FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out in Relationships.

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I’m not entirely certain it is true, but according to Plato, when Socrates was on trial for his life, he uttered the phrase “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Well, to be perfectly honest, he uttered a bunch of Greek words that amounted to “the unexamined life is not worth living.” No matter.

To just go through one’s days like a whirling dervish without any thought as to the why’s and wherefores of one’s behavior is, as Socrates was trying to point out, a fate worse than death.

Of course, one only need to stumble into Fort Lauderdale during spring break to realize that this is not a universal understanding and its beauty is only there for those who accept it as a raison d’etre—people like us: the readers of Elephant Journal.

Lately, there’s a lot of information on the internet about FOMO—the fear of missing out. This is mostly associated with that unhelpful practice most people engage in when they wake up Monday morning, scroll through their Facebook feed, and realize that everyone else had a much more exciting weekend than they had.

This also happens in workplace culture where one person will stay behind to clean up their Power Point presentation and realize that the whole office is out at Buffalo Wild Wings, getting drunk and eating crappy food, and now there’s going to be all kinds of inside jokes they’re not going to be in on. The struggle is real.

And while this stuff is interesting, the FOMO that is related to dating and relationships, to me, seems a lot more compelling—perhaps because I suffer from it quite a bit.

It can be difficult to reconcile certain mysteries that happen inside of us at times. I can remember falling to my knees and asking the universe to please send me someone—anyone—to go out to dinner with, and kiss goodnight, and hold hands with, and then weeks later, when I had them, wondering if they were right for me because I just didn’t get butterflies when I saw them. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what on earth causes this kind of insanity.

So—I examined it.

First, let’s talk about dating websites: dating websites are these fascinating places where there seem to be an endless array of prospective mates. I say “seem to be” because it is a lot like those new car ads you see in the newspaper that are too good to be true.

You show up at the dealership and ask for the car that’s no money down and $100 a month, and your descent down the financial rabbit hole begins. With dating websites, hardly anyone looks like their photograph and unfortunately the same 10 people in your town are still on there from last year.

This is either because they, just like you and I, are waiting for that perfect mate or, even worse, have some inherent issues that lead to them going in and out of relationships every few weeks. Either way, I realized that “butterflies” can actually be a thing that can happen when you become emotionally attached to someone—if you give yourself a chance to.

Another hurdle is ego.

Ego is that thing that you lack when you are falling to your knees and carrying full on conversations with God or the universe. Fortunately, ego is resilient and can be built right back up when you find someone and they make you feel desired and wanted for two or three weeks.

It is at this point you might see yourself as a much hotter commodity than you really are and you might begin to fantasize that you will find someone who looks better or makes more money; someone that will look awesome in your Instagram photos and make all your friends jealous. Someone that exists only in the confines of your crowded brain.

Finally, it could simply be a fear of commitment. I sometimes wonder if the fact that I have started and ended more than half a dozen relationships in this last year is because I am afraid to go through what I just went through last year: the conclusion of a long-term relationship.

Obviously, you never have to deal with the pain of that if you just never allow your relationships to become long term. It is definitely something to examine, and most likely, at least a part of the difficulty I face with my own situation.

Regardless of which one of these three factors it turns out to be—or whether or not it’s a combination of two or more—my conclusion is that it is yet another lie we tell ourselves to keep ourselves outside of the moment…and basically chasing our own tails.

After much Socratic examination, I believe the solution to this puzzle can be found in the sage musings of the great Sheryl Crow: “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.”

And there is no better cure for the ailment of looking with envy at everyone else than to practice wanting and even cherishing whatever it is you have.

~

Author: Billy Manas
Image: Santiago Garza/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Billy Manas

Billy Manas is a poet, singer-songwriter, and truck driver from the Hudson Valley in New York, where you can catch his act at wine tastings and breweries. His distinct voice in both song and poetry is likely the result of his degree in literature and his teenage years spent outside of CBGB’s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Catch up with Billy on his website.

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