Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Do You Know When You’ve Found ‘The One’?”

Your relationship with Drew seems lovely. How did you know for sure he was the person you wanted to marry/spend your life with/share your love with? Please don’t say ‘I just knew’! I know in some ways this question is ‘over done,’ but maybe you have an interesting perspective! And even if you did absolutely ‘just know,’ what would you recommend for people who are inevitably natural doubters/analyzers — people who may deep down ‘just know’ but who inevitably question the ‘just knowing’?

I suppose I’m interested in your personal experience, rather than a generalized one, because I think generalized explanations of ‘How to know he is Mr. Right’ can be a bit ridiculous. — Just Wants to Know

I’m not going to tell you “I just knew,” because I didn’t. There was never a moment when “I just knew.” Hell, even when Drew proposed and I said yes, I didn’t “just know” it was meant to be or that we were going to be happy forever and ever. I did think those things, but I was not 100 percent, positively certain we were going to be well-matched and happy together forever. You can never be totally sure about anything in life. Everything is a risk — even marrying someone you love with your whole heart and want very much to spend your life with. There’s always a risk you’ll fall out of love or that problems outside your relationship or with your children will negatively impact you. There’s a risk that one or both of you will change so much that you’ll no longer share the connection you had when you said, “I do.” Life can throw so much shit on you and there’s no guarantee that you or your partner or your relationship is going to handle it with enough grace to pull you through the other side unscathed and still intact.

There was never a point I knew for sure that Drew was “the one” for me because I don’t believe in “the one.” I believe there are lots of potential “ones,” and timing, dumb luck, and open-mindedness are the three key factors in determining which “one” you end up with. Drew and I came into each other’s lives at the right time. We were both single and looking for love. A mutual friend who had a random thought that we might like each other put us in touch over the phone. I happened to be going to New York for a weekend trip and Drew was open to taking me out while I was there. Timing + dumb luck + open mindedness.

We had a wonderful date and spent most of the weekend together, laughing and sharing stories and having a great time. Then I went back to Chicago and Drew and I proceeded to long distance date for a while. Every couple of weeks, one of us flew to the other for a long weekend. We talked on the phone every day — usually multiple times a day. We texted and emailed. We talked about the future.

After about six months of this, I decided it couldn’t work out between us and I broke up with him on one of my visits to New York. I decided that the risks were too great. I knew he wasn’t open to moving to Chicago, so that meant I’d have to move to New York if we were ever actually going to be together-together, and the idea of leaving my friends and my life behind was too sad and scary to fully embrace. Even for Drew. So I told him I couldn’t do this anymore, and I cried and cried.

I cried so hard that when I got to the airport, I was so distracted by my grief that I missed my plane. I was sitting right there at the gate just thinking about how fucking sad I was, and one second the gate was full of fellow passengers-in-waiting and the next minute everyone was gone and so was the plane. I had been so lost in my grief that I’d missed my boarding call and last plane out to Chicago, and I had to spend another night in New York.

Heading back to Drew’s place on the bus, I had a sudden feeling. It wasn’t exactly “just knowing,” but more like the absence of knowing we weren’t meant to be. For months, I’d been trying to talk myself out of loving Drew because loving him and investing in a future with him meant taking some risks I wasn’t yet open or willing to take. I convinced myself — and tried to convince him — that we weren’t really meant to be in the long run. I said things like, “Isn’t this a fun summer fling!”

But summer came and went and soon it was October and staying with him meant being more than a fling and I wasn’t sure that that’s what I wanted, so I broke up with him. But on the bus to his place after I missed my flight home, I realized that not being together was a bad idea and that I’d made a mistake walking away from him.

I told him so as soon as I saw him, and luckily, he welcomed me back with open arms. That night we wandered the streets of Manhattan and I felt like the luckiest girl around. I wasn’t going to take what we had for granted anymore. How long had I been looking for exactly what was right in front of me?

In past relationships, I’d had a nagging feeling in my gut that I was with the wrong guy. With Drew, I didn’t have that. It took me a few months, but finally I realized that THAT’s how I knew he was right for me. It wasn’t a “just knowing” he was the one that hit me over the head and knocked the breath out of me or anything dramatic like that; it was simply the absence of knowing he wasn’t. It was subtle and I almost didn’t notice it.

So, my advice for anyone trying to figure out if the person you’re with is the right longterm match for you is to check in with your gut. Is there a nagging feeling that things are off? If so, are those things that can be fixed without changing who either of you is? Are there circumstances muddying up your perspective that you have the power and willingness to change? If so, change them and then see how you feel. If things are still off, then maybe you aren’t meant to be. Or maybe you simply aren’t ready to decide your future yet, which is fine, too (unless one of you is in a rush, in which case, this may be an issue of your timing being off and there’s probably another “one” for you down the road when timing, dumb luck, and open mindedness are lined up better).

If you check in with your gut and there’s NO nagging feeling that things are off, then congratulations; there’s a good chance you’ve found a your match.


You can follow me on Facebook here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

86 comments… add one
  • Christy August 27, 2012, 9:08 am

    OMG Wendy, best answer ever. I’m seriously bookmarking this.

