How Do I Know If She’s The One? A Look at Romantic Love, Perfect Love & Relative Love

If there is one question every man fears wrestling with it's "Is she the one?". A question that could change the rest of our lives, for better or for worse. And while that may seem to be a 'yes' or 'no' question, we first have to break down the kind of love we're in. After all, we love cigars, cars, and video games differently than we love women, but some men don't realize that love can be broken down even further into three distinct categories that will determine the answer.

At some point, most men ask the big question—How do I know if she’s the one?

Since my first girlfriend at 17, I had been asking “is she the one?” with almost all my girlfriends. I even spent two years wondering if my wife was “the one.” This caused us both unnecessary suffering.

I do meet some men who report knowing “she’s the one” within minutes of meeting her.  Not me. I dated several women prior to meeting my wife, and many of them I thought might be the one, even though I had no interest in marriage at the time.

During my time dating these women, I often would torment myself with this “is she the one?” question. I would pick them apart, finding all of their faults.  I made all of them wrong. Looking back, there was nothing wrong with these women, however, I was a pretty defended, idealistic guy with a very naïve view of love.

By focusing on what was “not perfect” with the women I dated, I could avoid taking responsibility for my own fear, unexplored blocks, and issues.

To understand this dynamic further, we have to understand what kind of love we are looking for.

Romantic Love

In general, we men tend to have a very young, boyish, romantic notion of relationships. In the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, everything can be amazing. Fireworks, great sex, passion abound, lovey eye-gazing and more. But for most guys, this ends after a period of 1-6 months.

Then what? Because that feeling goes away, most men blame their girlfriend for the feeling going away.  “I’m just not feeling it anymore.” “It was fun while it lasted.”  “I think I love her, but I’m not in love with her,” and on and on.

So, these guys keep chasing that honeymoon, romantic feeling and have a hard time settling down with one woman.

For example, remember the movie Jerry McGuire? Some men think that there is actually one person who will make them feel perfect—everything will be okay. “If I just find the right person, she will satisfy the longing inside, fill the void, and as Jerry McGuire said,  you'll tell her she completes you.”

Do you see that this is a trap?

You know you are in a kind of romantic love-state when you are overcome with an almost euphoric, drug-like feeling.

Romantic love is where we become infatuated with a woman when we hardly know anything about her. Essentially we fall in love with our projections of who we think she is, rather than who she actually is.

Not once did any of these relationships last for me.

Perfect Love

When we are in a romantic love zone, we taste the possibility of perfect love.

Pefect love or absolute love is a term coined by psychology and Buddhist author John Welwood. Welwood describes it as “the perfect love we can know in our heart.” In other words, perfect love is like the sun, radiating and penetrating—always there, on fire.

We are all capable of perfect love and when we experience it we feel like we are coming home. Perfect love is a bit more grounded and penetrating than romantic love. Perfect love is who we are at our core.

Perfect love wakes us up to what is possible in a relationship with another person. This is what each of us longs for in every cell. We want this unconditioned love so badly we’d do anything for it.  And when we experience it, we desperately attempt to hang on to the fleeting feeling.

But herein, is the trap. It is impossible for another human being to provide perfect love in an ongoing way.

Relative Love

Relative love is our ability to experience perfect love. Because we all have issues, wounds, and limitations in relationship to love, we remain clouded from consistently giving and receiving the perfect love that is always present.

Watch yourself in relationships. What patterns do you repeat? What ideas about love and women do you have? Do you ever get stuck and frustrated in intimate relationships? If so, that is relative love and it’s part of being human.

So why does this difference in love matter?

As Welwood states, “That is why it's important to distinguish between absolute [perfect] and relative love — so we don't go around seeking perfect love from imperfect situations.”

This is the great trap: In our society we are taught to believe that one person is supposed to meet our needs and make us happy so long as we both shall live.  But let’s be honest. If you want to grow as a man and become stronger, more open, more whole, then having someone meet our every need probably isn’t best for you.

So, when you ask “Is she the one?” be honest about what you are expecting.  Are you wanting perfect love from an imperfect person, which we all are?

Do you have any idea that it is possible to weather the storms and discover deeper and deeper love?

Once you begin to see the difference, you can make mature, conscious choices about the woman you are with.

Other Considerations…

The Grass is Greener

But what happens if I’m with one woman and I might be better suited for a different woman?

The “grass is greener” is a common phrase for many guys and can be incredibly stressful, causing many men great torment.

For example, within the long-term relationships I had, I always felt like the grass was greener somewhere else. I would freak out on a regular basis and ask “should I stay or should I go?”

I created a fantasy object in my mind. Because, if I had “that woman over there” then everything would be much better than right here, right now.

You see, we all want some other person such as a dream woman to enter our life and make everything better. It is the romantic in us that really does believe some other town or city, some other job, some other person holds the key, the answer.

