This article is a follow-up to my previous Grass is Greener Syndrome article. I’ve been fortunate to help people in various areas of the world work through this complicated issue (which can often be mistaken at first for a commitment or decision-making issue). The ‘grass is greener’ struggle haunts many people, repeatedly starting over most commonly in relationships, career, or where to live, and is complex for a variety of reasons.
The ‘Grass is Greener Syndrome’ is generally led by the idea that there is something else better out there that we are missing. What you have now may be good and well, but that other relationship — or that other life, that other place to live, that other career, that other something — is constantly nagging at you and calling for your attention. It eventually turns from nagging to feeling impossible to be fulfilled or content in the present because there’s always a feeling that the perfect scenario you’re looking for will liberate you. This “perfect scenario” is always believed to be waiting on the other side of a major change.
The fantasy underlying grass is greener thinking is generally that there is a way to have everything you want. However, this then bumps against the reality, which may be different than the fantasy. As a result, a back and forth tug-of-war happens internally while hoping some sort of sign will present that will finally bring the answer to the dilemma. (Some people don’t make it to the internal tug of war and end up changing relationships, jobs, careers, etc., on a regular basis — acting out the grass is greener conflict on the outside, rather than working to resolve the conflict internally).
One significant ‘grass is greener’ issue is that people don’t always realize that moving to the “greener” scenario may initially soothe some emotional distress and fulfill some particular needs. However, by changing scenes and starting over, this has now tossed out things you needed and had before.
For example: a person choosing between their current relationship, and the relationship that looks like could solve all of the problems with the current relationship. The current partner is a hard worker, reliable, responsible, steady, not very sexual, not very spontaneous, and so on. The grass is greener thinker finds a potential partner who is spontaneous, sexual, and is viewed as more fun, and more risky. The thought becomes, maybe the second person is the relationship they’ve needed all along.
The problem is, this decision is being made from the perspective of having certain needs currently being met. The subconscious radar doesn’t quite internalize what it would be giving up to make the change. It’s the starved needs that have your attention. So the feeling is that these needs will be met, and everything will be great. However, once shifting into that new relationship, the grass is greener thinker eventually realizes that part of what kept them grounded was having someone responsible, steady, and reliable. In the new relationship, they do now have other qualities that were starved before. However, now there are new needs not being met. This is the vicious cycle of ‘Grass is Greener Syndrome’.
It is also worth mentioning that ‘grass is greener syndrome’ can often (but not only) seem to have a strong impact on people who are divided within themselves — that there is an internal version of themselves they wish to be, while feeling the pressure to uphold the version that they feel would be more acceptable by society. In this sense, the internal conflict is projected to the external world, while on an unconscious level, the wish is to merge the two sides into a more balanced representation of both. One could say, “The grass is greener on the other side of one’s own self.”
All of this being said, sometimes a change is necessary. Just because someone struggles with grass is greener patterns doesn’t mean that a new relationship or career is always bad. But, if you’re struggling with this issue, I’d recommend seeking professional help if you’re wanting to become more settled and fulfilled. It can be hard to stop acting out the issue on one’s own (or the other extreme, ending up in decision-paralysis) when deeply entrenched in the pattern. That said, it is not hopeless. I have seen many people come through the other end of this issue.
Learn more about ‘Grass is Greener Syndrome’ and how I can help you.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.