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.

As we continued to date, it didn’t take long to confirm that this guy was very male, but in a different kind of way. He loved sports, but didn’t watch them or play them to extremes. He was really into downhill skiing and could take on runs that made penguins nervous. He liked all kinds of guy things, like fixing cars and playing around on computers, but when it came to how much attention he devoted to all those things, he was strangely balanced.

While he did have some aggravating male qualities like being very competitive and displaying male answer syndrome on occasion, he had another side too. He liked to shop, doing dishes, and he enjoyed hanging out and chatting with “the girls.” He loved taking walks in the sunset, and he could occasionally tolerate chick flicks without wincing. Best of all, he truly made time to develop his daily walk with God, without any input (nagging?) from me.

Suddenly it all made sense. This guy was all male, but he was also in touch with his sensitive side and he could actually show it when the occasion called for it. He was very comfortable with his sexual identity and didn’t have anything to prove. He could be a man rustling around in the garage with power tools one minute, and then move into the kitchen to hang out with the girls the next. With that delicate balance in his life, it occurred to me that when it came to a true masculine role, he demonstrated some of the characteristics of … Jesus!

Now this kind of guy would make a great husband, I thought. In my history of dating, it had never occurred to me to look for this kind of balance, but suddenly I realized that’s what women really want. Even if they don’t know it yet, they want the guy that’s all guy but who can let down his guard and be sensitive too, because those kinds of guys make the best life companions. And once I put it all together, I wasn’t about to let this one go—I’d be crazy to let a man get away who liked doing dishes!

All this is to say, that if you’ve been attracted to the Johnny Depp kind of guys like I used to be, be cautious about the ones who won’t make true companions. There’s such a thing as too much of a thing. Look for balance. While you want a guy that’s somewhat wild and untamed at heart, you might have to trade off some for a responsive guy who makes a great best friend.

I’ve been happily married to this sensitive hunk of a guy now for nine years, but I do have one little complaint. I still haven’t convinced him he’d look hot wearing eyeliner. Aaarrgh!

When Julie Ferwerda isn’t wrapped up in her heavenly dating life, she’s writing for Christian magazines and websites, keeping up with two teenage daughters, and enjoying life in central Wyoming with her husband, Steve. She is the author of the book for singles, The Perfect Fit: piecing together true love. For more info, please visit www.julieferwerda.com or her Crosswalk blog.

**This article first published on March 3, 2009.