Dating FOMO: Is this the best person for me?

5:09 PM

Have you ever planned to watch a movie on Netflix, but spent so long deciding between the many options that you never actually watched a movie? I feel like I do this all the time. In my mind, if I am going to spend time watching a movie I want to make sure that it’s worth it. I want to watch the best movie available. Why would I spend time watching anything else?

Fortunately for me, what movie I watch (or don’t watch) isn’t really a big deal. However, this same type of problem happens with making a choice on who to date or marry-which is a much bigger deal. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a really common way to think in romantic relationships. It’s both natural, popular, and really easy to justify. And if you are into sabotaging your relationship (consciously or not), FOMO will definitely do it. Honestly, I think this is why a lot of good people stay single a lot longer than they would like. If you are single and have been in an exclusively committed relationship, you’d be normal if these thoughts have crossed your mind: “Is this the best I can do? Is there somebody out there better for me? Somebody more attractive? More spiritual? More fun?"

Why is FOMO so common?
For starters, social media has set the stage for the FOMO attitude in general. The idea that you need to consistently check your newsfeed to make sure you are not missing out on anything is certainly related to obsessing over missing out on another partner who may “be better.” But I don’t think it’s the main issue. I think a bigger issue is having too many options. If you are surrounded by high quality, good looking people, it’s normal to question whether or not the person you are currently dating is “the best” one for you. FOMO will be common whenever you have a lot of options, such as a college campus or a vast community of Tinder or Mutual users. The more choices you have, the more opportunities you have to miss out (or so we think). This is because dating FOMO is driven by a powerful lie and an unromantic truth. If we can debunk this lie and embrace this truth, we can stop FOMO from motivating terrible relationship decisions.

The Powerful Lie: There is a best option for you.
There isn’t. THERE IS NOT A BEST OPTION FOR YOU, SO STOP LOOKING FOR THE “BEST!” Why is it a big deal that you reject this powerful lie? Because if you believe there really is a “best” option for you, you have set yourself up for failure. You’ll never win, because you’ll never find it. As one author put it, “How many people do you need to see before you know you’ve found the best? The answer is every [darn] person there is. How else do you know it’s the best? If you’re looking for the best, this is a recipe for complete misery.” Some of my religious readers may scoff at this and say, “You’re wrong. The best is whatever God says we should do.” As a religious person, in principle, I agree. But I also believe in the principle of agency and that God wants us to make our own choice of a mate (and, of course, seek His confirmation). In the LDS church, leaders have indicated (on more than one occasion) that there is no such thing as a “soul-mate” in mate selection. You might say, “Well, I’m not looking for a soul mate, I’m just looking for the best option.” To this I ask: What is the functional difference between looking for a soul-mate and looking for the best option? So far as it impacts our dating choices, I see no difference. If you are looking for the “best” you are looking for something that doesn’t exist. Instead, you need to look for great matches. There are many people out there for you that would make a very good match.

The Unromantic Truth: There will always be someone who is better at something than your current romantic partner.
The sooner you accept this truth, the sooner you can get on with your life and progress into a healthy and fulfilling marriage. There will always be someone out there who may be a bit more attractive, more spiritually inclined, more sporty, more refined, more outgoing and popular, more funny, more interested in the things you like and more ________ (you fill in the bank). As long as there are other people on this planet, this truth isn’t going to change. And guess what? This truth applies to you just as much as it applies to your current or prospective dating partner. Embrace this truth and move on; and don’t be surprised when you find it actually really does apply to your situation.

So I’ve Rejected the Lie and Embraced the Truth, Now What?
Just because you rationally understand why the lie is a lie and the truth is truth, it’s not going to make FOMO any easier to reject. You need to treat this thought like the relationship destroyer it is: “Is this the best I can do?” Use the process of dating to navigate through the many options and find someone you are attracted to (physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually). This person does not need to be the most attractive person in every way. Then, determine if you have shared values and goals. If you do (as far as you can tell), give them a chance in an exclusive relationship.

Once you're committed exclusively in a relationship, then act like it. You should be committed in mind, word, and deed. This can be really hard if you commit too much too fast. Before you commit exclusively to a relationship is the time to date around and get to know different people, not after you commit exclusively. I am not suggesting that to date exclusively means that this relationship is a done deal (read more about when to become exclusive here), but I am saying that it is probably worth your time to give this relationship a legitimate chance in order to determine if this romantic partner is a great match.

If you are in a relationship and committed exclusively, but still considering other options, you are not thinking like a committed partner. This is not a sign that you should be in a different relationship, it's a sign that you need to grow up relationally and act more committed. Your thoughts and actions should match your level of commitment, so you can give that relationship a fair chance of working out. If you fail to fight FOMO while you are dating, you are likely to be dating for a long time and will inevitably pull the plug on what could be some great matches.

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