FOMO Totally Affects Your Relationship Satisfaction

New research suggests that FOMO affects your relationship satisfaction—it all depends on your dating pool.

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Complex Original

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FOMO isn't just one of the newest words added to the dictionary in 2016, it's also a real problem affecting more than your weekend plans. As it turns out, it also influences how satisfied your relationship makes you. 

For those who feel they've won the dating lottery and are with a highly desirable partner, FOMO obviously doesn't matter much. But for those dating a partner who doesn't seem as desirable, other options in the dating pool can sway how they feel about their relationship. 

Researchers at the University of Texas wanted to learn more about what keeps people satisfied in their relationship and how much energy they spend maintaining it. To that end, Daniel Conroy-Beam and his colleagues surveyed 119 men and 140 women who had been in a relationship for an average of seven years.

They asked participants to rank how important certain traits were, like "intelligence, health, kindness, attractiveness, dependability and financial prospects," according a press release. Participants then rated which traits they had and which traits their partner had.  

When participants believed their partner exhibited more ideal traits, they put a lot of effort into their relationship and were overall satisfied. However, when participants believed their partner didn't exhibit as many ideal traits, they tended to be unsatisfied—but only if they thought the dating pool had potential partners with better traits. If it seemed like the dating pool didn't have as many ideal options, or if their partner offered more traits than those in the dating pool, participants were okay with their relationship. The phrase "the grass is always greener" comes to mind.

"Satisfaction and happiness are not as clear cut as we think they are," Conroy-Beam said. "We do not need ideal partners for relationship bliss. Instead, satisfaction appears to come, in part, from getting the best partner available to us."

In an email to Complex, Conroy-Beam stated, "Our broader hypothesis is that our calculations roughly correspond to what is going on 'under the hood' in peoples' daily lives. That is, people interact with alternative potential mates all the time, estimate how much those alternative mates fulfill their ideal preferences, and keep track of how their current mate compares. But none of this is necessarily conscious, of course."

It's just one more way FOMO is making it harder to focus on what you have rather than wondering "what if?"

UPDATED 5:15 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with comments from Conroy-Beam.

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