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Unhinged, A Dating Series: It’s Me, Hi, I’m the Problem

This week, we find that stopping the cycle of false starts and making lasting connections starts with yourself

In Unhinged, San Diego local and SDM editor Nicolle Monico shares her experiences dating in the city while hopefully finding love in the process. In this second installment, we get a small window into her recent dating journey and how she got here.

He told me he wasn’t ready for a relationship pretty quickly after we started talking. I, of course, ignored it. He just needed to get to know me. 

Let’s call him John. As we grew closer, our relationship became intoxicating. We had undeniable chemistry, and he soon became a drug I couldn’t give up. I was hooked. We spent every day together, talked about the future, and called each other best friends.

But John wasn’t ready to commit, he said—which led to arguments and, eventually, break-ups. Each time, I went through intense feelings of withdrawal: depression, loneliness, low self-esteem. But I continued to run back to him, believing still that he’d change his mind. 

During off times, I tried dating, but I was always waiting for the pendulum to swing back with John. I didn’t realize it then, but I shouldn’t have been trying to meet anyone new. After this column went live, a friend reminded me that her guy friend had once tried to take me out. 

I got a migraine the day of our plans and had to cancel. He then left on a two-week trip, and neither of us followed up when he returned. My date had assumed I’d reschedule since I canceled. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking during that time, but I do know that I didn’t have space in my world for anyone but John. 

And this probably left a good man wondering what had happened.

Admittedly, back then, I was part of the current dating problem. Some of us jump on the apps or into relationships before we’re actually ready, before we’ve fully wrestled with the loss of someone we once loved. This creates an endless loop of false hopes.

For me, the feelings I had for John felt like an addiction—not something you can work through overnight, or even a few weeks. Mourning my hopes of a relationship took a lot longer than I thought it would. But from stories I’ve heard, and ones I’ve been a part of, I’m not alone.

“Most people are delusional thinking that they’re ready; I was [once] one of them. That’s why I can say it with so much [confidence],” says Sabrina Zohar, an SD local and host of the Do the Work podcast, which focuses on dating, anxiety, and healing. “I think that’s why we find ourselves in those loops.” 

@olga.safari Dating advice: one of the hardest things I’ve done was not immediately jump to a new relationship, or to someone new after going through a breakup. the healthiest way to heal is to take time to be alone – whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, the wait is so worth it because after just a few months, you will be more than healed and ready to start dating again, I know it’s hard but it’s well worth it! It’s also important to find happiness by yourself before dating again🤍 #dating #datingadvice #datingadviceforwomen #datingtips ♬ original sound – Olga

She’s right. Many of us have been on either the receiving or giving end of a “not ready” conversation. I came across a TikTok recently from a creator who said, “If you can heal from a breakup without using another person to fill that void, you’re actually very strong.” Whew. Heard.

In trying to date while still hung up on John, I likely unintentionally hurt people or missed out on really great connections. After all, what we look for when we’re really ready to commit is likely different from the more superficial markers of a great rebound. 

“You could make it work with a lot more people than you think,” Zohar says. She shares that studies have shown that the true markers that are needed to be compatible with someone are not the must-haves we seek when we’re rushing to fill the space our partners left behind. 

“Are they hot?” “Do they have all the same interests as me?” “Do they meet my financial requirements?” These questions may be helpful for finding someone to get along with, but in the long run, they don’t measure whether a partner can stand by your side in the good and bad, in sickness and in health.

Instead, Zohar suggests asking yourself, “Do you have similar goals, ethos, morals, ethics, are they a good person? We are so conditioned to think, ‘I need this,’ or ‘I need that.’ But an actual healthy and secure relationship is none of that.”

So, the first step to making lasting connections is looking inward and becoming more self-aware. Maybe we can stop the loop.

We also have to be careful not to romanticize the future with someone before we have a real sense of whether we’re willing to be in another relationship. That false hope can be just as damaging. 

And when someone is honest with you about what they’re looking for or aren’t ready for, believe them. You won’t change their mind. I learned this the hard way. The time I spent trying to convince John that I was worthy…I mean, what would my life look like had I given myself or others that energy instead?

This is the first time since him, though, that finding someone great has felt like a real possibility—which is how I found myself in a sweaty meditation circle with 26 other singles in Solana Beach on Valentine’s Day.

But that’s a story for next week. 

As for my matchmaker, she found my first date. So stay tuned! And thanks for following along on this adventure. If you see me walking around at our Taste of South Bay event this weekend, come say hi, share your dating stories, or ask me out—whatever floats your boat.

Follow along for all the fun and updates at @monicles and @sandiegomag.

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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.

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