Grass Is Greener Syndrome: Reasons and 10 Ways To End It (2024)

When a man or woman leaves their relationship due to Grass Is Greener syndrome, regret is typically around the corner.

In this guide, you’ll discover how Grass Is Greener Syndrome works and why the ‘dumper’ eventually grows to have second thoughts. 

As a certified life coach who has helped plenty of people deal with the pain of this scenario, I’m excited to share my words of wisdom on this topic. 

So, let’s jump in. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Grass Is Greener Syndrome is a psychological issue causing one to regular ditch your current situation due to a constant belief that there’s something better on the horizon.
  • This often stems from mental health problems, negative core beliefs, commitment issues or low self-esteem.
  • It continues in a cycle due to realizations that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
  • There are many effective ways to break the cycle including gratitude journaling, avoiding black/white thinking and accepting that life isn’t perfect.
Grass Is Greener
Image by Bianca Mentil from Pixabay

What Is Grass Is Greener Syndrome? 

The idea of “the grass is greener on the other side” can be used about almost everything.

However, it’s commonly used when when one person leaves a seemingly great relationship, because they believe something better is on the horizon, even if they haven’t found it yet.

It’s called Grass Is Greener Syndrome (GIGS), because it causes a problem for the dumper. In most cases, they eventually discover the grass isn’t always greener.

What Are The Stages Of Grass Is Greener Syndrome? 

It’s widely agreed there are four main stages that take place within the mind of the dumper.

These are: 

  • Conviction. The guy or girl becomes adamant that they’d be better off with someone else. In spite of all the positive things their partner brings to the relationship, they can now only focus on the negative.
  • Exploration. They find great excitement in the emotional rollercoaster of exploring new things. That might be a new partner, casual relationships or the freedom of being single. Indeed, when anyone seeks happiness in the external, it works for a little while.
  • Reality. As with any happiness gained from external sources, this new-found joy wears off. It becomes the new normal, and the person rediscovers the insecurities they were trying to mask.
  • Regret. Upon realising that the new grass didn’t make them any happier in the long-term, they often begin to wish they didn’t ditch their previous living situation. 

What causes Grass Is Green Syndrome?

GIGS typically occurs because of insecurities within the dumper.

These include: 

Anyone with these symptoms is likely to feel discontent with their life as if something is missing.

But, rather than focusing on the internal, they look externally to fix it. Maybe that shiny new thing over there will help to stop these feelings of emptiness…

Although this article focuses on how GIGS affects romantic relationships, it can also inspire people to make sudden dramatic changes in areas outside of dating, such as their career, personal projects, or where they live. 

Related: Can A Relationship Work After Several Breakups

The Root Is Natural – Aim For Perfection

It is natural that we all want the best for our lives.

The chances are high, that you found yourself in one of the following situations:

  • unsure about a study or career path and start thinking of a change “for the better”
  • unsure about an order in a restaurant because of other things on the menu
  • sapping through tv channels to find “something better”
  • shuffling through your playlist to find a more appealing song etc.

As you can see, the root of the grass is greener syndrome is kind of natural and understandable. However, our brain plays some tricks with us, I will address this later.

Addiction To The Honeymoon Phase

An addiction to the honeymoon phase of a relationship is pretty common and leads to a very dangerous spiral.

The person literally gets addicted to the hormone cocktail our body sets free when we fall in love.

After the honeymoon phase, a normalization phase sets in, and after that, the focus of the person goes to the negative aspects of a relationship and what’s missing.

The only option seems to be to end the relationship within a few months, just to start all over again.

The more often a person goes through this spiral, the more likely is burnt out and feeling empty.

Dangerous “Grass Is Greener” Cycle

People Become Confused Between Love And Lust

Confusion between love and lust is another common cause of GIGS.

Lust could be defined by the uncontrollable excitement we feel around this person, or our ferocious appetite to have sex with them. 

This stage of a relationship always fades, but hopefully it transforms into something more meaningful. The desire to do anything to please that person. The feeling of unity with their soul. The willingness to accept and even adore their flaws. These are all ingredients of the mysterious emotion we call love.  

The problem is: a lot of people think a perfect relationship needs an abundant supply of love and lust from both ends. 

So, when their relationship inevitably fails to meet this idea of perfection, they start to believe they don’t love this guy or girl anymore. They convince themselves that the perfect relationship must exist elsewhere with someone different.

