How many times have we heard the cliche, “The grass is always greener on the other side?” While the overuse of this phrase has mostly dulled its impact, people who experience the “grass is greener syndrome” endure a significant struggle with commitment.
What causes this issue?
The hallmark of the “grass is greener syndrome” is the idea that there is always something better that we are missing. So rather than experiencing stability, security, and satisfaction in the present environment, the feeling is there is more and better elsewhere, and anything less than ideal won’t do. Whether it’s with relationships, careers, or where you live, there is always one foot out the door.
The problem with this is the greener grass is usually based on fantasy and fear. The fear comes from several possibilities, including fear of being trapped in commitment, fear of boredom, fear of loss of individuality, and fear of oppression.
Along with these fears comes the issue of compromise. In people who fear commitment, comprising certain desires, needs, and values for the sake of the unity can feel like oppressive sacrifice. When this happens, the perception is that there is something else out there that will allow us to have all that we crave, want, and value, and that it will happen on our terms.
It is dangerous to believe we always want what we don’t have, even if we’ve already jumped the fence several times.
This is where projection comes in. When the grass is greener on the other side, we’re usually (if not always) placing personal unhappiness with ourselves onto something outside of us — generally a partner, career, living environment, etc. We rely on polishing our external environment to soothe a deeper internal dissatisfaction. Though the environment changes when jumping the fence, after a brief internal high, without constant stimulation and newness, the dissatisfaction becomes the same.
I think the cliche should be changed to this: “The grass is only as green as we keep it.”
The grass always starts out a nice and shiny green (‘honeymoon phase’), but will begin to wear a bit with use. Then, it still needs to be maintained in order to stay a nice shade of green. The dulled green (or even brown) grass on our current side of the fence would be greener if we nurture it. The shiny green grass on the other side of the fence is our wish for our internal selves — to be happy, unscathed, and fully satisfied.
The truth is, as human beings, we are all in some ways less than perfect, and therefore, the shiny grass is an illusion. Our job is to keep the grass as green as possible, which may take some outside help. But no matter what, it won’t remain as green as the moment we first set foot on it.