This article is a follow-up to my previous Grass is Greener Syndrome article. I’ve been fortunate to help many people in various areas of the world work through this complicated issue, as well as related issues with commitment, and decision-making. The ‘grass is greener’ struggle haunts many people, and is complicated for a variety of reasons.
The hallmark of the ‘grass is greener’ issue is generally the idea that there is something else better out there that we are missing. What you have now may be good, 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’s impossible to feel settled and content in the present because there’s always that gnawing feeling that the perfect scenario that will liberate you from your emotional distress is waiting on the other side of a major change.
The world of grass is greener thinking tends to be stressful because, for many people, the decision between one scenario or the other is incredibly difficult to make (and there often isn’t a feeling that there could be a third or fourth option in the mix, making the conflict that much greater between two entities). In fact, for many, the struggle is almost paralyzing. More time is spent in the process of making the decision than actually presently living in either of the scenarios.
The fantasy underlying grass is greener thinking is generally that there is a way to have everything, but this then butts against the awareness that reality 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 experiencing the conflict internally).
Another significant issue with grass is greener thinking is that people don’t always realize that shifting to the “greener” scenario may soothe some emotional distress and fulfill some particular needs, but in so doing has now opened gaps to previous needs that were in the process of being satisfactorily met on the side of the fence they were before.
For example: a person choosing between their current relationship and the relationship that looks like could solve all of the concerns 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 brings out the fun of being less responsible, and more risky. Maybe this is the relationship they’ve needed all along, is the thought.
What’s very important in this 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. So the feeling is that the open needs will be met, and everything will be great. However, once shifting into that new relationship, the grass is greener thinker suddenly realizes the feeling of lack of reliability, lack of stability, lack of responsibility, and so on. Suddenly the vicious cycle is reinforced, and the grass becomes greener going the other way again.
Also worth mentioning is that grass is greener syndrome seems to have a particular hold 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 some 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. Not all scenarios are meant to be held forever. This post isn’t advocating for the status quo, as much as it’s advocating for you to learn about yourself more if you’re noticing a pattern of grass is greener thoughts and behaviors in your life — to make educated and informed decisions about major life changes, rather than acting out an underlying pattern that is based more in fantasy than reality.
In the end, is the perceived greener scenario really ever as wonderful in reality as the fantasy? Initially the grass is bright green, but then generally starts to fade with time. It’s more about how you treat, maintain, and improve what you have, rather than repeatedly uprooting and starting over.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.