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July 1, 2013

The Day I Stopped Falling for Jerks

After years of dating charismatic, brilliant, slightly off-their-rockers men who were never that into her, Laura Fraser learned to quit chasing unavailable guys and embrace real love.

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Photo Credit: Alvelyn Alko

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I recently came across a photo of a sexy Brazilian man I had an affair with a few years ago. (OK, I Googled him.) When I saw his sly smile and unruly black hair, I couldn't help thinking that, by comparison, my live-in boyfriend wasn’t quite as darkly seductive or exciting.

I met the Brazilian in line for a film screening while visiting Manhattan from San Francisco. I was convinced I'd found my ideal man: intellectual, witty, artistic, and hot. We spent a passionate week together, and when I left town, I thought I was leaving behind a new long-distance boyfriend—one who, it turned out, didn't like to call or e-mail...ever. I thought our fling was the start of a relationship; he thought it was a fling, period.

Disappointing, but it fit my usual pattern. I would fall for a brilliant guy with an irresistible smile who never quite fell for me but who possessed all the qualities I liked in a man: a sense of humor, certified smarts, smoldering looks. Each time, these men—dashing chefs, moody architects—would give me just enough attention to keep me in their narcissistic orbit. Whether or not they'd ever call was just part of the thrill, always keeping me on edge. Outwardly, I told myself I was having fun and it was just a matter of time before someone wanted to settle down; inside, I started to worry that I wasn’t lovable or exciting enough.

My friends were concerned. Sometime after the Brazilian, a buddy observed, "You need to be the Brazilian in your relationship." By that, she meant I needed a solid guy I could rely on. But was it possible to be stable and exciting? She had a point, but the kind of guy she described sounded so boring I figured I'd be better off getting a dog.

Then I met Peter—or, rather, re-met him. I had known Peter vaguely in college. He'd recently emerged from a divorce and onto a dating site where I'd been lurking. I passed over his profile, which depicted an earnest guy with bright blue-gray eyes wearing an old Guatemalan sweater. But he recognized me, and we started chatting. There were no witty phrases in his e-mails, no sense that he was teetering on that razor's edge between genius and madness.

Unconvinced of his romantic potential, I invited him over for soup, less a date than a get-together with an old friend. From the moment he walked in, I felt like he'd been sitting in my living room forever. I didn't feel compelled to impress him; he seemed to genuinely like my apartment, my books, my soup...and me. We laughed easily and kissed each other good night. Surprisingly, given how kind he was, I didn't want to stop kissing him. The next day, he called to ask when he could see me again—unusual behavior, considering the guys I'd dated.

On our second date, we had a quiet dinner at a bistro. On our third, he told me he was only interested in a committed relationship. I'd never heard a man say such a thing. But even though it was what I'd always said I wanted, the word monogamy sounded a lot like monotonous.

Everything about Peter was steady. He used to own a recording studio and now had a less-exciting gig as a construction manager. He had a cheerful disposition and didn't swear at drivers. He’d raised a considerate daughter who shared his quirky sense of humor. My friends told me I'd totally scored, finding a smart, handsome, 6'4" man who adored me.


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