Sadly, if they go on chasing perfection, they’ll continue to find the same pattern of lust fading as time goes on.

In the majority of cases, it won’t transform into love either, and that’s when the regret of ditching someone who cared can really kick in.  

Fear Of Missing Out

A Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) could be a healthy thing. After all, we only get one shot at life, so why not make the most of it?

However, excessive FOMO might not be so intelligent, especially if it convinces us to give up a great partner in the hunt for a so-called perfect partner.  

Psychologists never really studied FOMO until the late nineties, but most of the key studies have mentioned social media as a key cause.  

Indeed, social media is a platform where people post the highlights of their lives and their relationships. All positives, no neutral or negatives. A naive individual becoming too invested in their friends’ recent posts could easily start to believe that their normal life pales in comparison. 

This can add to the feelings of emptiness and low self-esteem they were already suffering. It can add to the unrealistic belief that a good relationship must be romantic and exciting all the time!

For sure, it’s important to be aware of the effect that social media can have on our happiness – and not to get suckered into believing that it’s an accurate representation of reality. The image of a perfect life that most couples post certainly isn’t. 

However, if you’re satisfied with who you are and sure about the direction you’re taking in life, you’ll be less vulnerable to suffering from excessive FOMO anyway. In such cases, you probably don’t need to worry about the effects of social media too much.  

Related: How To Prepare For A Breakup – A Complete Guide

Significant Need Isn’t Met

Another cause of the grass is greener phenomenon is, that a basic need of the person isn’t met.

If we feel that we don’t get something that we need, it can start a negative thought spiral.

And often, instead of talking with our partner about it, we end up with grass is greener fantasies.

The Madonna-Whore Complex Can Play A Role Too 

The Madonna-Whore Complex describes the idea that men may struggle to enjoy their deepest dirtiest sexual fantasies with a loving and caring partner. The idea states that a guy can only view a woman as a completely honorable life partner (Madonna) or a filthy despicable sex goddess who goes all night long (whore). Not both. 

A woman can most certainly experience similar dilemmas, although this is often called the Saint-Brute Complex.

Either way, rather than understanding and finding a way to deal with this complex with their loving partner, some may choose to address it by starting a relationship with someone else.

The problem is: if they do find another Madonna to sleep with, the same problem will inevitably exist.   

How To Stop Grass Is Greener Syndrome?

1. Understand What A Fulfilling Life Looks like To You

The best antidote to prevent GIGS is a firm grip on reality. When you truly understand what a fulfilling life looks like and what a great relationship feels like, you’ll be less prone to let go of one.

And, by the way, it’s you that decides what it looks like. Not your friends. Not society at large. Not that new girl trying to steal you away.

If your partner is the one suffering from the GIGS, there’s, unfortunately, a lot less you can do to save them, beyond keeping your own grass as green as possible and helping them remain emotionally healthy in the first place.

Perhaps they fear commitment or have an avoidant attachment style. There’s not much you can do about that these underlying reasons.  

As I mentioned, the first stage of GIGS is feeling adamant that the grass is greener elsewhere. Once they’ve reached that stage, you may have to let them make their own mistakes. 

2. Separate Fantasies From Reality

You have to realize:

The picture you see on Instagram, Facebook, and in Hollywood movies isn’t real. Because it just contains the happy moments and good sites of a relationship.

You never see the

  • struggles,
  • fights, and
  • hardship of a relationship.

The greener grass on the other side just looks greener, because we are far away from it and can’t see the details.

3. Accept That No-One Is Perfect

We are all humans with mistakes. Therefore your partner will never meet 100% of all your needs, no matter what person you choose.

Embracing the reality that a little dissatisfaction will always be there. And often it is more than a little. 😉

4. Avoid The Trap Of Black / White Thinking

When our focus goes towards a negative trait of our partner, we usually zoom out all positive traits.

We just see the negative.

This leads to a thinking trap called black or white thinking. It is really important to realize this trap!

We then see just 2 options – stay or leave.

And whatever option we choose, there will come regret.

If you choose the option to leave, the other site will kick in and say: “You should have stayed, there were so many good things in the relationship”.

And if you decide to stay, the other site will always argue: “It would be soooo much better in another relationship with your DREAM partner”

5. Set Realistic Expectations For Your Life

You can achieve anything you want if you put your mind to it, but it’s important to consider where you are in life while setting your goals.

