I sheepishly admit, there was a time when I had a fascination for guys (and pirates who wear eyeliner) like Johnny Depp—virile, adventurous, untamed, unpredictable, and very male.

There was something mysterious and compelling about a guy like that … something that left me wanting to be the one to bring out the tender guy hidden somewhere beneath the rough exterior, yet able to hold onto the wild and daring man without.

It didn’t take long in the dating world to discover that this man is only a fabrication of the Hollywood mind. My experience taught that there was no recklessly alluring rogue by day and sweet sensitive romancer by eve. When I happened to locate one of those high-testosterone all-male males, there indeed was a “package deal” involved. Get a guy like that, I observed, and you’ve got a guy who’s addicted to adrenaline—snowboarding the avalanche zones, kayaking treacherous waters, stalking mountain lions and grizzly bears for his trophy room, or surfing the pipes in shark-infested waters—usually at the expense of any meaningful relationships. In fact, the conquest of a variety of women is typically part of the pleasure-seeking game for these kinds of men. The slightly tamer varieties are still out seeking thrills on four-wheelers, fishing boats, or snowmobiles, at every opportunity, leaving little time for relationships.

Now please understand, I’m not being critical of noble-hearted men who seek outlets for their inherent and wonderful wild side, as John Eldredge is famous for writing about in his book, Wild at Heart. In fact, these activities for many men are a great way to relax and unleash their God-given passion and it’s inspiring to watch them in action. Many great men can balance their family responsibility and personal lives with their leisure. No, I’m talking about the dangerously intriguing Johnny Depps of the real world—the unattainable-of-heart kind of men that certain women pursue with the hopes of locating redeeming qualities behind the bad boy mask. And I’m talking about the women (like I used to be) who believe that is the kind of man they must reform … this untamed man who refuses to be caged by love or responsibility. Enter “Bryce.”

When I tried to coax the tender-hearted companion out from Bryce, a man who made a game of recklessly pirating the hearts of women—I found quite a different scenario than the attentive romancer I’d imagined. Not only was his life characterized by unabashed selfishness, when he did have spare time in between his recreational outings, he’d either be glued to ESPN Sports Center, or else immersed in his latest hobby. When I complained about feeling neglected or told him I wanted some bonding time, he’d generously offer a corner of the couch so I could watch the NBA playoffs with him. It always seemed to be about his things, his interests, his activities. And if I opted out of his “leisure” activities, he would try to feign disappointment while phoning his cronies a bit too eagerly (most of them acted like pirates and a few even smelled like them). And if I felt like he neglected me, his narcissistic lifestyle left no room for the God he said he revered.

After a cycle or two of enduring these kinds of guys, it was time to jump ship. There had to be other options to my Depp-fetish. But what? Hanging out with landlubbers for bowling and Scrabble was probably fine in a friendly kind of way, but not for a long-term relationship. Where was the balance for an adventurous date and potential life partner?

Then I met Steve. On our first marathon phone conversation, he cried. I’m not talking mist-up-and-sniffle-once-or-twice. He was in the middle of telling me about something sad going on in his life, and he just cut loose in an all out voice-quivering, tear-shedding, snot-blowing sob. Whoa. I was instantly suspicious. Was this behavior normal? Was it macho? Was Steve “confused” about his sexual orientation? He didn’t seem to be effeminate or anything, but this was not typical behavior for the Johnny Depp of my previous dating relationship. And I certainly didn’t want to trade in one extreme for the other.