Yes, I cribbed the episode title from a recent flick. But when listener Crystal asks me for relationship advice — and, both she and partner Dave are willing to be interviewed — well, listen for yourself and see if “fall” means “fail.” Do you think Crystal and Dave went too fast? Are you surprised they connected at all? Let me know!

A mutual love of dogs … how far does that go?

Small dog, big voice!



He had a great smile. A lot of these men don’t smile in their profile pictures. I don’t want somebody grumpy. So he had a terrific smile, and he was very engaging  when we did start talking.

DAVE 00:25

I love talking to her. I mean, that’s kind of one of the surprising things is, it was so easy for us to connect and — when we connected — and talk.


Crystal and Dave. They clicked! First online and then in real life.

DAVE 00:40

I’m not aware of any issues, and she did not relay any issues to me. I’m not 100 percent sure.




I’m not sure, really, that we’re on the same page with a lot of things. Like, I initially thought that we were more in sync.



Wonder what happens next? Would you have seen it coming? “Anatomy of a Fall.” Yes, I cribbed that film title for this episode of Dating While Gray: The Grown-Up’s Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships. I’m Laura Stassi.


Over the years, I’ve shared a lot of true stories and tips about dating. I’ve also shared true stories and tips about navigating some of the challenges with re-partnering. But I don’t recall ever sharing a story about two people who are sort of at the fork in the relationship road — until today.



My name is Crystal. I’ve been divorced six years. I was married for 23 years. And I been using dating apps, and I met Dave.



That’s Crystal. She emailed me because she has questions about a love connection she made. She agreed to talk with me for this episode. Then she checked with Dave. He, too, was willing to talk. We originally planned on a joint interview, but then there was a scheduling conflict. So I talked with Crystal and Dave separately. As it turns out, I think it’s better this way. Because as you’ll hear, they may be together on the path, but they’re experiencing it in different ways. And by the way, they both have noisy dogs You may hear one or both of them throughout the episode.



You want relationship history pertaining to the marriage? We just grew apart, I guess. He traveled a lot for work. Usually Monday through Friday, he was elsewhere. And I thought we were doing really well shifting gears on the weekends, because I have to be in charge through the week since he wasn’t there, take care of the kids and the animals. And then when he came home, I felt like I was passing the reins to him, giving him control again of the household. And I guess we didn’t really shift gears as well as we thought we did.



We’re laughing because as you were talking, you got this little puppy chirping in the background. And then this other dog just kind of appears in the picture. Okay, this is serious journalism here, folks. Okay, so he traveled a lot and you thought —  but it sounds like the divorce was not your idea.



Actually, eventually it was. Things had just become really uncomfortable between us. And I was seeing someone then for counseling. I thought I was just going, like for maintenance, you take the car for oil changes and maintenance, and things are good. So for the marriage, I thought I would just process some things, make sure my perspective was healthy, and that I was approaching whatever issues in the best way possible, you know, with the travel and issues with the kids and just marriage in general.

So I thought I was doing that and the lady that I was seeing kind of delved down a little deeper and finally she said, he’s a bully. And you can speak up for yourself. And that’s not really something that I grew up thinking that I could do. You just maintain the peace and do the right thing and keep everybody happy. And I guess I just couldn’t do it anymore.

We sold the home we were in, and I moved. And I feel like I’ve been in survival mode, maybe for at least four to five years. At one point, I had five part-time jobs, I managed to get my foot in the door of the community college near here, but it was all part-time contract positions. So I had three positions there. And I’ve finally gotten to where I have a job where I work 40 hours a week, and I’m off two days. Things are getting better. I’m getting my feet underneath me a little better.



Yeah. So at some point, I guess you decided that you wanted to date again. Was that a difficult decision to make?



No. I mean, I’d like to have somebody in my life that I like to hang out with, do things with. I also like having that be a choice. I can choose to stay home with the dogs.





That’s right!

DAVE 06:08

I am Dave, I am 56. I had been on a couple of apps up to that point. And one of my co-workers that I talked with all day long on a Google meet said, oh, you should try Hinge. So I did.



Where were you in your life at this point?



So I had just gotten out of seven-year relationship. And what I had not known when that ended in like the October timeframe is when I officially moved out of our shared home. What I had not known was it had been over for about two and a half years. I just was never informed of such. So found out after about, I’d say a month and a half out of the house. I had suspected cheating. Um, I did just a very little basic research because I’m not. I mean, I’m okay with computers. Not that good.