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  • Taylor August 27, 2012, 9:13 am

    Love it! It’s so important to know yourself well enough to recognize both talking yourself in to being with someone, and talking yourself out of being with someone =)

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  • Craycray August 27, 2012, 9:14 am

    Alternate perspective: If you are a very anxious-type person and prone to over-analyzing everything, there’s a chance that your gut will try to tell you you ARE with the wrong person. For no real reason. If you feel panicky and awful at the thought of ending it, but you still feel like “I have to break up with him” (not that you want to), then you just might be dealing with anxiety and overanxious and intrusive thoughts. (There’s actually something called Relationship OCD that manifests this way.)

    So, most of the time guts are good things to listen to. But sometimes you can hear things that aren’t true. I have given up trusting my “gut” because it’s usually wrong and it’s my anxiety talking. If you’re not generally an anxious person, then your gut is probably reliable. Maybe 🙂

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    • deyo March 29, 2013, 4:02 am

      Although, sometimes when you’re really with the right person there’s no anxiety. I have pretty horrible anxiety problems, and just recently got engaged. Maybe once in a while my brain starts going with “what if”s but I’m able to ignore them because in my heart–in my gut–I know it’s right. When people ask me how I knew, I totally saw “I just knew”… but I agree with Wendy, it’s not something that hits you over the head. Things are just easy and nice and you realize that there’s no one else you’d ever rather be with. I also completely agree with the multiple right “ones” thing, I was actually talking about it with my fiance the other day 🙂

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    JK August 27, 2012, 9:15 am

    Beautiful, Wendy.

    In my case, I think it was like a process that just went naturally. We never had a “talk” about what we were, where we were headed, or anything like that. It was like our relationship went evolving from one stage to the next, to the point where we decided to have kids and get married. Pretty much from the beginning of our relationship I felt like I was in it for the long haul, my husband and I have always been pretty compatible on all levels, but we still had to work through some things to get to the point we are now (he wasn´t sure he “believed ” in marriage, for example).
    OK, I don´t know if any of this actually made sense or not.

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  • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:20 am

    Oh, good question, LW, and great answer, Wendy! I love hearing Wendy’s personal stories. (Is that weird?) I mean, I like the PG stories. (Remember the weirdo who wanted to know a heck of a lot more about Wendy? Haha.)

    p.s. I want everyone to know that I am going to be very productive today. I am, damnit.

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      JK August 27, 2012, 9:23 am

      You are doing a great job of being productive so far. 😀

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      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:30 am

        I am. Do you know what I did today? I will tell you.

        1. I paid two parking tickets that were a bitch – those fuckers had been looming over my head for 3 weeks. Honestly, I don’t know why I just didn’t pay them right away. Instead, I am out $200 and 3 weeks of agony, when I could have just been out $200. Chicago parking nazis can go F their moms.
        2. I took a cab to work so I could lug some boxes full of shit like paper weights, pictures, diplomas, etc.
        3. I ran into an ex in the lobby b/c it turns out he now works in my building. Or me in his building. I don’t know who got here first. He’s engaged, I learned. But I knew that because I read his FB page sometimes / a not-unhealthy amount of times.
        4. I had coffee.
        5. I finalized my time for last week and sent that to my secretary even though our weekly time is not due until TUESDAY. Cha ching! That’s another thing that looms over my head each week. If I just fucking did it every day I wouldn’t have anxiety about it.
        6. I woke up with a potty mouth. Sometimes that happens, I don’t know how that happens but it does and I usually can’t fix it until the next day. It’s a 24 hour thing.

        There, that’s all I’ve done so far.

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:40 am

        Actually, I’ve done more that I need to share and *then* I’m going to start billing.

        7. I remembered why this ex is an ex. As he’s talking and talking about his upcoming wedding I’m standing there, in fucking heals, holding a hugeass box and it was heavier than donkey balls and he just keeps talking and talking and talking …

        8. I accepted an invitation, via text of course, to Date No. 2 with my lil’ texting man. And I’m so fucking excited about Date No. 2. I’m so excited, I’m so excited. … Hey, remember that Saved by the Bell episode where Jesse is popping caffein pills or something and she’s dancing and singing “i’m so excited..” then she breaks down and says “I’m so scared…” I always loved the deep, dramatic moments on SBTB, hahaha.

        9. I have a very short attention span today.

        10. Now, I am going to work and start billing. Billable hour begins now, at 8:40 am. Go.

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        JK August 27, 2012, 9:46 am

        Yay for the date!
        I think I never saw Saved by the Bell (I know, I know).

        Your ex sounds like an ass. I´m glad he´s an ex.

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        Katie August 27, 2012, 10:05 am

        Second yay for date #2!!

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        JK August 27, 2012, 10:09 am

        That should be yay 4 d8 2, I think.

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:11 am

        ur rite, jk!

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        Katie August 27, 2012, 10:13 am

        yikes. I guess I’m very un-cool lol

      • kerrycontrary August 27, 2012, 10:07 am

        That is my favorite episode of SBTB. Addicted to caffiene pills, classic.

      • rachel August 27, 2012, 12:08 pm

        I always loved the train wreck episodes of sit coms. Like the Full House where DJ gets all anorexic and passes out at the gym.

