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It’s Valentine’s Day weekend – a dreaded, albeit promising, holiday for singles, a telltale for new flings and another one in the books for old-timers. To celebrate the flirty, fun and infamous day, Hillary Sawchuk sat down with a single comedian and a married dating coach to talk love, bad dates, lasting romance and, of course, sex. What better place to host than a sexy hotel called “Virgin.” Virgin Hotels Chicago, that is.

By Lauren Neuschel // Photography Kirsten Miccoli 

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought it would be fun to get a drink and talk love and relationships with a matchmaker and a comedian. Do you two think love is for everyone?

Brian: Love is for everyone, but it depends what kind of love you’re talking about. You can love a baby, love a puppy, love your mom, love humanity, but that’s different from romance.

Bela: There’s definitely a difference in the types of love. There are different types of attachment too – attachment to your kids, attachment to your husband. But I think human beings are driven to have a mate. It’s like hunger, like thirst. We all want a companion. You have to be psychotically optimistic and go out there to find it. If you want it, it will come to you.

Brian: Is the process the same depending on what kind of relationship you’re looking for?

Bela: So, the people that we help at Smart Dating Academy are all definitely looking to understand why they haven’t met the right person yet. They all do want happy, healthy love. Whether they want to get married or not, ultimately they want to act as if they’re married with a committed partner. We work with people that are in their 20s all the way to their 70s. The process of figuring out why you’re not meeting the right person is pretty similar for most people. How you’re going to get there and who you’re looking for is different.

Brian: Is it organic or do you have to be obsessed with the process? Do you have to know what kind of guy you want? I have a type, but I haven’t found that yet.

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What’s your type?

Brian: My dream girl? It’s sort of a Frankenstein approach.

Bela: That’s okay, let’s weird-science her.

Brian: I find I like ladies from the Pacific Northwest – from Colorado on. That’s my thing. Healthy. Outdoorsy. Active. Not earthy.

Bela: Not too crunchy, but down-to-earth.

Brian: I’m a man of the world, so I’ve seen a lot of pretty girls. So, it’s more about the mental stuff.

Bela: What are your mental criteria?

Brian: Forward-thinking, reserved, tempered – a thinker, but still wild and funny. Does this person exist? I don’t know.

Bela: For sure. There’s not just one her.

Brian: Maybe I should just date a lot of women and be one of those polygamist guys…but they usually don’t drink, so then you’re just married to a bunch of ladies with no booze.

Bela: My husband said, “One wife is hard enough, why would you want five?”

Do you think there’s one soul mate for everyone?

Bela: No. There are many lids for every pot, but you have to be mindful about the qualities that actually make you happy. Most of us can say, “I want her to look like this, or be like this,” but then the question is, who actually makes you happy in your life? Sit back and think about the people that elevate you. Date from the inside out. Obviously you want to be attracted to this person, but are they nice? Are they kind? Are they supportive? At the end of the day, are you friends? Do you like each other? Marriage is a long haul. I’ve been married for almost 19 years. You want to be with someone who makes you happy, because the lust is going to change; the attraction is going to change. You have to be with someone who wants the same things long-term.

Brian: Speaking of friends, let me ask you guys this. Do you have a best guy friend that you’ve never slept with, but who you can hang out with for so long and not get tired of?

Bela: I married that guy! I married him after dating good guys that just weren’t going to make me happy long-term. That was literally the exercise I went through. Who are the people in my life that make me happy? And he was on the list. He was the guy I hung out with all the time – the first person I called in the morning, the last person I called in the evening.

Brian: Was he trying to holler at you the whole time?

Bela: No! I don’t think so. We had a few too many glasses of wine one night. Let’s get real.

Bela, you’ve said that at the four month mark people can change. How so?

Bela: After around four months all of the hormones that make us feel like we’re in love – lust-related hormones – start to drop. Then people who are emotionally unavailable – people that are narcissistic, people that have attachment issues – are like, “I’m out.” Then you’ll see red flags in their behavior. If someone has attachment issues, many times you’ll start to see it around four months. If I ask clients about it after the fact, they say the signs were usually there from the beginning. Very few people are actually blindsided. Just don’t over think it. Enjoy it. Be happy. If there are no red flags after four months, five months, six months, he could be it!

Brian: If you see those red flags, is it okay to try to repair it?

Bela: It depends what the [red flag] is. Is it attraction? Is it a character issue? Are you falling out of like with the person? If you’re sick of this person being unreliable, flakey, mean or critical then it’s okay to leave. People waste so much time staying in relationships. You’re trying to jam a round peg into a square hole. “When people show you who they really are, believe them.” That’s what Maya Angelou said and that’s how I counsel people to date. Watch what people are doing versus what they’re saying.

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How do you tell the difference between oxytocin – the ‘love hormone’ – and love?

