Grass is Greener Syndrome – Is it Always Greener?

Grass is Greener Syndrome - Is it Always Greener?

As humans, we are biologically structured to always want to grow, improve, and aim for higher goals. This is in order so that we can live better lives. Generally, we do this without conscious awareness of this facts.

Constant improvement is thus a big part of everyone’s life. However, aiming for perfection as is often the case with Grass is Greener Syndrome is borderline insane.

There is this old saying that “the grass is always greener on the other side.” That’s where the ‘Grass is Greener Syndrome’ phenomenon comes from.

What is Grass is Greener Syndrome?

It is completely normal to occasionally think about what a better life could mean for us. However, these occasional thoughts are not the issue at stake here.

However, when allowed to fester, these thoughts can become an issue. This is when the Grass is Greener Syndrome (GIGS) can affect the life of an individual. People letting these thoughts to take hold of them and interfere with their present condition is the issue.

Technically, the GIGS is not a mental health issue. With that said, it can still be a psychological issue that can negatively affect an individual’s life.

Essentially, the GIGS is a constant feeling an individual has that there is something better out there that they are missing out on. It creates a clouded vision where the individual feels capable of getting more than they currently have.

They also entertain a strong feeling that what everyone else has is better than what they have.

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

In their mind, they are convinced that anything less than this ideal situation won’t do. As a result, they end up ‘relentlessly’ seeking something better.

While what they have now may be good, these other desires are constantly nagging at them and calling their attention. They are thus unable to feel settled and content in the present situation.

The syndrome is characterized by persistent tiring comparisons between their present condition and their “envisioned false reality”. In this state of mind, they become almost impossible to reason with. GIGS is one the main issues why some types of relationship breakups are very difficult to understand.

They also have a lot of frequent intrusive and distressing feelings about the perfect scenario that will liberate them. This makes them to miss out on the stability, security, and satisfaction present in their current situation. They allow a cloud to hang over them because of this preoccupation with their future.

What Grass is Greener Syndrome is Not

People with this syndrome tend to generally ignore their present situations that are fine. Instead, they get caught up in an anxious situation of thinking about other possible scenarios they feel they are missing out on.

This is for instance, different from being in an unhealthy relationship or in a job that goes against their core values and needing a change.

In this case, they are thinking about the present situation and that is what is causing their anxiety. But in a Grass is Greener Syndrome situation, the “envisioned false reality” is what causes the anxiety.

Also, it is different from being jealous. When an individual is jealous over something, most of the time the desired object is well out of their reach.

When they have a GIG syndrome, they are pretty sure the sought after objective is achievable. The only problem they have is figuring out how to get it.
It is also different from setting goals and having a drive to achieve something greater. Fulfilled goals give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

This is different for people suffering from GIGS. Mostly, they are being driven by a somewhat hidden low self-esteem they have of themselves.

What they are driven by is a vicious habit of attention seeking lacking any real goal oriented influence.

Having a GIG syndrome hardly creates a sense of personal fulfillment at the end. The individual is practically in a continuum of spinning their wheels.

Predisposition to Grass is Greener Syndrome

Apparently, there are greater issues at work in the lives of individuals having GIGS. The lack or yearning that most sufferers have is not just an external issue. At its core is a personal struggle that is mostly internal.

It is important to understand that the Grass Is Greener Syndrome is nothing more than a larger symptom of some other underlying problems.

Thus, GIGS is basically a collection of several underlying psychological and emotional problems combining to create the larger struggle being experienced.

Sadly, by the time an individual starts experiencing the symptoms of GIGS, the underlying problems have been well established.

Individuals with GIGS thus tend suffer from an obvious lack of internal stability and satisfaction. As a result, no amount of external satisfaction achieved can fulfill their internal cravings.

The Internal Tug of War

People who are divided within themselves are thus the ones that are mostly to be affected by GIGS.

These individuals seem to have an internal version of who they desire to be. At the same time, they have an external version which they feel is more acceptable to society.

At the heart of the issue is the intense pressure they feel to uphold the external version.

It is this internal conflict that they are projecting to the external world. Yet, on some unconscious level, they desire to combine both sides to form a more balanced representation of both.

Always in search of greener pastures with GIGS

Looking at it another way, these individuals experience extreme struggles between their minds and emotions.

Most times the mind leans toward a particular option but cannot commit to it. This lack of commitment is generally caused by the emotions which wants the other option – whether or not it is the “better” choice.

Thus, the mind tries to protect the individual against their emotions but the emotions are too strong and also attempting to defeat the mind.

The underlying psychological and emotional problems tend to control the emotions. This internal tug of war is one of the key elements behind why GIGS can be so tormenting in the life of the suffer.

The Black and White Dilemma

The struggle between the internal and external versions of the picture people have of themselves can be very stressful. The choice between one scenario or the other can be time consuming and very difficult for them to make.

According to Nathan Feiles, most individuals with GIGS tend to have an “all-or-nothing” or a “black and white” mindset.

There is either fulfillment or lack. With the fantasized expectation of the fulfillment of each of their needs, they leave no place for middle ground or compromise.

GIGS makes it difficult for individuals to differentiate between their needs and desires. It also makes them incapable of accepting varying degrees of satisfaction for the purpose of achieving greater balance in their lives.

Things can even get worse with this syndrome. Some individuals never make it to the stage of having an internal tug of war. Those in this group are constantly in the habit of changing their jobs, careers, and getting into new relationships.

