How do you know?

Recently, some of my clients have been asking me questions like , “how do you know he/she’s the right one.”

I guess it’s not unusual. I work with a lot of people (especially guys) between the ages of 16-30 (stats show a majority of head injury survivors are under the age of 30) and I work with them for a long time, so you develop a good relationship and I often find I’m doling out “motherly advice.”

I’ve given this question a lot of thought. From my personal perspective, I think prayer is the most powerful way of knowing all things, but often people don’t really understand that answer:) However, being still, meditating, or going with your gut all are ways of saying similar things that people seem to relate to.

But there are a few other ways I’ve come across that seem to be falling in my “staple answers” for this question. Answers that I’ve even heard myself reciting to my kids when they start to ask about love, marriage, relationships (and boy do they have questions given that their parents are divorced – so I have to think real hard about my answers.)

Here are my words of “love wisdom”:

1. If you have to ask, she/he is not.

The movie is “One Week”. The scene is outside a motel with Gord Downie (Tragically Hip) and Ben Tyler (played by Joshua Jackson). Gord is telling Ben he has been married for 25 years and still in love. Ben asks Gord, “How did you know it was the real thing?”

Gord’s reply:

“If you gotta ask, you’re not. And you already knew that.”

I could really just stop here and be completely in agreement with this answer. But, in case you need more….

2. It’s just not complicated.

It’s really not. I talked about my feelings about complicated here.

Life can be complicated. Situations and circumstances can make things complicated.

Being in love. Not complicated. There could be a storm surrounding you (which is complicated), but there is calm within the eye of the storm where you are.

I had this discussion with one of my clients a few weeks ago – not about love per se, but about “complicated lives”  and the need to simplify. He came back last week to our session and reported he had broken up with his girlfriend. He said our conversation about “complicated” had really affected him. He realized that his relationship was just too complicated, especially for them being so young. He broke it off and had a huge weight lifted from his 21 year old shoulders.

I think uncomplicated also means “transparent.” I’m not into the whole argument about “privacy” in marriage. The whole “I lock my phone for “privacy.” You don’t know my password because of “privacy.” You can’t see my texts because it’s an “invasion of my privacy.””

Privacy is code for “complicated.”

Forget privacy. I don’t need it when I have respect. Respect for you, and respect for me. If we built our relationship on respect and loyalty then nothing we do ever needs to be marked off as “private.” I never want a reason to be suspicious, nor do I want to give reason for suspicion. Transparency overrides privacy. And then respect and loyalty take over.

Go for uncomplicated. Love can be pure and simple. Go for respect and loyalty.

3. Coma Guy

When I worked in a hospital, there were many people who were  severely injured. This one woman had this husband who visited her daily, despite her catastrophic injuries. She had been in  a coma for a long time, and had come out of it with tremendous difficulties – couldn’t walk, speak, or pretty much move. But, her husband came  in and sat with her, worked on her therapies with her, and even taught her how to paint with all her challenges. It was beautiful. He was so dedicated. He clearly had loved her and to him, she was still her, so he clearly loved her still.

I got divorced around the exact same time as one of my best friends. What timing. We were huge supports for each other. We talked a lot about the kind of man we wanted to marry second time around. This couple both stood out for us both (she worked at the same hospital). We called the guy “coma guy” and decided that we wanted a guy who would stick by us even if we were in a coma. That became our bench mark. “Forever guy” (another term we used), had to be “Coma guy.” Someone who would stick by you no matter what. Someone who really took their marriage vows seriously: “richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Coma guy.

(We laughed because when she met her husband, he was super super quiet…we joked that we didn’t seriously mean “coma guy”!!)

4. Swiss Chalet Couple.

Ok – another weird benchmark for me. I actually don’t usually share this one with my clients. But I will with my kids.

Another divorce story (getting divorced tends to make you think a lot about relationships, marriage, true love, forever stuff…weird, eh?)

I was spending the weekend with another one of my best friends. We had spa’d it up and she was heading back to Montreal on the train. Before dropping her off at the train station, we went to grab lunch at “Swiss Chalet”. Not the most glamorous place – and that is an understatement (but those fries with the gravy – yum!)

