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July 1, 2013

The Day I Stopped Falling for Jerks


Photo Credit: Alvelyn Alko

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By our second month of dating, Peter told me he loved me, that I was beautiful, that he liked my shoes, and that he was the luckiest man in the world to find me. We didn’t always have the pyrotechnic chemistry of a one-night stand, but we had a constant warmth that made me want to cuddle up next to him. At the same time, it made me incredibly anxious: I loved hearing Peter's offbeat observations about music and architecture, watching him rewire the lighting in my apartment, listen- ing to his boyish laugh—but where was that manic streak of irresponsibility I craved? It seemed too easy. I didn’t have to try to pin down an artistic, wandering soul to persuade him to love me, or clamor for his attention. Without that, the romance seemed to lose a certain thrill.

One evening, after one too many drinks, some demon took over my brain and I con- fessed that I thought he was too boring for me. I gave him a long list of all the ways he wasn’t interesting enough: He was always even-tempered. He didn’t come up with crazy ideas, asking me, as other men  had, to take off for Argentina, ride the roller coaster in Santa Cruz, or swallow vision-inducing drugs with a shaman in the Amazon. He was predictable—showing up when he said he would, bringing flowers, picking me up at the airport. Peter looked crushed. "Are you breaking up with me?" he asked, near tears. I hadn't planned on it—inexperienced as I was with intimacy, I thought I was just airing my feelings. Breaking up was the last thing I wanted. I didn't know what I would do without his hugs and gap-toothed smile.

"No," I mumbled, embarrassed and worried that he was going to flee. But Peter pushed back. "Just because I’m not an asshole doesn’t mean I’m boring," he said

"You need to figure out the difference."

Now that was interesting. He left, pissed off, and I ruminated all the next day. Peter was right. When I considered it, most of the charismatic men I'd dated were actually jerks or bad boys, hardly relationship material. They’d subtly reject me but keep me around for fun, playing games where I always ended up the loser. I suppose I’d always been attracted to commitment-phobes because some part of me felt unlovable. It was a lot easier to fall for a guy who I knew, on some level, wouldn’t fall in love with me. There was nothing to risk. The real risk would be to finally be vulnerable to love.

The problem wasn’t that Peter was boring. It was that I was scared to be in a real relationship. Who cared if he didn’t speak three languages? Peter made me deeply happy, not constantly anxious that I wasn’t good enough. His solidity was exactly why, I realized, I loved him so much.

The next day, too scared to call, I texted Peter that I loved him, too. He came over and crowed about it, then insisted I tell him out loud. Now I say it all the time. And the more he feels secure, the more he’s game for new adventures: going to Patagonia and Mexico, hosting parties, learning to ski. These days, I feel silly for not realizing a long time ago what I needed: someone I could trust with my heart. And that beats a sexy Brazilian any day.

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