      • bethany August 27, 2012, 12:31 pm

        When is date #2??

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    Just Max August 27, 2012, 9:21 am

    I so needed to read this today. And again tomorrow, next week, next month, next year…

    Thank you, Wendy!

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    MackenzieLee August 27, 2012, 9:35 am

    That was such a beautiful answer. It can be really hard when you see people with it all together to ever imagine they had doubts and worries too at one point. It gives me a little hope.

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  • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:51 am

    You know what would be so funny and cute? For every personal story Wendy writes about Drew – like how they met and what she was feeling and how she knew he was the one (or not “not the one”) and vacations gone awry, etc. if Drew wrote his point of view about the same moment. I bet it would be SUPER SUPER SUPER FUNNY.

    Am I allowed to request Drew’s account of how he knew Wendy was the one? He’ll say “I could sense that I was not “not the one” so I asked her to marry me!” Ha.

    Billable hour now begins at 8:51 am.

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    • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:56 am

      Actually, I’m going to wait until 8:54 so I can just start the day at 9 am and add a “0.1” to my tally at the end of the day. [So how billable hours suck your soul? Remember that scene from Intolerable Cruelty — one of my favorite movies, btw — with the super old partner talking about billable hours? I love that movie. Billable hours aside, it’s like the anti romantic comedy. Where two horrible people coem together and you watn them to make it because they are both so horrible and perfect for each other. I love Clooney, and Catherine Zeta Joens. I think she’s really sexy. If I were a guy, she’d be my go-to fantasy lady.]

      Shit, I missed the 8:54 start time so now I’m waiting for 9 am.

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        Budj August 27, 2012, 10:00 am

        I keep forgetting you are an hour behind so this count down was weirding me out…but then I remembered so it’s fine.

        I hate billables too…my “billable hours” are internal funny money…but it is still anxiety producing because I wait the 4 to 5 weeks till the end to “remember” all the time I spent working on different projects… But here I am again…halfway through another pay period and I still don’t even do it weekly…

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        Katie August 27, 2012, 10:07 am

        How do billable hours even work? I hear you lawyer people talk about them all the time…

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:15 am

        we have to bill X hours of work per year. the firm sets a number for you. so you have to monitor your hours as the year progresses so you can be sure to hit your hours. and when you perform work you have to submit your time on a weekly basis – that’s how we charge clients and how the firm gets paid. we bill in 6 minute increments, rounding up to the nearest 6 minutes. so if a client calls and that call lasts 15 minutes, i jot down 0.3 hours.

        and that’ll be $45, katie. 0.1 x. $450 = your bill for this legal advice. haha.

        i’m going to start billing at 9:18 am now.

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:18 am

        you guys something is wrong with me. i cannot stop chatting. i just, i just have so much to share. if had to spend a second in solitary confinement i think i would implode. seriously what is happening to me? i cannot get it together. i think someone spiked my coffee.

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:22 am

        speaking of imploding and spiked coffee, i was cleaning out my medicine cabinet this weekend – i have so much old shit in there, like the pain killers i never used from knee surgery in 2008. i came across some Air Bornes – I love those magical tablets. If I’m starting to feel sick I eat one and I swear to god I feel better. I haven’t been sick in a couple of years though, the last time I ate one. I thought it would be a good idea to eat one to see if they were still good and as soon as I put it in my mouth it started fizzing and erupting into all sorts of bad tastes so I spit it out and in the sink it continued to erupt.

        Lesson: Don’t eat old Air Bornes. And, generally speaking, if you think something might be too old, don’t eat it to find out.

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:25 am

        ok in hindsight i’m not sure if there was a connection b/w the spiked coffee and the rotten Air Borne but the two correlated in my head. (Can you use the verb “correlate” plus a direct object? Like, can one think correlate something? The longer I think about the word “correlate” the less I feel certain i even know what it means and how to use it in a sentence.)

      • Clare August 27, 2012, 10:28 am

        Aren’t you supposed to dissolve them in a glass of water and drink that? I had a roommate who did that every single day and then never washed the glasses. Ick!

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 10:29 am

        oh fuck. i just eat them.

      • Guy Friday August 27, 2012, 3:35 pm

        Hold on. Your firm bills you out at FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS AN HOUR?! Are you kidding me? I mean, my firm underbills me at $150/hr to private clients, but I didn’t know I could have been billing up to like $300/hr.

        (I shouldn’t be surprised, though. I’m pretty sure my father-in-law used to bill out of his major Chicago firm at something close to mid-to-high-three-to-low-four-figures hourly, so I guess that’s something to aspire to!)

        Katie: AP explained how it worked in big firms, and that’s generally true because they pay advances on the fees (i.e., they pay $10,000 toward the hourly rate, and then one moves it from the trust account to the business account at some agreed upon interval based on the hourly billables to date.) In small firms — particularly those taking appointed cases — there’s more of an emphasis on the closing of cases so we can get paid, since many don’t get paid until after we close the case and submit the bill to the State. So I have a spreadsheet to track where I should be versus where I am so I know if I’m screwed or not.