And I had suspected she had been cheating with a guy that I used to work, we used to work at the same location. And so I suspected she had been doing something with a guy that I used to work with when I was there. And I went on our phone bill looking for his phone number and didn’t find it, and found another phone number. Started doing some little bit of check on this on one of those online sites where you can reverse search a phone number. And lo and behold, I found out that she had been and she had actually told me four days before I had actually moved out and signed my lease that nothing had been going on. She still swore up and down up to that point.



Okay, so it sounds like she was — when you say she was it was over two and a half years before it actually was, sounds like she was just, I don’t know waiting for … it wasn’t like this was any kind of an affair to sort of help her stay in the marriage. Some people are just bored or whatever, but you think they really wanted to be together?

DAVE 08:06

I’m not sure what her goal was with it, to be quite honest with you. And to be to be straightforward, we were not married. We had been engaged for about five years.



But there was some financial reasons why we did not get married right away.




And we were still kind of waiting for those all to work themselves out.



Was this your first relationship, serious relationship?

DAVE 08:29

Oh, no, no, no, no, I have been married three times.




I have been cheated on in two of those marriages, twice. One while I was on my very last deployment right before retirement, she confessed to it all. She gave me the 21st century equivalent to a Dear John letter, I got a Dear John e-mail. And she has at least had the, I guess the courage or whatever you want to call it, to apologize. So it’s been much more tolerable.

My first ex-wife has never told me that she cheated. I found out from our friend. Because that friend was guilty, because she introduced them. The third one where there was no infidelity or anything, it was just, I think we were married for two years, not quite two years. And we were together for like seven and change, I believe, was that marriage.

I just felt like I was obligated to ask her because we had been together so long. And then everything kind of changed once I asked her. And I do remember, and this is something I have spoken to her about. I felt almost like I had done something wrong when I asked her to marry me.


But she said yes.


She said yes. She was a glass-half-full kind of person. And I’m not really — I wouldn’t describe myself as either one of those. It just depends on the situation, but she’s just always seeing the bright side on things. And I just, I don’t know, it just was something that I just felt was not right. So that one, I completely take the blame for it if that’s — if there’s one thing.



And again, that we’re not, we’re not here to give blame to anybody or also to give credit to anybody, to tell you the truth. But what I’m curious about is, there doesn’t sound like there’s been a lot of time between getting out of a committed relationship, and then getting back into a committed relationship. Is that correct?

DAVE 10:30

There’s been some dates in between. I do know, between the second and third marriages, there was not — well, no, I’ll take that back. There were a few dates. I mean, I have dated, but yes, I do feel a little bit more comfortable when it’s committed. And I think a little bit — that a little of that has to do with you know, my past, I mean, what’s happened to me.



So you move to your new place, you get on Hinge, and you meet Crystal.




I have been off Hinge since maybe our second date, possibly after the first date. And honestly, it went, it went so well. And where I live too, there aren’t a lot of people on the dating sites without going about an hour away to larger cities. So there wasn’t much out there anyway.

DAVE 11:43

We weren’t dating anyone else. We had actually discussed it. She had read something about, you know, when you’re in the initial dating phases, maybe dating other people. I told her I had no interest in doing that. She didn’t really express any interest in it, even though she mentioned it, but she didn’t express any interest in it. So no, I don’t think we ever — either one of us ever did it. I know I didn’t.



We kind of danced around it, I guess. And he did say he didn’t want to date multiple people. And things were going really well. We kept talking about how we wanted to stay grounded, but things were going well. And we liked how they’re going.



You’re describing him as very open and coming recently coming off of this relationship where he has a 6-year-old child, but yet he is also on Hinge when he’s brand-new separated and after three marriages that ended a divorce. And again, I am not casting any kind of judgment. But was the fact that you even met him on a dating site a red flag for you?



Actually no, and I haven’t thought about it until now.



Do you feel like you have red flags?

DAVE 12:58

Um, I think some people and this has happened in some of the online dating Oh, you know, too soon out of a relationship or, I don’t want to deal with all the baby mama drama or whatever, however they put it. One lady was, you know, adamant. Oh, no, you were in the military. No, I don’t. And it was almost all solely political. And I was like, okay, that’s not fair.