While we were talking, I was distracted by this older couple sitting nearby. They were really old. But they were all dressed up, looking lovingly at each other and even reached across the table to hold hands. Now in my imagination, they were there celebrating their 48th or 51st anniversary (they better go somewhere better for their 50th!!) and I turned to my friend and said, “I want a guy who will get all dressed up with me and take me to Swiss Chalet on our anniversary.” I don’t need the fancy restaurant, I just want the extraordinary guy in an ordinary life (It’s easy to find the ordinary guy in the ordinary life, or even in an extraordinary life.) Something about that couple. Perhaps the simplicity? The pure, simple love?

Shortly after I met Rob, I shared this story. You guessed it. Our first anniversary was spent at Swiss Chalet. We go back every so often and I’m always reminded of the Swiss Chalet couple.

I lucked out too. I did get the extraordinary guy – but I got the extraordinary life too. I didn’t realize how much you both create that life – and if you want it to be extraordinary, then together, you can create it.

5. A different kind of love.

Diane Lane. Love her. “Under a Tuscan Sun” and “Nights of Rodanthe” changed my life.

If you’ve ever been divorced, you’ll know what I mean about “Under a Tuscan Sun”. I talked a bit about how it impacted me here.

“Nights of Rodanthe” introduced me to the Outerbanks, which is a place that has captured my heart and soul and one of my favourite places to be.

But it also had this amazing scene in it where Diane Lane is talking to her daughter about love (and how she has fallen in love with a new man after her husband had left her):

I talked about it here in much more detail, but the quote was so good, I’ll share it again:

“I know you’ve only ever known your father and me. And I love Jack, because he is your father. But there’s another kind of love, Amanda. One that gives you the courage to be better than you are, not less than you are. One that makes you feel that anything is possible. I want you to know that you could have that. I want you to hold out for it.”

6. The Third Force/ Center of their world

A week before I met Robbie I was out with some gals and we decided to go to a fortune teller. I can’t really say it was a good experience. It actually creeped me out a bit. But, she did foretell that I would meet a great guy, who led a similar life  to me, and he would make me the center of his world.

THAT, I didn’t believe. In fact, I’m not even sure it was something that I wanted. It sounded too much like a “put me on a pedestal” kind of thing. Too unequal. Dysfunctional even.

But, it was simply because I didn’t really understand what she meant.

I get what she means now.

It’s sort of the Third Force thing. Your relationship becomes central. I take care of you, you take care of me. We are central. Nothing is more important than our marriage.

7. Vision and Values

This ties into the Third Force thing again. Nothing is more important than your marriage – but what is your marriage built on? You must have the same vision and values. If you are far apart on these key things, it is so much harder to make it all work. So you don’t *know* that this person is not for you simply because you have a different vision and values, but I think you do *know* it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder.

8. Eyes light up when they walk in a room

Ok – I know this one sounds a bit much. Maya Angelou said this about being a parent, “Do your children see your eyes light up when they walk in the room?” I always loved this, because it is something I want my kids to see. I know they don’t see it all the time (sometimes my eyes are lighting up when they walk in the room for other reasons, and it usually starts with me saying their FULL name), but I want them to see it sometimes at least. So they know how important they are to me. I’m excited to see them. I love seeing them. I miss them when they are not there.

I think the same goes for “the one”. I always think, if I am at a party and I look across the room at “my guy”, is my heart filled with pride that he is “mine”? You bet it is. Do I love hearing him talk, want everyone to know that I am with him, that I think he is the smartest, handsomest, funniest guy ever? Yup.

I think you honestly need to think the world of your “one”. There will most certainly be things that tick you off, get on your nerves, or build up your levels of frustration. But, overall, if there is a spare moment in the day, my thoughts will turn to him. If there is some free time, no better person to spend it with than him.

