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. 61

    Gosh totally love this article just what I need Evan!
    Been dating this man for 6 months was great at first but after sleeping with him, kinda see the true side of him. (less ocntact, less caring etc) You are right must pick someone who treats  you as priority if he doesn’t now, never will! Just what I need to hear Thx!!!!

  2. 62

    I agree with this article whole heartedly. My ex husband had an affair and no amount of chemistry could make up for that betrayal.

    But now that I’m back in the dating world (met my ex at age 18 and divorced at 28 do I’m really low on dating experience) I don’t understand is the line between dating, relationship, and when you should start to be a priority as opposed to a casual date… If Ive gone on 8 dates with a guy and I’m not getting frequent or phone calls, is that “not a priority” or is that normal interaction for early dating? I don’t know …. Evan, I’d love to see a post on how to negotiate grey zone between say, 5 dates and exclusivity. I notice that this is the hardest time because attachment starts to happen but there’s no guarantees and it’s so unclear about what is normal behavior in his zone and what is “not a priority”

    1. 62.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Melody…after 5 dates or around 1 month, you should be pretty close to exclusive. If he doesn’t step up to be your boyfriend within that first two months, he’s not going to.

  3. 63

    after reading this article i really want to cry. i think i am crying already inside.

  4. 64

    One of my favorite posts Evan. I have been reading your blog for a few years now and have purchased your ebook. Of course, character is absolutely important for a lasting relationship relationship. My problem isn’t recognizing that character is important, it is having the courage to move on when, later on in the relationship the true character is revealed. Very thought provoking.

  5. 65

    I keep coming back to this article time and time again. The line about “having EVERYTHING taken away from you”made it into my journal. I’ll be using it to figure me out.

  6. 66

    Evan is so right about character being important. I think that having a spark w the person is part of it but w time of getting to know someone that becomes stronger and stronger as we fall in love w the entire package and big part of that is how someone makes you feel when you’re w him/her. You can have the hottest, smartest person next to you but if you’re constantly spending all your time focusing on him/her and get very little in return that leaves one feeling empty and drained. All my married friends say all the time…when you’re doing life together, you truly want to be doing that w your best friend besides you….meaning the person next to you should b the one you want to talk to first when life is happening and someone you can laugh with.

  7. 67

    Dear Evan,
    This article is great and substantively helped me in formulating my position in possibly reuniting with what had been my great boyfriend until we hit a very rough patch a couple months ago.
    I would like to share a twist and a blend of perspectives.  Now in my late 50’s – if you are dating, it represents that you as well as the pool of people that you are looking at dating have largely had failed relationships in the past.  And with men – a much larger proportion have failed in the area of fidelity than say those in their 20’s and 30’s or even 40’s. 
    After dating my fella for nearly a year where we had both crossed into territory of closeness on an emotional level we had never been he escalated the relationship through the fall and holidays with “pedal to the medal” with several trips, mutual family events and we hosted several parties for work, family and friends.  All healthy and natural except I had been keeping things specifically slower aware of his passive/aggressive tendencies that produce “Near, Fear, Slam the Brakes.”
    And that is what happened in early January when he wanted to “slow down” and did some distancing.  Then he confessed to having seen and been with an ex-girlfriend in this period.  I was pretty shocked and stunned but  found after a couple weeks of hashing through it that I still had love in my heart even though commonly this is a mortal wound.
    I worked with relationship therapist initially and was then able to involve him and we have been now working through the his issues of what drives his past history in infidelity (two past marriages that went under as well) as well as working on rebuilding trust.
    Everything else in this relationship is a 10 or as close to it as I expect to achieve.  I could call this a flaw in his character as a man and chew him up and spit him out.  However, what he has discovered is this is a behavior that not only did he understand, hated himself for the weakness, has suffered in his own self-esteem, his children’s respect and mine…that as we work through it all he feels that for the first time he has the skills, desire, etc. to eliminate this behavior into the future and it has all taken our relationship, understanding and love to a place of complete honesty and communication we never dreamed of.
    So yes, I completely agree that character is extremely relevant.  But behavior sometimes does not represent the core person and if we just operate on the premise we need to be perfect or move on, we are likely to end up just having to confront the same “flaw” in the future with someone else.  Real character is discovered in the challenges and confronting them honestly.

