Why Would a Man Date Me If He Doesn’t Think I Am the ONE?

a couple sitting on a white couch

I have a lot of male friends who are currently dissatisfied with their relationships. They tell me how they’re sure the girl is not “the one” and how certain things just really bother them. Yet, for some reason, they do not leave…even after communicating their dissatisfaction and attempting to fix problems to no avail. This seems to be some sort of phenomenon that both men and women succumb to. However, my question is if a man’s reasons for staying until you just can’t take it any more are similar to that of a woman’s. Why on earth are my friends staying with women they feel they are merely settling for? Why not just move on when you know it’s not the right fit? —Yuri

I can write a novel about this subject, but first I want to ask you a question, Yuri.

Why don’t you ask your friends?

Seriously. I’m a happily married dating coach whose relationships never lasted for more than 8 months because I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. I am literally the LAST person who can claim to identify with the “staying with the wrong one” guys.

Anyone who is staying in a dead-end relationship is utterly afraid of failure. What they don’t recognize is that being in a bad relationship IS failure.

I’ll bet if you ask them, in confidence, you will hear most of the things I’m about to mention now.

So, why would someone stay in a dissatisfying relationship?

1. Fear

Really, it all comes back to fear. One of my favorite quotes is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Anyone who is staying in a dead-end relationship is utterly afraid of failure. What they don’t recognize is that being in a bad relationship IS failure. Failure isn’t being single and dating. Failure is waking up every day dissatisfied, annoyed, hurt, and scared to either confront or leave your partner.

2. Loneliness

For many people, anyone is better than no one.

For me (and hopefully my readers), every second you’re with the wrong person is a second you’re not spending looking for the right person.

It’s called opportunity cost and it’s remarkable how people neglect to calculate the cost of spending four prime years with a person you wouldn’t want to marry.

But when you build a whole life with someone, you live together, you’re integrated into each others’ worlds, you’ve merged friends and family, the thought of extricating yourself is positively terrifying.

Remove your dissatisfying partner and suddenly, your dissatisfying world becomes even MORE lonely and depressing.

3. Sunk Costs

I was going to call this section “inertia” but it is really more of an extension of loneliness. After you put in a year of dating, you’ve built up something real. It may not be the thing you want to keep for the rest of your life, but it’s more substantial than most of the dates you’ve been on. The grass isn’t always greener, you know?

It’s like standing in a long line for a taco. If you’ve been in the line for twenty minutes and only moved ten feet, are you really going to get out of the line now? No, you’re going to continue to wait another half-hour to eat your crappy $3 taco; otherwise you’d have to leave your line and find a NEW line to wait in. Ugh.

People stay in relationships because of the sweat equity they’ve already put in, not necessarily because they’re enjoying the relationship itself.

4. Inconvenience

You know what’s really inconvenient? Having to find a new place to live. Buying a new couch because your partner owns the old one. Realizing that all of your friends are married and hanging out as couples. Writing an online dating profile. Going on first dates with total strangers. Filling up endless weeknights and weekends that were previously occupied by a partner.

The stakes are too high, and the rewards are too great to waste your life in a dissatisfying partnership.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to stay put.

5. Low self-esteem.

If you don’t like yourself, it’s easy to put up with bullshit.

It’s easy to say you deserve this.

It’s easy to think that because you “love” someone, your relationship should thrive.

It’s easy to think that your negative, selfish, clueless partner is the “best” you can do.

It’s easy to think that all relationships are hard and that if you continue to do the work that things will revert back to the way they were in the first month you met.

Except none of that’s true.

You don’t deserve this.

Love doesn’t conquer all.

You can do better.

Relationships should not be hard. They should be the source of unconditional love, support, laughter, and ease. They are the foundation on which your life is built. And if you’re on a shaky foundation, you’re not going to have a happy life.

So please, Yuri, share this article with your guy friends and tell them to get out now.

The stakes are too high, and the rewards are too great to waste your life in a dissatisfying partnership.

