How Do You Know If You Have Found The One?

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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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Comments:

  1. 21
    still looking

    JBL @ 10 & Michael17@18 –

    As a 50 year old guy, I too have tried to figure out how EMK’s advice works out for the various demographics.

    For those men and women who strongly desire to be in a relationship I think   Evan’s advice is perfect.   You might emotionally want a Ferrari (alpha male, Victoria’s Secret model with a PhD, etc.) but then you realize you can’t afford or attract one, or you realize that a Ferrari is very high maintenance.   The logical choice is to focus on other important characteristics and while you won’t have the “chemistry” with a Honda or Toyota, eventually you’ll (hopefully) realize how wonderful, dependable, and pragmatic they are.

    At least for me this advice doesn’t work.   I don’t have a ticking clock or a deep emotional need to be in a relationship, even though one day I hope to find Ms. Right.   Without the initial chemistry I’d have a difficult time being in an exclusive relationship with a Toyota, waiting patiently for the love to develop, while I continue to see available BMWs and Porsches driving by.   Luckily I’ve learned my lesson to stay away from the Ferraris of of the world!

    Based on the comments on Evan’s various blogs I assume that many other readers are content to be single for as long as it takes.

    Hope I didn’t offend anyone with my car analogy 🙂

      

  2. 22
    Gina

    Spot on Evan! Your advice is so straightforward and clear, I cannot understand why some of the wborax who post on your blog simply don’t get it. I listened to you and am now in a happily exclusive relationship with a wonderful man who treats me like gold. Thank you Evan! You are the best!

      

  3. 23
    helene

    Still looking @21

    I think your car analogy is actually a pretty  good one! A great car – especially for men – makes you feel good just looking at it, driving it, knowing its YOURS. Its a status symbol, a pleasure …but also a method of transportation. The point, for me, is this – once you have realised you simply can’t have a porsche or a ferrari, once you have truly internalised that, what do you do? its all very well to say you’re happy to keep walking to work “for now” and you’re in no hurry and won’t settle for just any car, but do you really want to walk to work FOREVER??  Saying you’re “in no hurry” doesn’t change the fact that if you can’t afford a porsche,you can’t afford a porsche. However long you wait,unless you win the lottery   that’s not going to change. I think that the feeling that you’re in no hurry often muddys the waters, because you don’t feel that urgency that compels you to coldly assess the situation. Accepting that the best you can   – ever – afford is a (small) BMW is the hard part, so hard that many of us put off accepting it, magically thinking that if we give it enough time the perfect (but affordable) porsche will come along. If you truly think you have a chance of getting a porsche, then get yourself in gear because the best time to do it is now! Although they don’t like to think so, men do have a “sell-by” date as well – as a woman in her forties, I have to say that one of the things I’m conscious of when approched by men substantially older than me, however wealthy or handsome, is ” how many sexually active years will this guy have left?” He may be ok right now, but in 5-10 years time? For that reason alone, I will choose to date a less tall, less good looking guy who is closer to my own age than a taller better looking guy over 52. Time does run out….don’t waste it – unless you want to walk to work for the rest of your life!

    1. 23.1
      Dave

      Terrible advice Helene. No one knows what the future holds. That younger stud you’re holding out for might get prostate cancer and there goes that hot sex you’re dreaming of. You’ve got menopause coming up fast….you might not be so hot to trot in a few years.

      Also….there are many ways to sexually pleasure a woman that don’t involve rock hard erections. Don’t think so narrowly. And truly the most intense part of sex is always ‘afterwords’, the feeling of connection, the feeling of closeness, the sense of feeling safe and secure wrapped in the arms of your lover.

  4. 24
    Katarina Phang

    Pineapple, if you put it quite like that, it means your heart is not in it.   You’re settling.   Give it some time, if after a few months it doesn’t get better, let him go.

  5. 25
    still looking

    Helene @ 23
    Thanks for some great advice! 🙂  

  6. 26
    Karl R

    JBL asked: (#10)
    “What about for men? are we in the same boat?”

    Yes.