  8. 68

    I have been struggling with this a lot lately. I am finally dating a man who puts me first, and coming from a relationship where I was expected to take care of him. It’s a bit uncomfortable for me. I had to have surgery on Monday and he took the day off from work last minute, took me to my appt, got my meds while I sat in the car and then ran to the grocery store after he put me to bed. He then came home and cuddled me for hours, something he hates doing, while I slept. He is still taking care of me, not letting me do anything that may cause me to rip out my stitches. He is an amazing man, but part of me still wonders. Because I have been hurt before I am leery. He takes care of me, and that means a lot.

  9. 69

    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.

    I’m left with all those things and he has all those qualities but the guy is a workaholic and a good guy always willing to help someone out even if it imposes on our relationship. This guy is great but I’m getting discouraged because the relationship is a priority for me and I’m not sure if it’s a priority for him when all those other things seem to take precedence. Sometimes I get the feeling that he’s doing me a favor by allowing me to be in his company now and then. But, while I am crazy about the man I’m really getting fed up. This relationship is starting to have a debilitating effect on me and I don’t like it.

    1. 69.1

      Before I started reading I didn’t look at the date of this post… Well before I started writing. While reading all the comments I realize that your situation was exactly like mines… I’m sitting in bed thinking, sad, and torn.. Let me know how your situation turned out  

  10. 70

    it certainly is about PRIORITY. although i had one bad experience of a man who made me such a priority he literally tried to take over my life (long weird story) I still think this word is the one to hang on to.
    the one I recently gently closed the door on (I’ve left it to him to decide if he wants to reopen it) told me he was ”not in a place to put energy into a relationship”. i said, that’s fine but what i want is to be a priority. that’s all. not a big sweeping romance/relationship/affair. just to be a priority.

  11. 71

    A-friggin-mazing post. So much what I needed a reminder of. My BF of 7 years(!) was a super smart narcissist who gave me “just enough” to keep me hooked. I met him after a 16 year dry spell raising my three sons as a single mom…so , yes, I was hungry to feel womanly. And, yes, he DID have all these wonderful qualities…when it served him to show them…everything was calculated, metered, as to what he could GET…but ya know, I was that girl who chose to suppress my good instincts for the good of the “relationship” over and over. I saw early on he wouldnt get off Match despite declaring his love, that he wasn’t cleaning up the details of his life, that he was using me, my home, my a way to hide..yet I continued to focus on what worked..the sex, the companionship for fun things, etc….and 7 years later, broke up with him for the second time. NOW< I am 2 months post…still loving him, but loving myself more. YOUR POST makes it so crystal clear and simple moving forward. THANK YOU!!!

  12. 72

    I don’t know if I’m unusual (I hope not), but character is actually what I’m most attracted to. A man who has honour and integrity, who I can trust, is actually what gives me those tingley bits! 😀

  13. 73

    I once dated a guy I met on off and on for about a year. He would send me friendly-sounding emails; yet every time we met in person – which was about two or three times – he would act cold and distant; like he really didn’t want to be around me at all. After the third date where we met in person, I confronted him about this, telling him I had a good time seeing that movie with him, but I also had the impression he really didn’t want to be around me. I told him that if he really didn’t like me, and didn’t want to date me, it was fine with me, and all he had to do was say so. He sent me a very flustered-sounding email, saying that he didn’t hate dating me, ending this email with “and I wouldn’t want you to think that!!” He actually ended this email with at least two exclamation points.

    He invited me to see him and his band play, and I politely told him I couldn’t, since I had to do something else. Then he completely stopped talking to me.

    Fine, be that way.

    Looking back on this now, I think he had been deliberately trying to confuse me and mess with my head. He didn’t like me very much, yet I was supposed to be at his beck and call anyway. When I wasn’t available for him to ignore while surrounded by fans, he got pissed off, and that was when he stopped talking to me. I think he also realized I knew he only wanted to date me so he could put me down.

    I think this guy not only lacks character, but is extremely pathetic.

  14. 74
    David T

    It is possible he was very uncomfortable and nervous in person as opposed to messing with your head, though lack of confidence is a major minus when you are trying to establish a relationship.
      When you say “dated on and off got a year” but you only saw him two or three times,  and you are still thinking about it, I wonder if you were reading more into this than was ever there.  I suppose it depends on the number and content of emails and phone calls.

  15. 75

    I want to thank you for your time and effort you put into this article. Very interesting. I do agree with ‘looks vs character or money/wealth ‘ and that CHARTER is most important to choosing a partner. I always knew that a guy or a woman should put each other first , but I was not so sure. Until, I was able to read this idea here again. Thank you and that is what I’m mostly attracted to. Other things that comes with the package is best bonus.