Join our conversation (43 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Wow, I’m so happy you posted this.   I’ve never had a problem letting someone go once I know they are not the one, but I have had problems with men not letting*me* go when they know it (because they fail to tell me).  

  2. 2

    This reminds me what a miracle it is when two people end up together and happy about it.

  3. 3

    I think you can also add “Immaturity” and/or “Hedonism” and/or “Self-Involvement” to this list.   
    I spent the first 26 years of my life literally living in the present, and explained to boyfriends before then that I never saw myself getting married and had no clue if I ever would.   They’d ask me how I felt about them and I’d honestly say “I like you but I have no clue if this is going anywhere.” I’d moved for a job, leaving an ex who was like “Um, can you quit that job so we can settle down?” (No.)   I know others who felt the same way, so there literally can’t be “The One” if the other person isn’t in a place where they are thinking primarily about themselves and unwilling to compromise their life for a relationship.   I just think some people have zero clue, although I do know I personally changed when I decided I did want to find “The One” and spend my life with one person.   I just think certain people are more/less honest and an even bigger problem, more/less self-aware.   (Society is saying “You should find the one” but also “You should pursue your dreams”.   I don’t think people are conscious of which goal they are following).
    I don’t necessarily think all people know they don’t know, though.   I asked my most recent boyfriend in the first 2-3 months of dating “Do you want to get married?” (Yes), “Do you want kids?” (Yes), “Where do you see yourself living, if you ever move?” etc, and felt confident we were on the same page.   I got burnt b/c he broke up with me after a year and a half because he felt like he should *know* he wants to get married if I am “The One”, even though he had strong feelings for me and was happy in the relationship and he “might regret this someday.”  

  4. 4

    Great question! Off the top of my head, I can think of 4 men I know who said they’d never marry their girlfriend, and ended up marrying her anyway. One ended up divorced (after a long marriage and children, though), but the others are still married, with kids. In all cases, the women really wanted to marry these men. Did they wear down their resistance? Did the men realize they actually had a good thing going, and that the Victoria’s Secret supermodel they were hoping for wasn’t showing up? Did they finally just decide that they were ready, and it was time?
    Otherwise, I’d say men stay in relationships when they are dissatisfied out of convenience, and because the sex is still good. Perhaps they aren’t all that interested in marriage, so the concept of “forever” is a moot point anyway?

  5. 5
    Jackie H.

    This should be a no-brainer…this applies to both men and women…

  6. 6

    I am at that awkward stage where I’m still young enough to have hormones but not old enough for grandkids.   I am old enough to know I need to run far and fast from a guy who really excites me but not lonely enough to get involved with a guy who doesn’t. So I just carry on by myself until this stage of life passes.

  7. 7

    I have two close girlfriends who fall under this category.   One eventually divorced her husband after 20 years of marriage.   Sounds cruel, but he suffered a head injury from a motorcycle accident.   He was an Ahole to begin with, but after, was even worse.   Had no filter and would curse at her and call her names in front of the son.   She finally grew a pair and realized she couldn’t live the rest of her life like that.   Timing certainly wasn’t good.   She took a lot of heat from the relatives (his side) when she finally kicked him out.   The other gf falls under everything Evan mentioned.   Married 30 years and would stand to lose too much from the divorce.   She lives in a loveless marriage (separate bedrooms even), but travels, lives in a nice home, has nice things as long and plenty of money as long as she  stays married.   Some people can  compromise themselves.    Not me.  

  8. 8

    Wow, I wonder this myself sometimes. I’ve been burned in various scenarios by men who would keep asking me out over the course of a few months and then the truth would emerge that they thought we were only hanging out and had never had genuine interest on me. I found it so puzzling because I was like, are these guys that desperate for companionship? I mean, as a single person I have tons of fun plans all the time, I don’t depend on dating as a substitute for friends and way to occupy my time in and of itself. I have a life, for goodness sake! So I just find it lame and sad when people waste others’ time knowingly – they need to get a hobby, expand their social circle and build respect for themselves and others if they find themselves dragging others along.

  9. 9

    ..for some men, finding another girlfriend takes a long time….

