledged that I’ve dated younger women, smarter women, more successful women, and so on… but I never met a BETTER woman than my wife.

I’m telling you, if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, she’d push me around in a wheelchair for the next 40 years.

That’s what I mean by character.

There are no shortage of impressive men out there who make you tingle every time you think of them – but they’re WORTHLESS if they don’t put YOU first.

So the next time you’re dating a guy, don’t get too sucked in by his charm or his wit or his looks or his money…

Instead, learn to appreciate the guy who does what he says, who says what he means, who makes it clear that you’re a priority to him.

After all, the guy who doesn’t prioritize you now is NEVER going to prioritize you.

Cut him loose and choose the man who loves you for what’s INSIDE.

Because what’s inside never goes away.

What do you think? Am I just a big sap for thinking that character is a better predictor of relationship stability than chemistry? Let me know your thoughts below…

Join our conversation (243 Comments).
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  1. 31

    Of course you’re right Evan.  Chiseled good looks and a fat wallet have nothing on deep quality of character, soul.  Besides, the older I get, I’m finding that a man becomes more attractive the more he gives me his genuine attention.
    But is it really only about assessing them?  I often seem to be questioning my line between ‘I’m incredibly understanding’ and ‘I’m a doormat’.  At what point do we question our own behaviors? 

  2. 32

    @ Dan – pretty sure the post doesn’t say that the woman has to be smothered. Everyone has their own preferences and boundaries, but I think that, if you’re close enough to the woman, interested enough in her as a person, and if communication between you two is good enough, then you can figure our together where to draw the line.
    Using myself as an example, I definitely like to have my space and freedom, and to build a career (kind of have to pay those bills…) I also have family that I need to take care of, so I cannot be with a guy 24/7, and do not require that of him. At the same time, I can tell when I’m not a priority to a man, and that is precisely when he does not respect my time. When he makes weekend plans and cancels at the last minute for no reason other than he’s “not in the mood today”, that means I’m not a priority. When the only way he wants to spend time together is go to my place or his place, eat whatever’s in the fridge, and have sex, that means I am not a priority, because I don’t get to do what I enjoy on my free time – we only get to do what he wants and what takes the least effort. Bottom line, if he is wasting my time in any way, that means I’m not a priority to him. Especially if we are exclusive, because that limits the ways I can spend my time when he’s not around.
    It’s kind of like working at a job where you have to show up at the office at 8:00 every day, and will lose your job if you don’t. But, some days when you show up, the office is closed for no reason and you cannot get hold of anyone to find out what’s going on. Other days, you show up and your boss tells you to go home because he’s got no work for you today. Other days, you come in at 8:00 and sit there till 5:00 doing nothing, but you’re not allowed to leave. Some weeks you get your paycheck, other weeks you don’t, and you cannot tell in advance if you will get paid this week or not… but you’re still required to be there at 8:00 every morning. Clearly, to your employer, you are not a priority. You’re better off leaving this job before you find yourself fired from it.
    So, with your career women, I’m pretty sure that, if you make plans with them well in advance, on a regular basis, to do something together that you both like, don’t flake on them, stay in touch on a regular basis, etc. they will see that you respect their time and will appreciate it.

  3. 33

    I think this advice is really good… however I think that even when you believe you’ve chosen a man with high character – those men can still disappoint you.  My ex-fiance was supposedly the “nicest” guy around (that’s why I chose to be with him), but he ended up cheating on me horribly and leaving me for another woman.
    I would still say that he had good character – but clearly he made poor choices.  I think he suffered partly from “nice-guy syndrome” and he was really good at rationalizing his behavior.
    I still go for the “nice guys” now… I dated an Alpha Male once and good grief – there was chemistry to spare, but he was emotionally unavailable.  I couldn’t fall in love with him.  I tend to fall in love with men who “let me in”. 
    A friend of mine has this acronym she uses when judging men.  It’s called ONES.  O=Opportunity, N=Narcissism, E=Entitlement and S=Satisfaction.  So, a man with low Narcissism and Entitlement, but high Satisfaction is less likely to cheat even when there is high opportunity… and so on and so forth.
    I’ve found it interesting – not sure how accurate it is though!! 🙂

  4. 34

    That’s so true…character does count! What your saying is right because i married a man who did not put me first and at the end after 4 kids still did not put me & the kids first. Its been 3 years that he’s been gone from our lives but i’m still young and don’t want to spend my entire life alone. And I hate the dating game!