Bela: Just know there’s a lot of that oxytocin there. Be aware of it. You want to make sure you really like this person and that he’s good to you and is kind, consistent and reliable. This needs to be the person you want to hang out with. If there are a lot of those red flags, then it could just be lust talking. I can tell that a relationship is going all the way when someone tells me, “This is so easy.” When I hear “easy,” they’re done; they’re going to the altar.

Brian: How do people get to that Cialis commercial stage, where they’re middle-aged and making a birdhouse?

Bela: You mean how do you keep the flames alive? With or without the blue pill? [Laughs] I think one of the most important things people do to stand the test of time is continue to be positive about each other. Our brains can have a negativity bias so we can get a little too critical. “God, he never takes the garbage out.” When we start to focus on what’s negative, that’s what starts to build, and we start fighting about little things and those little fights lead to criticism and contempt.

Brian: My ex left me because I didn’t take out the garbage.

Bela: Was it at four months?

Brian: No, this was at 11 or 12 months. I said, “I don’t even live here. I don’t have a key to your place. How is not taking out the garbage a problem?”

Bela: It could be code for, “I don’t feel taken care of.”

Have you heard of the book called “The Five Love Languages”?

Brian: She kept bringing up that book. She’d say, “You don’t know my love language.” I got blindsided by that. Where did this book even come from?

Bela: It’s a popular book. It talks about what makes us feel loved – those are the ‘love languages’. For some people it’s an act of service, for some it’s a gift, for others it’s verbal affirmation.

Brian: But someone can’t come to you and say, “All five love languages are mine.” You have to pick one, right?

Bela: Usually people are more predominantly one.

Brian: Heads up, ladies! You can’t be all five! That’s just selfish.

Bela: It’s realistic to want all of those things, because we’re humans, but you have to give to get. Be nice to each other. That’s what I tell people all the time. Kindness and niceness are so underrated.

Brian: I think that’s my problem. I hold grudges. Apparently, I forget about that “time of the month” for the ladies. I forget about that, so I’m thinking it’s just a regular fight, but really you have that “time of the month” sprinkled on top. I heard bros are getting these period tracker apps so they know when the storm is coming. If only I had known that…

Bela: I think what women could say is, “It’s that time of the month and I’m feeling a little emotional right now.”

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Brian, are you on any dating apps?

Brian: I’m on Bumble, Hinge, Tinder…When I lived in Chicago I really didn’t do it as much since I’m from here. Since I moved to L.A., it’s a whole new me. L.A.-Brian.

Bela: With Tinder Plus you can date in different cities.

Brian: I found this one trick this chick told me which is to post pictures of yourself where you look 25 to 30 percent less attractive so when you meet your date they’re like, “Daaaamn!” It works! Don’t post gross [photos], but don’t put up a glamour shot and then get there and look regular. If you have demon eyes – swipe left. No fuzzy pics. No other people in the photo.

Bela: No pets. No babies.

Brian: And ladies, don’t kiss your dog on the mouth in your profile picture. Nobody wants that … I’m going to get a T-shirt with my love language on it and put that picture on Tinder.

Bela: You know what’s tough too is when people try and be funny with their photos. My client texted me a photo of a guy she saw on Tinder. He was literally on the toilet. That’s beyond psychotic.

Brian, do girls expect you to be funny on dates?

Brian: I’m not as turned-up in public. I’m actually really quiet. I don’t like a lot of attention. I found that I’m a low-volume talker.  I’m a six-foot-three black guy that dresses semi-nice. So a lot of people are like, “What’s that?”

Bela: You’re a unicorn.

Brian: [Laughs] Yeah, they’re like, “What’s this mysterious thing?”

Has your career made it hard for you to find a relationship?

Brian: I have friends that are a little more high profile right now and even they’re on dating apps. It works.

What advice do you have for people who have to balance a demanding career and a relationship?

Bela: Take the relationship slow and steady so that in the beginning you’re going on one date a week for a couple of weeks. If you start to like them, then you’re going on two dates a week. After a couple more weeks, it’s three dates a week. What you’re doing is easing this person into your life, versus “Wham!”

What if things have already progressed quickly?

Bela: There are also exceptions to every rule. Everyone has met a couple that met in a bar, hooked up the first night and has been happily married for twenty years with three kids. Don’t over think it, but if you do need that space, the right guy will respect that.

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What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?

Brian: There are so many where I’m like, “Get me out of here.” I’ve tapped out of a lot of them. I went on a date and found out the person was an NPR fanatic. She was telling me things about myself that I had never told her. That was kind of creepy. You have to have your crazy radar.

Bela: Crazy can’t keep crazy in the closet for more than 15 minutes.

Brian: It will creep out in some way or another. For me, as a comedian, I can walk into a room and read the crowd without them saying a word. I can read their economic status, education level or political leanings. I can tell that from a [profile] picture, too. I was with this one chick and we were having a great time. It was a meet-my-friends kind of date. We all went to a comedy show. I made some Crock-Pot meats. We’re hanging out and she starts tearing up. She was like, “I know this is crazy, but I just cry when I’m having a good time.” A few days later her stomach was getting all cramped because she was getting anxiety about jumping into this [relationship] too fast. It was a little bit much.

