The second time I was hospitalized, I had a therapist who I really got along with. He was smart and funny and I kind of had a (harmless, obviously unrealizable) crush on him. He was a redhead, although his head was shaved. I really liked the red hair on his arms. I know that’s weird. I feel weird even sharing that.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, he found me on OK Cupid. He sent me a really smart, really articulate message. I wasn’t positive, but I was pretty sure it was my therapist from the hospital. I responded, to clarify, and it turned out it was him. He was embarrassed, and remembered me, upon prompting. We made sure that, ethically, things were straight – it had been over two years since we had been in a patient-therapist relationship, and it had been a short, fairly inconsequential relationship, at that.

We emailed back and forth for several days. We had a crazy amount in common – we were both classically trained singers; we both were really interested in mental health. I don’t remember what else, but we were pretty much sure we were soulmates. We also had great email chemistry. He was a workaholic, so, late one evening, I decided to meet him at his office and hang out.

We stayed up until two talking. It was so much fun. Our email chemistry translated to real life, and we just had a great time. He was a total know-it-all and had crazy grand aspirations. At various points in his life, he had wanted to be pope, a rock star, and, now, he wanted to be the next Tony Robbins. But he was also a former fat kid who had been bullied like crazy, so I was completely endeared to his transparent desire to show them and feel brilliant. Anyway, we immediately connected. We both acknowledged that we were obsessive about being excited about meeting new people we liked, and hung out twice more that week. We talked about really introspective things and emailed all day and it was just, well, fun.

There were some weird things, though. He told me that he went running with one of his patients. While that’s not an ethics violation, strictly, it’s pretty on the edge. I mentioned that to my therapist, because it raised my hackles, and she definitively agreed. It was weird bordering on inappropriate, and a big, unnecessary risk to take. He and I had both discussed our mutual love of intimacy with another person, and he had mentioned that he had no relationship with his family. I got the impression that, not only was he careless, he was also kind of exploiting the intimacy of a patient-therapist relationship for his own lonely gain.

He also made me insanely insecure. Like, I felt like a crazy person. I think his know-it-allness, the 12 year age difference between us, and his general obsession with being a therapist (to the point where he kind of therapized me) created this very strange power dynamic between us. He was very sensitive, so there were a couple of times that I said something and he was wildly insulted and I had to explain myself and apologize like crazy. Sometimes he would email me every minute, and sometimes it would be a day. There really was no reasonable trigger to my insecurity, just the bizarre dynamic made me crazy.

I found myself being super, super needy. I’d send him emails asking if he actually liked me. I asked why he liked me. I asked if he just wanted to sleep with me. I wanted to see him all the time. He was super, super understanding of it – basically encouraged the behavior.

But I was pretty excited about it. I had this great connection with this guy who totally enthralled me. I told my friends about him, which I never do. He actually reminded of my one great love in life – a passionate, crazy, insecure writer who always kept me on my toes. The therapist history between us was kind of intriguing. And our chemistry was just so good. I didn’t really see the insecurity and power imbalance until later. I did see the red flags, though, about his professional ethics.

More red flags: we only ever hung out in his office. We even had sex on his office couch. Yes. That’s right. The place where his patients sat and bared their souls was also a place he was totally comfortable having sex with someone. It was just a little weird and even kind of exciting until I told my therapist about it and she was way, way skeeved out. Then I realized that, yeah, it was kind of fucked up. Even though he was a workaholic who barely left his office, there is a place for everything. And a not-place for some things.

The second week we were (obviously) dating, he told me that he wanted to label our relationship as a “developing friendship.” That made me really upset, partially because he made me needy and kind of nuts, but also because we clearly were a developing relationship and it insulted me that he wasn’t willing to call it that. But he appeased me by telling me that he could see it developing into a relationship, but didn’t want to label anything too quickly. I went with it.

A week or two later, we again discussed what our relationship was. I want to emphasize that it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it hadn’t been such an intimate dynamic. It’s hard to describe. We talked about really intimate things, and our dynamic was just really close. We were also sleeping together, obviously. And had discussed things like whether either of us wanted kids or whatever. It was relationship behavior. So I was really hurt when he again said that he wasn’t willing to think of what we had as anything more than a developing friendship. I felt misled. I went so crazy on him that he went from “Let’s be friends” (to which I replied, “I don’t think I can just be friends”) to “please don’t contact me again.”

I cried for a night and got really wasted and then woke up the next morning feeling totally, totally fine. Out of his orbit, I could see how fucked up our dynamic was. And how bizarre his professional ethics were. I was still drawn to him as a know-it-all, but I could also see that it wasn’t so helpful to my mental health. After my one night of freak-out, I felt all-better and good and a huge sense of relief to not have to be nuts about him. It’s always most dangerous for me to get into that obsessive place about someone, and he really cultivated it.

 

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