In his book “The Five Love Languages,” marriage counselor Gary Chapman says humans show and crave love in the form of compliments, time, gifts, acts of service, such as helping around the house, and touch, but we all prefer one or two ways over others. Marital discord occurs when we don’t get what we want. After growing up as an outcast with low self-esteem, isolating myself in my bedroom as my father beat my mom downstairs for more than a decade, and receiving Christmas presents that prepared me for fast-food employees who’d get my order wrong the rest of my life, I’ll gladly accept compliments, time, and gifts. But after living with a mama’s boy/porn addict who touched me maybe 10 times in two and a half years, sex takes precedence. So, a few weeks after he packed his things and absconded to Columbus while I was at work, I started dating the boss who’d been shooting rubberbands at my ass for five months. If you’re looking for love and stability, getting involved with a player who carries a little black book annotated with smiley faces is the stupidest thing you can do, but he spoke my love languages fluently until he taught me faithfulness trumps them all.
Love Languages, Exemplified
Our relationship began with acts of service: He moved my mattresses to my new apartment, where the furniture that fit inside a friend’s SUV had been set up for days. Then, he rewired my stereo speakers. The rest of the night, we drank, ate pizza, and listened to the same techno tape over and over and over because we were too deep in conversation to care. I woke up the next morning fully clothed on my living room floor with him spooned behind me and his arm wrapped around me. Afraid that he’d blame his position on the concussion he’d probably given himself when he banged his head on my plate the first time he kissed me, I shut my eyes because I didn’t want him to hear me blink, wake up, and walk out.
Weeknights from that evening forward, he left the firm at 1 a.m. and drove to my place, where we talked, laughed, and had sex for hours. After a nap and shower, I went to work with sore cheeks and bowed legs. I never felt like a plaything or booty call because, from all appearances, he was in love. When he was too tired to come over, he called and told me to lay my phone on my pillow so he could listen to me sleep. As he dialed the patternless new number I disliked because it was difficult to remember, he noticed the last four digits spelled L-O-V-E, spawning Barry White impersonations for years. While watching “Amadeus,” in which Mozart called wife Constanze “Stanzi,” he created the nickname Randzi.
“I love the way it sounds,” he said via email. “It has sex appeal as do you.”
Weekends, he danced at goth clubs with me. He even bought black T-shirts and clunky Dr. Martens so he wouldn’t stand out like he did at the firm, where the 32-year-old’s spiky hair made him the obvious answer in a game of Which One of These Things Is Not Like the Other? Afterward, we devoured breakfast, traded stories, and played Ms. Pac-Man where he used to cram for bar exams.
Anytime the weather cooperated that spring, we went on long, late-night motorcycle rides around the Emerald Necklace, Cleveland’s interconnected forests, where we pointed to lightning bugs we never saw in the city, dry humped on docks, and accumulated anecdotes like the time we stood staring at the stars from a parking lot at 3 a.m., and some guy on a bicycle appeared out of nowhere, rode a giant loop around us like an invisible lasso, dinged his handlebar bell once, and left.
“That was like a scene from a David Lynch movie,” I said as we now stood staring at each other, wide-eyed. “We should probably get out of here before something bad happens.”
The problem was, he forbade me from telling people these things.
“It doesn’t look good for me to be dating my secretary,” he said, looking at my living room floor hours after he’d slammed his door upon returning to the office with the gaggle of young engineers who lunched together every day and walked to the Crazy Horse one afternoon for a mid-day bachelor party.
“I guess you should’ve thought about that before you started dating your secretary,” I said. “Oh, wait. You did. That night you met Mia and me at the bar last fall, she said we’d make a cute couple, and you said you could never date me ‘because we work so closely together.’ Your words. So what happened?”
“I don’t like my personal life being on display,” he said, ignoring my question.
“And I don’t like being a secret, so I guess we’re at an impasse,” I said. “Mia’s my friend and the only person I really talk to other than you. I’m not going to lie to her. And considering I went from being practically catatonic and losing a lot of weight after Jason moved out to smiling, laughing, and being in a great mood, did you think the guys weren’t going to notice and start asking her questions since she sits in their wing and has a big mouth?”
He didn’t reply.
It was bad enough that I’d had to fight so hard to even become a secretary, which wasn’t what I wanted to be at age 23. Hurt that he seemed ashamed to be dating me and warned me months before we hooked up that he would never marry a woman who hadn’t gone to college, my fight-or-flight impulse urged me to break up with him. Unfortunately, I enjoyed him too much.
We continued to date and re-broached this conversation on occasion, but on the upside, it remained a conversation. I never yelled or chased him outside to tell him and the rest of Lakewood what a horrible person he was, as I had with Jason, who’d summoned my father’s side of the family from the depths of my DNA. Nor did I have to. Instead of throwing his hands in the air, saying, “I’m done,” and fleeing the scene as the mama’s boy had, the lawyer presented his case before breaking my stubborn glares with, “I want to jump you so bad right now,” tickling me, and taking me to bed.
On the downside, he dated other women.
“Now I know why you want to keep me a secret from the guys,” I said. “Frank told me you’re taking Sacha to some CIPLA dinner-dance thing.”
“It’s just one night,” he said. “You know I can’t take you.”
“But you weren’t even going to tell me about it. Why the hell do patent lawyers have a dance anyway? Do you have to buy her a corsage?” I asked, concealing my pain with sarcasm.
He laughed and snorted. “You’re so cute,” he said. “I promise I’ll call you as soon as I get home that night.”
He didn’t, of course.
“I fell asleep,” he said.
I changed banks after Mia and I walked into the branch two buildings down the block and watched him flirt with the European teller I used to chat with, but that didn’t prevent me from spotting a lipstick-stained wine glass sitting next to an un-lipstick-stained wine glass on his kitchen counter.
“My neighbor across the hall borrowed those,” he said, following my gaze.
“And returned them without washing them?” I asked.
Due to the domestic violence I endured while living with my parents, the shock of my mother’s confession to two affairs, including one she’d lied about most of my life, the shock of walking into Jason’s and my house to find all of his things gone, and a fourth trigger, a social worker would later diagnose me with PTSD and abandonment issues, but I still don’t know how I kept playing the lawyer’s game, which included broadsiding me mid-workday by sending an email to our wing’s shared printer, knowing the words “she stood me up” would leap off the page as I picked up a patent specification I’d transcribed. If living with a guy who jacked off to porn instead of having sex with me ranked a 10 on the pain scale, dating a guy who drank and did God-only-knows-what with other women ranked a million. I know why I played it though. I loved him, and I was sure he loved me but was too commitment-shy to say it. The closest he came was the night he came twice. I rode him to completion, and he double-patted my hip and told me to keep going.
“That’s never happened before!” he whisper-shouted as he pulled me down on top of him, bearhugged me, and kicked his feet like a 5-year-old on a sugar high.
This event cured his wanderlust for weeks leading up to the wedding reception he attended the night before the firm moved him to Japan for three months. He even gave me his favorite hoodie – the one he’d worn while helping me move – and took black-and-white pictures of me for his home away from home.
It also served as a Cinderella slipper of sorts. Any man who came twice consecutively must love me, I thought. And another guy did. Not surprisingly, it was the guy who’d been pining for me since the day we met five years earlier. But just my luck, he had not one but two mental illnesses (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), making him less stable than the player, the mama’s boy/porn addict, and the alcoholic who preceded him.