I am sitting across from Jim, the man whom I have been seeing for a few months now. We are attracted to each other. The intensity of our attraction is so strong that I can cut the tension between us with a knife. I love him and I am in love with him. I am positive that he loves me too. I mean, I know he cares about me. He listens when I talk about my daily problems. He smiles when I tell him great news, which is not often. He shows pain on his face when I tell him bad news. He shows concern when I am severely depressed. He is always curious, responsive, and attentive, wanting to know everything that’s happening about me and to me. He doesn’t want to change me, and he doesn’t judge me. He gives me his full attention when he is with me, never distracted by phone calls, visitors, or pets. Mind you, he has cats, but cats don’t come around when I am speaking to him. I always have his undivided attention. Don’t tell me I am misreading all the signs about love. This has got to be love.
I am dying to tell him that I love him today. I have been wrestling with my desire for several months now. I need him to know now. I do have my worries. What if he doesn’t feel the same way about me? What if he doesn’t want to see me anymore after I declare my love? Should I not say anything about my feelings so I don’t destroy this good thing between us? Isn’t this typical of all budding love stories? Who should be the first one to acknowledge their love so the parties involved can move the relationship to the next level? You will never know if love is mutual unless someone declares it first. Someone has to go first. He might reject me, but I am willing to take the risk.
I was dating Ken, my ex-boyfriend, when I met Jim. Jim was supposed to help Ken and I work on our relationship. Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you that Jim was my therapist. My apologies. I probably should have stated it right from the start. I know what you are thinking. Who isn’t in love with their therapist? Everyone is. This is exactly what my professor, a trained psychoanalyst, said when I told her I was in love with Jim. Of course, we all believe our feelings are unique. Today, I want to tell him the truth and I want to know if he feels the same way about me. I want to ask him out for coffee. Outside of our therapy session. If not now, sometime in the future.
I was immediately drawn to Jim the first time I met him. I could feel the electricity shoot through my body and that just fueled the fireworks between us or inside me. I didn’t realize my fascination with him was the result of my strong transference in therapy. I would go home and surf the net for his information—I wanted to know everything about him, like where he got his degree, what the topic of his dissertation was, whether he had children, or whether he was married or single. I was kind of stalking him online. By the way, I don’t do that anymore. When I met him back in early 2000s, I was almost forty. Jim was bald and 20 years my senior. That didn’t matter. First of all, I have a thing for bald men for some reason. Think Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis is charming and handsome, surpassing a lot of young men with a head of full hair. Second, Jim is Jewish. I seem to have strong affinity with Jewish men and Jewish people in general. With that combination, Jim was lethal. He was also provided the fireworks I needed at the time when my relationship with Ken hit rock bottom.
He started out as our couple’s therapist. Ken and I got to a point where we just couldn’t get along anymore. We constantly fought. He complained about everything—his job, his boss, his finances, and his house. He would descend into the complaining mode every time we met. It was fine the first few times, but it became too much when he would continuously complain about the same thing, yet was unwilling to do anything about it. He enjoyed explaining everything to me and would recite his encyclopedic knowledge about any topic he chose to comment on, which was EVERY topic. In the beginning, I appreciated his wealth of knowledge and thought he was very well read, but after a while, I started to see the psychological component behind the desire to share. It masked a desperate need for validation and affirmation, and acted as compensation for his deep insecurity and lack of self-worth. I saw him trying hard to insert himself in every conversation and to establish himself as an expert, even when he had no business being one. Because of that, there was a constant overt and covert competition between us. He decided that he was better at everything. The problem is: he wasn’t. He didn’t need to be and I didn’t ask him to be.
With his fragile sense of self, I did my best to protect his ego and was cautious about the things I would say. Yet, I didn’t feel he did the same for me. For example, I would never make comments to his face about how much money other men were making or how successful they were career-wise. Not that I would make comments like these to begin with. I knew these comments would hurt his feelings because these were his insecurities. But then, he would keep mentioning this woman or that woman he knew/saw or we both knew/saw was pretty when they were simply mediocre-looking. Believe me, I might be jealous, but I am still a fair person. I would acknowledge it if it was indeed a good-looking woman. So I started to feel that he praised them just to get at me. OK. Let me confess. This feeling that I am not pretty enough has been a deep-seated insecurity of mine since I was a kid; Ken knew that very early on in our relationship. I wondered why he couldn’t have been more sensitive about my feelings. I would consider his feelings before I made any comments. So every time he said something insensitive, it made me feel unloved.
Jim was a great therapist, so great to the point that I was reliving childhood trauma and experiencing psychological crises. All the repressed feelings of pain, hurt, abandonment, and not being loved by my own parents started to surface. In one therapy session, I talked about how I really had to die first before I could be reborn. I had been suicidal since I was a kid. Jim sensed something troubling brewing in me and knew he had to intervene. He recommended that I also see an individual therapist immediately. When I suggested that I see him individually instead, he told us to find another couple therapist because it wouldn’t work well for him to be both. We decided right there and then that I would start seeing him individually the following week. Ken and I could find another couple therapist. Ken didn’t really have a say.
My wanting to see Jim shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many of us start looking outward when there is a problem in our relationship. We jump ship before we end the existing one. We use the new relationship to facilitate the break-up and to help us get through the transition. Ken and I were marching to the end of our relationship. The fire was pretty much gone and no amount of fuel could revive it. I needed someone to help me make that final cut. I wanted to see Jim, both as a therapist and as a potential lover. I needed him there to help make the break-up more tolerable. Well, I left Ken shortly after I started seeing Jim. I wasn’t surprised. Neither was Jim.
Seeing Jim was great for me. I was able to work on many of my unresolved issues while cultivating my love for him. The fact that he was my therapist didn’t deter my desire to form an intimate relationship with him, even though deep down I knew he wouldn’t have done anything unethical. I didn’t care; I wanted to declare my love for him because I truly believed I was special, so special that he might consider making an exception.
So now I am sitting across from him and I want him to tell me the truth. So I ask him: “Can we have coffee? I mean, can we have a relationship outside of this office? If not now, sometime in the future when I am done with therapy?” Jim didn’t say yes. Neither did he say no. He was smart; he knew I would leave the table if he completely squashed my hope. He kept the fireworks going and my hope up long enough for me to heal and grow until I was ready to move on.
About the author...
Ada Cheng is a professor-turned storyteller and performing artist.She has been featured at storytelling shows in Chicago, Atlanta, Cedar Rapids, New York, and Asheville. She will be bringing her solo show, NOT QUITE: ASIAN AMERICAN BY LAW, ASIAN WOMAN BY DESIRE, to National Storytelling Conference in late June, Capital Fringe Festival in July, Minnesota Fringe Festival and Boulder International Fringe Festival in August, and Houston Fringe Festival in September. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell.