Ready to know more about San Diego?


Unhinged, A Dating Series: It’s Okay to Want It All

Past a certain age, is it necessary to start lowering our expectations for a storybook romance, or do we hold out for more?
Unhinged, A Dating Series with Nicolle Monico

Chris was the first love of my life. We were both seniors in college. We shared a friend group and worked as servers at the same Red Robin. He was boy-next-door sweet with a gentle spirit. 

I loved him and swore I’d marry him. After college, we moved from LA up to the Bay Area, where we began to pursue our respective careers. We talked about marriage, but I was, admittedly, not ready to settle down for the rest of my life. 

My memory is pretty spotty from that time, but I do know that we didn’t work out because of me. I was finally living on my own for the first time. A part of me wanted to explore this new freedom and figure out who I was before getting married. I pushed him away.

I think about him sometimes. I liked Chris pretty quickly, but he wasn’t someone that stood out in a room. He could be quiet, shy almost. He was cute in a nerdy kind of way. Safe. 

It wasn’t love at first sight, but I did feel something that I’ve only felt with a handful of men: intrigue, a need to know more about them long after they’ve left the room. Our conversation would flow from the start, we’d make each other laugh, and there’d be a hint of attraction. 

These types of interactions are rare for me, especially nowadays. But when they occur, I know that something special is happening. They almost always lead to that person becoming my boyfriend (though that’s not to say that every crush has turned into a relationship). 

I share this because I’ve been on four dates in the last two weeks, and I haven’t felt this same excitement with any of them. Save for a non-matchmaker-organized date that may have involved a white powdery substance (Unhinged subscribers can learn more in this week’s newsletter), they seem to have been decent guys, just not my decent dude.

It’s made me question myself, wonder if I’m being too picky. If that feeling I’ve had in the past isn’t as telling as it once was. I’m genuinely unsure if I’m not giving myself enough time to figure out who could be a potential match or if I really just haven’t found him yet. The only thing I can really bet on is that when I got that particular feeling before, I knew I could be completely myself. As a people-pleaser, this can be hard for me.

Here’s the thing, too. I know that butterflies aren’t real, that this type of hyperarousal is typically asking us to pay attention to something, often a red flag or at least a warning sign. I know that attraction can grow on you. I know that having the same values is more of a marker than both enjoying the same hobbies.

But what I don’t know is whether I can still have it all. Do I get to be so in love with and turned on by my partner while also feeling secure, confident, and supported in our relationship? 

What I’m learning, while dating at an older age, is that settling is a hard pill to swallow. And maybe that’s why some of us are having a hard time out there.

@oliviamollyrogers Being single in your 30s.. can you relate? A snippet from this weeks episode with Lucy Jackson @Tell Me More Podcast #tellmemore ♬ original sound – Olivia Molly Rogers

We’ve spent so much time reading books, listening to podcasts, building our careers, making and learning from mistakes, and healing our traumas that anything but AMAZING doesn’t seem worth it anymore. 

And that’s where I’m stuck. I don’t necessarily think this is a problem with finding someone who I could settle down with. I do think that there have been opportunities, but finding just anyone to be with has never been appealing to me. I don’t want companionship for companionship’s sake. I want someone who truly challenges me and complements my life. 

I’ve met men who made me feel safe… if a little bored. I’ve met some who made my heart rate speed up, despite being walking red flags. Some of my best guy friends are amazing, the kind of people that I’d happily set up with my girlfriends.

What I’m seeking, though, is a bit of all of it: safety and excitement, deep talks and belly laughs, heat and calm. And that’s a harder ask. Very kind, well-intentioned people sometimes ask how or why I’m single—can’t I find a man? 

What the question seems to miss is the distinction between a man and the man. Someone to love versus the love of my life.

Because if I’m not going to have the kind of romance that makes my heart jump when I see them in 30 years, then I don’t want it. Give me stability, trust, and kindness, of course. Sure. Obviously. But I’d like to also hold out for that all-encompassing, heart-pounding Notebook type of love.

What’s incredibly scary about this column, is that, for however long I do this, it may amount to nothing. No finale episode with a single rose. No hard launches on IG. But as my forever girl crush, Rihanna, once told Vanity Fair about finding a man: “I will wait forever if I have to … but that’s O.K.”

If you’re new to Unhinged, catch up on all the dating chats you’ve missed here and follow along at @monicles and @sandiegomag on Instagram to know when a new article drops each week.

Sign-up now for the Unhinged newsletter for exclusive content, Q&As with Nicolle, and subscriber-only meet-ups!

Unhinged Newsletter Sign-Up

By clicking Subscribe you're confirming that you agree with our Terms and Conditions

By Nicolle Monico

Nicolle Monico is an award-winning writer and the managing digital editor for San Diego Magazine with more than 15 years of experience in media including Outside Run, JustLuxe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA