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.