How Do You Know If You Have Found The One?

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. 31

    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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 33

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

  4. 34

    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.  

  5. 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.



  6. 36

    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

      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?

  7. 37

    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… 

  8. 38

    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 🙂

  9. 39

    Good, well-rounded advice, Evan.  

    Thank you for clarifying your philosophy.

  10. 40

    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.


  11. 41

    “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..” 

    No. The real point is that, due to the modern woman’s fantasies, she will not “feel” she loves a decent man, only sorry excuses for men. True love has a greater chance of developing for a decent and a kind man. 
    There is no free lunch in life. If you want a great marriage/relationship you have to work for it, because it just won’t happen all by itself. 

  12. 42

    My favorite part of these is when you said, If a guy may be the one ask yourself whether your life is better with him than it would be if you weren’t with him.  That is such an important part in figuring out if he is the one.  Another important part, in my opinion, is making sure you are a better person with them.  I loved myself so much more and the person I had become when I started dating my husband.  Some people bring out the negative in you and a lot of the times you don’t even realize it.  I was with an ex for 3 years before realize I hated the person I had become.  You also have you be ready to find the one.  If you aren’t ready then you will never mentally find the one.

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