9. Passion and friendship 

I used to sit in romantic, fairy tale movies and think they were so unrealistic. And, true, their lives are pretty unrealistic – it ain’t all sunshine and lollipops. But the love, it’s out there. The deep love, combined with respect and passion. You can have it all – with the right one. You don’t have to sacrifice – marry your best friend and your most passionate lover. The two combined together – magic.

10.Chocolate Milk

Zandra and I had a long talk many months ago. As I said back here, it is hard for kids from divorced families to understand love and marriage. Kids do want to feel that they were brought into the world surrounded by love, even though it ended in divorce. It gets really hard to understand I think when they then see one of their parents (and hopefully both) go on to remarry and be super happy. Rob and I truly feel that we are the love of each other’s lives. Great for us, but hard for them to get. So I explained it using two of my favorite drinks:

Milk and Chocolate Milk.

Way back in the beginning, I loved milk. Icy cold milk. In a tall glass. It went down so well, especially with a great big cookie or piece of chocolate. It was the most delicious drink. I loved my milk and I could drink it all the time.


One day I tried chocolate milk (this is where is gets tricky – because it’s not like I was running around trying to find a better drink. For me, milk was made unavailable and I just so happened to find chocolate milk later on.) Anyhow… I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was SO good. I loved it and couldn’t get enough of it. It was so addictive. I could have it all the time.

Now, before I knew chocolate milk existed, I had loved my plain old milk. And my plain old milk was good – especially when that was all I knew. I didn’t know chocolate milk existed! But when I got the taste of it, there was no going back.

A bit of a goofy analogy I know, but Zandra seemed to get it and since then I have used it with a couple more of my kids and they seem to have gotten it too.

My point is not to keep drinking from every cup until you find the best drink:) My point is sometimes you need to experience a few different drinks in life to know the differences in taste. Hold out for chocolate milk. It is there. It is good. Don’t let “good enough” be the enemy of “best.” The best is there and possible to reach.


So, how do you know? Maybe there is no exact answer. Maybe the answer is different for everyone. These are just some of the key things that I think will help you know…

Do you have any to share? How did YOU know?


How do you know? — 4 Comments

  1. In reading what you wrote, it reminded me so much of me and Mr. Big…post divorce I never thought it was possible until he came into my life…one for your list ACCEPTANCE – acceptance of who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. I have 6 children with special needs and when on our first conversation he asked if I had kids, I was honest. I said yes, 6 of them. All with a different form of autism. He flinched a bit, heck I would have been surprised if he didn’t. But he stayed interested. He has accepted me and my children and all the difficulties that come along with it. He is by my side, my biggest supporter and my coach when I feel things are going wrong. I too have accepted who he was, who he is, and who he wants to be. So much that we took a leap this year and moved to the Florida Keys when he was offered a transfer at work. We are two years strong with the weight of what seems like 10 years under our belt. We are not married but we know this is it. I like your chocolate milk analogy – I think it would be great to use when talking with my children as they get older.

  2. Leah-great post! It was so interesting to hear you articulate these feelings..I knew some of them and not others. All very true.

    I especially liked the chocolate milk one (hmmmm….should I be trying to taste other drinks???lol! Never!)

    I agree with most. The only one I feel differently about is the privacy one…I would never go as far as not giving a password-but do like that we are separate and have separate interactions and lives although a shared one too. And that friends and family know that when they write him or I it is private. Any of my friends who have joint emails I never write to them!!!

    Great view on marriage and partnership-loved reading it.

    I would add:

    I like uncomplicated but I also love complex. For me an element of both is needed to keep me interested after a long time. For him too! For me complexity is passion in many ways

    For me also sharing the same leisure interests is critical

    For me being different in so many ways but sharing so much too.

    And I love your coma and Swiss chalet analogies.

    I know he is the one when envy and jealousy of eachother’s success and relationships with others (men or women) are not there. When we both feel safe and secure and confident in our love together. for me this evolved after many years but is a signal to myself of our true love.

    Mostly I know he is the one when I look at our scale of joy both separately and together. When we both have that feeling every day and everynight no matter what of “I am so glad to be home..with you.”


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