At the extreme, some individuals might be suffering from GIGS due to secretly loving the torture of feeling like a failure. To them, more pleasure is derived from the addiction to feeling bad than from achieving what they claimed they wanted.

The Impact of Social Media

Impact of social media on Grass is Greener Syndrome

The current addiction of a lot of people to social media is one major cause for the rise of this syndrome. People find themselves too easily believing that their lives or relationships have something to be desired.

After gazing at the profile of a seemingly perfect couple, they find themselves daydreaming and making comparisons. Before long, they are already fantasizing. They begin daydreaming of having the same perfect life – the big houses, gorgeous kids, jobs etc.

With our flawed thinking as humans, a lot of us constantly fail to realize the truth. No matter how glamorous we might appear on the outside, we generally have various personal flaws. Therefore, someone’s online profile never truly depicts what’s behind the scenes.

Social media doesn’t help. People posting the best of themselves. It isn’t a true reflection of life but so easy to compare yourself to.

How GIGS Can Affect Your Relationship

When in a relationship, it is natural to wonder what it would be like if you were not with your current partner and were with someone else.

Unfortunately, our feelings cannot be controlled like a tap and switched on and off when we like. I can assure you that every person out there in a relationship has looked at someone else and wondered “what would it be like?” And that includes your spouse!

It is what we choose to do about those thoughts that makes us the individuals we are. The trick to having a successful relationship is stop it there.


One major reason for the Grass is Greener Syndrome in relationships is the failure to appreciate our current partner. This often stems from the fact that we habituate to things. This habituation tendency also affects the good things we have in our relationships.

As a result, we often take the good things in our relationships for granted. We essentially stop noticing and nurturing them. Thus, when little annoyances occur or we notice certain flaws, they suddenly take center stage.

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.

Robert Fulghum Author of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’

Things that might have been trivial before now take on a whole new importance. Increasingly, we begin to overwhelmingly focus on what is wrong in our relationship. We do this at the expense of forgetting about the several other things that are going right.

Thus, despite the many positive things that we might be experiencing in the relationship, we become more readily fixated on the problems. We thus move from a place of appreciation and gratitude to one of negativity and criticism.

As an example…

A lady in a healthy relationship recently started listening to her new colleague talk about how great her relationship is. Hearing her colleague gush about her relationship, she starts thinking about how lucky and much better they are together.

Thinking about her spouse, she starts wishing “if only we were more like this couple.” Suddenly she’s telling herself about why her current relationship isn’t so great.

Vicious search for more satisfaction with GIGS

Watching other couples around her, she begins assuming that they are happier in their relationships than she is in her own.

She also starts noticing things other couples do together that she and her partner don’t do. These are things she has never considered doing before but now appear to be so wonderful to her.

To her at the moment, everything seems to be going great for everyone else except for her and her partner. Suddenly, everyone else’s relationship and even those of her ex-lovers get elevated to the status of perfection.

A lot of people in situations such as this have given up the good things in their relationship. While having a hope of finding a better relationship, most have ended up with regrets.

Obviously, it’s quite case dependent. From anecdotal evidence, it’s silly to let imaginary fantasies about a potentially awesome person ruin an already awesome relationship.

This is despite the possible problems that the current relationship might be having. Exceptions are when there might be physical abuse or violence in the relationship

The Reality About Grass is Greener Syndrome

“Having it all” is nothing but a fantasy. The endless comparison associated with the Grass is Greener Syndrome is a futile place for one to live. There is simply no such thing as “perfect”.

So, there is nothing like a “perfect partner” in a relationship. By extension, this means that there is nothing like a perfect job or the perfect house or place to live.

Do you still believe in the fairy-tale relationship, the perfect home, the more beautiful you, the next great thing?

Part of the underlying problem is that we currently live in a “you can have it all culture”. And I dare say that a lot of “prosperity preachers” have helped in no small way to exacerbate this trend in the society.

A lot of people have been somewhat indoctrinated to believe they can and should have it all. For many, this means that anything less than perfection is “settling”.

Often Consequences

The Grass is Greener Syndrome makes people to place too much focus on what is wrong with their lives. The constant feeling that everything “over there” is right and you deserve to be there can be debilitating.

In general, the outcome of making the move “over there” is one of frustration. For a while, they find “experiencing the life” they believe to be better very exciting. However, with time they often find themselves analyzing all the things that are wrong with the new life.

Just like before, they discover “something better”. The grass becomes greener going the other way again. They end up starting again reinforcing the vicious cycle.

In Conclusion…

The ‘Grass is Greener Syndrome’ isn’t a boredom vs excitement issue. It’s also not about denying stimulation and newness within your life.

The issue is more about not repeatedly uprooting and re-starting your life in the search of never-ending fantasies.

It is difficult to live in and enjoy the moment when you are thinking about the past or worrying about the future. You cannot change your past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about your future. Learn from the past, plan for the future. The more you live in and enjoy the present moment, the happier you will be.

Roy T. Bennett

The good news is that Grass Is Green Syndrome can be overcome. This can be achieved by consciously directing and focusing our attention to allow us positively influence our perceptions.

So, instead of comparing and contrasting our neighbor’s grass with ours, we should focus on nurturing what we have.

We need to do more in terms of discovering and feeding the good in our partner and in our relationships.

It’s really about how we treat, maintain, and improve what we have that will make the grass greener on our side of the fence.