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Relationship Advice: Bad Dating Patterns

When FOMO is creeping its way into your relationships– and destroying them…
 
Dear Adam,
The other day a good friend called me out on something – she was a little harsh, but it kind of woke me up. She told me that she had noticed a pattern where I look for new guys to date, see them a few times, and then move on to someone else. I know she’s right and I think I’ve been fooling myself by thinking I was only doing this because I hadn’t found ‘the one’ yet. The real issue is that I lose interest soon after the thrill and excitement of a new sexual or romantic vibe wears off. After just a few dates, I’m already thinking about other men and how I could be missing out on something fun if I zero in on the current guy. I don’t know how to avoid getting bored, and can’t imagine one guy sustaining my interest enough for me to stop looking. What am I doing wrong? – Sam
 
Dear Sam,
I think the most vital question here is: are you really looking for a relationship, or are you looking for something intense? Believe it or not, these are not the same thing. Sure, when we first connect with someone, there can be a powerful and lusty charge, but this isn’t what a relationship is premised on.
 
While part of you may very well be looking for real romance, it sounds like another part of you wants to escape into something all-consuming. There are any number of reasons why you might be so fixated on the next and more exciting thing. Based on your question, it sounds like you get a rough case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) whenever you’re not out there searching for the next best thing. Underlying FOMO is often a sense of anxiety that time is running out for us or that others are leading a more interesting life than we are. It might be good to try to reflect on what kinds of fears you are holding about your life, and whether your self-esteem is playing a role in the pursuit of external validation.
 
Another possibility is that the hunt for excitement is a way to distract from painful or uncomfortable emotions. Think about it this way: when you are about to ride down an amusement park roller coaster, it is hard to feel any emotions because the thrill temporarily eclipses everything else. If you meet someone you truly like, and put aside other pursuits for a while, the lack of new excitement will open up space for you to have to feel stuff – and that might be uncomfortable. The more you avoid your feelings, the scarier they seem and the more likely you will continue to push them aside.
 
And just to be clear: this isn’t a matter of monogamy being the healthiest option or goal. The goal you can consider is gaining more understanding about what drives your longing for the shiny new toy and seeing if you can tolerate putting aside that search aside and instead be with yourself a little more.
 

 
ADAM SEGAL, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health questions at @relationship@inmagazine.ca.
 

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