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Unhinged, A Dating Series: Q&A With Columnist Nicolle Monico

In part two of editor Mateo Hoke’s conversation with the OB local, the two talk about what it takes to be ready for love

There are important things we can only learn about ourselves from being single. Then there are things that are only revealed when someone holds up a mirror to us day after day for years in a long-term, committed relationship. Both types of lessons are crucial to one’s understanding of themselves. Life expands the more we grow.

We’ve all met someone who married young and later divorced because parts of themselves had yet to be explored, and being in a relationship did not allow for that exploration. We’ve also all encountered people who have been single too long, who avoid commitment because allowing someone else to truly see them is too vulnerable.

It’s all about balance—being okay with being alone and being open to growing with a partner if the stars align.

In part two of my conversation with Unhinged dating columnist and SDM editor Nicolle Monico, we talk readiness. After all, one of her goals in launching this column was to hopefully find a boyfriend. But is she prepared for the challenges that come with opening yourself up to someone new? 

(To get caught up, you can read part one of our conversation here.)

Mateo Hoke (MH): Tell me about your personal readiness for a relationship right now.

Nicolle Monico (NM): It’s weird to say, but I feel like I like myself again. I feel like I’m a catch, and I don’t know if I could have always said that. I have qualities I am proud of, and I think that’s crucial for dating. Loving yourself matters because it shows. I’ve done a lot of work to discover what I need and to say it’s okay to need those things.

The last four years have been particularly hard, which pushed me to really understand and embrace my needs. I know what I can offer and what I’m not willing to give up. This clarity has given me a strong sense of self-worth. I am not afraid to ask for what I deserve in a relationship.

MH: What do you think are the real keys to being “ready” for love and commitment if you don’t feel that security in and love for yourself yet?

NM: You can still know what you have to offer, even if you don’t love every part of yourself. Someone can help you discover the parts you’re not ready to love yet. It’s about being willing to let someone love those parts of you. In my own experience, it was hard to have someone like me without having to work for it

Trust that someone will love you, and that will help you see yourself differently. I don’t think anyone has to be perfect to enter a relationship. When you’re looking for someone, look for the kind of person who will help you build the qualities you want to love in yourself. Relationships can be a journey of mutual growth and discovery, where both partners support each other in becoming their best selves.

MH: What does success in love or a relationship mean? How do you know you’re in a successful partnership?

NM: Success in a relationship means feeling good, being true to myself, being open to making sacrifices, and working hard to make it last. For me, if my gut doesn’t hurt, it means I’m not trying to fill a void or force something to work just for the sake of it. 

In a successful relationship, I feel completely whole and authentic. It’s about having a partnership where both individuals can grow and thrive together. Success is also about mutual respect, understanding, and being able to communicate openly and honestly. It’s about feeling secure and valued, knowing that both partners are committed to the relationship and willing to put in the effort to make it last.

MH: Have you spent time truly alone to ground into yourself and be ready for a relationship?

NM: I’ve done the alone time and the long relationships, and both are essential. I was single for seven years before my last three-year relationship, with a lot of time to figure things out. I was mostly happy being single. It wasn’t a sad experience—there were a lot of good times. 

Being single allowed me to understand myself better and to grow independently. I had the opportunity to focus on my personal development, pursue my interests, and build a strong sense of self. Now, having been through both experiences, I feel ready for the mirror that a committed relationship provides, where you continue to grow but now with someone else by your side.

MH: How has your approach to dating changed now that you’re in your 40s versus your 20s or 30s?

NM: I don’t linger anymore or waste my time when it’s not going to be a thing. I’m more intentional about who I spend my time with and don’t let my emotions get ahead of me. In the past, I would quickly fall and get excited, but now I recognize red flags earlier and know what’s not going to work for me. I’m more focused on not putting up with things that aren’t right for me. 

I’ve learned to set boundaries and to prioritize my well-being. I understand the importance of compatibility and shared values. I also value my time more and am more discerning about who I invest my energy in. This approach helps me avoid unnecessary heartache and allows me to build healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

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.

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By Mateo Hoke

Mateo Hoke is San Diego Magazine’s executive editor. His books include Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary, and Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

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