  5. 35

    I wonder how people define “making someone a priority”. The devil is always in the details. What’s “making a priority” for one person is “needy” for another. I, for one, get tired quickly of fully grown man acting like babies who need their mommy to wipe their nose when they had a bad day or something, and then when you don’t come running and stop doing whatever it is you were doing (like working for example), you’re “not making them a priority”. I am sure women in general exhibit same behavior even more though.

  6. 36

    Thank you Evan!  This one really hit home for me.  I’ve wasted my youth on the wrong men.  I’m 49 and feel like I’m just starting out sometimes.  After reading your posts, I feel so much more prepared in finding the right person to invest in.    

  7. 37


    This is exactly what I keep telling a gay friend of mine who is in an adulterous, abusive, alcoholic relationship.  The excuses I get are, “But, but, he’s so cuuuuuuuute!  And, and we talk about alot of stuff!”  *insert huge eyeroll here*

    Indeed, character is what counts.  If I think a guy is a liar or a cheat, then he becomes ugly in my eyes, no matter what he looks like on the outside.  My ex husband was good looking but he was an abuser.  Give me a man who has integrity, and character (and boy is that tough to find here in Washington, DC, LOL).  I don’t want some empty and shallow and selfish man just because there’s sparks. 

    I just wish my friend, whom I love dearly but am beyond frustrated with right now, would get this.  And sadly I think it may ruin or end our friendship because I refuse to support adultery or an abusive relationship.

    Thank you for validating what alot of us have thought and felt….

  8. 38

    @Walt.  If it’s a marriage, you are obliged to maintain it whatever happens, certainly for Christian men (women have an opt out for cruelty) and hindus..  If it’s a “long term relationship” then you leave when it stops being entertaining or economically valuable.  If the other party has invested heavily without marriage that is their delusion.

  9. 39

    @Ashley.  Children come first.  Not you.

  10. 40

    @ Peter. This is why I would never date a man with kids.

  11. 41

    @Lysa.  Quite right too if they cannot be your priority too.  I on the other hand am quite happy to marry a woman with children subject to our having relatively traditional family roles.

  12. 42


    Anyone can disappoint you, that’s true.  However, you touched on the real cause of your problem with what you said: You “believed” your ex had high moral character.  Believed is the operative word here.  I’ve found that when people stop putting others on a pedestal when they are in a relationship (especially early on), stop drinking in the hormones and chemicals their body generates (which have this amazing tendency to make people “overlook” things — how many people on drugs think everyone loves them or the opposite when its patently untrue?), and really rationally look at their partner and more importantly their partner’s behavior, REAL character traits quickly become apparent. 

    I’ve had friends think they were with someone of incredible character…but it was a BELIEF system not backed by solid evidence.  In fact, the solid evidence to  the contrary was there but “brushed off” because of their belief.


  13. 43


    Oh, and a point I forgot to make: You said you still believe he has good character but made poor choices.  He made selfish choices and his actions indicate a lack of character and I’d say defending him is self-defeating and a trait that will allow others to treat you this way…I think potentially you may find that you aren’t really dating “nice guys” like you think.  Rather, you are dating men who are lower on the character totem pole that you’ve convinced yourself are otherwise.

    Always remember…ACTIONS are the determining factor in someone’s character.  That your ex ALLOWED himself to make “poor choices” IS his character.  Breaking up with you or leaving you wasn’t the character flaw…but cheating on you and THEN leaving you for this other person is bad character.  There are no ifs ands or buts about it.       

  14. 44


    I’m not sure I would use someone’s promotion at work as a mechanism of determining character AT ALL–at least not the kind of character that one would want in an interpersonal relationship.  In some workplaces, being ruthless and willing to screw over anyone, and even unethical behavior (directed “appropriately”) will be considered “good” for the company.  Remember, most companies now value the dollar over human existence and their judges of “character” aren’t really looking at character at all.

