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Beware of ‘Catch and Release’ Daters!

It is uncommon for a lighthearted romantic comedy to feature a villain. The would-be lovers are usually their own worst enemy — no additional antagonist required. But the 2005 film “Hitch” had a bona fide bad guy named Vance Munson.

Will Smith plays Alex Hitchins, a New York consultant known as “The Date Doctor.” His expertise is helping romantically ill-fated men win the woman they love. As Hitch says: “Basic principles — no matter what, no matter when, no matter who … any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom.”

Then along comes Vance. When someone he meets (while buying lingerie for another woman) won’t return his calls, he contacts Hitch for help. The interview goes bad the moment he admits he only wants to “get with her” and move on.

Hitch: I think you misunderstood what it is I do exactly. Here’s the thing—my clients actually like women. “Hit it and quit it” is not my thing.
Vance: Let me make one thing clear to you, rabbi. I need professional help.
Hitch: Well, that is for damn certain.

Granted, Vance is far more predatory than most people you’ll meet looking for romance. That’s why he’s so fun to hate in the film. But it is worth using his extreme example to shed light on a less brazen—and more common—version of the character type: the “catch-and-release” dater.

These are people who love the thrill of the dating pursuit. To them, every new potential relationship is about trying to reel in a potential partner. For many reasons — ego gratification, adrenaline addiction, intimacy issues — they crave only the adventure and rush that come from the “dating game.” If nothing else, it reassures them they are still desirable. But as any outdoorsman will admit, it’s a lot more fun to plot your strategy and land the fish than to deal with it once you’ve caught it.

The bottom line: after an exciting start, catch-and-release daters lose interest then drift away or bolt outright. Most people have experienced that at least once — and would like it to be the last time. Here are three easy-to-spot characteristics that can predict whether someone is the real deal or merely a romantic thrill-junky. The latter are typically …

In a hurry. They can’t wait to get emotionally and physically intimate — and resist any suggestion to go slow and build a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.

Looking elsewhere. If your date seems more interested in checking out everyone else in the room than in enjoying your company, beware! Chances are he or she will wander off as soon as a better trophy presents itself.

Easily bored. Getting to know someone well enough to contemplate a lifelong partnership takes time and effort. An impatient, impertinent person prefers all excitement all the time. If you’re with someone who is a distracted dater — always ready to move on to the next promising fishing spot — do yourself a favor and send the person downstream.

It’s a sad fact of life that there are people more interested in the sport and gamesmanship of dating than a real relationship. You deserve better. Don’t get lured by someone eager to catch you and just as eager to release you.

Has this ever happened to you? What were the signs, looking back, that this person was of the catch-and-release variety?