I really have spent an inordinate amount of time trying this particular search string on Google. It feels really important to me to crowdsource this answer, because I feel like if and when this whole thing works out, I won’t have very long to figure out if he’s the one. I wish there was some kind of actuarial assessment available. My research to date suggests mixed findings. Some believe there are ways to know immediately, while some don’t. Some of the former believe that x, y, and z are those ways, while others of the former believe that a, b, and c are those ways, while still others believe that there are no ways, but only knowledge.
I think dating/deciding to marry is something like deciding to buy a house and make it your home. You figure out what’s available in your area, what works for your lifestyle, and what “must-haves” you want, and then you go looking. (note: This is, of course, a somewhat imperfect analogy as some of us aren’t “looking” when the right person comes around. I certainly wasn’t. But bear with me…) But the thing is… there’s not a Platonic conceit of “your house” that you just have to locate in reality. The truth of the matter is that you will see many houses, and most of them will have some aspect of what you want. One will have the gorgeous bay windows and gleaming hardwood floors. Another will have the giant kitchen with the granite countertops. A third will have a turret and built-in shelves. These are all great houses. You can see yourself living in all of them. But the day comes when you decide that one house is the one you’re going to buy. You move in. You clean. You do a bit of painting. You learn to live with the slight incline in the floors and to jump the creaky step in the staircase. You have dinner parties that last until 2am in this house. You host holidays in this house. You bring your babies back to this house. You could’ve had any of the houses you looked at, all those years ago. But you chose this one and it’s now the only home you can imagine having.