  15. 45


    That’s a good question.  If it were me…I’d throw it back in the other direction.  What would YOU want YOUR partner to do if the person who “changed” (became overweight, or whatever) was you?  Do you want to be with someone who values your physical attributes (which are guaranteed to change) so much that when they change you are no longer worth their time?  Conversely, are YOU someone who values these things in a partner so much that you would leave them in pursuit of them? 

    I think…interestingly enough…that the answer anyone gives to those questions goes a lot towards determining exactly what this whole thing has been discussion: Their character.


  16. 46

    I think Evan is right on the money about placing character before chemistry. Very interesting, too, to listen to him talk here (and elsewhere) about how he never had that magical “I just know” moment about his wife until after they were married.

    That highlights the fact for me that men and women aren’t much different in this respect. For several years now, I’ve placed character at the top of the list. Evaluated men by their actions—such as do they call when they say they will, introduce me to their friends, fulfill their promises, integrate me into their lives, become sexually exclusive and take down their dating profiles, etc. And I count myself as a woman of character, too. I’m patient, supportive, nurturing, sexually open-minded and kind. I bring virtually no drama to the table. I generally follow Evan’s advice about being feminine and sweet and allowing the man to take the lead.

    I’ve had my share men break up with me for the same reason that some women seem to dump “nice guys,” that the “fire” wasn’t there. That they loved how I bring no drama, how good I treated them, but that something was missing and they needed to find a woman where they “knew” in order to move the relationship forward, as sad that they are to lose the good stuff (and the good sex) they had with me. 

    Not too sure how to change that, though. Maybe I should take a salsa class or something? Hoping that this really is just a numbers game.

  17. 47
    Saint Stephen

    @Evan- U’re the Best!
    Most of us seem to be suffering from the “Wrong one loving you Right” Syndrome.
    From my personal observation i noticed that the Few ones who loved us unconditionally are often those we get to reject. He loves you unconditionally but he’s not six feet tall, he doesn’t make six figures, His presence doesn’t make you feel stomach butterflies, He’s intelligent but not college educated.
    She loves you unconditionally but she isn’t hot & sexy or might be slightly older.
    So we dump the ones who really loves us and unconditionally love those who may not really desire having us. 
    Women’s list of must haves only made it difficult for them to settle. Men mostly chase youth and beauty (intelligence is a bonus), while a lot of women seem to put intelligence, humor, height, looks, education and $$ into their list of quality basket. Given the plight of average men i’ll assert that less men are succeeding.
    In my opinion i think men will be better advised to settle with a woman who loves you more than you love her- that’s if you don’t want a divorce down the road. you can only control your actions, but not that of your wife. 

  18. 48

    So, I was the girl who never had to buy her own drinks, never paid a cover charge, never waited in line, etc., etc. Honestly, I never understood it and never really saw what they saw.  But admittedly, once my friend pointed out to me how the ‘whole room’ reacted when I entered, I kind of played with it.  Men chased me, women hated me, I never really knew what to think of any of it because I knew I wasn’t who they assumed I was and never really dated much to speak of at all. 

    Recently, however, I wound up in a wheelchair, unsure of how to approach life, never mind dating.  Nowadays, people don’t hold the door, as a matter of fact, it’s shocking how many shut it right in my face or just watch me struggle to open it.  Both men and woman will rush to beat me to the door, just to get out first.  Baffling to me.  Yesterday I was in the grocery, reading a product label and a guy actually pushed my chair out of his way so HE could get to the item he was looking at.  No excuse me, nothing.  They even step over me instead of walking around my chair.  All I can think is that if I were a large woman and just took up this much room standing, no one would shove me out of the way or step over me, they’d have to walk around or ask me to move.  

    Although there is a good chance I’ll walk again, it likely won’t be the same walk. ;p  Could be years, no way to know, so I’m left with huge insecurities and finding out fast how my looks really were all men were interested in.  Since I can no longer drive, I find I stay home most of the time and my social life is non-existent. I bet the ladies in the city I used to live in would love to know how it turned out for me!  haha.  I still always have a smile on my face, still cheerful and funny, still the same me, just look a bit different.

