Do You Suffer From the Green Grass Syndrome?

Lynn, 38, was unhappy in her marriage. Her husband was a good man and a great father, and he made a good living. But Lynn was bored. She wanted the excitement of something new, and she wanted to be married to a wealthier man. After several affairs, Lynn finally found what she was looking for and divorced her husband to marry her rich boyfriend.

Life was good for a while—not for the kids, obviously, who saw much less of their father and who missed him terribly—but for Lynn. She enjoyed the perks that came with being married to her new, wealthier husband.

In her excitement about having a new life, Lynn overlooked some glaring flaws in her new husband. While he was wealthy on paper, he was also a party boy who never grew up. He lived primarily on his family’s wealth, not on his own; and while Lynn thought her new man was just a “fun” guy, he turned out to be an alcoholic. He didn’t hold a candle to the caliber of Lynn’s first husband, whose character was unparalleled. Lynn’s second marriage lasted, but barely. And not happily.

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There’s an underlying thought process many women who get divorced harbor, either consciously or subconsciously: that they can do better. That somewhere out there (or already waiting in the wings) is a man who doesn’t have her husband’s faults. Someone who is more exciting, more loyal, more sexy, more loving or more caring.

In reality, most women who get divorced and remarried find their new partners have many of the same faults their old partners did, or they have different but equally significant flaws.

My co-author, John M. Townsend, Ph.D., interviewed many women who had satisfactory marriages but left them for the lure what they thought would be a superior emotional and material investments only to find that the men they desired were unwilling to marry them or had much less to invest than the women had originally thought.

One woman left a young, successful lawyer who was reliable but “dull and boring” for a man who promised a glamorous life of sailing, travel and affluence. This man turned out  to  be a dreamer who had deluded himself, and her, into thinking he had the potential to become a great architect. He never became an architect, had a nowhere  job, and ultimately depended on her ambition and income to attain a comfortable standard of living. She divorced this man and regrets leaving her dull, boring, but devoted and stable first husband.

These women suffer from the Green Grass Syndrome: the toxic idea that there’s a person or a life “out there” that’s better for them than the one they already have.

I know it’s human nature to compare one’s life to what you think others have that’s better than what you have. But doing so will throw a grenade on your marriage. Nothing good can come from it.

Moreover, it’s a mirage. The grass that you think looks perfect in reality has crabgrass and dandelions upon closer examination. And it’s no different with marriage.

The marriage or the husband you’re convinced looks better than yours isn’t better at all. You just can’t see the warts from your vantage point. Like the green grass, up close that husband or that marriage looks very different from what you imagine.

No matter who you end up with, John Doe or Brad Pitt, there will always be something missing. Always.

That’s why the best thing you can do for yourself and for your marriage is reject the Green Grass Syndrome and become a “satisficer.” A satisficer concentrates on the reasons she made the decision she did and practices gratitude, or being grateful, for the wisdom of that choice.

Don’t be one of those women who divorces her husband thinking she can do better. All you’ll do is trade Peter for Paul. Instead, focus on why you chose the man you did in the first place. Focus on what he brings to the table and be done with it.

Stop looking for more.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an author, speaker and cultural critic known as “The Feminist Fixer.” She has authored several books to help women win with men in life and in love. Her most recent, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, was published in February 2017.

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Comments

  1. Almost every woman will have around her, a number of males who want sex with her. It is easy for her to walk into the trap of thinking that she is special and could do much better than the husband she is with.
    Feminism has played its part in this, training society that sex is something which women are entitled to and training men by experience that they can have sex with lots of willing women.
    Humans are a sexual reproductive species, and yes, sexual attraction is a real thing. But in the past, women & men had stronger boundaries, now they are gone, leaving an open field for easy sexual encounters and specifically for women a feeling that they are not being “treated right”. No wonder the vast majority of divorce applications are made by women.

  2. This is an odd message. While I get what you’re saying, that no marriage or husband is perfect, what you wrote is a little troubling.

    “I know it’s human nature to compare one’s life to what you think others have that’s better than what you have. But doing so will throw a grenade on your marriage. Nothing good can come from it.

    Moreover, it’s a mirage. The grass that you think looks perfect in reality has crabgrass and dandelions upon closer examination. And it’s no different with marriage.”

    There ARE actual happy and thriving marriages out there. I have people tell me often how much they admire my marriage of 18 years. My husband is amazing and I appreciate him and everything he does for our family. He feels the same. After reading this article, it would seem that what everyone SHOULD believe is that we have loads of problems and “weeds” in order to feel better about their marriage. That’s a lousy message.

    This is the same BS we tell people about folks “in your neighborhood” who look like they’re doing great financially; nice house, nice car, nice vacations. They can’t POSSIBLY be doing that well…they must be in a truckload of debt! They’re making up for their career and life dissatisfaction by trying to “show off” and “impress” other people!

    Appreciate what you have (as much as you may dislike it), because the “perfect” folks are screwed up, too! My marriage may not be perfect, but I can’t believe for a second that the message you really want to send is that wives should appreciate their husbands more because all the other husbands are just as unappealing as they find theirs at a particular moment.

    • Huh. I definitely didn’t get that from what I wrote at all! Well, that’s certainly not what I mean and hope that’s not what other people got from it. I will post your response on my FB page and take a little poll bc you’re right: the message I’m meaning to send is not to just accept a shitty life bc everyone else’s is shitty too!

      • That is not what I got from what you wrote at all either. You mentioned a few times that you are talking about women leaving otherwise healthy marriages, not about women who are being abused or mistreated.

        I don’t know any marriage that is truly perfect and without conflict once in awhile. My husband and I have been together 25 years and young couples have actually said our relationship is inspiring and they want to have a relationship like us. But behind closed doors we occasionally argue (sometimes a nasty argument!) and there are things we would both like to change about each other but probably never will. So if someone is looking for a Princess/Prince Charming fantasy marriage ours is too real to be that. Like everyone I know. We are a happy couple, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work at being a couple once in awhile and we don’t make mistakes and have to learn from them an apologize. And I know what you’re talking about – some people just don’t want to do the work and have reality they just want a fantasy that doesn’t exist. I personally, wouldn’t want to be married to someone where we never argued, never disagreed, never irritated each other. To me that would mean either we’re both robots or we’re seriously faking it.

      • That’s not at all what I got from this article. Every yard has weeds; that doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful lawn, it simply means that it takes work to keep it beautiful.

        Fantastic read, as always, Suzanne.

    • This is from the book The Paradox of Choice and is more of what I was getting at:

      “A friend once told me how his minister had shocked the congregation with a sermon on marriage in which he said, flatly that, yes, the grass is always greener. What he meant was that you will encounter people who are younger, better looking, funnier, smarter, or seemingly more understanding or empathetic than your wife or husband.

      But finding a life partner is not a matter of comparison shopping or “trading up.” The only way to find happiness and stability in the presence of seemingly attractive and tempting options is to say, “I’m simply not going there. I’ve made my decision about a life partner, so this person’s empathy or that person’s looks really have nothing to do with me. I’m not in the market—end of story.”

  3. yes, I had the GGS and wish I would have read this article 23 yrs ago when I decided to leave my marriage to be with a “better person”. Ho hum right! Didn’t work out and I’ve stayed single every since. I’m engaged now and am choosing not to marry for a while as those dandelions keep popping up and I need to learn how to pick them out and stay on the green dirty grass no matter what. Older and wiser now!
    Thanks for a great article I totally got it and unfortunately am one of the GGS people!

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