  16. 76

    Evan, thank you for this thought provoking article. I left my fiance after being together for 6 years for this exact reason. He never wanted to be the best man he could be and chose everything else before me. So one day I mustered enough guts and decided to leave the relationship. I had to do it, irrespective of how I may turn out for me (single and alone).  Many women stay in dead end relationships because they are afraid of being alone. But the truth is, no one will ever determine your self worth except for you. Until you recognize that, you will always be placed second best. I realized this after observing the best relationships around me and I noticed that all the men placed their women first before anything else.
    I am glad I came across this article because Even you have reassured me that I made the right decision.

  17. 77

    i just wanted to say that it is amazing how you lay out things to where they make complete sense. I actually am on the other side of the boat right now Ive offered my entire life to men and i am tired of exposing my true self now. I think that instead of exposing my true character my compassion my unconditional help and love Ive been losing my self because even though I am a woman with everything you have described. I just cant seem to find true love. and each time I’m the one offering my life in their plate. I understand now that I have gave to much and received nothing. Absolutely nothing. My heart is getting to a point where i can no longer feel or i do not want to feel. I do not want to expose my self or my heart anymore. I cant I feel that it would be best to die if i exposed it and it went all wrong. Now I am playing their game but it hurts to see my old me go. the kind innocent girl who had love for everything in the world. I would see even the ugliest thing in a way where it was still special. and nice. what should i do? really right now i think that I’m just killing my soul and handing it to the devil because I’m starting to sleep around. but what else do i do? i feel sad when I’m home alone like always and i cant have a relationship because it just hurts to think that ill be hurt again. and alone once again. with nothing but my dog 🙂 what do you suggest.please help me i need professional advice. without judgement.  

  18. 78


  19. 79

    I think you’re a great dating coach. And I love the way you help people put things into perspective 

  20. 80
    Jim Boer

    Thank you for this info. It’s really helpful.

  21. 81

    This thread made me feel very emotional, tears rolling down my cheeks.
    So very true it is who we are on the inside and who he is and are we a match.

  22. 82

    I think alot of us me included see the best in everybody and choose not to see the obvious signs and choose to believe things will get better and if only this wasn’t happening he would be more loving and tender but it dosnt get better and the prioritising dosnt include me or you. As sad and as very hard as it is we cannot love and not be loved the same and we have to want the same things or it cannot work.
    if only I could take my own advice I feel I would be at least out this turmoil of a relationship but when you love that person and really love that person its extremely difficult. I hope and pray things will change or at least for heavon to send me the strength to finish what’s not to be. Xxx

  23. 83

    I questioned a number of things going on (in my mind) with this man I was dating very quickly. Things just were not adding up to a positive situation. Yet, he kept saying things will change and that he would make more time for me. Somehow or other, my gut feeling kept telling “RED FLAG WARNING”. I tried to give him a chance,but I realized very quickly that it was all words and no actions towards making me a PRIORITY. Something else happened today that brought a REALITY check to the fore front of my mind. Another bad action on his part brought me to send him a text message stating, “I don’t want hear from him ever again and best of luck to him”. I put the phone down on my desk and felt completely relieved after that. No hurt, no tears, no upsets..just relieved. I think its totally funny that I found this site tonight regarding the subject of CHARACTER and being a PRIORITY. I get to go to bed tonight without him on my mind! Thank you.

  24. 84

    I love how this was put where you give the character examples and the external examples that don’t mean anything to get your point across. It put in perspective the things a lot of people look for that get them into relationship turmoil. I’m guilty also thinking about hey I want a guy that has this and that but at the same time I’ve never tv web one to only look at that. I built a terrible relationship with my husband we both started out no job living in family home. I helped him get jobs get cars and the whole nine he kept a roof over my head and food and clohig but I never got the support and push I needed to do better for myself from him that I gave him. I did everything for him he left and have nothing. So I was never a big oh any guy I talk to better have this and that. 98% of the guys I messed with ain’t have shit. Really. But anyways I’ve learned through turmoil and also this article that I need to judge a persons character much more closely and leave when I know it’s waste of my time. I put up with liars cheaters and assholes for wayyyy too long my husband one of them the biggest one in my life. I think this article is great.