        Also, for the record, don’t assume hours worked = hours billed. I don’t know if AP would agree with me on this ratio, but I’ve found that I can generally bill somewhere between 75-80% of my working time (excluding trials and the like, which are obviously 100% billing). So, if I want to bill 40 hours, I usually have to work 50 hours. I choose to work 7-5 Mon-Fri, and then fill in what I need to on the weekends if trial prep is necessary. It resulted in 2280 hours billed last year, which is insane even by big firm standards.

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        katie August 27, 2012, 3:47 pm

        Yep im pretty sure I still don’t get it. Lol.

        What I understood was I work 50 hours plus weekends but I’m paid for 40.

      • rachel August 27, 2012, 7:13 pm

        Katie, from what I understand from what a friend told me, lawyers have to keep track of what they do basically every minute of the day. But they can only get paid for things that can be directly billed to certain clients. So, like, they have to tell their firm that they spent however many minutes towards each client in a week, and then get paid for that.

      • Guy Friday August 27, 2012, 7:21 pm

        Exactly. So, going to court for a client? I can bill that. Driving back to my office? Not so much (well, the Public Defender’s office allows us to bill travel time, but only to a certain degree, and I can NEVER do it for private clients or court appointments). If another lawyer comes to bounce an idea off of me, AP could conceivably bill the client for working on that case in her large-firm environment, but I can’t do it for mine because I’m not technically the lawyer appointed to the case. If my boss calls me for an update on my cases, I can’t bill for that either. And while I can bill the time for writing a letter to my client, I can’t bill my time for entering my time, or the time it’d take to sign and stamp and address the envelope for the letter I wrote the client. And it’s only a couple of minutes, but it adds up over the day to the point where I can (if I’m lucky) bill 9 hours out of my 10 hour day. Generally, it’s only about 8 out of 10 though.

      • rachel August 27, 2012, 7:35 pm

        See I would be so screwed if science were like that. Or maybe much more productive, haha

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 4:02 pm

        Guy, one year I billed – BILLED – 2500. So you can bet I worked around 2800-3000 hours. It was insane. A part of me died that year.

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        theattack August 28, 2012, 1:16 am

        I don’t think my fiance even gets to bill close to 75-80% of his cases. At least in Tennessee they don’t let you bill very many hours at all for appointed cases. The lawyers around here are always trying to transfer cases to other attorneys so they can start a new billing cycle, because a lot of times they run out of hours to bill at the beginning of a case and then end up with a huge trial down the road and aren’t allowed to bill any of those hours. Does that happen in other states too, or is that just a crappy TN thing?

      • Guy Friday August 28, 2012, 9:46 am

        Well, let me back up and clarify. There are effectively three income levels for the purposes of criminal cases in Wisconsin:
        -“public defender eligible” (“SPD cases”)
        -“court appointment eligible” (i.e., you have too many assets to qualify for a public defender, but aren’t liquid enough to really afford a private attorney)
        -“everyone else”
        The “everyone else” category is fairly obvious: you have to get your own lawyer. Court appointments can be set per the discretion of the judge to either be flat rate (i.e., we get paid one amount no matter how many hours we work) or hourly (i.e., the judge sets the rate, we submit the bill to the court at the end, and the defendant pays $50/month or something until they pay it off).

        The “Public defender eligible” cases are really the bulk of my caseload, and they’re fairly unique compared to many other states. In theory, they operate the same way that court appointments do, except for the fact that (a) the flat rate ones come as part of a contract with a given county’s SPD office, and (b) the SPD requires defendants to pay some obscenely low amount — most felonies are $60-$80 total — within the first 60 days, and the State covers the rest of my bill. However, I don’t know this to be true in all states, but my understanding from asking around over the years is that in contrast to most state’s practices regarding “public defender eligible” cases, Wisconsin does two things differently:
        1.) Their threshold for qualifying is significantly lower
        2.) They openly allow attorneys not formally employed by the SPD to take cases they either don’t have the resources to take or can’t due to conflicts of interest (this being what I do)
        On those, the hourly rate is always $40/hour, with $25/hour travel time, and I just submit my bill at the end of the case. When I started, I had a ton of flat rate cases, but these days I really only get hourlies, which is what I was talking about when I said I could bill 75-80% of my time. It sucks every 2 years or so when the SPD runs out of money and has to hold off paying bills for a couple of months, but if you know its coming you can prepare accordingly.

        So, to answer your question, your fiancee’s situation is more common than mine in the majority of states, which is why there’s a general consensus that taking indigent clients’ cases isn’t worth the hassle. However, in Wisconsin it’s feasible to take enough cases to make a living. It’s not lucrative by any means, but you can do it if you’re motivated enough.

    • camorzilla August 27, 2012, 1:38 pm

      Yes please!

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  • Friend of Beagles August 27, 2012, 9:52 am

    My experience was kind of like Wendy’s. It wasn’t so much that I knew that my now DH was the one so much as I wasn’t freaking out that he was not the one. Calm, quiet, sympatico attachment doesn’t get nearly as much press as passionate first attraction, but it’s awfully nice to have for the long haul.