  10. 10

    At the chance of appearing sexist, I believe, while this can happen to both sexes, men will stay in a so-so relationship mostly because it’s better than nothing, and (relative) certain sex is better than putting forth the effort to finding another girlfriend or worse yet, realizing they have some work to do themselves to  attracting  a good relationship.
    I have seen this in at least one man that I have dated, a 48yo only child (i.e. the world revolves around him.) He has never married and his last long term relationship was 20 year ago. Her  pursued  me the first time we dated, even took me home to meet his parents, but was introduced as just his “friend.” I left after a few months because, while he is a good friend, he was a rotten, selfish boyfriend. Fast forward 2 1/2 years and he never stopped contacting me so I gave him another chance, thinking that maybe he realized I’d be good for him (also his dad died and he turned 50 so he was more vulnerable.) Again takes me to see Mom and Grandma (who is 103 and wonderful!) but no matter his talk about having a family, etc. (um, you’re 50 and I’m fixed!) he only  pursued  me again as he did because it was better than nothing. Even though there are physical aspects of my body he does not like (and has said so) I guess to him sex with me was less work than trying to meet someone new. Only thing is, in the 2 1/2 years we were apart I learned a WHOLE lot more about what I did and did not want both sexually and relationship-wise and when I gave him another chance but saw he had not changed, I was smart and strong enough to not fall for that again and was out of there in a month.

  11. 11

    I’m definitely going to have to share this with my guy friends, especially the one who I told I would ask this question. He literally doesn’t know why he is still there. I asked him, and he said he can’t figure it out. Hopefully this will help him understand his own thoughts or at least summarize his emotions.
    I guess, for me, this has never been an issue. Like Evan, I leave when I feel like it’s not what I want anymore. I don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially my own. So to have to try and talk it out with friends who can’t understand their own motives is not something I can readily do. It’s just not my mindset, but this is quite enlightening.   Thanks, Evan!

  12. 12
    Sparkling Emerald

    I think the question of finding “The One” changes when you get older.   I no longer have a concept of THE one, but I have a concept of ANOTHER one or the NEXT one, because marriage is no longer my goal.   I am past my child bearing years so marriage is no longer necessary AFIC, but I’m not ready to be alone permanently.   I am hopeful that the guy I am dating now will turn out to be a GOOD one, for an LTR. (monogamous, comitted, coupledom without cohabitation or   the legal contract of marriage.)    How long ?   As long it is good.   (Which right now it is great, but it always is when new)   Hoping it will be good indefinitely, but do not want to put a legal contract on it, because if and when if stops being good, I want to be able to end it with no drama and no figuring out how to divvy up the “spoils of war” .   And then be free to find the NEXT one.  

  13. 13

    Okay, but how about those people who say, “The person I’m dating isn’t the one,” and then end up with that person?   I’m genuinely curious about them.
    Some of them might wed for the same sad reasons that you list above.    But I do believe that some eventually realise that the down-to-earth supermodel or modest millionaire triathlete of their dreams doesn’t exist and that the person they’re dating, flaws and all, is not such a bad match after all.  
    For example, one of my best friends protested that she could never marry her bright-but-scatterbrained, lower-earning boyfriend.   Fast-forward 8 years later: they just celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and while all the things that she worried would bother her about him do indeed bother her, they are one of the stronger couples that I know.   Another acquaintance broke off her engagement weeks before her wedding bc she simply couldn’t bring herself to marry the guy, but they wed 6 months later and now have 4 children and seem fairly happy.  
    What gives?