How long does it take most people to achieve what you’re hoping for? What skills or qualities do they have that you may need to develop?

These are all good questions to help you set realistic expectations and overcome Grass Is Greener Syndrome.

6. Learn How To Create Internal Satisfaction

Grass Is Greener Syndrome often creates a desire to have more or better external things. A faster car, a bigger house, a more handsome partner.

Those who constantly feel this desire are often trying to fill a hole in their internal satisfaction. It’s practically impossible to fill this hole with more things. You need to address the root cause of your sense of lacking. When you deal with your unresolved pain and grief, you may notice yourself less likely to fall into the GIGS trap.

If you are suffering from inner angst, stress, or anxiety, make the brave step to address it, rather than masking it with shiny new things. The great thing about being in a loving relationship is that your partner will hopefully support you while you’re experiencing these feelings.

7. Practice Gratitude

Those with severe Grass Is Greener Syndrome often fail to acknowledge all the good things they already have in their lives. A regular gratitude journaling practice can help anyone stop their negative thoughts, feel content with their daily lives and cure their Grass Is Greener Syndrome.

Related: Ultimate 30 Days Of Gratitude Challenge

8. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s hard to ever be happy comparing yourself to others, since there’s always likely to be someone ahead of you.

It makes no difference to your life what other people have. They cultivated their lifestyle through different circumstances to yours – and you don’t know how they truly feel on the inside. The only person worth comparing yourself to is your past self. Focus on your own life rather than the lives of other people.

Related: Compare & Despair – Break The Cycle

9. Be Mindful Of Your Technology Use

The overuse of smartphone apps is often linked with Grass Is Greener syndrome.

If you’re over-indulging on social media, you might fall into the trap of believing that other couples are leading better lives than you in your current relationship. That’s not always the case as most social media users are always looking to present themselves in a certain way, even though that’s not always an accurate reflection of their daily lives.

The emergence of dating apps has also contributed to the belief that their next better relationship thing is just one swipe away. Once again, that’s not always the case.

Indeed, it seems that many people are now waking up to the fact that dating apps aren’t always a good thing for modern romance, because of the Grass Is Greener Syndrome being caused.

10. Practice Mindfulness And Stay Present

When you remain present instead of worrying about the future, it becomes easier not to fall into the GIGS trap. The act of remaining present can do a lot to stop thinking negatively and improve your mood. So, focus on what you can do to improve the situation in your present environment. 

Related: Expert Tips To Consider Before Leaving A Relationship

What can you do if you got dumped?

If you got dumped and you have the intuition it is because of the Grass Is Greener Syndrome, the best things you can do are:

  • let the other person 100% alone
  • work on yourself and improving your life
  • tell yourself: “It’s going to suck and it will be painful but I will go through it anyway!”
  • practice self-respect and just think about you

These are really the best and only things you can do to improve the chances that your ex comes back.

If it was overall a positive and healthy relationship, the chances are high that your ex will come back.

In the meantime, look forward and focus on yourself.

Do Exes Come Back After Grass Is Greener Syndrome? 

Regret is very common after leaving a happy relationship with Grass Is Greener Syndrome.

A lot of people aren’t self-aware enough to realize why they’re still not happy after the excitement of the new relationship fades. Perhaps they jump to a new relationship again, because they still feel like their current one was the problem, rather than realizing their initial break-up a month ago was the mistake. 

Some people are too proud to go back to an ex, at least without that ex getting in contact first.

And, as we’ve explored, sometimes they’ll be lucky enough to actually find a more suitable partner,  who they can work on their insecurities with. 

With that said, it is possible that an ex-partner learns the error of their ways and decides to get back together, even if it’s weeks or months later. And it’s not wrong for them to do so. 

At this stage, they can only hope their partner is compassionate enough to forgive them. 

Related: Signs When To Call It Quits In A Relationship & Important Questions To Ask Before

How Long Does Grass Is Greener Syndrome Last?

There is no set amount of time that it takes someone to go through these four stages.

For some, it might happen within a week. Others could spend an incredibly long time jumping from partner to partner before they realize the ‘perfect relationship’ doesn’t exist.

It’s also possible that they do land in the arms of a better boyfriend or girlfriend.

For this reason, it’s better for the dumpee to move on with their life, rather than waiting a set amount of time for their ex to come back. 

Related: Push-Pull Relationship – How To Break The Cycle

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.