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Dating Advice for the Curious

Friends are great for giving advice, but when it comes to tough love, sometimes strangers are best. Meet The 4-way panel, a group of four relationship non-experts who are prepared to dish out the difficult advice you just might need to hear.

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Dear 4 Way, 

Recently, I met a man. I like this man. I don’t know him that well yet but he seems kind, smart, funny, and insightful. Oh, and he’s really, really handsome and my heart beats a little faster when I’m around him. And he’s sexy. Very, very sexy. You might be thinking that I went on a date with this man god. But that’s where you’d be wrong. Why? Because he’s not available right now. This man has a situation that he says prevents him from asking me out.

Even though there’s not one thing in the entire world I can do to change said situation, I still threw out the topic to my urban family and Board of Directors to see if I could uncover some kernel of wisdom—anything—that might ease my frustrations and answer a few questions. Why do I always meet unavailable men? Should I continue to hold out hope? Should I become a nun? Should I pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and have this apparently rare occurrence (at least lately) of charm and attraction erased? The initial answers from my girlfriends went something like this:

“Forget about him.”

“There’s always something.”

“He’s not worth your time.”

“Dude, that sucks.”

Then, I talked to one of my guy friends and things got interesting. “Well he likes you or he wouldn’t have ____. You’re playing it perfect, Rebecca. It’s not over. You should date as many people as you can because when you see him, he’ll pick up on it and he’ll be that much more interested. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” Doing? I didn’t know I was doing anything and I definitely wasn’t trying to play things a certain way. I was just going with my gut. The truth is, I knew in my heart what I wanted to do before I asked anyone for any advice. I was just looking for confirmation that my decision was a good one.

That was the inspiration for The 4-Way. When it comes to relationships and dating, we all pretty much know what we should do to make ourselves happy. We just don’t always want to do it. Or sometimes, we’re held hostage by a particular way of thinking that comes from taking advice from the same group of dear, well-meaning friends that we always ask for advice. And you know what happens then: they give us the same kind of answer they always give us. We can probably predict what they’ll say before they even say it.

Enter The 4-Way (pun intended). Ask a dating question and you’ll get an answer from four different perspectives: straight woman, straight man, gay man, lesbian woman. We’re not experts, not even close. We’re just regular people who’ve dated and been in relationships, some that worked, some that didn’t. We’re not so shallow that we think our gender or sexual orientations will create a huge difference in our individual perspectives and opinions, but we have a feeling that every once in a while, they just might. After all, it’s no big secret that women and men think differently. Add in that extra wrinkle of sexual orientation and it could prove for some interesting and insightful advice. It couldn’t hurt to find out.

So ask away. Each month we’ll feature questions from DivineCaroline readers and we’ll put them through The 4-Way machine: myself, Jody Fischer, Darren Maddox, and Chris Kennedy.

In the meantime, we wanted to share our “qualifications”—in quotation marks because come on, who’s really qualified to advise any of us in matters of our own hearts? Even so, we promise to use our experiences and insights to help shed some light where we can. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Jody Fischer: Here's the thing about love: you can't fake it. Even if you really want to be in love with someone, if it ain't there, it ain't there. And on the flip side of that equation, sometimes you can love someone with all your heart and even if it’s unrequited, you just can't let it go. I have been on both sides of this truism. I have tried to feel love for a woman, who by all reasonable logic, should have been my perfect mate. And all too often, I have given my heart to a woman who was not interested in sharing hers. And heartache can be a powerful teacher. Through it all I have learned a few things.

Don't fall in love with potential.

Know that you are a person who is deserving of giving and receiving love.

Don't fall for straight women. Oh wait, I guess that only applies if you are a gay woman.

As a lesbian, I have also had to deal with hiding my love and to learn to reconcile my feelings for women within a society that disapproves and refuses to acknowledge any kind of love but heterosexual. All of us, gay, straight, or somewhere in between, have had to live with secrets. We have had to put our hearts up against societal norms.

It's time to "come out" with our stories and see that we all hurt at times, no matter who we love.

Darren Maddox: As much as we sometimes hate to admit it, our gut never lies. We may seek the advice of others, but deep down, we know who we are and what we truly need to make us happy. Sometimes we just need reminders or justification from others.

I didn’t come out until I was thirty and I’m not one of those gays who believe in only having gay friends. I have tons of friends on both sides of the fence. And I’ve held more jobs than the number of years I’ve been alive where I’ve met all walks of life. My experiences have provided me with the realization that we all have similar dating challenges and can learn from each other’s life experiences. I believe dating should be fun, exciting, and something to look forward to. If it isn’t, then you’re clearly seeing the wrong person. Move on. Life is short. The pain of leaving may be hard, but the pain of staying will be harder.

Chris Kennedy: I went on my first date in the fourth grade-to a roller rink. Like most of my relationships it started well—we held hands and skated along nicely, but somehow I slipped and ended up flat on my back with my wheels spinning.

My wheels continue to spin as I ponder the endless depths of human relationships. There's nothing in the world as interesting to me as the interactions between people, especially those who are attracted to one another.

Relationships have been both the sources and the solutions to the emotional storms of my life. They've ruled me like a bi-polar dictator and I have been their faithful citizen.

I believe life is in the roller rink. Enjoy the ride. When you fall, get back on your feet, and keep on rollin.' If you need help, just ask. Chances are, I'll be lying right next to you.

Rebecca Brown: If it's true that mistakes are the best teacher, then I think I'm about to unload a lot of wisdom on the DivineCaroline world. I was married. Then I was divorced. I've had a trans-Atlantic relationship. I've dated someone with a mental illness. I've been cheated on, lied to, and stood up. I've dated control freaks, workaholics, mommy's boys, a man who liked men, men who wanted me to hook up with other women while they watched, and even a man who wanted to wear my panties (in his defense, they were really pretty). And last year I went on so many online dates that I wore the finish off my Mac touchpad and had to replace the power chord.

Scared yet? Don't worry. I've been in love. I know what it feels like, and the distant, blissful memory of it is what keeps me going back for more. My perseverance still surprises me but it's taught me a few things here and there. Mostly that I can make it through anything if I can try to laugh it off. A sense of humor about the sometimes ridiculousness of it all seems to be the best and most helpful tool in the dating world, for me anyway. That and perhaps the occasional small flask of vodka (but that's probably best covered in a different column).

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