Our first date, he was very open about some things. And I appreciated his honesty. And he apologized for sharing with me how things were going around the recent separation and custody issues. And I said, you know, this is life and these things happen. It’s what you’re in the middle of. So it was okay, I felt like, for him to share those things. It did get to the point where it started feeling like oversharing. But we’ve tried to talk about how that is, too. It’s not that I don’t want to be there for him and be supportive. But it starts to feel like a little too much.



All right, let’s take a pulse. Based on what you’ve heard so far, do you think Crystal and Dave went too fast? Are you surprised they connected at all? And why did Crystal write to me in the first place? That’s ground we’re covering after the break.




We’re back with Crystal and Dave, who graciously agreed to share the relationship journey they’re on. I chatted with them one on one after Crystal sent me an email. She wrote that she does recognize some people would advise her to, quote, leave Dave alone, probably because of his relationship history, including a very recent split. A Crystal is aware of her own history. She feels like there were control issues in her marriage, and she’s starting to feel triggered around Dave. And so Crystal writes me to ask what I think about couples counseling. She wants to be able to express to Dave times when she feels that, quote, his words and his actions do not align.



I think he’s been very honest. I just haven’t asked those questions. So that’s on me. And so we just kind of defaulted to instead of discussing our past so much, just talking about the present. How was the workday? What’s going on with you? And again, because of his recent rift in relationship and his relocating, he was moving recently, and there have been some other things that are up in the air. The house that he owns, he’s not living in; she is. There have been more immediate things that we’ve discussed. And I don’t have a good timeline, I did not interrogate.



Yeah, no, and I, you know, I understand, because I’ve been in situations before where my radar is totally up. But it’s like, I’m going to just go with it. I am not going to examine this. And I always think to myself, if this had been somebody who I was interviewing for the podcast, I would need to know. And so I understand the balance. But I think at some point, we all reach a point where we’re like, okay, you don’t want to re-litigate the past, but the past does have a bearing on the present and the future, and until you get all that resolved…

So correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like maybe you just kind of closed your ears to the past. It’s like, you’re not going to dig that hole.




You’re not going to — I’m having fun. He’s cute, whatever. Let me just keep going this way.


Yeah, I guess that’s what I’ve done. We had talked about staying grounded. And then for Valentine’s Day, he got me a card that said first Valentine’s Day 2024, I love you. And I think that also really got my attention and got my wheels spinning. And I just had to say, look, we’re still staying grounded. Right? I’m not, I’m not sure this really reflects that. And then I just kind of went on like that had not happened.



For you, did Crystal have any red flags?

DAVE 17:50

She seemed a little, always wanting to tell me to stay grounded. I guess it’s the mentality of not only being in the military, but what my military job entailed. I mean, somebody could get killed in a training accident that day. I mean, it just, you never know when it was going to happen. So I’ve just kind of developed this attitude of, you know, life is short. And we’ll live it. Um, that being said, I don’t go doing things like bungee jumping or crazy like that. As long as it doesn’t include snakes or heights, I’m perfectly fine with doing it.

But yes, I would think just her wanting to always stay grounded was a little bit of a red flag. And then when she kind of started dialing it back, it became a little bit more clear that okay, she wasn’t quite all the way ready. And yeah, I mean, that’s okay. I mean, it can’t make anybody do anything.



At what point did she suggest couples counseling to you?

DAVE 18:55

I’m trying to think when she suggested that. I think it was after the New Year. I believe it was after the New Year, so maybe we were in the relationship. five weeks, maybe four or five, six weeks — around in that range.



Okay, so what was your response when she said she wanted to do couples counseling?


I am okay with that. I was fine with that. Because, I mean, again, because of military service, I have a PTSD diagnosis. I’m still in therapy to this day. You know, it’s, it is what it is, it helps me. I have discovered that it helps me. So something that helps me, I’m not going to stop doing, you know, unless I feel like I can stop. So I know a lot of veterans don’t like to go to therapy. They don’t like to talk about their experiences. I don’t have any issue to talk about any of my experiences.



It sounds like you are continuing a pattern. You meet someone, you’re interested in them. They want you to do X, Y and Z. So you’re like, okay, I’ll do X, Y and Z because I like you and I want to have a relationship with you. Is that fair?

