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Grass is Greener Syndrome

greenfieldIt’s easy to catch a case of this: You see someone else’s life (or what you think you know of someone else’s life), and you think how much better they have it than you do.

Why are we so susceptible?

I think it’s because it’s hard to keep hold of the big picture.  It’s hard to remain in a place of awareness and gratitude (that’s why there are so many books and blog entries teaching us how to do this!)

I help people with this, and yet it’s a struggle for me, too.  (Those who can’t do, do therapy…Is that a saying?  Well, it should be.)

I’m being a little facetious, but not entirely.  My husband and my 16-month-old daughter are away for five days, visiting his family in Alaska.  Where it was actually snowing yesterday.  And when they sent me a video of my little girl delightedly experiencing her first snowfall, there was nowhere I would have rather been.  Grass is Greener Syndrome hit me like a ton of bricks.

But then I reminded myself how good it’s felt to be on my own these past days.  I haven’t cooked, I haven’t had to care for anyone or think of anyone’s needs, haven’t heard anyone whining or crying.

Last night, I went out for cocktails and dinner with a friend.  Cocktails and dinner!  With a friend!  On a Saturday night!  Staying out until 11 or later!  I was actually a little giddy with excitement as I got ready.

And it was as much fun as I thought it would be, sitting at a bar with good lighting and great ambient noise, buzzed and giggling.  Though at some point, talk got serious.  She’s in her early 40’s, single, and hoping she’s still got a crack at meeting someone and having kids.  Deep into her second drink, she got a case of Grass is Greener Syndrome.

I told her about the snow video, and her maudlin expression deepened.  She was thinking, “See, look how good you have it!”, but that was just the set-up.

The punchline?  My daughter doesn’t spend all her time delighted by snow.  In fact, five minutes after that video was taken, she needs her lunch, and then she’s yowling because she’s overdue for her nap, or maybe she wants to play some tedious game for 20 tedious minutes, and you have to do all of these things because you’re her parent; because that’s the lot you’ve chosen.

If you choose the right snippet, anyone’s life looks enviable.  I envy that next weekend, when I’m burdened with chores and tasks and keeping my daughter happy, my friend will be out rowing on a lake or visiting a museum or once again having drinks at a swanky bar.  Everything that seemed revelatory to me last night was old hat.  She’s ready for the next thing: having a family.

Or at least, she thinks she is.  What I mean is, if/when she has her family, she will look back on the alone time fondly, feel nostalgic for her earlier self; maybe she’ll have Grass is Greener Syndrome as she meets up with a single friend.

Then, if she’s lucky, she’ll go home and watch the video of her daughter in the snow, and think, “Tomorrow.  I get to see my family tomorrow.”

Woman in green field image available from Shutterstock.

Grass is Greener Syndrome

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2013). Grass is Greener Syndrome. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 May 2013
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