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.

Reconciliation

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!

 

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Comments

  1. dan says

    Good article, helps keep my situation in perspective, especially where you talk about managing expectations. What are your thoughts on how to figure out if someone is “worth” taking back or trying to get back?

  2. says

    Hi Dan, thanks for your feedback! In my opinion it boils down to whether trust is as solid as it was the first time. Attraction and worth may be easily rebuild, but will the shadow of trust be dispelled? In any case, I’m a firm believer in waiting the breakup out again, so that when you do approach reconciliation you feel like you’re meeting a different person (which is usually the truth).

    Ironically, once you’ve both accepted that you can live apart, you can be sure that they’re back because they want to, and not because they need to.

  3. marco says

    hello. first of all this is my first post. second, I’m not native on English so excuse me for my mistakes. Now, I want to tell my story.

    I had a GF. we’ve been together for 4 yrs. she was 21 when we broke but now is 22, I’m 24. she left me exactly on dec 31 13, so it’s been 5 months and counting. I still miss her, dearly, and passionately. She dumped me because she said she was not happy, and that she changed and wanted to be alone. first she asked for a time but I disagree as I found that to be unfair, so she said we were done. I cried a lot during that moment, I felt like if someone died, I honestly felt a funeral vibe. Anyway, I cried and told her that I was sad because we would never be together again, so she said that we don’t know and that I always jumped to the worst conclusion.

    I was so devastated that I didn’t even go to my family dinner nor with my friends. It was the worst new year eve ever. TBH I wasn’t that happy anymore in our relationship. I did love her and I worked as hard as I could for it to work, but I was unhappy because she got a new job and was very distant since then. I obviously though she was dating someone new and that that was the reason she called it quits. she obviously denied it. Anyway, days passed and she left some breadcrumbs and stuff like that. then she send me a mail saying she was sorry for the break up but that it was for the best and that I should enjoy life and stuff. I was so sad I called and beg and stuff.

    anyway, I saw begging didn’t work so I went NC to get her back. time passed and then I started to know about her through mutual friends. I was told that she got an enormous ego, thinking I was an ahole, that I was mean, a bad bf, and telling people about personal issues I never told anyone but her. that really killed me, as I would never bad mouth anyone, let alone talk about personal issues. so I called her to tell her how hurtful her attitude was towards me. she denied everything, so I told her to give my stuff back. I told her to leave her with her maid so we didn’t have to see each other and she agreed. she only left a sweater and kept my most important stuff. time went by and I emailed her a sorry letter just because I wanted to forgive myself. and after that I stick to NC for real. As I said I started NC to get her back, but as time went by, I realised that it was for my own sanity. Now after 5 months and starting the 6th (almost) I realised she had GIGS. for now she’s not dating anyone (at least not serious) and she hasn’t left breadcrumbs anymore, so I don’t know. she send me a message 2w ago because I got into a fist fight defending a random girl (I lost though) but it wasn’t breadcrumb because it was not out of the blue and wasn’t than intimate, though I don’t know how she know about this. even though I erased her on FB sometimes I see stuff about her, like commenting on mutual friends status and stuff like that, and most of the time is stuff about love and exes and things like that. She hasn’t erased any pic with me, even the romantic ones, and even though I erased her from tumblr and twitter, she still follows me. One time she change her profile pic to a very old photo I took of her. Sometime ago she called a very close friend though my friend couldn’t answer so we don’t know what she wanted or why she was calling. She upload a photo of her ferret but I was feeding him in the photo, solo my hands are visible. That’s all, that’s why I don’t think these are breadcrumbs, just coincidences.

    we were a ver cool and cute couple, she’s kinda punkish dark, and me too, we were almost a concept, the best couple ever. very stylish too. most people though we were gonna get married, most we’re shocked we broke up, and most told me that this was just a phase. of course not, we’ve been broken for (again) 5 months, and she doesn’t seem to want to come back. she’s been so rude and mean, specially since she talked bad about me, and about personal stuff, and I just don’t know this girl anymore. she’s just another person. another mean and crazy person. what so you guys think? please someone say anything, I just want to feel read and understood. greeting to everyone.