DAVE 20:08

That’s fair. And it was not something I was uncomfortable doing. I would say that, I will probably admit that in my past relationships, I have done things that have made me uncomfortable.



But out of wanting to make the relationship work. In this instance, with Crystal wanting to go to therapy. I mean, I had been to therapy so many times, because of a lot of things. It’s, yeah, it was not a problem.



Actually, just this week, Laura, I, because I have started counseling again too, I told him this week that I don’t feel like I can do a romantic relationship right now. And we’ve back down to being friends, I feel like maybe my issues with my past that I’m still kind of discovering, and his issues from his past kind of overlapped. And I’m stepping back because I know that I need to address some issues. And he’s been very understanding of that. He came over last night to meet the new puppy. And we hung out and had a really good time. But we’re both stepping back some right now.


Dave sounds like he’s willing to go to counseling. Would you want to actually go to a couples therapist, even after having this discussion with him?


Right now? Honestly, I don’t know. I thought that he had had counseling before and really derived benefit and would continue. And yet recently, we had a discussion about counseling. And he said, well, if I see my counselor more than every two weeks, we’ll just talk about the same things over and over again. And I don’t think that’s how that works.


So are you feeling okay?


It’s fine, I’m glad we’re able to talk and can still maintain a friendship. And as my counselor pointed out, to me having that talk with him, you know, he obviously got to choose, maintain a friendship, or just not be in each other’s lives at all. And she said, are you okay with that? He decides he doesn’t want you to talk to him or be in his corner. Are you okay with that? Then I said, I understand. That’s, that’s his decision. I was glad that he has taken our conversation in stride. And we can, so it seems so far anyway, we can maintain a friendship.

DAVE 23:03

So we are basically, I guess, friends at this point. We still do talk, not as much as we used to. We don’t see each other as much as we used to. We just saw each other a few days ago, but it was with a friend of hers and her son. So it wasn’t just the two of us. It’s really slow down, almost to basically like I’ve been put in the friend zone in a way.

But it’s, I’m okay with that. Because I like her as a person and like what I have experienced with her up to this point, too. If you need that space and you need that time, that’s fine. And I have told her that. I said, you know, I’ll be there. Me and the dog.


You didn’t ever do couples counseling, is that correct?


No, we never did that.


Did you ever ask why aren’t we doing this?


No, because it all kind of like seemed to happen, the couples therapy then she started going back to therapy and then everything started dialing back. So it’s kind of like one right after the other. So never, I would say I never got the chance to ask. I enjoy her. I really do. And I think she does me too. So that’s the other part, the confusing part.


Actually, I think it’s healthy when those of us who feel these instant connections do take a moment to go okay, wait a minute — because a lot of us feel at our age, we can’t afford any more mistakes. And so it’s not going to — what’s that silly? If you love something set it free, if it never comes back to you… It’s never going to be harmful. I don’t think, personal Laura philosophy, Laura logic, it’s not going to hurt anything if you do take a moment to step back. And to just pause. And so I think that’s admirable that she did that. And I think it’s admirable that you’re respecting it.

DAVE 25:09

I would say I’m the storm, and she’s the calm. And I think I have learned more to be the calm because of her even in this short amount of time. And so I think that’s why I’m having an easier time with her wanting to, you know, slow down and take a step back. Because surprisingly, and I actually thought about this myself the other day, and I was like, wow, you know, I’m not really getting all upset. And, yes, I do want to be with her, but I’m not getting all upset that she wants to take the step back. I’m willing to give her that time. And I think I have to give her credit for that.


Thanks again to Crystal and Dave, for being so candid. Okay, not that it means anything. But here’s what I think about counseling. After two people have individually worked through their own stuff, couples therapy can be beneficial. But it seems to me each person has to not only be ready, but motivated. And maybe at this point in our lives, depending on the other person, we might decide it’s not worth the effort, that we’re fine on our own and being just friends with someone. And maybe it’s easier to extend grace to someone who’s in the friend zone.

And that’s what Crystal and Dave both report. They are friends, though neither is back on the dating apps for now.


 Dating While Gray’s audio production and mix is by Steve Lack: Audio. Theme music by D. Peterschmidt. Please like and follow Dating While Gray wherever you get podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And, if you’re so inclined, leave a review letting everyone know what you love about us.

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I’m Laura Stassi. Thanks so much for listening.

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