Do you have a fear of missing out on life if you commit to marriage? You’re not alone.
In some ways, I skipped my twenties.
Most teenagers were rapid cycling through partners, trying on and discarding potential pairings like jeans in a dressing room. I had been committed to my then-boyfriend since the age of sixteen.
While my classmates were spending weekends getting wasted at frat parties, I was spending the days running errands and maintaining a home with my then-fiance.
Others in my age group spent their earnings on clothing, concerts and travel. I carefully saved in order to purchase a house with my then-husband at the age of twenty-two.
I laughed about these contradictions at the time; I never regretted the decisions I made and I was happy in my life. When asked about my feelings about entering the next decade on my thirtieth birthday, I responded by saying that I didn’t anticipate anything different since I had been living as a thirty-something for the previous decade.
And then divorce happened. And with it, some regret for missing out on the “normal” experiences of the young. I was married when most of my friends were busy partying and then I was thirty-two and dumped soon after I attended those same friends’ weddings.
I reflected back on the boys or young men that I’d met and turned down. I thought about the alternate life I might have had if I had lived a more traditional college experience. I considered the freedoms that I had exchanged in the name of security (a false trade as it turned out).
I like to compare myself in the period post-divorce to one of those spring-loaded snakes released from a canister. I exploded into the world, determined to recapture the life I had missed in my twenties.
Some of it was fun. I dated casually without concern for the future. I sometimes neglected sensible saving for fun-in-the-moment. I embraced the positives of losing everything and enjoyed the flexibility of having few responsibilities and fewer belongings. I said “yes” to most everything and tried to view challenges as adventures.
But it wasn’t all good.
Even though I went on dates every night, I returned to my cold and lonely bed at night without someone to hold me through my nightmares. I socialized nonstop, yet few really knew or understood me. The adventures were fun and I enjoyed playing around with my persona, but I often felt like I was playing a part instead of being true to myself.
What I thought I was missing turned out to be not all that. Just like being married, it had its own benefits and its own downsides.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is really nothing more than viewing the distant grass as greener than the lawn you’re standing on. The married envy the flexible and free life of the singletons while those that are single often yearn for the intimacy and stability of partnership.
I met my now-husband when I was still in the throes of manically attempting to live a decade in a few short months. And almost from the beginning, he felt different. I realized that this could be a long-term thing instead of simply another fun fling. I considered my options. A relationship was appealing, yet I still didn’t feel purged of my need to not act my age.
He handled it perfectly. A couple months in, he told me that he was committed and also said that he knew that I wasn’t ready to yet. He gave me the time and space to figure out which side of the grass I wanted to be on. A few weeks later, I took the step.
At the time of the divorce, I thought that I had missed out on dating. On being young and stupid. On experiencing life with people other than my spouse.
What I realized was that my regrets really weren’t tied to my marital status. I wasn’t afraid of missing out on kissing some random guy or the mobility assisted by a single status. What I was really afraid of was living too small. Of allowing fear to limit my choices and denying myself the ability to question. I was afraid of marriage being an end rather than an addition.
I’ve kept some of what I started during my months of Match Madness (dubbed because of my activity on the dating website). I’m still more likely to say “yes,” I try to maximize my adventures and I’m not as afraid of being irresponsible or breaking the rules. I took some of that green grass from the other side and replanted it where I stand.