Still thinking about a jerk

Dear Meredith,

I am an almost 29-year-old woman. About two years ago I met "Chris." I felt like we clicked instantly -- had lots to talk about, laughed a lot, and had great chemistry. I couldn't wait to get to know him more. I had never felt that way about anyone. We dated a couple of months but then he ended it, saying he wasn't looking for a relationship.

A couple weeks later he started talking to me again. We would talk and flirt online a few times a week for a bit. We met up one night and slept together. I thought if I was cool and casual about it, something real might develop (dumb). Then I told him in a long email that I had feelings for him. He said he still just didn't want a relationship, so I distanced myself. But then he invited me to an event a few weeks later and we started talking occasionally again. I found out a few months after that that he had a new girlfriend, so I distanced myself a bit again.

About a year ago, I texted Chris and told him I wanted to see him. He asked me to come over. In the morning I came to my senses and realized of course this didn't mean he liked me (he was actually still seeing his girlfriend, at least casually). I was heartbroken again. I unfriended him on Facebook and didn't contact him again. I dated some more, did a lot of yoga, strengthened my friendships, and did volunteer work. The rest of my life is pretty great, but I worry that I'll never feel another connection like the initial one with Chris. It's hard to go on dates where I don't feel like, "I could talk to this person for five hours straight and I feel attracted to him," the way I did with him. I'll go out with someone two or three times but if I don't feel that way, I move along.

A few days ago, after a year of no contact, I woke up in the morning to find that Chris had texted me in the middle of the night. It was blatantly clear what he was after. But I was overwhelmed by the idea that maybe he had been thinking of me a lot, maybe he was single now and wanted to actually see me. The next day I texted him to see if we could get coffee. I wanted to find out what was going on and why he would contact me. He replied along the lines of, "That text was a bad idea, I was just drunk and thinking about you."

How do I move past this last little incident and my whole history with him? His opinion of me means a lot, clearly -- it's still very painful that he sees me as someone who's only worth something casual. How can I be more open to men who maybe don't charm me in quite the same way that Chris did when I first knew him but who actually want me? I know I need to stop holding this person up as my ideal man when he was so toxic to me. But I can't figure out how to do that -- and how to stop personifying the "girls like jerks and reject nice guys" cliche. Do you have any advice for me?

– Stuck, New York

I wish I could tell you why some disappointments take over our brains and haunt us. In your case, it's probably your place in life and the fact that Chris is just kind of a magnetic guy.

You need to understand that Chris does have a high opinion of you (not that it matters). He's just can't commit to anyone because he's Chris -- a selfish, impulsive, charming mess. If he was capable of a having wonderful relationship, he wouldn't be texting you in the middle of the night. This was never about you not being attractive or interesting enough for a serious relationship. It's always been about Chris being Chris. And Chris could be like this forever.

My advice is to work on re-framing this in your brain. Chris does want you -- but you're rejecting him. He's a bullet you continue to dodge whenever you call his bluff and ask for what you really need.
Meanwhile, you're a 28-year-old woman who does yoga, volunteer work, and wants to be wowed within three or four dates. All of that sounds pretty good to me. Your reaction to Chris doesn't mean that you can't like anyone else. One issue has nothing to do with the other. You just need to keep dating.

And please erase that message from Chris. I know you've probably stared at it a few times, re-reading it and examining it for meaning. We've all been there with a text. You must delete.

Readers? Any tools for forgetting Chris? Why does his opinion matter? Why does she want him? Help.

– Meredith