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    • Riefer August 27, 2012, 12:22 pm

      Mine wasn’t like Wendy’s, but it sounds like what Friend of Beagles said – calm, quiet, sympatico. We just get along, and it’s so comfortable. Neither of us does anything that the other gets stressed out about. I mean, I’m sure he’s not thrilled with my undies on the floor, but there are no big dealbreakers. And there never were. It may not sound very exciting, but I think it’s great!

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  • SGMcG August 27, 2012, 9:57 am

    What a lovely story Wendy! I’m glad to hear about another relationship that had a brief moment of breaking before fusing together towards a happily ever after. I thought I was the only one who did that. 🙂

    My husband claims that he knew I was the one when he asked to take my picture at a convention and looked into my eyes and had insta-lust, yet he didn’t indulged because he thought I was the kind of girl who deserved more. I thought he could potentially be the one because rather than going with my impulsive gut in consummating the relationship/initiating the first kiss, I took my time to get to know him and thought HE deserved more. After acknowledging our mutual attraction during our first meeting, we just entered into our long distance relationship. What Wendy said about open mindedness, dumb luck and timing, really came into play as our love developed further. For me, he STILL keeps being the one because his love and patience helps me be the best possible version of myself that I can become without compromising the kind of woman I want to be.

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  • SweetPeaG August 27, 2012, 10:04 am

    That’s pretty much exactly it for me as well.

    In my past relationships, I always had to convince myself to be with that person. Sometimes I had to talk myself into finding his good qualities (sad, but true). Here’s an example of some inner dialogue “Oh, he’s kind of a jerk to you, but he’s funny and exciting and he always tells you he loves you.” Sometimes I had trouble figuring out the difference between lust and love. Sometimes I had trouble knowing whether it was just comforting or flattering to have someone want to be with me. But, there was always that nagging feeling of “This isn’t right, this isn’t what you want”.

    In my current relationship, there is NO little voice filling my head with doubts. I not only love (and lust after!) my fiance, but I really LIKE him! I think he is an awesome human being. He always has not only our, but MY best interests in mind. And there is no convincing myself of these feelings… they are just there. I feel safe, happy, peaceful, and GOOD with him. Even when I am mad at him, I can still see the big picture of who we are.

    So, if you ever find yourself talking yourself into being with somebody… they are probably not the person for you.

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  • jlyfsh August 27, 2012, 10:04 am

    there was definitely an instant attraction and thoughts of could he be the one. but, there was no i know i’m going to marry this guy feelings from the beginning. it took a while for it to change from attraction to knowing he was who i wanted to marry. and a lot of that was based on how he made me feel and how comfortable i was around him. i had never laughed so hard or been so me with someone before that. it slowly evolved in to me seeing a future and not being able to imagine him not being in it.

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    Fabelle August 27, 2012, 10:28 am

    I love that this answer allows for shades of gray– like, it’s comforting to know that even great relationships might have moments of doubt. So many people are very black-and-white, “either you found the one, or you didn’t!” on this issue. I also really enjoyed how the second to last paragraph goes into detail about “that nagging feeling” & how sometimes, the “something is off” feeling could be due to other things.

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  • mf August 27, 2012, 10:30 am

    “In past relationships, I’d had a nagging feeling in my gut that I was with the wrong guy. With Drew, I didn’t have that.”

    This is exactly how I felt when I started dating my husband. With all my ex-boyfriends, I always knew in the back of my mind that we wouldn’t work out in the long term, whether because we had different values, our plans for our lives weren’t compatible, or our personalities just didn’t mesh.

    However, I still think it’s SUPER important for couples to have detailed, thoughtful conversations an the “big” issues before they decide to get married (whether they want kids, where they want to live, how they’ll handle money, etc. etc.). Ideally when you find your mate, you’ll have a good gut feeling about him/her, and both of you will also agree on those big issues.

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    mandalee August 27, 2012, 10:36 am

    I love your stories about you and Drew, Wendy!

    I agree with everything you had to say as well. In the relationships before I met my husband, even though there was only 2 significant ones, I never really felt all in. I always had a backup plan if it didn’t work out, or had a feeling that it was going to end at some point. When I met my husband, I was a very unsure, naive 20 something fresh out of a breakup, so I had a lot of worries and doubts that the relationship might not be going anywhere. However, every time we hit a milestone that would have previously scared me off or brought up doubts, I found that they weren’t there this time. I was really sure about someone for the first time, and that’s when I realized the relationship had staying power.

    I also don’t believe in “the one”. I think it is as Wendy said: a combination of things that factor in to determining if a relationship is going to last and progress. If the timing had been off or life events got in the way when I met my husband, things may have not worked out the same way.

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  • lissa August 27, 2012, 10:41 am

    I’m a long time lurker, never-poster, but I this one is too close to home for me not to weigh in. I, too, am an over-analyzer – and I have high standards – so doubting my relationships was a chronic problem for me. I’m a scientist, so I always just chalked it up to the skills I’ve learned through school and work bleeding over into my whole way of life, but it definitely caused me to be very, very flighty around guys. I was happy to “date,” but I refused to commit further for fear of picking someone that really wasn’t the right match for me. I broke some hearts in the process, and I still feel guilty about it years later. I dated some quality guys that were surely “the one” for someone…just not for me.

