How Do You Know If You Have Found The One?

couple drinking wine, face positioned close

Okay, Evan, I have stopped using chemistry, finance, and looks as an indicator of whether I want to pursue a relationship with a guy. I’ve also stopped looking for the alpha male with more masculine energy. As a result, I have met several great guys with many compatible qualities that would be conducive to forming a long lasting healthy relationship. But there’s just one problem. How do you know when to stop dating? I don’t feel that usual spark with these men. Although they are good to me and I like hanging out with them, I don’t have a desire to settle down with them and I don’t have an urge to stop dating even though a few of them have made it clear to me that they want to be exclusive. I guess what I’m asking is how am I to know when I’ve found THE ONE when I’m not going by the usual emotional cues? I just can’t help feeling these guys are a dime a dozen. Do I just pick one and see how it goes? I’m 31 and I’m ready to stop dating and be a part of a relationship. —Kimby

Dear Kimby,

I’m impressed.

You’ve been reading my stuff, internalizing it, and practicing it in real life.

And you’ve already seen the small hole in my business model:

If you’re not basing your relationship decisions on evanescent traits such as chemistry or shallow things such as money and looks, what ARE you going on? And how is it supposed to feel when you find your one and only?

All I’m saying is that if you’re constantly intoxicated with rich, charismatic, educated, successful alpha males…and every single one you’ve ever met has disappointed you, perhaps it’s time to consider using other criteria for choosing a mate.

Before I answer your question, I need to go back to clarify a few things to readers who aren’t as clear on what Kimby’s talking about:

1. Just because Kimby has stopped using chemistry, finance and looks as an indicator of future relationship success, does NOT mean that she entirely GIVES UP on those qualities. This is the fundamental way in which my advice gets misinterpreted and it drives me up a wall. All I’m saying is that if you’re constantly intoxicated with rich, charismatic, educated, successful alpha males…and every single one you’ve ever met has disappointed you, perhaps it’s time to consider using other criteria for choosing a mate. So instead of getting blinded by looks, money, and charisma, your future husband will still have these qualities, just in lesser degrees. What he lacks in those qualities, he will make up for with kindness, character, and consistency — which are imperative if you want to build a 40-year relationship.

2. A short-handed way of expressing the above sentiment is to trade out a man who is a “10” in looks/money/charisma for guy who maybe a 6 or a 7. Will you have the most intense chemistry of all time? No. Will you have sufficient chemistry that you can have a great sex life and happy marriage? Yes. (And in case you’re a woman who traded off poorly and made a mistake — that doesn’t invalidate my claim. Just because YOU gave up too much chemistry doesn’t mean that EVERY woman will have the same experience as you.)

However, Kimby, both of those paragraphs are largely theoretical — they’re made-up scales to measure qualities that aren’t always measurable. Which is why this concept of giving up the 10 in chemistry in exchange for a 10 in compatibility often feels remote.

So when you’re asking me what it’s supposed to feel like when you’ve found the one, here’s the best I can do:

In How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer, he discusses the two tracks in our brain that are responsible for decision-making: one is emotional, one is rational, and they BOTH matter.

Since most people — especially women — are very in touch with their emotions, I stress a very rational approach to love, as exhibited by this blog, my newsletters and my books: If one thing isn’t working, try another thing. If men do X, you should do Y. It’s not about right and wrong; it’s about effective and ineffective, and so forth.

But despite this, you shouldn’t ignore a deep-seated emotion. If you get the feeling that a man is a creep, dump him. If you get the feeling that a man is unable to communicate in a way that satisfies you, dump him. If you get the feeling that he is not to be trusted with his word and commitment to you, dump him.

You have to listen to that loud voice that says NO.

The problem is: that voice isn’t there to tell you YES.

Every time you’ve heard the YES voice, you’ve been WRONG.

And that’s where the rational brain comes in.

The decision to marry my wife was a rational decision. That isn’t to say that I didn’t love her, but rather that I didn’t “just know.”

What I did know was that I’d dated 300 women before.

What I did know was that the girlfriends I loved in the past all dumped me.

What I did know was that my girlfriend made me laugh, she accepted me despite my faults, and that there was never any drama.

What I did know was that even if I didn’t have that “feeling,” I’d never before had such an easy, enjoyable relationship that brought out the best in me and made me feel loved.

So I proposed to her in 2008 — even though I wasn’t “positive.”

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m reminded of it every day.

When you find a guy who could be “the one,” it’s not about the intensity of the feeling — as much as everyone wants to tell you that.

