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I’ve started a blog series called “Catch and Release”. It was born out of a series of conversations with a friend during my single days. I proclaimed that we were going to stop making fun of the dudes we dated for being SO ridiculous but rather see them as not fully developed yet.

Sort of like fish.

When you go fishing, if you catch a fish that doesn’t meet the size requirement, then you must release it back into the water. It isn’t a bad fish. It doesn’t mean you are a horrible fisherperson, it means it wasn’t a fit. The timing wasn’t right. The fish needed more time to grow. To develop. To figure out how to not be bat shit crazy. I mean to mature. It just wasn’t your fish. Your catch needed to be released back into the wild.

So it is in dating.

You learn a lot about yourself, your needs and your desires while dating. And sometimes, you find out you are the one that needs to be ‘released’….

Here are some of my entertaining past forays into the wild world of dating-Catch and Release style. I’ll be posting some of my stories from my past dating years and posting other people’s stories into the mix too-they’ve already started rolling in!

 “The Napa Trip Guy”

For his privacy, I’m going to call him “Doug’. It is a longer story than I can write because we dated several times over a couple of years ’cause, you know, I recycle like that….

I was ready to meet your every-day guy and I was in an ‘out’ phase of my in and out long term relationship and was craving normal and predictable. Cue “Doug”. He was cute, wore a windbreaker and laughed at my interpretive dancing. And he was wicked good at shuffle bowling. All of which are a sure way to my heart. I loved his sense of humor and his commitment to his friends and family.

He was fun, he was nice, he was present.

CATCH

We went out a few times with a mixture of times alone and occasions out with his friends, my friends and both. He was a tad younger than me but I rarely felt the difference. He kissed well and he treated me with respect and care. All good things.

Things began getting more serious between us and we started considering ourselves as dating. It was nice. Easy. And a tad boring. (Yawn Red Flag)

We had a serious conversation about how compatible we were and he gave me a slew of lovely compliments. He ended it with “And I don’t really mind that you have a child.”

Mind? Hmmmm.

My inside voice sarcastically said “And I don’t mind you are losing your hair….” But my outward appearance was attentive and listening.

He continued “ I mean my sister is a single mom and I know how great she is and I want someone to want her so how could I be hypocritical about it?”.

A deeper hmmmm.

We chatted about that more and I decided this was an honest response that made sense for a single, never been married, not much time around kids kind of guy.

Weeks later, I was seeking support on a particularly stressful day with my son and he jokingly said “Well, he is an asshole put him up for adoption.”

Now, my son WAS being an asshole but HE’S not allowed to say that!

Almost half my extended family is adopted and I am protective of adoption so the comment really rubbed me the wrong way. He was met with some looks and ‘you didn’t really say that did you’ tones in my remarks back to him.

But, again, I get it—he’d never been a parent and typically I loved his sarcasm. It was just a statement. But was it? Or was it a red flag?

There was a series of more things and we ended up ending it. Truth be told, we had an epic break up but I save that gem for my sexuality retreat participants…..

RELEASE (but not for long) and CATCH again because I’m no quitter!

Time passed and we ran into each other again and there was something still there between us. We both had mellowed a bit after the drought of successful dates and run of nonexistent dating.

We decided to try dating again. (Red ‘Didn’t You Learn the First Time’ Flag)

We went on a trip together with a group of his friends and it was a blast. We did the ‘group friend’ thing really well. I loved watching him with his friends. That may have been our best times together. I remember a particularly wonderful moment with his friends when we left the group and started playing basketball one on one and we had a blast together. We looked at each other and had an unspoken moment of ‘I could do this with you for a lifetime’. Warm fuzzies all around.

We were in it again but things crept up. Duh.

I wasn’t a dog owner at the time and thought he had an unusually close relationship with his dog and felt uncomfortable when he stopped snuggling with me and rolled over to spoon her.

What?

I love dogs but that just felt, well, different. I swear a few times she gave me the stink eye and then smiled when he ‘chose’ her over me.

But different is good, right? There are worse things, right? He has a great heart if he has a great heart for dogs, right? Don’t be so picky and judgmental. I felt my pettiness.

Bigger issues were at hand. I didn’t feel like I could talk with him about parenting issues and as a single parent, that cut out a whole list of topics and parts of my days.

I kept fighting the feeling that something was off. A secret? Something missing between us? I wasn’t sure. Is there a future with this dynamic? Does it matter? Can’t I just enjoy the now with him and not have to know the future? I asked these questions over and over again. But I never had the courage to ask them to him.

The Trip’.

Doug had a work trip come up and invited me and it sounded really wonderful. A trip to the Napa area. I’m in! I got everything arranged with work and child care and off we went.

Now I assure you, I was all in. I was going to make this work. ‘Make’ being the important word in that sentence. My underdeveloped dating brain felt pretty certain we were going to be together a long time and perhaps marry. We talked like that but frankly it was more like “Why not?” rather than “I come alive when we are together” kind of stuff. (Red Flag, anyone?)

This trip was exciting and something that I thought would cement us. Things were really going well. No meaningful hiccups. He planned some fun things on the trip and we really had a great time. Like best friends. Like close brother and sisters. (Ummmm, hello? Red Flag).

