“A Skeptic’s Guide to Relationship Science” by Dick Westheimer

Dick Westheimer


Deb and I lay in bed last night skin to skin. I think my hand was on her thigh and hers caressed my chin, maybe thumbed my earlobe like she sometimes does. We talked, again, about “love languages,” how she likes to give little treasures and wants me to be more attentive to her lists. Like today, her cellphone wouldn’t sync. She needs help with it. She reminds me I still haven’t hung Jeff’s picture in the rec-room. I know Deb’s notebook is full of to-dos for me, all dated, some starred in red pen. There are too few checked off. I tap my fingertips, one by one, feather-light on the small of her back. She sighs.
I love
her touch
Today I read to Deb from a new study. “Love Languages,” it says, “are not supported by empirical data.” (One of my Love Languages must be “empirical data.”) She tells me about a conversation she had with our friend Claire. They were walking along Barton Pond in Ann Arbor. Deb recalls wearing new blue walking shoes, the ones she now dons to work in the garden. It must have been thirty years ago, she says. Claire’s man Paul hadn’t read the Love Languages book either.
growing old
we remember
different things
I always wake later than Deb. This morning I find a note taped to my computer keyboard: “Kitchen Counter,” it read, written in aqua-marine script. I’d left the remains of my dinner fixings and now they stuck like glue to the old Formica. We often prepare and eat different meals—mine always with brown rice and beans and cooked greens, Deb’s according to her mood. On the table where I sit to eat there’s a note rubber-banded to the tamari bottle: “PLEASE, Return Me To The Shelf” it reads in bold black marker. As I clean the counter, Deb squeezes by. Her bottom brushes mine, comfortably, for sure.
our kitchen too small
to miss her

from Poets Respond
January 28, 2024


Dick Westheimer: “The headline, ‘Fans shrug off study debunking love languages,’ was catnip for me. My wife was an early reader of Gary Chapman’s best seller and a believer, and more than occasionally speaks of our differences as measured by the ‘love languages’ construct. Of course I had to read the study! (She might say that referring to ‘studies’ is one of my love languages.) And, of course we both know after 44 years of what Pastor Chapman would call ‘incompatible’ love languages that they are not predictive of a long-sustaining relationship—like the study shows.” (web)

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