The biggest threat to millennial relationships is coming from your phone

June 24, 2017

Are phones helping or hurting dating?I

n a world where people are seen as swipes in a "game" of Tinder, it can be hard to know where a game of "Candy Crush" ends and the quest for a relationship begins.

About 20% of 18- to 24-year-olds now say they are using mobile dating apps, according to Pew Research, which is up substantially from 2013. And that's not the only way to find a partner online: People are finding love in the DMs on Twitter, Instagram and more.

All of these options makes the Internet a wonderful place to meet people from all different backgrounds and interest groups that you may not normally have access to. But it begs the question: Once we find someone we like online, does all of that choice sabotage what we already have and present temptations to stray?

At first, having tons of options while dating online seems like an amazing thing. If someone breaks your heart or moves away or happens to live too far from you, you can simply open your dating app of choice and move on to someone better suited to you.

But some experts warn this temptation to see what else is out there is also present even when you're in a committed relationship.

"Social media and dating apps increases the likelihood to maybe not physically stray but mentally stray," advice columnist and breakup coach Chelsea Leigh Trescott told INSIDER. "It feeds this impulsive, panicked nature within us, especially when we are feeling rejected or letdown by our relationships. What happens is social media and dating apps enable us to 'just see' if we would still be desirable were we to be single again. This is an example of looking for validation in all the wrong places. The jolt of validation is never sustainable."

Having all those options has actually proven to make us more miserable, according to several studies. These options can actually lead us to what is known as a "paradox of choice," and make us not able to make a decision at all or have one foot out the door in relationships.

"Once someone connects with another person who fulfills their fantasy or emotional need in some way, more often than not, they become attached to this person and the temptation to stray becomes a reality," said relationship expert and psychologist Vijayeta Sinh. "The ease of hooking up through dating apps and social media makes it very hard for someone to trust their partner."

There's a temptation nowadays to see what else is out there on social media and online dating apps... Tanja Heffner

 Researchers have found that millenials are getting married at a later age and are sometimes choosing not to get married at all, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But studies have also found that younger people are craving intimacy and don't feel like they've been taught well enough about how to have healthy relationships.

"We have too many options presented at us and when the going gets tough in a relationship, instead of trying to rebuild it, we decide to check out what else is out there," said Liz Guidone, a single millennial, told me. "Add that to the millennial mindset that we're searching for true, soul-mate-level love and believe there is a perfect person out there. Ugh."

So how do we overcome this "paradox of choice," find what we truly want, and stick with that choice?

It's important to keep things in perspective and not compare real people to online profiles.

While no one is encouraging you to "settle" for someone, it's crucial to lose the mindset that there is always someone better out there. Focus on the real person you have in front of you and see if they're right for you first before DMing a cute person you found on Instagram Discover.

"It's important to resist this 'grass is greener' thinking," Jonathan Bennett, a counselor and author of the site The Popular Man, told INSIDER. "Everyone has flaws and imperfections. If you share core values with another person, have fun together, and are compatible, then you should keep an open mind about making the relationship more committed."

After all, online dating profiles are gussied up and unrealistic versions of the real people behind them. You can't compare someone's Instagram persona to a real-life person with flaws, bumps, and baggage.

"If you're constantly comparing someone you're dating in real life with your other possible 'options' on social media or dating apps, it's not really an 'apples to apples' comparison,"Bennett told me. "Social media and dating profiles show a highly selective and idealized version of another person's life. So remind yourself that while those other options could be better, they also could be worse."

Scrolling Instagram and dating apps for beautiful people is fun and exciting, but don't forget to remind yourself it's just a fantasy and that real love is better than any filtered photo you give a double tap to.

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