    The key for me lay in trying to use my analytical tendencies to my advantage, rather than viewing them as something holding me back from committing. Quite frankly, what worked best for me was to have my brain on board before I ever got too far into the relationship emotionally. Basically, I did everything I could to maximize my exposure to the kind of guy I knew my brain would approve of first (thereby mellowing the constant questioning from the beginning), and then left my heart open to follow suit when I found the right combination of awesomeness, timing, and luck (basically, WWS).

    How/When exactly did I “know?” My overly analytical strategy meant that I knew before we even started dating. My husband and I were friends for about a year first, although I was immediately intrigued by him in our first conversation and definitely made a concerted effort to get to know him better over that time. But I “knew” one night after a group dinner, when we walked part of the way home together before heading towards our respective apartments. We were dallying on the corner where we would need to part ways, having a conversation that I truly could never imagine being interesting to anyone else but was absolutely amazing for both of us, and two thoughts crystalized in my head: 1) Waking up every morning with this man for the rest of my life would be pure heaven, and 2) If he doesn’t recognize what is happening here, he’s a fucking idiot. Good thing for me, he isn’t. I made a move on him two weeks later and we were married a year after that.

    For me to quiet the inner questioning, I really had to decide what I wanted before it showed up, place myself strategically in a good spot to find it, and be ready to recognize it when it came by and not screw it up! Did I completely cease questioning things after my husband and I started dating, because he was some magical unicorn or something? Of course not, but there was a noticeable shift towards questioning the best way to build our lives together (where to live, how do we find jobs in the same city/university – we have the two body problem, which we solved, so it does happen!) rather than whether we should be married or not. I’m still my same old neurotic, analytical self, but it manifests differently. For me, that was the signal, and it was clear as day.

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    • SweetPeaG August 27, 2012, 12:00 pm

      Well, you obviously should comment more often! That was very insightful and well-written!

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      • lissa August 27, 2012, 1:08 pm


        Thank you! You guys are a fun bunch 🙂

      • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 1:22 pm


      • SweetPeaG August 27, 2012, 3:13 pm

        Oo, and now I feel special 🙂

    • Jane August 27, 2012, 1:40 pm

      THANK YOU for posting this. I struggle with this as well, because I am an engineer and over-analyze everything. Even when I first meet someone interesting, I won’t let myself like them until I know he doesn’t have any of the big dealbreakers. It’s nice to know that even if you’re like me, you can still allow yourself to let go for the right person.

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  • CJ August 27, 2012, 10:44 am

    I guess my husband and I are one of the rare one’s where we both “just knew”. But really, beyond just knowing, there are things you notice that really solidify the gut reaction. How compatible are your values? Are you both at a point in your life where you’re ready for a commitment? Do you feel at ease with each other?

    For me, my biggest thing was how much I could be myself. I’ve been in relationships before where I thought I loved them, and where I thought they loved me. But once I got out of them, I realized how on edge I was the entire time and how much I tried to change my personality and tastes so that I could be the kind of person THEY wanted. I lived, I learned, and when I decided I was ready for a relationship again, my new mantra became if I can’t BE me, then they can’t HAVE me.

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    • Michelle.Lea August 27, 2012, 12:17 pm

      I agree with being able to be yourself. when i got together with my husband, i felt like i was *me* again.

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  • SuzyQ August 27, 2012, 11:50 am

    Sometimes the right one is someone that you would have never expected it to be. In that case, you’ve just for to let go of the objections in your head and follow your heart. Your head can be a real bastard.

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  • bethany August 27, 2012, 12:08 pm

    Looking back, one of the signs that my husband was the one for me was that I stopped writing in my journal. It sounds weird, but throughout my teens and 20s, my journal was a place where I wrote about all my fears and insecurities. I wrote about all the drama and all the problems, What am I going do to? Why doesn’t he love me like I love him? Is there something wrong with me?
    Then one day I realized that I hadn’t written in my journal in like 3 months, because I didn’t need to. I didn’t have any doubts about this man, about us, about me…

    I do agree with Wendy that there isn’t this magical “One” person made for you… My husband is the one I picked, the one I’m committed to, and the one I love… But I don’t think that there’s some magical thing about him that makes him perfect for me, and me perfect for him.

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      mandalee August 27, 2012, 12:59 pm

      Yes on the journal thing! I didn’t even realize I stopped writing in mine until a year into our relationship. My best friend was also convinced my relationship was terrible at the time, because I didn’t have the non-stop dialogues with her that I had with other relationships, so she assumed I was hiding things.

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      • bethany August 28, 2012, 9:24 am

        yeah, it’s funny that you seem to have less to talk about with your girlfriends when things are going great! I used to get together with my friends, and we’d all talk about who we were dating and what was going on, but now all of us are in healthy, normal relationships, and there’s a lot less drama to discuss!! Now we just bitch about how our husbands leave their dirty laundry directly in front of the hamper, not in it!

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      theattack August 28, 2012, 1:25 am

      I did the exact same thing!

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  • GatorGirl August 27, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Wendy this is wonderfully written and amazing advice!!