It’s about a) whether your life is better with him than it would be if you weren’t with him, and b) whether you can realistically have a better relationship with someone else.

If a man is a great boyfriend, I already know the answer to a).

As for the answer to b), you may think that you can find all the same great qualities in your man in a package that is taller, richer, smarter, or funnier.

Once I realized that I was comparing my girlfriend to a fantasy instead of comparing her to my very flawed past girlfriends, my decision became easy. It can be for you, too.

But you’ve gone 31 years and you haven’t done so yet. Why are you so sure you can do better than a great guy who wants to commit to you? Because of a “feeling” that’s always failed you in the past?

Once I realized that I was comparing my girlfriend to a fantasy instead of comparing her to my very flawed past girlfriends, my decision became easy. It can be for you, too.

So where do you begin?

Start with assessing whether you have fun with a guy on the first couple of dates.

Continue with how enthusiastic he is about being your boyfriend in the next few dates.

If both of those conditions are met, try an exclusive relationship. Not marriage. Just boyfriend/girlfriend. See what it feels like. After all, you can’t build anything if you’re always moving.

Then, just put one foot in front of the other, month after month, and see where the relationship goes.

Like me, you may find that the person who felt temporary at the beginning turns out to be the most permanent fixture in your entire life.

Good luck.

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  1. 1

    Great post Evan, thank you for providing  strong clarity on what I really struggled with in 2011!   I’ve been taking your advice a lot in the last year, as well as growing myself and my love/relationship knowledge in  MANY other ways.    And I’ll be the first to admit at times I’ve wrongly regarded your advice as  black & white  vs. general guidelines  (as you hinted at when you mentioned 10 chemistry vs  0 chemistry).   Your advice on dating discernment, as far as having fun in first 2 dates, then measuring consistency, then considering bf/gf status,  is extremely helpful, as searching for Mr. Right  in the past year was really puzzling  when trying to  decide who to weed out, etc.   Thankfully, now  I’ve gotten some good dating practice  and a lot more clarity in what I really want and need in a man, and am excited and hopeful for the future.

    To be honest, I’ve dated very few men  in my life  who were strong alphas, simply because I didn’t feel confident or even worthy around them in the past (thankfully those issues are gone)…   However,  of the 25+ men I’ve gone on dates with in the last year, there were 2 strong alphas, and I ended up having  more successful dates with those 2  than with almost all of the other guys. While neither  one worked out,  I definitely felt  the most  like my normal funny self with them,  had long  meaningful conversations with  each, and truly had the most relaxing  fun on the dates.   I’m still single though, so the verdict is still out on whether or not an alpha is  truly right for me.  

    To some extent, I  still believe that each relationship story unfolds  differently (including yours):   My best friend begged her now husband of 5+ years to sleep with her on the first date (he wouldn’t cuz he knew he had a good thing and didn’t want to ‘ruin it’) and was raving to him about having his babies by date 3  (a little  crazy but they’re married now and he’s  quite normal…so to each his own),  My sister-in-law first approached my alpha brother in a bar, and  I know a few married couples who  knew within the first few dates or months that their partners were  right for them.   By all means, I’m not pointing out these examples to fight your advice, stick up for the exception, or cause people to ignore red flags and/or devalue themselves.   What I do believe is that life’s journey  is never certain nor known, and that great reward  only comes with taking  risks…a.k.a steps of faith.    

    Thanks and keep up the great work Evan!

  2. 2

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Now I get it. Yes, this does add clarity to the overall message of accepting the 6 or 7 even though there’s not instant chemistry. Or being drawn in by the extroverted Alpha 10 guy who pushes all the right buttons but is ever elusive & in the end, commitment-phobic & all about himself & his drama.  

    I thought I had to accept the guy who has a lackluster personality, and who physically makes me cringe in order to have a successful, lasting relationship. Good to know that all the qualities of a 10 can still be present in a solid relationship, just to a lesser, more realistic degree. Thanks, Evan. I don’t always agree with you, but this is an area where your advice is without question very helpful.   

  3. 3

    I knew my husband was “the one” after about five months because everything was so EASY.   As Evan said, there was no drama.   He always had the next date lined up at the end of the current date (he knew I got booked up quickly) so I never had to wonder if he’d call, or whether he was interested.   He was, and he made sure I knew it.   He proposed at six months and although it seemed quick, I said yes — because it felt so right and was everything I’d been looking for in a relationship.   We were married at the 14-month mark, and just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary yesterday.   The marriage just keeps getting better and stronger with each passing year.   “Easy” did not mean boring, by the way.   It was more about the lack of anything bad going on.   There wasn’t the yearning or the unrequited feelings or the ache that had accompanied former roller coaster relationships with unavailable men.   He was available, “head, heart and arms,” and continues to be to this day.   For once, my “little voice” that had screamed, “Are you CRAZY?!” so many times in the past was happily silent.  

