“How I Knew She Was The One”

One man tells the story of how and when he knew he had met his future wife — and imparts a little wisdom along the way.

By Seth Wharton

ike many married people, I had the fabled “moment I knew,” the oft-recounted instant when you realize — or at least suspect — that you’ve met the person you’ll marry. Unlike many people, though, mine came six months before my would-be wife, Sarah, and I started dating — and four years into my relationship with someone else. Sarah and I had known each other for six months. I wasn’t scouting a wife. I wasn’t tabulating Sarah’s traits as I got to know her, weighing her as a potential bride. The realization that I was in love with her came with equal parts surprise and
I sort of knew I was with a wrong one when I met Sarah.
certainty. There may not be just one true love for each of us, a soul mate for whom we’re searching and whose presence will unlock our eternal happiness, etc. But there are probably very few right people for us, and many, many wrong ones. I sort of knew I was with a wrong one when I met Sarah. But meeting her confirmed it. She accumulated within me as we became friends — like sediment that builds behind a dam. (Sorry, baby.) And when it broke, I had no doubt. It was unexpected, but I knew I loved her.

Laughter was our first connection, as is the case for many couples. I mean, who ever says, “No laughter. I can’t be with someone who’s funny”? What makes a someone the someone, though, is the total experience. She makes you laugh — often at yourself — and she laughs with you. She makes you feel important, secure and at ease with her. She makes you want to strive for greatness by supporting positive aspirations. She encourages you to be all that you can be, like your own personal Army commercial. The person who turns out to be the one for you most likely makes you feel like The One.

She pays attention. She listens carefully and intently, putting aside distractions to absorb what you’re saying, committing to that moment, to that conversation, and, if just briefly, to you. She may not really care about that episode of Family Guy you’re recounting, or about who made the Final Four. And, frankly, is it really that important to you, either? But she listens when you talk, letting you know that you’re important. And you want to reciprocate. You want to listen to her and know her interests. You may even want to adopt those interests because it helps you know her, like eating bamboo shoots to understand the panda. Thus I’ve seen a lot of dance performances. A lot. Really. So much dance.

Beyond simply listening, though, she asks you questions. It’s practically a maxim that guys don’t like to talk so much about f-f-f-feelings. But a woman who’ll ask you questions about your day, about your friends, about your job, is a woman who’ll unravel tangled emotions. You may not always like it. You may suspect sometimes that she’s trying to steal your soul, like some kind of mental vampire. But love makes you want to be vulnerable. It makes you want to be exposed to this person. I have sorted out more problems talking to my wife than I ever did by going it alone. It almost always starts with her asking, “Is everything OK?”

It’s an act of kindness, really, to inquire genuinely about someone’s well-being. Strange that kindness never makes the list of what we’re looking for in a mate. I’m looking for someone who enjoys walks at sunset, likes dogs and understands
It’s an act of kindness, really, to inquire genuinely about someone’s well-being.
the tax code. What’s more important than kindness, though? Looking both ways before crossing can save your life, but it’s not the golden rule. Kindness is. A woman who’s kind to you, and to others, is a woman who’ll accept your shortcomings. We have an incentive to be nice to someone we’re dating: We want that person to like us. But if a woman you’re dating is kind to you… and also to the waiter, the ticket taker and the coat-check girl, then she may be a genuinely kind person. If she’s nice to you but to nobody else, then she may just be putting on a show, like a mating dance. That bird with the beautiful plumage may put the feathers away at home.

Unfortunately, kindness often gets the short shrift while mating rituals get all the attention. We don’t go on dates with people we don’t eventually want to have sex with. It’s the whole reason we’re on a date, biologically speaking. Of course, sex on the first date might just be your idea of kindness. But you may later wish you’d checked that urge. This isn’t to say that a woman who’ll have sex with you on the first date is too fast, or loose, or whichever antiquated notion of propriety you want to apply. But a woman (or a man, for that matter) who’ll have sex on the first date, or the first few, may be relying on physical intimacy to take the place of an emotional bond. Old gender roles have the same effect. Men are suckers for damsels, fawning women who arouse our need to keep them safe. But incessant plays to our “manly” instincts are rather coquettish. Being stuck in that role of protector and provider makes the relationship feel lopsided. Love isn’t lopsided. If it is, it isn’t love.

My wife and I were forthright in our discussions about sex when we were dating, like negotiating the terms of our relationship. I was surprised — and, frankly, alarmed — when I realized I wanted to wait. Surely it signified the onset of a tumor. It’s easy to feel like you’re connected when you’re having sex, and it’s a lot easier than getting to know each other. But I wanted to know we were truly intimate before we got intimate. This isn’t to say that attraction’s not important. You can’t help but be alluring to each other. But it shouldn’t take the place of finding out whether you get along. The patience and desire to do that is what it makes it love. It’s what happens when you’ve met the right person, The One. Sarah and I had been friends for more than a year by the time we shared our first kiss. The moment was full of anticipation and anxiety. I was literally palm-sweaty nervous at 30 years old. It was a damn good kiss.

Seth Wharton is a writer who lives in New York City with his wife of seven years and their two cats. In addition to doling out invaluable relationship guidance, he writes fiction.
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