    I had a gut reaction about my fiance. It was like “you need to drop everything and figure out how to date this guy” when I saw him. We did know each other for a few months prior to this reconnection. He says he had a similar reaction. It wasn’t so much this is your “one” rather than you have got to see if this is the right person. And I know it is because everyday I wake up excited to see him and do any and everything with him. Sure we have little arguements but we’re each others best friends. Pretty much I think the sun shines out his arse.

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    Diablo August 27, 2012, 12:24 pm

    I did NOT want to be in love. I’d been hurt, and I was in a stage of NSA, no commitment, no entanglement, no more of other people’s weird agendas. There was something about this girl, but I WASN’T going there. I was even a bit standoffish, not calling, being super-casual about the physical stuff, etc. Nevertheless, I told her I loved her in three weeks. But I was NEVER going to marry her or anybody. Outdated institution, passing the woman from the father to the husband like property, changing the official name like a brand. Not me. We were both above this, and said so. Four years later when I proposed, I did not intend to. I had no plan to ask her, and no ring. Looking back, love made me an idiot, and I often wonder how close I came to blowing the best piece of good luck that ever crossed my path. I didn’t “know” so much as I felt compelled to act, despite my fears. 23 years later, no regrets.

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  • cporoski August 27, 2012, 12:31 pm

    Here are the things I will say. When I say, “I just knew” it means the following things:
    1.) All my most important things matched with him: Non negotiable things like religion, professional drive, similar backgrounds, similar ways we look at the world. These are different for everyone.
    2.) When we had our first fight. I wanted to work it out with him. I wanted to resolve the problem rather than be right. He was worth it to me.
    3.) We were happy way more than sad. He was so ok with the quirky things about me and I loved him for it.

    Good luck 🙂

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      theattack August 28, 2012, 1:55 am

      I LOVE your second point. Really I love all three points. These were so true for me too.

      – I have to always be right, and when someone questions me it offends me deeply. It was a foreign and surprising feeling to feel remorse after our arguments, and I wanted to apologize and fix it right away. I think I just knew how much it bothered me for someone to disagree with me, and for the first time, I cared more about protecting him from that ugly feeling than I did about being right.

      – Your third point is so simple but it’s perfect. It’s what it all boils down to. If the other things were absent, the mutual happiness is still the only real thing that’s important. Was it on DW that someone said a relationship is supposed to have 5 good moments to every 1 bad moment in order to stay together happily? My fiance and I were both shocked at that statistic. I don’t think 5 is nearly enough. We’re out of our honeymoon stage by now, but we’re still closer to 100 : 1 than 5 : 1.

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  • Sue Jones August 27, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Great answer! For my husband and I, it was a sense that “finally it’s easy!” There was no generalized weirdness about him, we had very good levels of communication, shared values, and there was none of that ambivalence and fear of commitment that I kept seeing in various men that I had been dating. And he and I wanted the same things, and as it turns out, our families had similar values in that they valued education. That was huge and my father liked that his parents were intellectuals, (even if they weren’t Jewish…) And my husband made me laugh. So yes, often it is what ISN’T there – such as drama, mind games, ambivalence….

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    • SweetPeaG August 27, 2012, 3:18 pm

      Yes to the “finally, it’s easy!” notion!

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    • kerrycontrary August 27, 2012, 3:25 pm

      Yes, my brother said he knew he wanted to marry his fiance (they are getting married on saturday!) because there were just never any BIG issues. Being together was just easy.

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      theattack August 28, 2012, 1:58 am

      It was similar for me too. Not as much “finally, it’s easy!” as it was “where are all the problems and dysfunctions?” But that’s pretty similar.

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  • camorzilla August 27, 2012, 2:01 pm

    For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted and when I finally figured that out, I stopped wasting time on guys who weren’t what I wanted. With my fiance, when we first started dating, I kept waiting for the red flag. But there wasn’t one. It was definitely a combination of things including timing and being open. He wasn’t looking for love or a relationship and I definitely was looking for both but he was interested enough to see how things went. A year and half later and we’re getting married in a little under two months (eeek!).

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  • AKchic August 27, 2012, 3:11 pm

    There is no “the one”. We are all made to have “soul mates”. Plural. They aren’t all passionate, romantic loves, either. They are friends of the soul. Platonic, familial, etc. Some will be your best friends, some will be lovers, some will be like family (parental, sibling bonds). They can be related to you or not. They can be with you for a few days, a few years, or a life time. They are “the one for right now”. Each of them are here to teach you something and in return, you are in their lives to teach them something. Enjoy it for what it is, hold on and treasure them, but don’t hold too tightly (their heads might pop off!).

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    Skyblossom August 27, 2012, 3:55 pm

    For me it felt right from the beginning because it was so easy. We just fit together. Our personalities matched, I could easily talk with him about anything, we laughted constantly and I didn’t worry about what I should wear around him or eat around him. There was no judgement, we could be ourselves. I think having had previous relationships that didn’t work helped us to know that this one was right. We had a way to compare it to the relationships that didn’t work.

    I’m a pragmatic optimist so as an optimist I knew within a week that I could marry him. The pragmatic part of me knew that relationships can seem perfect and then fall apart so there was no way I would get married for several years even though I felt that we had a relationship that would last a lifetime. We’re both scientists and I do analize things but in this relationship I didn’t have anything to analize. It just worked.

