updated 04/28/2014 AT 8:00 PM ET
•originally published 04/29/2014 AT 11:35 AM ET
Okay, so why now?
By all accounts, and by his own admission, George Clooney was living a pretty enviable life as a bachelor. He had a thriving career, a close circle of friends and the luxury of a low-key dating life. But when the star met British attorney Amal Alamuddin, 36, it became clear he was ready for more.
“He has found someone who is as smart as he is and who is her own independent woman,” a Clooney pal tells PEOPLE.
While the actor has had fulfilling relationships in the past – most recently with Stacy Keibler until the two split early last summer – sources say Clooney, 52, has arrived at a more mature emotional place in his life. And, say those who know him, he was ready.
“Amal seems to be the best fit for him he’s ever had [in a partner],” the pal says.
The couple, who were first photographed stepping out together in London in October, are compatible in many ways. “She’s on his level,” a source who worked with Clooney said earlier this year.
The actor’s pal says he’s met his match in Alamuddin, noting, “She is not going to change, or give up being a human rights lawyer, because she is with George Clooney.”