    There’s a guy I’ve been crazy about since just prior to my injury.  He’s the great character guy, never hurt anyone guy, real stand up guy, but also the guy all the girls swoon over.  Admittedly, I can’t figure this guy out, couldn’t when I was walking either though, haha.  So yeah, I read your book and guess what, he isn’t calling.  I’d love to say I moved on and am dating but that’s not true, although I wish it were!  I haven’t figured out how to manage my new life, or lack thereof.

    Anyway, yes, if you’ve already found love in a person with a great character and THEN wind up in a wheelchair, chances are they’ll stick around.  But hooking a good one in this new state I’m in isn’t looking very promising these days.  Not giving up, even wrote a profile on Match but chickened out and didn’t post it.  I really don’t have a clue how to approach my new sitch!  Still smilin’ but man, life sure is a trip! 

    1. 48.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Very sorry to hear your story, Shannon. And while you have good reason to be negative, it sounds to me like you have your head on straight. One FYI: there’s hope. And I’m not just saying that. In 2006, I had a beautiful 41 year old client in a wheelchair who wanted to have a baby. 18 months later after I put her on JDate (and rewrote her profile and took new photos and taught her to flirt), she was a mother. So don’t lose hope. Your dating pool may be significantly smaller, but the ones who’ll be interested in you will most definitely be high character guys… Good luck.

  19. 49

    Evan is absolutely right!  I was just telling my friend about a date I went on yesterday.  I didn’t feel amazing chemistry, but I had a great time.  I felt so relaxed like I could be myself without feeling nervous and without those butterflies in my stomach.  It was nice feeling comfortable without the chemicals being in the equation.  I will definitely se this guy again because I like the way he treats me and he has shown interest in spending time with me.  It’s nice to feel relaxed without the flaming chemistry because when I’ve felt that, the men weren’t really available.  Character definetly beats chemistry!

  20. 50

    Oh God, please delete that post I made earlier.  I shouldn’t have posted and certainly didn’t mean to sound negative or pathetic.  There is nothing I hate more than to hear “I’m sorry…”  I don’t do sympathy well, I just take things as they come and go from each new starting point.  Nothing to be sorry about.
    I reeeeally didn’t mean for that post to sound negative at all. Ew, please delete it. Thanks Evan.  Oh, and good book, by the way. 🙂

    1. 50.1

      You don’t sound pathetic.  For what it’s worth – most women realise men are only interested in looks when they age.  We become invisible.  I applaud your honesty.  Men only being interested in my looks is why I married so early.  I just wanted to get out of the meat market with all the ogling and pawing men. I hated being young with such a vast array of men (16-70 yrs old) who were so willing to say and do disgusting things to good looking young females. It certainly warped my view of men. I’m no longer interesting to men and it’s a relief. The men who speak to me and give me time are ones who are genuinely interested in hearing what I say. They are also pretty rare, as you are finding in your circumstance.  Good luck with your recovery!

  21. 51

    # 52 Shannon:
    “Negative or pathetic”? Are you kidding me? I’ve heard much worse from women who are lamenting that they’ve gained 15 pounds.
    You are inspirational (and I almost never used that term; too cliched and, well, just . . . usually . . . *blech*).

  22. 52

    I read this post yesterday morning.. I analyzed my relationship and came to the conclusion that my man made me a priority, which was a big deal because he is at a really difficult time in his life.  He’s racked up in debt and has a job that pays him only enough to mainly just pay the interest.  He’s trying to move up in life in order to make more money so he can pay off this debt; and he is constantly working.  He wants to pay off his bills and get started with a better career, something he procrastinated about in the past years.  I love him and I know that I was a priority, but he was sacrificing a lot to keep me on the top of the list with all his other responsibilities.  Yesterday evening he ended the relationship.. saying that it wasn’t fair for me to be in a relationship with him when he can’t give me all the time I want.  He can’t spend time with me or take me places because of his debt, and he is not in the place to be in a relationship right now.  After the initial sadness, I remembered this post I read just that morning; and realized that I really respected this man for not wasting my time.  I was actually prepared to bare with this transitional period for him, and now that I realize it – I was prepared to lose my priority status in his life.  I am so thankful that he didn’t let me do this, and made the mature decision himself.  Thanks Evan for helping all of us with your advice and bringing attention to these facts we want to purposefully overlook sometimes.  I am a new reader and this post came just in time :).

