As a young single adult in the Church, I’ve had a plethora of conversations with friends about why we’re afraid of dating, afraid of commitment, afraid of marriage—or all of the above. Our general Church leaders tell us that it’s the most exquisite and important thing we’ll ever experience in life. And yet, many of us put off the search to find a spouse.
We want to be with the absolute best person for us. Keep searching, they say. Don’t settle for anything less than the best, we’re told.
We get the same message from the media that surrounds us. If the phone you have is better than the last one you had, then it’s a sure-fire bet that the next phone you get will be even better. Everything we have or do seems to merely a placeholder for something better coming our way.
So what happens when the message from our Church leaders and our social media and technology both tell us to wait for the best?
It’s called “fear of missing out,” or FOMO for short. It’s defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” This theory that we’re “missing out” on something more exciting can be applied to technology, social life—and yes, dating and marriage.
Don’t get me wrong, our Church leaders have given us the exact right advice, but when paired with our culture’s mentality of “a better option is always out there,” it becomes quite the double-edged sword.
We begin to think that the amazing person we’re dating right now might not be as amazing as the person we could be dating. So we break up with the wonderful person we’re with and move on to search for something better—so we don’t miss out on the best that’s out there.
But if we’re always told that the best person is out there, how are we ever to recognize when the best person is right in front of us? Here are a few tips to help us YSAs overcome our fear of missing out—our FOMO-bia.
1. Remember that coveting never got anyone anywhere. Thou shalt not covet is one of the Ten Commandments, but it’s applicable in our day more than ever before. Too often, we compare our worst to others’ best (based on what they post on social media). So we’re always longing for what they’ve got: the perfect job, the perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend. Trust me, their significant other isn’t perfect. So don’t waste time comparing what you’ve got with what someone else has. Focus on being grateful for the blessings God has already given you—whether or not they’re the blessings you want.
2. Remember that love is a choice. Love isn’t something you fall in and out of. We have the God-given agency to choose who we love. Don’t be fooled to think that once you find “the one,” love will come automatically. You’ll still need to choose to love that person today, tomorrow, 10 years from now, and even into the eternities. When you see a young married couple and think, “They’re so lucky to have found someone,” remember that they choose to love their spouse every day, despite the ups and downs of marriage. As President Monson has said, “Choose your love; love your choice.”
3. Remember that easiness of a relationship does not equal boring. If it seems “too easy” to be with someone wonderful because you’re used to an uphill battle (whether in your own life or your friends’), don’t immediately think that something must be wrong. The harder the love is to find, the better it will be, right? Except not. Drama does not equal excitement; nor does a lack of drama mean life will be boring (and therefore unfulfilling) with your loved one.
4. Remember to be vulnerable. Opening yourself up to someone else is scary. What if they reject us? What if they judge us? What if they leave us? All of these are common (and valid) fears. But when we live our life in fear, it’s like trying to jump into the waters of love while still leaving one foot on the bank. If you try to do that, you’re not going to enjoy your swim very much. The vulnerable spaces are where real love is fostered. Yes, it’s scary. But it’s even more important to let our guards down and really listen to one another. This will build trust and make it easier to discover if we want to spend our lives with that person.
5. Remember to cut yourself some slack. If you constantly feel like you’re making mistakes and missing out on the best person you could be with, remember that dating is largely about trial and error. No one likes the “error” part, but it’s an essential part of the formula. If you feel like you’re dating the same types of people over and over again without making any progress toward marriage, constructively examine those “errors” and how you can adjust future “trials” to find someone who is more of what you’re looking for. Going through the ups and downs of dating is the normal process of honing down what you want (and don’t want) in a future spouse. So cut yourself some slack. You’re still figuring out what you want. Don’t give up and make some necessary adjustments!
6. Remember to become the person of your dreams. Think about what you want in a spouse. What is that person of your dreams like? What is their commitment level to the gospel? To family? To their covenants? Now here’s the hard question: are you working hard to be equal to that person of your dreams? It’s only fair that if we say we’re looking for someone with “fill in the blank” qualities, we should try to develop those qualities ourselves. If we hope to find someone who is patient with us, we should try to develop our patience as well. Not only is this strategy good for our spiritual development but it’s also good for our dating life. The more we possess the qualities we’re looking for, the more we’ll be able to identify when someone else has those qualities. And that puts us one step closer to finding “the best” person for us.