How Can I Be Sure That He’s the Right One?

How Can I Be Sure That He’s the Right One?


How would I know if my doubts about my boyfriend and my future with him are a search for perfection or are reasons for legitimate concerns? I’ve read the “Marry him!” book and I agree that a man’s limitations are simply human flaws we all have… but then, I would come across  articles saying I should not ignore my doubts and having doubts is a predictor of a high divorce rate.

I did a very honest evaluation of my boyfriend’s pluses and minuses (we’ve been together for close to 2 years) and I STILL don’t know if I should be with him in a long run. He has great qualities: he is a man of integrity, he is loving, affectionate, devoted, generous in his heart and with his actions, honest. However, I’m afraid that the things that irritate me (his mood swings, insecurities, social ineptness and trust issues) will be the ones to break us apart in the future. How do you know what are the deal breakers?



I can’t tell you what YOU should do.

I don’t know you. I don’t know your boyfriend. I don’t know how happy you are. I don’t know about your communication, values and conflict resolution.

Chemistry can’t redeem a broken relationship; all it can do is provide fuel (in the form of attraction) that irrationally erases your doubts, even when those doubts should be there.

So all I’ll say to you is that your boyfriend of two years is the KIND of man you should consider marrying: loving, affectionate, devoted, generous, honest.

But just because someone is all of those things doesn’t mean you necessarily marry him. Marriage isn’t simply about loyalty and stability. It’s about a personal connection as well.

And that’s something that gets lost when people cite “Marry Him” and misinterpret my “character over chemistry” mantra.

So let me keep it really simple for you:

You can have all the chemistry, passion and common interests in the world and it doesn’t matter if: you fight all the time, you don’t feel the same about monogamy or children, you have wildly different views on money or religion, or if one party lacks in character and is willing to lie, cheat, steal, or defy the other party instead of compromising and communicating.

This is what I mean by choosing values over chemistry.

Chemistry can’t redeem a broken relationship; all it can do is provide fuel (in the form of attraction) that irrationally erases your doubts, even when those doubts should be there.

On the other hand, you don’t marry a nice, honest guy SIMPLY because he’s nice and honest. You’d better make each other laugh, enjoy each other’s company and work hard to please each other in bed.

This very basic personal chemistry is a MUST — and frankly, I don’t know how people suffer for two years with boyfriends who don’t make them laugh, whose company they don’t enjoy, who give them absolutely NO spark in bed.


Why on earth you’d marry him is beyond me.

As for the article you cited:

It’s a little misleading. And you’ve honestly misinterpreted its findings to suit your narrative.

First of all, the study was done on couples whose average age was 27 for men and 25 for women. What does that tell you?

It tells me that the research was done on kids with less than five years of life experience, who are not established in their career, who have not necessarily dated or slept around much, who don’t know much of anything about life. Doubt me?

How much did you know about life at 25? Compare that to 30. 35. 40.

Fact: 75% of marriages where both parties are under 25 end in divorce. It should be no surprise. These are mostly kids playing house and hoping to get it right. Sometimes they do. More often, they don’t.

Choices are rarely black and white. Relationships are ALL grey.

Next, there’s nothing surprising about this study, except for the framing of the information.

“People who have doubts are more likely to get divorced” is a headline like “Clouds are really good predictors of rain.” Duh.

What that headline ignores is this:

1. 6 percent of couples got divorced when NEITHER husband nor wife had doubts. Just goes to show how much you “just know” when you’re signing on the dotted line for life.

2. There was a 10% divorce rate when only men had doubts, an 18% divorce rate when only women had doubts, and a 20% divorce rate when both had doubts.

Put another way:

3. There was a 90% success rate when men had doubts, an 82% success rate when women had doubts, and an 80% success rate even when BOTH parties had doubts about their relationship.

Sorry, y’all, but smart people, mature people, and critical thinkers are all going to have reasonable doubts about such a profound and weighty decision.

