Greener-Grass Syndrome

Article Topic: 
Divorce

“We were just platonic friends when he added me as a friend on Facebook. A month later, I decided to leave my husband and children for him. After all, I was so unhappy in my marriage. Shouldn’t I be with someone who makes me happy?”

Sound familiar? If not, it will, as more and more Christian married women turn to other men to meet their needs. The “Greener-Grass Syndrome” has been around as long as green grass, but with the popularity of social media, the temptation and ease of grazing in someone else’s yard is greater now than ever.

Are you struggling with the “Greener-Grass Syndrome” or know someone who is? If you’re having an emotional or physical affair, here are four crucial questions that you need to ask, along with some practical advice for how to get back into your own yard.

What Caused the Affair?

If you’re like most women, you were probably drawn into the affair because of an unmet emotional need from your childhood or marriage. Maybe you were sexually abused as a child by a close family member and struggle with being able to trust. Perhaps you’re married to a good man, but you somehow feel disconnected and your needs aren’t being met. Or maybe you feel lonely and unappreciated, because your husband is too busy leading mission trips to concentrate on your marriage.

No one understood what it was like to have unmet needs in a relationship more than the Samaritan woman. Christ reached out to her with compassion and grace, in spite of her having a string of unfulfilled relationships. He gave her an invitation to find intimacy through a relationship with Him when He said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14 NIV).

After five husbands and who knows how many lovers, this woman finally met the Man who could fill the void in her life. If Christ was able to meet the needs of the Samaritan woman, why can’t He meet yours?

When Did the Affair Start?

Likely, your affair started like most affairs do—with a harmless friendship. Perhaps after a while, you started meeting for coffee regularly and texting throughout the day. Slowly, you let your guard down and began to fantasize about him. In Proverbs 4:23 we’re taught, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (NLT). But you didn’t guard your heart. You let your boundaries down completely, which led to a full-blown physical affair. For the first few months, it was romantic and exciting, but now, maybe after a year or two, the same old feelings of discontentment and emptiness have returned.

You may also feel stuck—unhappy in your marriage and unhappy in your affair. What should you do? Well, you should end the affair. But how?

How Do You End the Affair?

It’s crucial that you write a letter to the other man, dissolving your relationship and ending all communication with him. You must also get a new cell phone number and e-mail address so that you cannot receive any messages and be tempted to respond. If you work with him, you should consider quitting and changing jobs. And if he goes to your church, you’ll need to switch churches.

These measures might seem extreme, but it’s important for you to take severe steps to prevent you from falling back into a relationship with this man, as well as to protect you from an affair happening again in the future. We are reminded in Matthew 5:30, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (NIV). Obviously, Jesus wasn’t endorsing self-mutilation but rather making a dramatic point in a dramatic way: do whatever it takes to keep yourself free from the sins of lust and adultery.

How Do You Rebuild Your Marriage?

First, you must seek counsel from your pastor or a trained Christian counselor whom you and your husband can meet with weekly. Second, you’ll need to confess your sin to the Lord and to your husband. It’s often helpful if this is done in the context of meeting with your pastor or counselor. James 5:16 tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (NIV). Third, you and your husband need to know how and why the affair happened, as well as place firm boundaries in your marriage to prevent it from happening again.

If you’re struggling with the “Greener-Grass Syndrome,” remember that only the Lord can meet all of your needs for intimacy. I pray that the Lord will reveal to you that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side and that He will give you a desire to cultivate your own marriage.

If you need encouragement or would like to talk to our pastor, please call 0800 787 9364 and ask to speak with Dr. Terry Boyle, or email him at pastoralcare@insightforliving.org.uk.

Copyright  2011 by Insight for Living.

About the Author

Kimberlee Hertzer

Kimberlee Hertzer is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and serves in Insight for Living  USA's Pastoral Ministries as a Women’s Ministry associate.