    As for there being “the one.” I don’t believe that there is one and only one person for each of us. I think that there are lots of people out there that we are quite compatible with and it is a matter of finding one of them.

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  • llclarityll August 27, 2012, 4:37 pm

    I had this undeniable feeling with my husband. I’ve never had it before, never knew it existed, but suddenly I had this urge to say, “There you are! Where have you been?” Like this personal that I never knew I was missing was in my life.

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    • kerrycontrary August 28, 2012, 9:55 am

      YES!! I remember when I was first getting to know my boyfriend it was like we had arranged to meet but I had forgotten it. and I was like “Oh thank god there you are I was looking for you”. It sounds so mushy but it’s true.

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  • Lo August 27, 2012, 6:39 pm

    Who here has seen the movie Going the Distance with j
    Justin Long and Drew Barrymore? I think it is one of the best movies about relationships ever. If you haven’t all see it, you should.

    Anyway, this question reminded me of that movie and actually my own relationship too. A true worth it relationship isn’t going to be filled with cheesy rom com notions of love or middle school drama. It’s going to be hard work and take just finding the person who makes you at ease and makes the challenges and the risks all worth it. A line in the movie says something to the effect of if you want to be happy, marry your best friend.

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  • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 7:17 pm

    For me, it was when he would send me lame texts like “ur gr8, I wanna c u again” and it didn’t bother me – in fact I looked forward to them. Sigh. I’m looking forward to our second date, ha.

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    • bethany August 28, 2012, 9:26 am

      When is date # 2???

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      • Addie Pray August 28, 2012, 9:28 am

        Date 2 is Saturday. Maybe Wed too but definitely Sat.

  • Rose August 27, 2012, 7:50 pm

    What do you mean @Addie Pray? I don’t get it…

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    • Addie Pray August 27, 2012, 9:32 pm

      In the comment section on her original letter I asked if she was from Bruges.

      Also, sometimes people like to just give me a shout out because they know it will do wonders for my self esteem issues.

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  • Kristina August 27, 2012, 7:17 pm

    Wow, I really needed to read this today. I broke up with my boyfriend last week because of timing and that nagging feeling that something was off, but now I’m not so sure. I’m such a perfectionist and I worry that I am making mountains out of molehills. But reading this will help me figure out what I’m really thinking about it all, I’m sure.

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  • Anonymous August 27, 2012, 8:22 pm

    read this site all the time and never comment but I just had to on this piece. I just started a long distance relationship (my SO is starting law school) and it’s so hard. Reading this really helped remind me why were doing this even though there are times when it will suck. So wonderfully said Wendy.

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    • Rachel August 27, 2012, 11:38 pm

      I just started long distance with my boyfriend to (we both got postdocs in different places), so I’m totally with you. We’ll both make it through!

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  • talia August 27, 2012, 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this Wendy. I got engaged last week (!!!!) and am so happy and excited. But I am also a compulsive over-analyzer and have been spending WAY too much energy this week trying to decide how I *know for sure* that he is the right match for me, how can I be *completely positive* and why it’s still all a little scary to me. Your way of phrasing it and your normalizing of the fact that love and commitment require us to take (sometimes uncomfortable) risks really helped me see my fear as we jump into this new stage of our relationship as both normal and understandable. You made it seem ok that I also never “just knew” in that way that some people talk about. And made it ok for me to really and truly think that we are a wonderful match and have years of happiness ahead of us even without that “just knowing” (I really believe this–it’s the easiest, happiest relationship of my life, with never any nagging feelings that something was off, which I definitely had with past boyfriends).

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    • bethany August 28, 2012, 9:27 am


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  • spot August 28, 2012, 8:44 am

    Great answer, Wendy! This is so insightful.

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    fast eddie August 28, 2012, 9:32 am

    A life partner is one who has ideals and goals that are compatible to your own. If he (or she) is good in bed it helps but that’s just desert. The main course is having your own head on straight. Be honest with yourself about what you expect to put into the relationship. Would you support him during hard economic times? Would he change the kid’s diaper? Are you willing to let him go the ball game when your mother and sister are visiting from Omaha?

    It’s the little things that add up to your being happy when everything is going to hell in a hand basket. If you can get an objective viewpoint from others that will be up front and honest about what they see happening. An old flame is good for this.

    Getting back to your contribution, how far are you willing to go to make it work? Do whatever it takes to have an income potential that will sustain both of you because you may need it. It all boils down to being prepared to taking care of your own life ambitions before merging with someone who has their own ideas about where to go from here.

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    CassieB September 1, 2012, 2:09 am

    For me, it wasn’t a 100% thing just like Wendy said. I didn’t 100% know. However, when the thought of not spending the rest of my life with him, and the thought of him not being in my life, was so absolutely horrible, I knew I was done for. 🙂 I think that who you end up marrying is not just in the feeling, but it’s also a choice. And, as my friend said, “When you get married, you don’t wonder if he’s the one. You’ve made him the one.” You have to go with what your heart says, what your gut says, and what your head says.

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