He arranged for me to get a massage while he had a work thing. So thoughtful. I skipped over to the place.

There was an audible gasp when this fine specimen of a man walked into the waiting room. ‘Oh please please please let him be my guy’ was the mantra crossing every woman’s mind in that room. I just know it. Probably because I was saying this the loudest. His hotness was legendary and I don’t usually go for that kind of guy. I’m more the ‘quirky, funny, smart beer gut kind of guy’ gal rather than ‘worshipping Adonis himself’ kind of gal.

But this guy. Man. He was special. (Red ‘Impure Thoughts’ Flag). I remember at one point he did this move on my arm when I was laying on my stomach and I couldn’t get the grin off my face.

Hell, I have a grin on my face now thinking about it.

This guy was good. I floated out of there. Afterwards, I called my sister and said “I think I just cheated on Doug with my massage guy”. She was disappointed that there really was no story there because I meant cheated on him in my mind and spirit so she chastised me and hung up on me.

I felt badly. Kind of. I mean I didn’t doooooo anything but it was a jerk move to think that when he took me on the trip.

I shook it off and went back for my time with Doug. Focus on the sweet guy you are with!

But something was off. Was it me? Did he know about my scandalous thoughts about Claude the hot masseuse?

I upped my game. It didn’t land.

We had another day of fun activities and his heart just wasn’t in it. He barely spoke to me. He became a different person. Almost overnight. I asked him. I left him alone. I asked some more. I made as safe of space as possible. Nothing. Finally at dinner, I just put it out there. What was going on? He hadn’t spoken in hours and we were doing some really fun things in cool environments. He finally spoke.

“I stopped taking my meds. I haven’t told you but I battle depression. I was doing really well so I thought I didn’t need it anymore. I don’t want to be on them. But I can’t do this. I can’t date, I can’t function and I need to get home. Now.”

AND. . . . RELEASE

But not release in a fun way. It was sad. It was hard. I am a therapist so I understood. Too much. I knew what made him want to get off his med and not tell me about them, I understood all the why’s and I knew deeply what he had in front of him. My heart hurt so much for him.  As a therapist, I knew depression and was so surprised I hadn’t seen it in him before this time.  I was so heartbroken for him. I was sad for us.

It broke my heart. Mental illness sucks and depression robs someone of so much. I wish he had told me earlier. I wish we had shared a lot of things with each other earlier. It didn’t feel like a shallow relationship but as I thought about it, we didn’t share a lot of deep things with each other either. This was an eye opener for both of us.  In a way, it was good for him. He was speaking his truth and no longer had this secret and he spoke what he needed. And it wasn’t me.

We broke up. Not because of his depression but because it was all just too much for both of us. Everything in the months leading up to this trip. The Napa trip made us finally look at the problems we had in our relationship and that both of us needed other things.

It was a sad ending to a nice relationship.

Lessons Learned:Juliana In Bun Be Your Own Sexpert Hair in Bun

About what I needed: He was a good guy and I learned a great deal about what it felt like to be treated well. I learned I didn’t have a huge history of being treated sweetly and that was ridiculous. I walked away from him feeling determined to draw more ‘nice’ men into my life. A nice guy with some spunky and humor.

I also understood how, as a single parent of a young child, it was very important to date someone who saw my son as an asset or ‘bonus’ rather than something to forgive me for or something he felt obligated to accept. I was a package deal and that wasn’t going to be for every guy but it was a deal breaker for me from this point on if a guy didn’t have a positive and affirming attitude about it.

About myself:

I learned that ‘boring’ sometimes meant healthy and I needed to relearn this dynamic. I was in and out of a relationship with a semi- rock star and it was hard to compete with that exciting life. Some of that lifestyle was really unhealthy for the girlfriends/wives of the band members and at times it was hard to tell the difference between unhealthy and exciting. I needed to learn the difference pronto.

I learned I needed to open up more. Open up about my inner world. I didn’t share it with many and that wouldn’t work in a relationship I wanted.  I needed to give what I wanted.  I also needed to share about my needs, about my questions and I needed to listen to my intuition when a relationship wasn’t a fit. That recycling thing never worked for me….

I learned I needed to stop looking at every guy as ‘could he be the one?’.  I was missing out on great parts of these guys and ruining fun experiences because things that were red flags for a marriage were shadowing the parts that were really pretty great for casual dating.

Last, I learned that a trend was starting to form….sometimes what I felt most attracted to ended up being the red flags in the relationships. What I didn’t know about this was why, what it meant and how could I prevent this dynamic.

I was thrilled when I found out years later ‘Doug’ married a woman who was described by all as a fantastic, top notch woman. He deserved a solid and fun woman who appreciated him for who he was and what he had to offer. I wasn’t in the place yet to really appreciate him fully and was really grateful he found someone so extraordinary.

And about that dog thing…As karma would have it, I now have the same kind of dog he loved–a big black lab.  Every time I snuggle her, I eat a piece of humble pie. How can you not love a lovable dog? My apologies to the departed “Peaches”-I missed out on some sweet snuggles because I just wasn’t ready for you yet.  I deserved those stink eyes you shot me.