Choices are rarely black and white. Relationships are ALL grey.

And if you’re not thinking in grey — if you DON’T have any doubts, I’d submit to you that you’re probably not thinking very clearly.

So I can’t tell you what to do, Stephani, but you must know that having doubts is not a sign, per se, that the relationship is broken.

It means you have a lot of information to process before making such a decision, and that you’re going to have to trust your brain and your gut in determining whether what’s lasted for 2 years should also last forever.

For me, I didn’t know it was “right”, but I did know that I had an amazing 16 months with my girlfriend and that I’d be pretty stupid if I gave that up for the pursuit of something better.

Good luck, and please, let us know what you decide.

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  1. 1

    He has mood swings, is insecure and has trust issues?   I don’t know this couple at all, but I’d say she has every reason to have doubts.   Yes, he has a lot of standards that most of us should look for in someone, but with the above issues, there should be a lot of doubt.   Those issues don’t go away, and in my opinion, usually get worse over time.

  2. 2

    Evan has always emphasized that a woman should feel “safe” with  the man she chooses to be with.   I would not feel safe (emotionally) with a man who demonstrated mood swings, insecurities,  or trust issues.   I would always be on edge.

  3. 3

    I really like this post because it stresses that a certain degree of chemistry is needed   to get married even if the guy is loving and honest. I dislike when people use chemistry to describe an instant spark or sexual attraction and prefer to think of it as having a personal connection in which you can laugh together, get along great, talk for hours, and truly enjoy your time together. You don’t need red hot passion but sex should not be a chore. I’ve dated nice men in the past where we lacked this and I really don’t regret that things ended.  
    This guy doesn’t seem all that great. Socially inept? Trust issues? Yikes!  

  4. 4

    I feel for you – a tough one – but your doubts are valid

  5. 5

    If you’re at a party, and the ONLY guy in the room you’d want to go home with is the guy you’re with — 100% of the time?   You’re with the right guy IMO.   After 7 years of marriage, I still feel strongly that way about my second husband.   With my first husband, I almost never felt that way.   That’s why he is now my “first husband,” and the man I’m with now is my “last husband.” (I never refer to him as my second husband, because I don’t like the underlying implication there could ever be a third! 🙂

  6. 6

    Agree with first three commenters. Trust issues alone can kill a marriage. I’d give it a pass.

  7. 7
    Jackie Holness

    Yes, having doubts is a tricky issues…so you have to have a lot of time for personal reflection…I hope everything turns out as it should be in this case…

  8. 8
    Karmic Equation

    I think it depends.

    When I was engaged (I was engaged after 6 weeks of dating, but didn’t have a wedding until about 2 yrs later), at around the 18 month-mark, I threw back my ring at my fiance in a fit of anger.

    I had doubts about “us” as a couple and he had made me angry about something, I can’t even remember about what.

    I took back the ring because I thought I had “cold feet” because normally I rarely get angry and I don’t have doubts about anything I choose to do. However, I figured I just had cold feet and went ahead with the wedding because doubts about my choices are so foreign to me.

    In retrospect, BECAUSE I rarely have doubts about anything I *SHOULD HAVE* listened to my doubts instead of dismissing them. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

    I guess if I were a person who’s prone to 2nd guessing herself, then I probably did have the normal cold feet. But I rarely have 2nd thoughts about anything. That should have been my clue.

    In the case of the OP’s guy — insecurities, mood swings, and trust issues (social ineptness can be tolerated. Think “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) — are NOT trivial things and are qualities that would probably get WORSE in a A SECURE, LOCKED DOWN relationship, like marriage. These are qualities that DON’T change after marriage, but probably are magnified by it. In other words, the unmarried guy is on his BEST behavior now…once he’s got a wife he’s got no motivation to stay on his best behavior to keep her. He’s already got her. (Cynical, but true. I believe mental and physical abusers are like this…ok until marriage then all hell breaks loose.)