    JBL said: (#10)
    “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.”

    Go ahead and compare … but make certain that it’s a fair comparison.

    My fiancée isn’t the hottest woman I’ve ever dated. She’s not the smartest woman I’ve ever dated. She’s not the youngest woman I’ve ever dated.

    Don’t get me wrong. She’s cute, she’s bright, she looks great for her age. But I’ve proven that I can attract younger, hotter, smarter women. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.

    But if I’m going to be fair, I can’t just look at the best traits of these other women.

    The hottest woman I ever dated was as dumb as a box of rocks.
    The most intelligent woman I ever dated was so absorbed in her career that she wouldn’t make enough time for a relationship.
    The youngest woman I dated wanted lots of kids (and I wanted none).

    Most importantly, my fiancée is the easiest to get along with of any woman I’ve dated. She has also proven (from the beginning of our relationship) that she was as interested in me as I was in her.

    You can’t help comparing … but you can be intelligent enough to look at the whole picture.

    still looking said: (#21)
    “Without the initial chemistry I’d have a difficult time being in an exclusive relationship with a Toyota, waiting patiently for the love to develop, while I continue to see available BMWs and Porsches driving by.”

    To paraphrase helene  (#23), are you able to get a Ferrari, Porsche or BMW?

    Or to put it another way, if these women aren’t interested in a long-term relationship with you, they’re not “available”.

    Furthermore, I could go chasing after other women who are younger or better looking than my fiancée. But I wouldn’t be trading her her for someone better. I would just be trading her for someone different. Someone else who has  her own drawbacks.

    I don’t think it’s smart for me to spend years finding woman after woman who is different but equivalent. If that pattern sounds appealing, then I’m clearly not interested in settling down.

  7. 27
    FashionMaven

    How does one determine the difference between a non-alpha guy who exhibits the kind, committment-oriented, good friend, etc. traits honestly and a non-alpha guy who is a people-pleaser because of insecurity issues (i.e., ultimately NOT a genuine nice guy)?
      
    I have been burned recently (actually 3 times) by non-alphas in this way.   While they appeared to be what Evan suggests we look for, in the end, their insecurities really hurt me in the end.   For all 3 of these guys, anyone who knew them would say that they are generally the nicest men you’d ever meet.   Most of them I didn’t see the insecurity with – or when I did, I didn’t think it was any worse than in most people (everyone has insecurities).
      
    I thought these were really, really great men:   committment oriented, definitely not alpha, called when they said they would, etc., kind, funny, chivalrous, nice, we matched on faith-based areas… basically what EMK says we should be looking for.
      
    But they either had deep-seated insecurities or a need to seek validation from an ex who hurt them and this MADE them just as unavailable and bad for me as the alphas had been.   But at least with the alphas, they were upfront and honest about what they would and wouldn’t do.   But the “nice” guys couldn’t even be honest with themselves – so how could they be totally honest with me?
      
    Evan – do you have any advice on how to ferret out THOSE nice guys?   I am normally drawn to “nice” guys – my ex-fiance was a “nice guy” but it turned out he was only “nice” to gain favor from people.   He tended to harbor secret resentment towards me and others because he couldn’t say “no”.   He ended up cheating.   The next “nice” guy wasn’t very emotionally aware – even though he claimed he was over his ex, he wasn’t and ended up cheating on me with his ex.   The last “nice” guy had insecurities that prevented any relationship from ever developing – he sabotaged it himself.   And I’d known him long enough to see the insecurities but never even guessed at how deep the issues were.
      
    How do we tell the difference between nice guys who are truly nice from their core and nice guys who are nice “by default” because they are too insecure to be an alpha or even a confident non-alpha?
      
      

  8. 28
    Joe

    Karl said (#26):

    To paraphrase helene  (#23), are you able to get a Ferrari, Porsche or BMW?

    The car analogy is quite apt here.   If you have enough money, you can get the Ferrari, Porsche, BMW–whether you’re speaking literally (buying a car) or figuratively (getting a woman).