Bela: That is a lot. Trust your gut. If I can tell you anything, it’s to trust your gut.

Brian: I wanted it to work so badly, but that crying shit was crazy. Don’t cry out of happiness on the third date. It’s not cool. Crying scares dude.

Do you get nervous before you go on stage?

Brian: Not really anymore, unless it’s something I’ve never done before. When I did the Amy Schumer thing, I was nervous because I had never acted on TV before. Once you get there, it’s too late to be nervous. I got nervous on a date once. She was cute; I liked her. But the nerves go away quickly.

What’s your ideal first date?

Brian: If depends on the person and situation. One time I went to a Dave Chappelle show with this girl because it was something I was already doing. We go right up to Dave’s dressing room and she was like, “What the fuck is happening?” Sometime I just fall into random things, so if I’m going somewhere cool, I’ll just invite her.

Bela: Novelty can sometimes lead to attraction.

Brian: When it’s not planned, it’s always fun.

What’s too much for a first date?

Bela: Too long. A good date should be one and half to two and a half hours. That’s it. Grab a drink. Grab an appetizer. Leave the date on a high note. If you sit there drink after drink, people start to over-share. Women do that a lot. A guy might say, “My dad left us when we were 4 years old.” Then you’ll say, “My dad left us too. It was horrible.” He might leave and go, “I don’t want someone who also had that experience.” Two drinks max.

Brian: Should you sleep with someone on the first date?

Bela: I would say, in general, no. If you want to just sleep with her, that’s okay, but she’s not going to be your girlfriend. Our term is ‘sexclusivity.’ Wait until you’re exclusive [to have sex]. Have a title. Be off the market.

Brian: Like, Facebook official?

Bela: It doesn’t have to be a social media relationship.

Brian: In the world we live in, that’s almost more than a ring now. After that, there’s no going back. How do you even ask the boyfriend-girlfriend question? In second grade you’d pass them a note and tell them to check a box.

Bela: You have a discussion. I’d say wait ten to twelve dates to have the exclusivity talk. You want to get to like the person and make sure they’re not crazy. I’m not saying you’re part of the clergy – that you’re a nun – but there’s a lot in between. With sex you get the oxytocin going, and you attach to the wrong people. Your brain’s all clouded.

Brian: How do you keep them interested for two months in this sexual world that we live in?

Bela: Be mindful about it. Wait with a purpose so that you know, “I’m attracted to her. I like her, but I want to take this slow and steady to make sure this is the real deal.” As soon as you have sex it can cause you to accept behaviors that you don’t want to accept.

Brian: My biggest fear with that plan is that she’s going to put me in the friend-zone. That’s the sure-fire way to go to friend-zone town. Bros hate that town.

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What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say, “Dream girl?”

Bela: J. Lo.

Brian: J. Lo, yes. You can’t get rid of her. She’s sticky. She’s killing it in that new show “Shades of Blue”.

Best love song?

Brian: I go to older music – soul and R&B. Older black people just knew about things – Al Green, Smokey Robinson, and Motown stuff. In those songs people really talked about love. Young people now don’t know anything about love.

Bela: They talk about ballin’. My first dance at my wedding was the Argentinean tango from “Scent of a Woman.” We did a little performance.

Roses or chocolate?

Bela: Roses. I don’t need the calories.

Brian: Chocolate.

Sexting.

Bela: Not right away.

Brian: I have found a very classy way to sext that’s vague enough that she’ll still get the point. Sext like you’re a Shakespearean person, using fancy words but make it a little more erotic.

Bela: “Thou art more beautiful than a summer’s day.”

Biggest turnoff?

Brian: Smells.

Bela: Mean people.

Brian: Mean people who smell.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Bela: I would like to have a drink with Barack and hear about what these eight years have been like for someone who precipitated so much change for the nation. I’d want his thoughts on where we are now and what he thinks we should be doing. It would be fascinating.

Brian: They can be living or dead? I guess, Merlin. The magician. The wizard. Is that too weird? Do some tricks [with him].

Where will we find each of you doing on Valentine’s Day?

Brian: Alone.

Bela: You’ve still got time. Tinder. Bumble. Hinge. Go!

Brian: I will actually be working at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard doing a show.

Bela, after being married for so many years do you still celebrate?

Bela: We do, if I’m not working. It’s a big work day for me.

Brian: Is your phone blowing up?

Bela: It’s hectic. Last year we had a great dinner and I got a really nice piece of jewelry. That’s my love language.

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SEE MORE OF THE ACTION AT VIRGIN HOTELS ON “THE VIRGIN VOICE”

KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY / A DRINK WITH in The Commons Club 

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