  4. 4

    I understand not expecting to feel sparks with a man right off the bat. But feeling that all the guys she’s dating are a dime a dozen doesn’t sound so great to me. There’s more to dating than just a man who treats you well. I think there’s also a difference between deciding you want to marry someone and knowing when to stop dating, and get into a serious relationship. I’m wondering why, after dating these guys for a certain amount of time, maybe weeks or months, no one in particular is starting to emerge at the front of the pack as a serious contender.

  5. 5

    I think Evan’s advice to try dating based on different criteria is a very good idea, and I have been trying to do this myself for the past year or so, but I think its important to remember that even if you are choosing who to go on dates with based on arguably healthier criteria, at the end of the day, you STILL need to fall in love with them! The point of dating men based on criteria other than looks, money or lust is not to end up marrying someone you don’t love simply because they are a decent guy and are kind to you – that is essentially just as mercenary as marrying someone you don’t love because they are rich! By dating men for reasons other than looks, money etc… and using criteria such as consistency or shared goals, what you are doing is putting yourself in a POSITION to fall in love with a man of this sort – you are giving yourself the OPPORTUNITY to form a deep connection with one of these men by actually agreeing to go out with them and get to know them. But if you don’t begin to love him, if you don’t find him unique, if you don’t start thinking that losing him would be unbearable, then that simply means he’s not the right kind, decent guy for you.All the same, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – the next kind, decent guy you agree to go on a date with might be the one for you. Changing your criteria doesn’t guarantee instant success, it just places you in a different dating pool…..whuch you still have to wade through!

  6. 6

    This question was posted exactly when I was wondering the same thing myself. I find most guys to be nice and decent. I can have a fun time with any guy because I’ve learned to do so from decades of working with mostly men. So I was getting confused as to how you are suppose to pick one of these similar guys (yes “a dime a dozen” as the OP states) to actually make some sort of commitment with. While Evan is right that you have to just give it a try, I feel that approach can lead to trying out guys without rhyme or reason. I have decided for me that I am going to base my decision on how interesting I find the guy in addition to all the criteria Evan recommends. I want to be with someone that I am curious about; someone I want to get to know better. Not just someone I have a nice time hanging out with.

  7. 7

    I definiely understand where Evan is coming from but you have to began to truly value these other qualities.   As logical as   you can be Evan, the brains of women are different.   As a woman you need to feel it in your heart.   When I was younger I went for the cutest guy or the alpha jock.   I still like cute but I truly value/love being treated well.   It means alot to me.   If a woman does not value it emotionally, however logically it may be, she will not fall in love.      

    It’s like telling someone that the wine they are drinking that doesn’t satisfy them   and doesn’t appeal to themis the best quality. …..They have to develop a taste for it to appreciate it.

  8. 8

    I totally second BeenThruTheWars # 3 – the man I am engaged to (as of Christmas Day night) pursued me pretty relentlessly from the time we met almost six months ago. He was fun, my age, and very different from whom I dated before.   I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t even want to continue dating any other men on but I waited until he had the same discussion with me.

    He was NOT like the countless commitment-phobic alpha males I had met in the past four years……..he called when he said he would, he always asked when he could see me next by the end of our date, and he walked “the talk”………..right down to his very romantic proposal……..

    I am so glad that I gave this wonderful, very kind, fun, intelligent, handsome man a chance – he makes all the others pale by comparison.     

  9. 9

    I appreciate this advice, Evan, and I think you’re absolutely right.   And it is tough, when you’re dating several bright, thoughtful, dedicated guys but don’t feel like you know them well enough to make a decision and all of them are pushing to be exclusive.   I guess the best we can do is take the meager information we have and just select one, not slamming the door TOO harshly on the others so that they might consider us in the future should our chosen boyfriend not work out.  

  10. 10

    Great advice Evan(as always).

    What about for men? are we in the same boat? Since we are not as focused on a women’s career, height etc..can we also dial it down to find a happy relationship? I feel that we have two “brains” that often sabotage our best interests. I’d love to marry a women that i wasn’t super attracted to, but made me laugh and had a great disposition, but i find it difficult to not compare her to other women i’ve been out with. I’m sure i could settle down with a 6 or   7, but would love to hear any helpful advice…

  11. 11

    I think Evan is saying that guys who are less than perfect in one category can make up for it in another.   Say you have  5 general criteria:


    An alpha may  score a 10-10-10-4-4.   Call it a total of 38 “points”.
    Another guy may only score a 7-7-7 on the first three, but 9-9 on the last two, for a total of 39.

