Perusing my archives and reading other tales of romantic success and failure, leads me to this conclusion: when it's right, you'll know.
Let me explain. Some of us have a hard time opening our hearts. Some of us hold back, question ourselves and try to figure out how we really feel. Sometimes we spend a lot of time doing this in the early stages of a relationship. We wonder if the holdup is our own insecurity or a problem with our potential partner.
You know what I think? It doesn't matter. If things are right, it will be easy. (Specifically, the beginning part will be easy.) A relationship should not be a puzzle. (My friend, TS, said this, and it's always stuck with me.) If one of you is holding back, it's fine to be patient, it's fine to see what happens, but don't count on it working out in the long run.
You both have to be there. If one person wants to be there but can't because he's, say, separated-but-not-divorced, depressed, lives thousands of miles away, is heartbroken, or is an alcoholic--he's still not there and it's not going to work.
If you are hesitating and hoping to overcome your small doubts, just stop. You won't. Those hesitations are there for a reason and you should heed them. Listen to your gut.
If you think your gut is lying, it's probably not your gut--it's your head yelling so loudly that you can't hear your gut. Don't ignore your gut; it never lies.
As an example, take my good blog friend, Sethro. A few months back, Sethro started to see a woman. He really liked her. He wanted to sleep with her. She wanted to sleep with him too, but only on the condition that their relationship be exclusive. (Sound familiar?) All of us readers urged Sethro to go ahead and commit to the bare minimum of exclusivity with her and have a good time. And he did. And then he broke up with her because he "wasn't feeling it."
Recently, Sethro started dating a new woman and in just a few weeks, with no hesitation at all, he dubbed her, "The Girlfriend."
I gave Sethro bad advice. Not on the sex thing--that's inconsequential--but on the ignoring his feelings thing. He was hesitating for a reason. He just wasn't that into the first woman, though he appreciated her many good qualities and found her attractive.
With The Girlfriend, Sethro didn't need to be convinced. He didn't need time to see how he feels. He knows how he feels--very good when he's around her. We have yet to see if this relationship will last, but I think it will. Sethro is all grown up and has a good idea of what he wants and he is not afraid of his feelings, as it turns out.
Another example is THE Single Guy (TSG). He recently had a short-lived relationship, which was ended rather abruptly, but kindly, by the woman in question. He was surprised that she ended things, as was I and most other readers. But let's remember that TSG was hesitating and holding back through the entire involvement. He is recovering from a serious relationship, which made him more fearful than usual. But I would suggest that if he were more sure about the new woman, he would not have held back (as much). Maybe he's not in a place to fully commit to someone, but that's not the problem. This is a guy who wants to be in a relationship. Just not with this particular person.
A word to all of us (especially me): don't try and sell yourself on the first pretty face who comes along to end a dating drought. Don't try and convince yourself that things will get better or you need to give him more of a fair chance. Screw that. You know what you know--you just have to let yourself know it. You will know when it's right.
(This in no way changes my policy of second dates for all but the most annoying men in the world. Everyone gets to make at least a second impression.)
If I look back on my happy, successful relationships, I knew every single time, and very early on, that it would be a good thing. And if I look back at my unhappy, painful relationships, I knew then too. I knew, I know, and I will know.
The question is, what will I do with that knowledge? At the very least, if I choose to engage in another less than ideal relationship, I'd like to go in with my eyes open and not spend a lot of time flogging myself when it goes down in flames. Those downward spirals have moments to be appreciated too. If I'm going to choose that ride, I should at least enjoy it.
Then again, I'd rather choose something else. I'm going to work on that. And you have my permission to tell me (in the kindest possible way) the next time you see me ignoring my gut.
Grateful for: an accurate gut.
Drop me a line.