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True love was something completely foreign to me

True love was something completely foreign to me
I admit it: I had blinders on. (Anthony Russo / For The Times)

You've heard expressions like, "You wouldn't recognize your soul mate if she was standing right in front of you and bit you on the nose"?

Well, Lila and I had been dating for a few weeks, but despite my excellent vision, our chemistry and her kindness, intelligence, humor and generosity, I still didn't recognize my potential soul mate.

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I was afflicted with that disease so common among men, the chronic Someone Even Closer to My Ideal Woman Is Sure to Be Just Around the Corner If I Simply Keep Searching Syndrome.

Granted, that syndrome wasn't the only rationalization I had for my dating blinders.

Lila and I were different in so many ways.

I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., but moved to California a year after college. She was born and lived in Tehran, Iran, until she immigrated to the U.S. at 17. I was into popular American culture; Lila's interests were deeper and more global. I was not a late sleeper, thrift-store bargain hunter, widow or cancer survivor; Lila was.

OK, so we had some chemistry, but come on — she wouldn't know chuck steak from Chuck Berry. And so, even though OKCupid thought we might be a match, I had my doubts. And it didn't feel right to string her along.

I told her this over dinner at Araya's Place, a vegan Thai restaurant on Beverly Boulevard in the Fairfax district. I said that as much as I enjoyed our time together, I felt our personal interests and cultural differences were just too much. She was not the soul mate I'd always envisioned. I just wasn't seeing our relationship as a permanent, future, forever thing.

As Lila teared up, I offered an arrangement. (I'd done this twice before and both times it was actually suggested by the women, I swear.) We could keep dating, but also date other people until it reached the stage of intimacy with the other person. At that point, either Lila or I would confess all, and we'd part. Lila was not crazy about this deal. She agreed to it only because she was not prepared to break things off completely.

I'll admit it: The prospect of having a steady date to count on while I was pursuing my soul-mate search was appealing.

For the next two years Lila and I dated, seeing each other a few times each week. During that time, though, we became closer.

I kept my memberships on several online dating sites active and occasionally would have coffee dates in my search for a soul mate. Lila, however, chose not to date anyone but me. I didn't click with any of these other women until I met J., who managed to enchant me to such an extent that after our first date, I decided to break things off with Lila.

As I did so, I tried to explain that it was actually to Lila's advantage. She was now free to meet someone who would be 100% sold on her and wouldn't feel the need to keep looking around. As you might expect, this kind of "cheering up" didn't work. Lila was devastated.

A week later I had my second date with J. As we sat having lunch, I couldn't help but notice that as she went on and on about herself and trash-talked her exes, the initial magic seemed to have dissipated. I found myself sitting there thinking about Lila the whole time.

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Driving home from the lunch date, I called Lila, who was surprised to hear from me so soon after our breakup.

I wasted no time switching to groveling mode.

I told her everything that had happened. I admitted I'd been an idiot. I said I'd made a huge mistake. I told her how sorry I was that I had hurt her. And I told her that something good had come out of this: My blinders were now off and I knew what I wanted. I wanted her.

I knew I'd hurt Lila badly. I had no right to expect her to forgive and give me a second chance.

But every once in a while, you win the life lottery.

Lila agreed to get back together under one condition: that I stop all the dating and commit to her.

I readily and happily agreed.

We recently celebrated our third very happy anniversary from the day we met. I'd like to give thanks to the universe for having brought this truly special woman into my life and for not cursing me with some horrendous yet well-deserved affliction for the way I mistreated her.

I don't deserve her or the love she proved by the second chance she gave me. So I will try to make it up to her every moment we're together, for the rest of our lives.

Miller is a contributing writer for the Jewish Journal. His first book is "500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars." Find him at markmillerhumorist.com.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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