    1. 13.1
      Dani carter

      I totally agree with Henriette, some ppl are just complainers in every relationship, with unrealistic expectations and selfish. In every relationship if there is real, deep love u will still have problems and have to compromiWhat to make a relationship work, takes love, respect, I understanding and the maturity to accept ppl for who they are or leave them at the door to begin with! Bottom line many times you have a close minded person with an open minded person, and one trying to change the other and that never works! All I can say is grown up folks, compromise and work it out if there is deep love and passion, and if not get to walking!!!! #Onlymyopinion 🙂

  14. 14

    Sparkling Emerald # 12
    I am in the same time of life that you are.   Maybe that is one reason that I like what you have to say.   Though marriage is not my goal (actually it never was even though I have been married before).   I too am gratefully past my child bearing years.   I have had a huge shift when it comes to relationships though.   I am no longer cringing at the thought of “all that work” and I looking forward to having something easy, loving, and fun.
    You wrote that you wanted “monogamous, committed, coupledom without cohabitation or the legal contract of marriage”.   I have been saying that for years, first because of circumstances that I believed made it impossible to be able to live with someone and then, when circumstances changed, I just couldn’t face all the “hard work” that I truly believed was inherent in ALL relationships.   
    I don’t know if I will ever live with someone again but, I am not horrified by the thought any longer and believe me that is HUGE in my world (my sisters would say miraculous).   
    I don’t believe in “The One”.   I don’t think I ever did.   So I am not looking for “The One” either, but I am excited about the possibility of an easy, happy relationship.

  15. 15
    Sparkling Emerald

    Henriette #13
    Some of them might wed for the same sad reasons that you list above.    But I do believe that some eventually realise that the down-to-earth supermodel or modest millionaire triathlete of their dreams doesn’t exist and that the person they’re dating, flaws and all, is not such a bad match after all.
    – From the different blog pieces EMK has written about his marriage and an interview I watched of him, it seems he wasn’t sure about his wife being the one right away.   I don’t ever think he said he ever thought she definitely wasn’t the one, but he did mention that he always pictured himself with a different type of woman.   When I saw the interview where he told someone that, the interviewer asked him something along the lines of would his wife get mad when she saw the interview and heard him say that.   He immediately said No, that he could speak his thoughts freely and his wife would be supportive.   I thought THAT was so cool !
    I was SO SURE that I had met THE ONE, 25 years ago, I was all starry eyed and romantic, thought our names were written on the stars, blah, blah, blah.   We married quickly while in the enamored phase.   I must admit that we enjoyed several years of wedded bliss, heaven on earth, etc. and when we had our only son, we were completely enamored of him also. Falling down off of cloud 9 to earth was pretty painful.   However, we couldn’t make it through the long haul, it all blew up in my face.
    A little bit of doubt is good I think.   (notice I said “a LITTLE bit”, I don’t recommend marrying someone who feels completely wrong)   It means you are evaluating the relationship for it’s strengths and weaknesses.   I married when I was feeling all sparkly and magical.   My friends all thought we had a fairy tale romance.   And they were right, it all was ONE BIG FAIRY TALE.

  16. 16

    Henriette # 13
    I don’t know that I have the answer for your question, but I do have a couple of personal experiences with being with someone who is not “The One”.   
    First I met a guy when I was online four years ago who I didn’t think I had much attraction to initially.   I was wrong!   I fell for him and eventually it ended.   I knew that it couldn’t be long term – he was still hurting from his divorce and frankly he didn’t do “boyfriend things” and he later admitted that he couldn’t see taking on a relationship that included a daughter that needed so much care (my daughter is disabled).    I knew this I never did think that he should or could do that but it hurt anyway because the heart can’t be reasoned with very easily.   I dated him knowing that it was short term, and I fell for him knowing that it was short term.   It happens.
    The second guy I met online two years ago.   I was only online a few weeks when we started seeing each other exclusively.   Frankly I was online to fill my days.   I had recently placed my daughter in a care home and the grief and guilt over that was eating at me.   If I had been someone who liked alcohol I would have been in serious trouble.   (But I digress.)   I did not think the guy I was seeing was “The One”.   I had a list of reasons why.   He DID do the “boyfriend things”   He did all those things that Evan tells us guys do when they want to move things forward.   I will tell you that he treated me better than any other man I had ever been with. He wanted me to meet his children and his friends, he called me regularly, wanted to be exclusive, talked about the future and wanted to meet my daughter when ever I was ready to introduce him.   Of course with such a great guy I did the only thing I was capable of… I dumped him.
    Here’s the thing.   I had kept his emails and I found them one day and reread them.   I don’t have a clue as to how I formed some of my opinions about who he was and more importantly about who he wasn’t.   I was so far off it is mind boggling!!   He WAS many of those things I wanted and I thought he wasn’t.   So maybe these people who end up with the person they didn’t think was “The One” pulled their heads out of their hind quarters BEFORE they dumped them.   Or maybe what they thought they wanted wasn’t what they really needed.   
    When I get my body back into shape I am going to do online dating again.   I am going to get Finding The One Online and I will be doing FOCUS coaching and hopefully Evan won’t let me make huge stupid mistakes without slapping me up side of the head first!!!