  25. 85

    I just broke up with a guy yesterday. Initially it was because he randomly stopped communicating with me. To me, it felt like he was ignoring me. At the beginning of the relationship we had chemistry, a ton of it. But then it tapered off almost instantly and began to feel like he had no interest to see or talk to me. We are both college students, and the stress and anxiety from this bizarre change in behavior began to effect my grades. So I broke it off when I realized I was getting off track in school.
    I have been contemplating whether or not it was the right choice or not, because at one point he was a person I could see myself ending up with. After reading this I have come to understand that he was just not right for me. He was very focused on making a lot of money, and having a high status in society. This view does not mesh with mine. I want to make a living, yes, but thats not all. I’m in college to enforce what I do in this world with education and stability. Not JUST to make money. Healthy spirit, kindness, love, curiosity, generosity, adventure, gentleness, spirituality and raw emotion I understand are VERY important to me in experiencing this life I have. And sharing that with someone else who is also aware of that is VERY important to me. And he did not hold those values.
    I was beating myself up internally for hurting him, i thought i was “giving up” on yet another relationship, and pushing away yet another person in my life. But, I have realized im just learning more about myself, my values, and what kind of man I want to spend my life with. I’m 20, and I feel like at this stage of my life I will be learning more about myself, others and will be weeding through people more than at any other stage of my life.
    Love this article. Thanks!

  26. 86
    Pretty on the Outside

    This is a really educational article, and I like it’s positive notes on a person’s character. However, I do have some questions/concerns about how wishy-washy this is.

    I certainly don’t have the most prettiest personality. In fact, I’m meek, passive aggressive, and I don’t share my worries/troubles with the people who care about me. Therefore, it seems from your article, you suggest that people who have flaws in their personality are the wrong people and don’t really deserve love. I’m a wretch and I am too afraid to confess to the guy out of fear that I’ll just be the wrong girl he’ll waste all his time on.

    The guy I like doesn’t have money, or looks, or wit. But he has the most endearing personality I could hope for. However, without money, aren’t there going to be problems down the road? It’s well known that most disputing couples, fight over money. Without financial stability, there’s lots to fight about. Without looks, I’m not really as attracted to him physically. Without wit, I feel like there are many things we can’t talk about on the same level. Half the time, I’m not sure he understands me, but he gives me comfort by just being there.

    Of course, I do know that those three things aren’t the most important thing in the world. I’d be willing to give up those things because his personality is so precious, but I do worry about the hardships that may come from that. Another thing is, I feel like the guy that I’m after has largely given up on love. He knows he doesn’t have the money or the looks, and he has pride so he wouldn’t want to lean on the girl for support. He feels like his life is just wasting away, and it’s likely he won’t confess to me either because he knows he doesn’t have any of those things to offer.

    I don’t really want to waste people’s time; I have character flaws that run deep that will take a lot of time to heal – he’ll most likely get snatched up by another girl before I get them fixed.

  27. 87

    Gosh, I really needed to read this. Thank you.

  28. 88

    This is so spot on!! I have been in a relationship for 1 year with a guy who didn’t put me as a priority in his life. He would rather go travelling. Unfortunately his travelling was what killed our relationship off and his unrealistic expectations on how relationships work. He must have been Narcissist as he was incredibly selfish and could not stand being told what to do and when I expressed when I was unhappy with him. He seemed to think that relationships should not have any arguments – that’s not how it is in reality. In the end he decided to finish our relationship via letter that arrived to me via DHL from the country where he was working in for 3 months to say that he has decided to finish our relationship because we kept on going separate ways etc etc. He wants to be friends but I do not feel he is worth a friendship, especially after him dumping me during a very difficult time in my life where I was homeless and had to find a flat share.

  29. 89

    BF and I have been together 23 years. I feel like a fool for staying with him for so long. I think I am stubborn and won’t admit to my own blindness/neediness. It would be difficult to quit the relationship because of so many intertwining aspects of our lives but I keep yearning for my own life and interests back as well a support. He doesn’t communicate about himself well, keeps his cards close to the chest I guess so I racked the lack in interest in me up to that but ultimately he is an only child and his mom is first in his life, he believes my life is supposed to circle his, and he is and becoming more so as she gets elderly. Any interest in me on his part seems like a huge effort and almost an imposition. I wish I could say this article clarifies our relationship for me but it helps and I will tell him about this dynamic but it probably will make no difference to him it’s hard to say since he responds to so little, he calls it a foreign language to him. I think I’m depressed for ignoring this for so long.

  30. 90

    What if the guys has kids… the priority should be the kid right?

    1. 90.1

      No kids. First thing his mom said to me 23 years ago was she wanted to be a grandma and I had to tell her I was going though menopause so after that I seemed to have no value to her and that’s when the rudeness and insults began on her part. When he and I first met it was all about us doing things together then it slowly drifted into doing very little together unless it was something he wanted to do. I’ve heard this sort of behavior from other women but aside from trying to get him engaged and failing, I don’t know what to do. Now we are both retired and I thought since our life’s patterns changed our togetherness level would change but not so.

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