Wedding season is upon us, and many of us will soon be standing by a friend's side as she says “I do” to the man of her dreams—or rather, the man she met two years ago through a friend of a friend.
Most of us know that finding a husband is not as easy as recognizing the man who has stepped out of our fantasy and come to life, but—ever-watchful for the elusive Mr. Right—we can’t help but wonder, “How do you know?”
The answer we most often receive sounds, quite frankly, like some kind of Jedi mumbo jumbo: “When you know, you know.” When you know, you know? OK, Yoda. And may the force be with you, too.
“When you know, you know” seems to imply that recognizing your future husband happens at a subconscious level—that certainty sweeps over us like an invisible wave. But more than anything, “just knowing” is really not a proper answer to those of us hoping to one day confidently say “yes” to a lifetime with a flawed and (possibly) alarmingly hairy human being. Knowing that you have met the man you can spend the rest of your life with is complex, which is why you frequently get that cop-out answer—but it’s not totally subliminal either.
I have found that if you look beyond the clichéd memes about love and press your married friends for an answer about how they knew, you will begin to see a pattern. I asked twenty-five married women; their answers were clarifying. Yes, many of them began with “I just knew” or “it’s hard to explain,” but then they did explain. Their stories—all different in detail and tone—carried many of the same themes.
Here are six of the most common responses from women about how they knew they had met their future husbands.
“HE’S MY BEST FRIEND.”
Only one woman I spoke to mentioned goose bumps and butterflies as a deciding factor, but every woman I questioned referred to her future husband as her best friend or insinuated as much. “I knew he was the right man for me because he was truly my best friend,” one woman told me. “We had fun together, and I knew he would walk through fire for me.” Another woman said, “I had never met anyone else that I liked equally in any and every situation.” Some women even explained that despite arguments, they still liked each other the most. As one woman put it, “Even when we argued, he was still the one I wanted to hang out with (after the argument, not during).” I mean, it makes sense—if you are going to spend the rest of your life with someone, just plain liking them a lot is a pretty important thing.
“I FELT LIKE I COULD BE MYSELF AROUND HIM.”
More than liking his company above anyone else’s, all of the women I spoke to explained that their future husbands made them feel free to be completely themselves and accepted for who they are. “I didn’t feel like I had to impress him or try to be someone he would love,” one woman explained. Another woman put it this way: “My husband was the first and only guy I showed my true self. There was no pretense or air, and he still liked me.”
As I followed this theme throughout my interviews with these women, I was reminded of a quote from the new Cinderella movie: “This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are.” What a joy it would be to meet a man who sees you for who you are and loves you for it. Likewise, discovering that you can love a man whom you know and understand—even with all his flaws—is a gift to be cherished as well.
“I ADMIRED HIM.”
This was a constant theme throughout the love stories I heard. Each woman recognized qualities in her future husband that inspired her. One woman explained the sentiment particularly well: “The qualities I saw in my husband made mewant to hold on to him. I absolutely admired him—for his intellect, for his manner, for his deep sense of self, and for his thoughtfulness and introspection.” One woman told me how her husband’s selflessness and desire to serve were attributes that sold her on him.
Everyone is looking for different qualities in a man, but the overwhelming opinion seems to be that you know you are with the man you should marry when you admire him. What I can deduce from all of these stories, however, is that this means more than just acknowledging that your man is a really good guy. Hopefully you will meet many men within your lifetime who possess qualities you admire, but the man you marry should be someone whose particular set of admirable characteristics not only draws you to him but also makes you feel like you can learn from him and grow in those areas as well.
“I TRUSTED HIM.”
Many of the women I spoke with listed trust in who their future husband is at his core as a reason to say “I do.” For several women, this was exhibited in his steadfast love and care. One woman said, “I knew my husband was ‘the one’ because he was so utterly consistent and sure about me. His steadiness in pursuing me brought about a great peace, and I felt free to really love.” Another woman explained, “I knew he would always try to do the right thing, and I could trust him.”
All relationships have their ups and downs, but as you go along, watch to see if your man cares for you consistently. You see, none of the women I spoke to said that their future husbands respected them “most of the time” or tried to do the right thing “sometimes.” The unanimous agreement was that a man who always seeks to treat you with care and do the right thing is the man to keep around.
“WE SHARED THE SAME VALUES.”
I wasn’t surprised by this one, but nearly every woman I asked mentioned it. Some brushed it off as obvious, as I might have. One woman added “similar values and interests and the same wants in life” among her reasons for marrying her husband. Another woman told me it was important that she and her husband “had a common understanding of what was important and what marriage meant.”
While shared values may be a clear indicator for some, this may not be as apparent to those who are still “finding themselves” or have not thought about how vast ideological differences can challenge a marriage. If you are looking for someone to say “I do” to every day for the rest of your life, consider what you want from life and how you want to live. If you find a man who shares your aspirations and wants something similar from his life, you have certainly found someone special.
“I WANTED TO BE WITH HIM…”
I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but believe it or not, the desire to be with a person and to choose him above all others was a pretty compelling reason from every woman I spoke to. One woman explained, “He was the one that I wanted to make it work with. He had faults I could live with and qualities that I did not want to live without.” Another woman recalls thinking on her second date with her husband, “I want to love this man for the rest of my life.” Another friend explained candidly, “We wanted to be with each other, even if those things that annoyed us about the other person never changed. And they haven’t!”
The man you are dating may not be the most perfect man on earth, and there may very well be another man out there with whom you are equally compatible. This idea may seem wildly unromantic to you, but many of the women I spoke to relished that they chose this man (for good reasons they could list, none of which included fate). They weren’t worried that there may be someone more perfect or more their ideal out there—they wanted this guy, flaws and strengths together. One woman put it well: “I knew he wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.”