    On the other hand, there’s the whole luxury car ownership issue where you rarely drive your Ferrari, or  drive like your grandmother  in your Porsche  because you’re afraid to get in an accident, or scratch the paint.

  9. 29
    Greg

    @FashionMaven

    Good points.   There is a difference between being nice and being a passive-aggressive  doormat.   Nice has different definitions, but I think it should really mean kind, considerate, respectful and unselfish.   People who are “nice” just to gain favors or get what they want are actually being  manipulative  and that is not nice at all.   That’s why its important to take time to get to know people and not overlook red flags.   

    I met a “nice” girl once.   She was shy, and didn’t like to argue or nag and seemed to be very agreeable.   However, I came to find out that she only seemed to be agreeable because she couldn’t set boundaries or express her feelings.   One big red flag was that she told me that she didn’t believe in compromise because she felt that it meant not getting what she wanted.   She would agree to things she hated and then harbor deep resentment.   She always wanted to have her way, though she didn’t verbally express it. This would eventually explode in the form of unexpected moodiness, cutting remarks or silent treatment, which is a form of manipulation.   She was a nightmare, but only a few people close to her and  myself  knew this.   Even her mother admitted that this girl was unpredictable.   To everyone else though she was just a sweet, shy “nice” girl.   Avoid these kinds of people because they are actually not “nice.”
    I now know how to tell the difference between a  genuinely  nice person and a fake one.   But I can only do so after getting to know the person through intimate interaction.   Nice people are not manipulative, and do not do “nice” things just so they can have their way.   Nice  people  do nice thing because they genuinely care about other people, and they hold no resentment if the other person doesn’t notice or respond the way they want. Genuine nice people also set boundaries and know how to express their feelings and stand up for themselves.   That’s why you should always take your time to get to know someone and not ignore red flags.  

  10. 30
    Goldie

    I like the car analogy. Here’s my take on it. Say you think you want a Ferrari and cannot settle for a Toyota. At the same time, your lifestyle is such that you use your car to take your three kids and two dogs on camping trips, or commute to work an hour one way in an area where it snows five months out of the year, or drive to the middle of nowhere for weekends of rock-climbing or extreme wilderness races… you get the general idea. Assuming you like your lifestyle and don’t want to change it, what the heck would you do with a Ferrari? It is completely unusable for your way of life. In fact, with a Ferrari, you would be settling. You would be canceling your favorite activities just to accommodate your Ferrari. Are you sure you want that?

  11. 31
    Starr

    I’m confused.   No wonder she can’t figure it out.   She doesn’t even know what she wants.   How can she “not have the urge to stop dating” and “want to stop dating” at the same time?   Either you do or you don’t.

  12. 32
    Still Looking

    Starr @ 31

    It’s really not confusing – she wants to be in a relationship and stop dating but she hasn’t found anyone that is special enough to make her want to settle down and stop looking.  

  13. 33
    Joe

    You don’t want a nice guy.   You want a good guy.

  14. 34
    Katherine

    this sounds like settling. no offense, but i don’t agree that if someone has gone 31 years and not met the one then she/he should settle for the best out of the bunch. i can’t imagine going through life thinking, “well maybe there was someone more compatible to me out there, but I got scared so now I am with mr. good enough.” that sounds like a prison sentence to me actually. I guess it depends on what you want/need in life, but I am looking for a little more magic than that.   

  15. 35
    Evan Marc Katz

    No offense taken, Katherine. Please read “Marry Him” by Lori Gottlieb and let me know if you still can’t understand the difference between compromising and settling.

    Because I can assure you that all happily married people see the value in compromising. They don’t see it as settling.

    If you refuse to compromise, you will remain single. No offense.

