As many people return to a sense of normalcy after three years of pandemic restrictions, more than 60 per cent of Canadians are having relationship FOMO, or fear of missing out.
According to an expert, it's important for people to recognize they aren't the only single people in the world. Here's what you need to know about dealing with relationship FOMO.
What's FOMO's meaning?
The World Journal of Clinical Cases dated the term "fear of missing out" to 2004, when it first gained traction. The 2021 paper describes the concept as having two processes, "firstly, perception of missing out, followed up with a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections."
It further claimed, FOMO is "associated with a range of negative life experiences and feelings, due to it being considered a problematic attachment to social media."
Being single isn't problematic: Expert
Rebecca Cobb, a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University, explained in an email many people are single in adulthood and manage to have "perfectly fulfilling lives."
She told Yahoo Canada, "It is important to recognize that we can have supportive and nurturing friendships that can help us feel connected to and loved by others — it is important to create and foster those relationships whether you are in a romantic relationship or not."
The August survey found in 1,504 Canadians, that 68 per cent of Canadians have experienced feelings of isolation, driven by the belief that everyone else is in a relationship except them.
The pressure from others and the societal stigma about being single is more problematic than actually being single.Rebecca Cobb
Cobb explained what people are feeling is rooted in the idealization of monogamy and marriage in western society where there's an expectation that most people will want to marry at some point in their life.
"The pressure from others and the societal stigma about being single is more problematic than actually being single," said Cobb.
She also said that people are more likely to be single right now than ever before in Canada.
"This means that more people are violating social norms about being in a relationship, and they might be pressured by family and friends to find a partner, get married, or have children," said Cobb.
What's causing the pressure?
The survey found the main reasons for pressure are societal norms and wanting to marry before having children. Many take these pressures to heart.
"The struggles we face inside are big players in our mental health challenges. These pressures can make us feel not good enough, and become overwhelming without a trained mental health professional by your side," the survey stated.
Cobb said the prevailing social norm is that it is a normal part of life to become partnered.
"We are bombarded with messages that to be happy you need to be in a relationship. Just take a look at any recent romantic comedy — it is all about how two (usually heterosexual) people meet and despite the odds, fall in love and live happily ever after," Cobb explained.
We are bombarded with messages that to be happy you need to be in a relationship.Rebecca Cobb
"There are few if any popular movies or TV shows that depict happy singles. Usually, the main goal of single characters is to find their one true love, which just promotes another relationship myth that there is such a thing as soulmates!," she added.
This impact on mental health is affecting how single Canadians feel about others' milestones too. About 30 per cent of single people said in the survey their relationship status makes it hard to be happy for friends and family when they hit those life milestones.
The survey went on to show some admit seeing people celebrate their weddings on social media makes them feel even more down about their own love lives.
How to get into a healthy relationship
Cobb said while it's important for people to focus on friendships that make them feel loved, if they really want to be in a romantic relationship, they must think deeply about what kind of relationship and partner they want to have.
"Developing the skills to have a healthy romantic relationship is important," she claimed.
But Joanne Davila, a professor of psychology and the director of clinical training at Stony Brook University, said in a TEDxSBU Talk most people have no idea how to have or maintain a healthy relationship.
For that reason, Davila and her colleagues have come up with three core skills needed to have a healthy romantic relationship: insight, mutuality and emotional regulation.
"Insight is about awareness and understanding and learning," said Davila in a Ted Talk article. "With insight, you'll have a better idea of who you are, what you need, what you want, and why you do the things you do."
Mutuality, on the other hand, is about knowing both people have different needs that are important to them.
"With mutuality, you'll be able to convey your own needs in a clear direct fashion; that increases the likelihood you'll get them met," said Davila.
Lastly, when things happen in a relationship that might make a person angry, upset or snippy, it's important to have the emotional ability and intelligence to manage those moments.
"Emotion regulation is about regulating your feelings in response to things that happen in your relationship," said Davila.
With emotion regulation, Davila explained in the article the person would be able to stay calm and see things from a bigger or more nuanced perspective.
Cobb added therapy can help with this too.
"Seeing a therapist might be a good way to explore those ideas and to develop relationship skills so that people can have a happy romantic relationship," she said.