    The OP has valid doubts and, were I her, I wouldn’t marry such a “broken” guy. He should actually seek medical advice about his mood swings as he could have a form of bipolar disorder, “mixed bipolar” or “cyclothymia”.** I only suggest this because I read up on this disorder when I suspected someone I know suffers from this disorder.

    **Disclaimer: I’m not qualified to give medical advice! This is just my opinion only!

  9. 9

    While we are ultimately personally responsible, our behavior does not exist in a vacuum. What might Stephani be doing to make him moody, insecure and distrustful? What in his job could be making him moody, insecure and distrustful? Sounds like more of the impossible standard of masculinity men are expected to live up to.

  10. 10
    Karmic Equation


    “While we are ultimately personally responsible, our behavior does not exist in a vacuum. What might Stephani be doing to make him moody, insecure and distrustful?”

    Moody, insecure, and distrust are self-inflicted and self-correctable, and depending on severity, may require professional help.

    No one can *make* another person moody if that person is not prone to moodiness. Insecurities are self-inflicted…No one can MAKE you insecure, you FEEL insecure. You have to own your own feelings.

    Distrust, granted, can be caused by someone’s actions, but if he distrusts Stephani herself, he shouldn’t be in a relationship with her. Why is he with her? I would assume that his distrust is of other people and NOT Stephani, which is nothing that that Stephani can help with. But if SHE doesn’t like that quality in HIM, she shouldn’t be with him. Different side of the same coin.

  11. 11

    At the tender age of 22 I married a man that was safe and reliable. I was riddled with doubt even then.   What I got was a man who was not passionate about me, or us, or our life. He was emotionally unavailable.   He was a lot of things…that my gut told me would not make a good marriage.
    I would say follow your gut.   After 17 years of marriage, I finally had all I could take.   It was too long, but better late than never.   What I have learned is that my gut knows way more than my head and my heart and my libido.
    Follow your gut.   Even if it seems pety or superficial, those doubts are there for a reason.   They mean you won’t be happy.   If you’ve tried to “work” around them, find a way to embrace them, and you are till not happy, chances are you never will be.

  12. 12
    Karl R

    Stephani said: (original post)
    “I’m afraid that the things that irritate me (his mood swings, insecurities, social ineptness and trust issues) will be the ones to break us apart in the future.”
    Everyone has irritating behaviors. Every time I encountered an irritating behavior in a serious girlfriend, I asked myself one question:
    “Is this the kind of irritation I can easily live with for the rest of my life?”
    If I were in your shoes, here’s how I would evaluate the specific examples you gave:
    It depends what he’s insecure about. My wife is a little insecure about her dancing. It took years before she decided to compete at the amateur level. She’s hypercritical of the way she looks in the YouTube video we put up (so friends could see us dancing). That’s not a problem.
    If she was insecure about our relationship (for example, worrying about me being attracted to my dance partners), that would be a constant source of friction.
    Trust issues:
    This is the same as insecurities. If he’s slow to trust other people, that could be irritating. If he still has difficulty trusting you (after two years), then that’s a whole different story. There’s nothing you can do to make him trust you, or to make him feel secure about how you feel towards him.
    Socially inept:
    On the other hand, I can’t think of any kind of socially inept behavior that’s inherently destructive toward a relationship. If you decide it’s a problem, then it will be a problem. If you decide that it’s no big deal, then it will be no big deal.
    Mood swings:
    This one depends on a lot of things you didn’t mention. Do his mood swings include anger? If he’s swinging between happy and depressed, there’s nothing inherently dangerous (except possibly to himself). But anger has the potential to be a lot more dangerous to you.
    If anger is part of the equation, how does he express it? If he’s just verbally venting about his frustrations (the DMV, airport security, rude cabbies, politics), that’s just an irritation. If there’s any kind of violence or threat involved, then you need to end the relationship for your own safety.
    If threats/violence aren’t part of the equation, then it really comes down to how you (and your boyfriend) react to each other’s flaws. The response to the flaws is actually more important than the flaws themselves.