  17. 17

    @ Henriette 13
    I think some people are very decisive… and others are very indecisive.   I think some people are ready for a serious relationship/commitment.   Others have a lot of personal goals OR personal work they need to do before they can properly consider a “forever” type of relationship.   And I think there is a spectrum on how self-aware people are.
    Honestly, if this was just a math equation and you plotted couples on an axis, two people scoring high in decisiveness and seriousness who meet, have a short courtship and get engaged probably give off this illusion that there is a magical “The One” they’ve been magically waiting for all their lives.
    @Lia 16   While the second guy you dated does sound wonderful, he deserves someone who appreciated him and it just appeared you were using him to fill a hole in your own life??   It seems like the person who needed to change was you, and maybe if you didn’t realize your mistakes you wouldn’t be motivated to do so???

  18. 18
    Karmic Equation

    Doesn’t the “not-the-One” person in the relationship sense that the other person is dissatisfied?

    I mean don’t you feel when your partner is not into you or the relationship?

    And if you do feel that why don’t YOU break it off?

    I don’t get when the Not-the-One person would stay in a relationship when they’re not being treated like “The One”…

    1. 18.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Karmic, you’re making this into a very binary, either/or thing. It’s not. I didn’t “know” my wife was “the one”. I made a choice. It could have gone either way. She knew I loved her, she knew I wanted to be married with kids someday, but she couldn’t have known what I was going to do, since *I* didn’t know what I was going to do. She stayed because she believed in our relationship, I treated her well and she gave me the space to draw my own conclusion. But I was still openly unsure. Anyone who thinks that happy marriages automatically started with “you just know when it’s right” needs a reality check.

      The long and short of it is that Karmic is right that if you’re being TREATED like a secondary option, you should get out. But there’s a wide swath of people who are happy in a relationship and aren’t SURE that it’s going to turn into marriage. And we stay for any number of reasons listed above.

  19. 19

    @Karmic 18
    I don’t think so necessarily.   I know in a lot of cases, the “not-the-One” person is lying to themselves, but there are a lot of times when the significant other is lying to themselves.
    In the relationship referenced above, my boyfriend was Mr. Wonderful and the feelings were definitely there.   He brought up moving in with me, emailing photos of us to his mom and spoke about me to his parents long before I had mentioned him to mine, posted things like “I have the sweetest girlfriend ever” on facebook and would surprise me with flowers.   He also knew not to speak of his ex, who he still held onto anger towards (which he never mentioned) and never communicated anything bad (… yeah, it’s a little weird to NEVER fight).
    I think it actually depends upon who is lying to themselves.

  20. 20
    Katarina Phang

    I love this, Evan and I agree with you with #19.   Many women think men will know right away if we are the One if they are into us.   No…not really, at least not always.   Many men often don’t think that far ahead.   They are not programmed that way.   All they know if they like to spend time with a woman or not or whether she makes their life easier/more fun.   They keep coming back if she does.
    My ex didn’t know till 1.5 years later after we met.   My current bf knew pretty much right away but I think he’s more the exception than the rule.   And it’s because I’ve worked so much on myself to be the best woman a man can get.   He pretty much knew right away how different I was than most other women he’d met over the years in LA.
    My EUM before him thought the world of me but he wasn’t in the headspace for relationship.
    So ladies, there are so many factors why a guy is reluctant to move a relationship forward or won’t know till much later if you are the one.   And it’s probably nothing to do with you.   

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