  12. 12

    Sounds like the LW has several men asking her to be exclusive, all of them are the type of guy EMK recommends,  and she is not sure who to pick.   So I am not sure her question was answered.   Assuming you are being pursued by 3-5 average guys who are nice and commitment-minded, and you don’t feel strongly about ANY of them at the moment, who do you pick?   The most financially stable?   The first one who asked?   The first one you went on a date with?

    That’s how I read her question, at least.

    1. 12.1

      I think he did answer her question. She has made a mistake by completely trying to eliminate chemistry, looks, etc. So what she’s left with are nice guys who don’t really excite her. There is a happy compromise you’re looking to achieve. Someone who excites you (but not so much that you’re blinded to their faults, etc.) but also treats you well, respects you and is emotionally available.

  13. 13

    Joe #11 – great way to think about it!   Thanks!   That’s definitely what I am aiming for.

  14. 14


    I think that one way for someone to work out their preference between similar candidates is to toss a coin – heads Jim, tails Matthew. When the coin falls, you’ll either be secretly pleased it came out the way it did, or get a sudden feeling of disappointment it wasn’t the other one…. and you have your answer!

  15. 15

    I’m chatting with a couple but don’t see anything happening with either one. I initiated contact with one and while he’s said he’s like to meet me, I don’t think he’s that interested.   I guess I’ll go through with meeting him but because he doesn’t seem all that interested, I’m wishing for a way out and don’t really want to go through with it now.   On the one hand it might be good since I have no hopes of anything getting off the ground.   On the other, maybe my attitude needs adjusted.   I don’t know.

  16. 16

    I really like this post.   What keeps popping into my mind, is that according to this criteria, choosing a partner is a lot like choosing a friend.   We all meet new people all the time.   A lot of the people we meet are kind, generous and fun to be around.   That’s not enough though, to start a friendship.   The  number of people you meet  and start a friendship with is  only a small percent of the total number of people you meet.   We are much easier on ourselves with friendships though.   There isn’t as much second guessing, I suppose because ultimately there isn’t as much at stake, we aren’t putting our hearts on the line in a new friendship, as we do in a new romantic relationship.   If we could pick relationships like we pick friends, we may have some more success.

  17. 17

    @Erinlee, I would argue that most people don’t even consider friendship when  choosing a  boyfriend/husband (and the other way around).   People do things to their partner that we would never tolerate from our friends.   Physical attraction/friendship/commitment are the 3 legs of the stool…ALL three must be there,   or the relationship will crumble–sometimes   quickly, sometimes not until years later.

  18. 18

    JBL #10:
    This is my take: Looks are to men what “chemistry” is to women. Truth be told, too many of us will put up with a lot of crap from a woman if we think she is “hawt”. We will also pursue women whom we are intensely physically attracted to, without really considering of whether she truly would be compatible with or interested in us.

    So I think that Evan’s advice modified for guys, would be to go after the girls who are at least a   6 or a 7 in looks to you (instead of going after only those who are an 8 or higher) AND who are likely to be an 8 or higher in compatibility, and then when dating her, screen for character, compatibility, and interest. In other words, if you are a 40-year-old guy, consider dating women who are say in their late 30’s whose lifestyle seems to complement yours and who is physically attractive “enough”, INSTEAD OF going after say the girls who are in their 20’s who make your head swivel, but who don’t seem that interested in you or that compatible with you.

  19. 19

    I keep wondering this exact same thing.   I also took Evan’s advice and stopped  trying to be with a guy that I was crazy about.   I’m in an exclusive relationship with a guy who has tons of great qualities, but I don’t feel any real “spark” for.   Even though I know the spark is fake … it is awfully enjoyable and made it much easier to make decisions.   I’m afraid that I will always wonder “what if” I had kept dating to look for someone else.   Evan, how do you know if you should stay with someone?   I’m doing the “day after day” and “foot after foot” approach, but what happens when I’m suddely 35+ and have many fewer prospects and I’m stuck with a guy, basically, because he picked me?

  20. 20

    This is what happens when we live a culture where marketing produces dissatisfaction because modern marketing promotes you can have it all but in reality you can not.  

    You either settle for how they treat you or you settle for high intense chemistry. Pick your poison!

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