      

      

  16. 36
    Katherine

    I was married for 11 years to someone who I thought was stable, who I thought shared my values and who I thought would be a wonderful father to my children. I didn’t have those crazy chemistry sparks with him, but I knew that fades in the end. Well, in the end, he turned out to be an emotionally abusive person who ultimately threatened to hurt me. So much for compromising. I was rather bored and abused. Now I am a single mother to a son, and there is a man who has offered me everything in the world, and I have not accepted. Should I, despite not feeling that way towards him? I can’t bring myself to do it. I guess remaining single doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  

    1. 36.1
      Dave

      Well, often you just don’t truly “know” about someone. Humans are complex creatures and we have many, many layers. And many of us never truly reveal those deeper and (perhaps) darker layers….for fear of rejection or perhaps not even wanting to face them ourselves.

      Your past experience is now impacting your current relationship. Do you feel nothing for this man, or are you unable to feel?

  17. 37
    Kris

    Thanks Evan…After 2 failed marriages, multiple lovers, being a “Exotic Dancer” for 20 years (to support 3 sons by myself), a couple live-ins after divorce and an almost fatal car accident on my to the prison to visit the Psychopath that had me in grips for 3 1/2 yeas…it was time to work on ME. WHEW…a  chaotic life…  

    I stayed single with for the last 2 years dating a little but mostly  focusing  on making myself emotionally healthy for a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.  

    Then I met him. I read your book after I met him (it was a fluke meeting via phone call) because I wanted all the right information to make sure I don’t repeat past patterns. I am 53 now, and a dance instructor, so I still look fit and good, and my new partner is a retired Ice Hockey  player. So for the first time in my life, I have someone with similar hobbies so we can go our separate ways to enjoy our passions.  

    A  commitment  is coming, but we  aren’t  rushing it, That is my issue…I always rushed, he is not. It drives me crazy, but I know I need to pay attention to you and the fact I do not want to repeat old patterns and still work on myself. Well, so far so good.  

    He  actually  listens to me, and I to him which is a good change of patterns. Everything is healthy so far and it is different than any  relationship  I’ve ever had. He is an “Alpha,” but after  the  deaths of Mother, Fiancee and best friend, 2 bouts with cancer  himself in a 4 year span, he is a different man than before. He wants to  understand  women and is always conscious of my feelings and wants to  participate  in keeping it  healthy–so I  committed  and it is good so far after 4 months. He is is thoughtful and kind.

    So, I believe we are on the right track….if anyone has any comments, I would appreciate it…

    thanks Evan…  

  18. 38
    WelcomeDating

    I am agree with all what you say Evan and   I would like only to add that you never know when you meet the only one. It’s just becoming more and more obvious . If they want to be together after all fights , it’s a great sign that they don’t need anyone else. Take in account   a aging factor as well. Everything changes in person as he grows older and it’s not that easy to leave someone as it was when you were young 🙂
      

  19. 39
    Anonymous

    Good, well-rounded advice, Evan.   

    Thank you for clarifying your philosophy.

  20. 40
    P

    Katherine: If being single works for you, then by all means. Some people are simply happier that way…though not many that I’ve met in the long run.

    It sounds to me like you want one of two things:

    1) Crazy  sparks/attraction. However,  based  on your story of being married to someone who turned out to be emotionally abusive…would  having that kind of “spark” prevent this from happening?   I’d argue that it would be more likely to make you overlook any warning signs of that outcome and thus be more dangerous.

    2) The ability to see ahead in time and completely and accurately predict what someone will be like later one.   Sorry, it can’t be done presently and likely never will be possible.   Too many variables.   So if your idea of “settling” is to not  be involved unless you can completely, 100% predict whether someone will ever become emotionally abusive  or whatever your particular fear is, you’re just plain out of luck in this world.   It can’t be done.   You can make an educated guess or estimation based on behavior right now, but…the future can’t be predicted.   In that aspect, we all “hope for  the best.”

    It sounds to me like you’re scared based on previous experience and are looking for that guy who makes you not have to think about these potential pitfalls.   That is going to be someone who gives you those obsessive “spark”…and in my estimation you are far more likely to end up with a bad  outcome by making decisions based upon that.   That “spark”…that obsessive feeling…is absolutely fun.   But, its a drug (literally)…and like any drug it has an amazing tendency to fog us over and make us oblivious to what is REAL vs our own drug-induced fantasies.

                            

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