  13. 13

    I think too many people get way to granular on this blog…trust, mood swings?   I have mood swings.   It’s called menopause.   And I don’t have a farm girl mentality.   Does that automatically make me unworthy?    You have to listen to your heart.    Evan  summed it up in the last paragraph.   If you feel like your life would be better with the person rather than with out, it’s a no brainer.   We don’t live in a  Eutopian world people  🙂              

  14. 14

    @ Frimmel 9
    Oh, no no no no no!   Moody, insecure, socially inept and distrustful are not Stephani’s fault, and they are terrible flaws!   I dated a person who was moody, insecure and distrustful.   To him, the relationship was a prize.   If you wikipedia “attachment theory” it can show why people develop insecurities, but just because someone is insecure doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to manifest it by being moody or openly distrustful.   Unless Stephani had done something like cheat and he took her back, he has no reason to distrust her.   (To be honest, I wouldn’t totally bet that the “devoted” and “generous” aren’t separate traits from the “insecure”).
    @ Stephani
    Is he MEAN when he is moody?   Is he MEAN when he is insecure and distrustful?   Does his relationship or social anxieties impede upon what should be a normal life?   What does he do when he gets moody? (Is he scary?)   If he got therapy, would your doubts be alleviated, or is the relationship past the point of no return?   Does he support you, or does his social ineptness and insecurities get in the way of you leading your “normal” life (therefore, he doesn’t support you by default)?   Does he guilt you?
    @ Evan
    Unsure if it’s just my computer, but the linked article wasn’t working? Thanks!

  15. 15

    I hope the OP will hear EMK’s advice….OP: you are the only one who can decide, and mood swings etc. are not necessarily deal breakers, it all depends on YOU and how you react/feel about them.  
    In fact,  I wholeheartedly agree with Karl R  #12, who provides a smart and nuanced opinion and Sunflower #13.  
    Warning: We are talking about people’s life and future here, real human beings….. I do not understand why so many people feel entitled to give black or white advice to the OP when:
    1) they clearly make judgments based on their own experience (and we all know how misleading this could be).  
    2) They do not know the OP, nor do they know the boyfriend!!!!!!!

  16. 16

    She’s come here seeking advice as to whether she should dump him. How does that not creep out in other ways that would be noticeable to him? Perhaps he feels insecure in the relationship because the relationship is in fact not secure. That puts it on him to ‘man-up’ and make the relationship secure by taking responsibility for her feelings?
    As another hypothetical, if there is some sort of social situation that he doesn’t care for or ever handle well but she continually insists on putting him in it and then is disappointed or angry or upset or pouty that he didn’t handle it to her satisfaction? Wouldn’t he get more anxious or moody leading up to them? More insecure and awkward because he can’t ever get it right? How then could he trust her if she kept doing that to him?

  17. 17

    My view is that if you are having serious “will I/ won’t I?” issues about making a long term commitment to a partner, then irrespective of the particular “flaws” themselves, that is an important sign. Generally when you love someone and want to be with them, the pull to be WITH them is MUCH stronger than that… its not a sort of ho hum, its about 50/50 here, what do I do? type of scenario. None of us are perfect, and none of our partners are perfect, but even so, even seeing the flaws, when we want to commit to someone we feel overwhelmingly drawn to do so. This is important because there are so many factors that can conspire to pull couples apart – time pressures, kids, work, money worries – that unless you do have an overwhelming desire to be with that person then its difficult to see how you’re going to weather all that. Sometimes, its all that holds you together.I think you need that, in a relationship – anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been married for very long!

  18. 18

    Perhaps his ‘mood swings, insecurities and trust issues’ have to do with the fact that he senses you have doubts and is afraid of losing you?
    He has all the qualities of a long-term partner, so don’t give up so easily.