Ambivalence and Fear

The grass is greener mentality is often merely an excuse to not relate to your fear and ambivalence. It was for me.

Try it because you might be scared. Scared of what? Scared to commit. Scared to experience giving and receiving relative love. Scared of what you or they might discover if you make the deep dive with another person.

Try it because you are ambivalent. In other words, part of you wants the dive deep in a committed partnership with a woman, and part of you wants to be forever free to roam the global landscape of women everywhere.

Let’s go back to me as an example.

While I was dating my wife, I had this fantasy woman whom I thought I was supposed to be with.  Maybe she was the one, I would quietly wonder to myself. I began to chase this woman in my mind. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

It wasn’t until later that I realized I was not chasing another woman, I was chasing another feeling. The feeling? The perfect love feeling of course.  And, I did not know that it was not sustainable.

What I realized was that relative love is the path to perfect love.

So ask yourself, are you chasing a feeling or a woman? What kind of love are you chasing and are you being realistic?

I’m here to nudge you to relate to your relative love situation. This is where the juice of relationship is anyway. Remember, if you want to grow as a man, choose relative love and know that you will experience moments of perfect love all along the way.

What you can do?

  1. Get real. Stop looking to Hollywood and romance novels for examples of relationships. Instead, look around at real people in real life. Who do you want to emulate?
  2. Man up. The little kid in you wants an omniscient woman (like the cosmic mother) to fill all of your needs. But remember, you are not a kid, you are a man. Act like one.
  3. Ask yourself what kind of love are you chasing? Short term, romantic love? Or long term relative love wherein you and your partner have to do some work to access the perfect love that exists between you.
  4. Stop looking to women to make you feel okay. Look to yourself. Get your own business in order, clean up the mess, stand tall and then you will attract a good lover.
  5. Find man friends that support you to push your edges. Men who also make other women wrong are not helping you find the right woman. Get other men that are not afraid to call bullshit on you and your games.
  6. Own your fear. Remember, most guys have fear come up in relationships and with intimacy. Nothing is wrong with your fear, just take full responsibility for it, rather than pretending like you are not afraid.
  7. Own your ambivalence. We want the best of both worlds. Men want to have their cake and eat it too. I want to be in a deep, loving relationship and I want to also be alone, feel freedom, and live on an island in the middle of nowhere.
  8. Challenge your own beliefs. Do you really believe that by finding “the one” that it will somehow solve your problems and make everything in your life okay?

Report back. Let's hear your stories about how you knew or didn’t know if she was the one…

Jayson Gaddis, LPC, is an expert in male psychology. He’s a therapist, life coach and founder of Revolutionary Man, a company devoted to men in their 20’s and 30’s who are committed to achieving more freedom, fulfillment and reaching their highest purpose. Jayson lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and new son. You can reach him at jg[at]

  • John Rybarczyk

    I believe this is a very clear and all around understanding of this question. Covered all the major viewpoints and sides. What also needs to be understood when you’re asking yourself this question is that are you really ready to settle down? Not always is she the one, when you think about it there could be a million “the ones” out there that you could live very happy and fulfilling lives with. If you are compatible and the relationship has the potential to bring more happiness than stress and sadness and you are ready then go for it, shes the one.

  • Nathan

    Thanks, this was really helpful.

  • michael

    haY this helped me but i still think i made the wrong chose.these two girls were fighting over me.this one was realy hot butt the uther one was smart . so i chose the hot one.but i coht her kissing sumone.she said it was her cousen.i asked her mom she said nun of her couse were im going to leave her.and go for the smart one. i no its not right to do but i have no chose.

  • M.T. Amerson

    This was a very good article. It reminds me of the Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. Our culture teaches us a very warped version of love, which leads to a lot of confusion for many men.

    I recently called off a long term relationship with a girl. I tried dating someone else and went through the perfect love stage and quickly learned about idolatry. Idolatry is when someone seems so perfect to you when you first start dating because of the wonderful euphoric feeling you get from being around them. Then you suddenly discover that they are not so perfect and everything comes crashing down. It did not end well.

    So now I am trying to focus my energy on jump starting a career (I just recently graduated) and in my spare time have fun meeting new people and hanging out. I know that I will eventually find someone who I am compatible with enough to want to put in the effort to strive for that perfect love through relative love. We must remember that love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.

  • Amani

    This article will cause so much speculations amongst women, therfore, I think men should be very cautious and alert ……

    AND ALWAYS REMEMBER, having an open buffet food will satisfy you at the spot but having your favorite special dish through alacart would provide you a different feeling even though it’s expensive and you are paying more 🙂

  • Shakter

    This is one of the best more realistic views and takes, on the subject so far for me, thanks.

  • Rob

    Can you recommend a book that will help me get this into my thick skull? I’m about to ruin yet another great relationship with my Grass is Greener tendencies….