  23. 53

    In my opinion there is no particular way in which to determine whether someone is a “good guy”. How do we define good? Is it within parameters that are measurable? In some societal ways yes it is however in others it can only be measured by the expectations and standards of the individual who percieves this person.
    If a guy can stand you at your worst then he most certainly deserves you at your best. Many won’t be able to survive this test of character particularly over a significant timescale.

  24. 54


    “Good” for you is how I’d define it. I guy can be a saint and still blow you off because he isn’t interested. Is he now a bad person for hurting you’re feeling of course not. But he’s bad for you. Entirely relative. And I agreed people are not perfect all the time so most likely that person would do something that is bad for you at one point or another but I think if you’re getting 80/20 of good to bad you’ve got something going.  

  25. 55
    Chelsey King

    A real man should know how to balance his priorities in life. There’s no such thing as ” GOOD GUY”  or a ” PERFECT GUY” it’s just a matter of how he handle things in his own ” good way ” 😉

  26. 56

    Great dialog everyone.  Character is key.  Listening to our guttural instincts is also critical.  Justifying behavior to make ourselves feel better and to escape any difficult realizations only delays what is inevitable. 

  27. 57

    Thanks for a posting that’s a good reminder, Evan. I have to admit that in my present relationship of about a year, I did feel strong chemistry and that desperate feeling. I’m chalking up the panic to my personal baggage plowing head into the possibility that he was going to be transferred to a new city for his job. I had to work really hard to curb myself from acting too needy and pushing things to go too fast. Despite my crazy-making feelings I knew this would be a bad move, and I knew that it really isn’t my style anyway. So, we’ve progressed nicely in our relationship and his contract was renewed here. I guess the real point of my posting is that I have really loved how consistent this guy has been in terms of calling, making plans, showing attraction to me, not being a player, and being willing to try some new stuff (sports, concerts, etc.) when I ask. This feels like a solid foundation for a relationship. I had second guessed myself thinking that because I had intense chemistry with him there was a problem…but the consistency is making me a lot less worried. Maybe I’m taking the chemistry warning a bit too seriously!

  28. 58

    You have mentioned numerous times that you questioned, when dating, whether your wife was the one. How do you feel when a man openly questions to his girlfriend whether she is smart enough, if her genetics are good enough (there is cancer and learning disabilities in the family), if she is ultimately the one for him? He is constantly telling her that he isn’t sure what he should be “compromising” and what he shouldn’t. He loves her etc etc but what about their longterm potential? Anyway, I wanted to know your thoughts on this if possible…

    1. 58.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Curious: I usually don’t take questions in the comments, but I thought this one was interesting. The only thing your guy is really guilty of, my friend, is thinking out loud. He’s saying things to you that most people relegate to their inner voice. Which is why it sounds so rude, judgmental and offputting. Yet that’s what our inner voices sound like – they think the things we darenot say, lest we be labeled arrogant, abrasive or tactless.

      Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot? 🙂

      I openly questioned some things with my girlfriend before she became my wife and while it sometimes stung, she appreciated that at least I was telling her the truth…which her cheating first husband certainly did not.

      So I would sooner judge your boyfriend based on his actions – his kindness – his consistency – his desire for wife/kids, than for the 2% of the time he leaks his innermost worries. That said, if it starts to feel bad and insulting, then perhaps you need a man who holds you in higher esteem. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater just because your feelings are hurt, okay?

  29. 59

    Curious, at least he is comfortable enough to tell you of his concerns.

    Some guys just string girls along with sweet talk and pretending there is no issue until one day he decided to disappear.

  30. 60

    Thanks for answering, Evan. It was a question for a close friend actually, and she thinks you are a “genius.” I am relieved to hear your answer about this situation. Fresh off a divorce myself, I can be too quick to say run. 

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