How To Know If He's "The One" — And What That Even Means

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the one
A matchmaker argues that marriage is a gamble, but one worth trying your luck on.

I was in college the night I met him. And even after all these years, the thing I remember most is the unexpected, very physical shiver that immediately ran up my spine when he looked at me. He's It, that shiver said.

We talked, we flirted, we had our first date two days later. I fell hard. I loved that he was sweet, but not saccharine. I loved that he was Jewish, but not too Jewish. I loved that he was a fan of Hot Tamales, the candy I ate by the truckload back then. And (OK, call me shallow) I loved that he was an Ivy League graduate.

Our odds were good: I was 20, he was 23, and we added up to the perfect couple. Except that after three years, as I was busy trying to drop the subtle hint that my ring size was 6 3/4, he was busy cheating on me. I found out, we broke up, and let's just say the next six months weren't pretty.

I'm still not sure what got to me the most: the rejection or the fact that I had truly believed, in my gut, that my boyfriend was The One. So if that first shiver, followed by a fabulous three-year relationship, wasn't the telltale sign, how does anyone ever know who's right for them in the long run?

Apparently, I'm not the only person who has struggled with this question. It came up again last summer, at my client Amy's wedding. I was seated at the "singles table," since brides often like to treat their unattached friends to my dating advice.

The woman next to me leaned over and whispered, "When Amy met Kurt, she told me she just knew it was right. When will I ever feel that way?"

I knew the answer she wanted to hear. By now I've coached thousands of singles on how to find love, and watched hundreds of clients and friends trot down the aisle. But what I wanted to tell her was, "Maybe never."

It wasn't that I didn't believe this woman would ever find the right guy. It was more that I feared she might never know he was the right guy. An hour earlier, sitting in the church, it struck me that what I was really witnessing was a crapshoot. Here was this couple at the altar, pledging their lives to each other.

And as happy as I was for them, I knew the truth: When you get married, all you can really do is roll the dice and hope for the best.

But everywhere I go, I meet smug married couples who love to relate the moment they "just knew" they'd found their life partners. As far as I'm concerned, it's revisionist history; if the marriage in question has worked out so far, they say they acted on their rock solid gut. But if it ended in divorce, they confess to earlier doubts.

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