  • Jayson

    Rob, The John Wellwood book is solid, but my experience with guys like you (and myself) is that reading about it ain’t going to shift your patterns.

    Hiring a coach or therapist to work through this one will get it done.



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  • T.

    Jayson, I’d like to first thank you for this article! Second, I’d like to get a little advise if possible! I have been with an amazing girl for about two years! We are in a commited relationship without actually having a “title”. She is everything i could ask for and I am physically attracted to her. She loves me and would do anything for me! She gets along with my family and wants to have a family with me! I have never told her “I Love You” even though she says it to me! She tells me that I am the love of her life and “she will wait for me forever”, even though I know that realistically I will lose her if she doesn’t get what she wants and needs! The problem for me is that for one I fear commitment and second everytime i see an attractive girl it makes me want want to be single! I would never cheat on my girl! I don’t know what to do! I feel that it is unfair for my girl and I don’t deserve her, and maybe I should just be friends with her to avoid any future hurt on either part!

  • jdc

    Excellent article. A diamond in the rough. Great research and commentary. This is something I’ve been looking for for a long time.

  • Not the one

    I’m not your target audience, but this post really helped me.  I’m a woman who went through a recent break-up with a man I dearly love because, after two wonderful years, he still questioned if I was “the one.”  He struggled with the pursuit of romantic love, or perfect love 100% of the time… He worried about marrying me and then meeting “the one” a few years later…  and he always flip-flopped… “this is the best relationship I’ve been in, but I don’t have conviction.”  All of this caused both of us a great deal of stress (and left me feeling insecure), and we ultimately decided that if it’s not ‘yes,’ it must be ‘no.’  It’s been heartbreaking for both of us, and while our relationship may be over, reading this at least stopped me from constantly wondering why I wasn’t the one.  Thank you for that.   

    • not sure

       your comment really hit home with me i have been in a relationship with a man doing the exact same thing for over a year now one day hes talking about buying a house and having kids and the next hes scared it wont work out it is a wonderful relationship we have fun together and are very happy he says i have everything he is looking for but he just doesnt have that knowing feeling so it is causing stress and me to be insecure i feel as if i should walk away because its not fair to us but at the same time i want to work at it because what if in a year he suddenly gets that knowing feeling….. he told me he feels like he needs a sign or divine intervention of some kind

  • AnAn7373

    Needing some help. I’m taking it a few steps before I’m at that point or am I? Not sure. I’m having trouble dating and just meeting someone, anyone, I’m interested in that is also interested in me. Can anyone suggest any articles, books, or websites that help in this area? I’ve tried, Ok Cupid etc. as well as going out. Still not working for me. This is a great article to at least get one thinking. Thanks again!!!!

  • Jordan

    Very well articulated! Bravo.

  • chris cash

    should i show my girlfriend this article? Or would it cause stress for us?

  • M.D Henderson

    Great Post! This takes a real hard look at that question that runs through every man’s mind: Is she the one? But the question is are you ready to settle? Cause once you reached that milestone then you’re qualified to ask the question the million dollar question.

    Here is ten more questions to help narrow it down.
    Top Ten Questions A Man Should Get Answers To Before He Gets Married

    Christian Married Men Brotherhood

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  • A Female Director in Hollywood

    One of the best articles I’ve ever read on the subject of male-female love and relationships. May I please add, sir: as a single woman who works behind the camera in the movie industry –

    “Stop looking to Hollywood and romance novels for examples of relationships.”

    This is one of the most important mottoes people need to internalize today, and it really should be blazing across Times Square at this point. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me when as a Hollywood employee I read a self-help article and SOME FILM is being used as the template for guidance on how people should act, couples relate. We’re not gurus out here in Los Angeles. We know less about real relationships than you guys do, because we work 18 hour days under dysfunctiona, polyamorous, often drug-riddled conditions that foster a deadly belief love falls together magically and requires no work and that fairy tales will come true.

    We here in Hollywood know absolute zero about how a real love or marriage works. Please continue urging your readers to stop looking to us for cultural guidance. Frankly, audience, we’re looking to you. Look how often and bitterly we divorce. Should you be so dependent on US for romantic guidance?

    Methinks not, folks… methinks not… and now back to directing.

    • farahJichi

      Yeah encourage people to be in relationships of convenience that just solve everything,why not just bring arranged marriages back??

  • JR

    Lost someone very important to me because I didn’t follow the advice in this, despite having read it a long time ago. Everyone should heed.

  • Alyssa Ruberto

    So actually, I’m a woman, and I’ve been anxious for a while now wanting to change my partner and this is the first article among what must be the hundred that I’ve read that actually helped. Thank you.

  • farahJichi

    This is total bullshit.You writer is projecting his own adequacies at all men.Most of the men in my life have been in love with a certain woman for years its diffidently not a 1-6 months thing.What he is describing is pure lust not romantic love.he kept saying most men,I mean did he do a survey or something.