The Grass Is Greener Syndrome

The grass is greener syndrome is a phrase often used to categorize the tendency young men and women have (usually 18-23, but can vary greatly) to suddenly jump-ship and seek romantic “greener pastures”. Often, dumpees complain that they felt completely blindsided by the dumping, and that very few, if any, warning signs were sent their way prior to the tragedy.

The main gist that proposers of this “syndrome” offer, is that it all boils down to a voltile mix of cold feet and irrationality — and that given some time alone, the ex will almost always wake up one day and realize that they made a huge mistake. In other words, it’s not a real break up.

Oh, That’s Alright Then

Not in my book. I’ll go ahead and be my usual blunt self. I find the concept of a grass is greener syndrome fantastically flawed, and frankly, an unhealthy vine to swing to-and-fro from as you attempt to move on — and here’s why.

By calling it a syndrome, the dumpee shifts responsibility entirely onto the dumper in their own mind. It implies that the actions of the dumper are illogical and that this “condition” will somehow cure itself with time. Instead, I feel that there is a great deal that could be demystified with a sprinkling of objectivity.

What separates cases of G.I.G.S from other breakups? The claim is usually that of youth and inexperience. A typical breakup scenario would involve a couple transitioning from high-school to college, or college to work. All of a sudden, your partner of several years inexplicably decides to throw in the towel, and what is really confusing is that they can’t give you a clear reason as to why (either no reasons at all, or a hundred which seem to change by the day). What’s going on here?

Simply put: they have grown out or away from the relationship, but may not have realized it. The majority of us will have been through a cascade of breakups and rejection scenarios, which help shape us and narrow our “field of view” when it comes to expectations and standards of our partner. A typical G.I.G.S candidate will simply not have accumulated these existential reference points in life, which is why they are often hard-pressed to offer any kind of explanation. The main points to consider are the following:

  • They are young and will have changed immensely independently of the relationship.
  • A relationship will have catalyzed additional change.

The chances that a couple at this stage in life are on the same page after even a brief stretch of time is negligible. A couple of years can turn a person inside out with regards to ambitions, tastes and expectations. Rather than call it a syndrome then, I would call G.I.G.S a very natural and inescapable part of “growing up” emotionally.


Another facet that led to the birth of this popular acronym is that there is usually an attempted reconciliation by the dumper in the near or distant future. I find this believable, but (again) not for the reasons stated. The plus side to being one of their emotional milestones, to having been this catalyst of change, is that you will have left a lasting impression. Often, you will have been their first love, and because of this — heavily idealized and romanticized within the halls of their mind. While life and growing up may have broken the illusion to some extent, they will never forget how they once saw you, and may be back now and then to see if their fairy-tale still exists.

The obvious problem with this, is that — in the words of agent Smith — you remain, irrevocably human. And unless significant change has occurred, it may all result (and frequently does) in a little bit of history repeating. So, what can a dumpee do in the meantime?

Taking steps in the right direction

Rather than scapegoat our pain and call it a syndrome, or a temporary delusion, I would urge dumpees to consider it a normal and healthy step for the dumper to take. But this does not mean you are to blame. As always in relationship breakups, it is important to face the music and summarize a list of “mistakes” that you may have made, and consider them objectively. Beyond that, however, it is also important to realize that most grass is greener scenarios involving youth stem from internal changes in dumpers that may have little to do with you. Because of this, it is important to not take it personally.

It is important to dissociate yourself from dependency and expectations from the dumper. Knowing they’ll be back because they’ll never find someone who treated them like you, and thoughts such as these, will only litter your own future with mines and pain should these expectations never come to pass. Instead, focus on improving yourself and moving on by taking life at a step at a time. The same forces that spurred the dumper onwards and away from you, will be the same that propel you into a rosy, new future — it is a double edged sword. Change. While today you may be left grasping at phantoms and attempting to fill the gaping chasm of grief and loss, time and experience will dim the pain and change you utterly. There is every chance that if an attempt at reconciliation is made in the future — you may find you simply aren’t interested!



  1. dan
  2. marco