  19. 19

    Im the OP and many thanks, Evan, for posting my question on your blog.  
    You see, this boyfriend of mine has always had dualistic personality (for any of you horoscope fans, he is a Gemini). One, that he spent most of is life being, is this go-getter type, egotistical and pretty inflexible. After the divorce, a few failed relationships and a mid-life crisis, he spent a lot of time self reflecting, going to therapy and growing to be a lot more spiritual, mature, willing to admit his wrongs and to change.
    Alas, changes like that are usually not permanent and are always a work in progress, requiring efforts. He fall back into the “old mode” periodically, and his old self shines through.   Makes it hard for me to enjoy being with him and imagine signing on the dotted line. On a plus side, we have q very close connection, with lots of love and affection and great communications.  
    He is insecure as in a “chip on his shoulder” type of the way. Growing up with a physically abusive father who kept telling his kids they would never amount to anything (all other kids really didn’t)… And being a completely self-made educated man with a career and wide spectrum of interests, from photography to spirituality, he still have quite a few self esteem issues. Which prompts him to trying to prove himself and talk to anyone who would listen, showing off his knowledge. In our relationships, he views me as well above him in looks and intelligence, so he constantly questions my reasons for being with him.   Additionally, his verbal torrents make him look socially unaware and annoying, and he is painfully aware of that as well. He says he feels being/looking stupid a lot of times.
    Trust issues: he has hard time leaving his baggage from the previous relationships where he had felt unappreciated and/or cheated upon.I should probably have clarified that the trust issues are not a result of any of my behavior., I’ve never given him any. Every time we have a disagreement or a fight, he immediately thinks we are breaking up.  
    Mood swings: i should clarify that he is never, ever angry at me or dangerous. The moods change from cheerful to grumpy, where he becomes irritable, judgmental and negative, complaining and unreasonable. He wold later always apologize and try to make it up.
    One thing I didn’t mention, which didn’t really bother me until it was mentioned here. He takes life too seriously, and we never laugh. I mean, he cannot joke.  
    I try and have been trying to convince myself to be less judgmental toward him and practice acceptance. The rationale being is that he is, fundamentally, a loving and very affectionate man. And, btw, he tries hard in bed and there is great chemistry.   I know that if i were to leave this relationship and start a new one eventually…. that new guy will have some OTHER flaws/limitations.

  20. 20

    @ Stephani
    You know, I was in your situation before and I told myself the same thing regarding being non-judgmental and accepting.   I thought “Everyone has flaws.   Everyone has had painful experiences”, etc, but there is a difference between being nonjudgmental about why someone is the way they are and allowing just anyone in your life.
    It’s hard, because you haven’t done anything wrong, and it really is a self-fulfilling prophecy for him.   If you break up, he will blame you and all the women who’ve spurned him before.   He will blame all these things it appears he is already laying the groundwork to blame.   He has had some harder-than-average knocks, but it is really his responsibility to bring his A-game and not play the victim.  
    Also, have you thought about having children with this man?   You said a “midlife crisis” so I wasn’t really sure if you already had grown children and were coming together later in life, or if you are planning to start a family.   I’ve grown up in this environment (which is why, when I was younger, I felt empathy towards guys who threw pity parties for themselves, and now it’s a total dealbreaker).   My father, who has many wonderful qualities, used me and my siblings to appease his insecurities.   I wouldn’t want that behavior projected on my own children.
    I hear his excuses, but would you accept his behavior if he didn’t have so many excuses?   If he wasn’t abused-as-a-child, cheated-on, divorcee, etc etc, would you still accept him and be nonjudgmental?   Is this man even trying to get therapy for all these negative experiences? And seriously, I am not one to downplay the pain of child abuse. I know that it can cause people a lot of pain in life, but I don’t see how it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with a man who is stuck 5-10-30 years into the pain of his own past.  
    I don’t know.   If you really do love him, I would just say every time he complains, “That wasn’t me. Don’t take it out on me.”

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