I fell in love with a bad boy chef. Then the recipe went downhill

(Holly Stapleton / For The Time)

“Why are you crying?” my husband asked me. I had just finished watching “The Bear,” the Hulu show that no doubt resonates with chefs but must simultaneously hurt the women who love or love them.

With a tearful smile, I excused myself to the garden where I lay down on the grass and let the abnormally humid valley weather transport me to another time in my life.

I was a graduate student in psychology. The guy I started seeing was a chef trained in France. We were doomed from the start, and our mutual masochistic ways should have been the first clue. We were two workaholics with a common love for tragedy. With music, books, and art, we have always leaned toward anxiety. In my mind, we were Michelin star lovers in the beautiful city of Los Angeles. We were Roméo de la Baie du Sud and Juliette de la Vallée.

We met like most modern couples do – on an app. After the usual surface-level exchanges, we started talking on the phone. Hours passed as our deeply meaningful conversations about beliefs, experiences, hopes, and dreams continued effortlessly. Punctuated with flirtatious overtures and extended good nights, we planned our adventures together while watching Anthony Bourdain episodes from across the 405 freeway.

The cadence of his voice as he inhaled and exhaled the cigarette smoke became a familiar, comforting pause.

After a brief phone conversation, we met in person over pasta and wine in Brentwood, followed by gin and tonics at my apartment in Westwood.

I had suggested a delicious but uncool family-run Italian restaurant as a secret test of snobbery. He passed by with flying breadsticks and we talked endlessly about the value of tradition in food.

He wanted to open a gourmet Southeast Asian restaurant as a love letter to his family and an eff-you to those who viewed Asian cuisine as a hangover cure.

I loved listening to him think about his plans. He spoke with intense passion backed by encyclopedic knowledge. I found his rants familiar the way previous flings with medical students had been – expert and passionate. However, unlike those interactions, he valued my opinion and experience related to his world as well as mine.

We were also drunk on each other’s intelligence.

We fell in love instantly, but those feelings came with a healthy dose of existential dread for me and reactive self-medication for him. My life trajectory was stable and mapped out. His was unreliable and in constant motion.

I felt stuck in my identity and my project. He offered an unpredictable and exciting alternative. We regularly dreamed of moving to Uruguay and opening a bookstore and a bar on the beach. Sometimes I forgot that my own goals included a home, marriage, and children.

He didn’t. “The smartest thing I could do would be to marry you…” These were often his parting words when we fell asleep together.

However, our Edenic ecosystem was not sustainable and exclusive by design. We rarely socialized with friends or family, and if we did, there was a countdown until we could be home together.

Our weekend afternoons felt like a cliche, with me in his old band shirts and him smoking Marlboro Reds on my balcony. We enjoyed martinis at the bar at Musso & Frank, tipsy walks at Whole Foods, and endless strolls around the latest bookstore. We enjoyed cooking in my little kitchen after a punk walk in Nijiya Market.

Our bubble high turned into bliss mixed with expressions of self-destruction and addiction. He had no concept of “too much” in any aspect of his life. He lived in excess.

I was close enough to taste the booze in her mouth but still emotionally kept away from her self-medicated inner darkness. He ignored my expertise and my ability to understand trauma. I think it hurt too much to believe that anyone could actually know him.

The tattooed-addicted-passing chef trope became a reality that directly opposed the regimented stillness of my life in medicine. We started falling apart in our own way. I felt exploited and like a parent. He felt harassed and controlled. Neither of us was wrong in our assessments of the other.

I sat on the couch at a friend’s house on a hot night, waiting for the “Come home, come on” text from him. It never happened but the following happened: “I don’t love you, I never love you. Don’t answer. Forget me.”

I made my friend read it because I didn’t understand the words. The text read as if it had been written in a foreign language – a message sent by an inner demon.

My calls to him went to voicemail. I was stuck. High love turned into the most excruciating detox in the blink of an eye. For weeks, I felt psychosomatic punches every time I thought of him.

He was in rehab – a fact I didn’t find out for many years. This crushing blow of a text was sent from the steps of an inpatient treatment facility he was too embarrassed to tell me about.

Then one day, several years after receiving his text, I received an email from him: “I’m sorry.

He wrote about making amends and his accomplishments in the decade since our abrupt split. I responded with an indulgent tone, telling her that I had achieved my life goals of being married and having a house and a child.

He responded with a predictable but heartbreaking response: “The smartest thing I could have done would have been to marry you.”

The author is a therapist in private practice. She lives in Studio City with her husband and son. Find her on Instagram: @oui_therapy

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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