Jealousy (Not Envy): How to Work With It

Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds. But jealously usually does more harm than good to relationships, and can create relationship conflict and violence. Psychology Today

Using the blog posts of a few experts, the following explains a little bit of what jealousy is all about as well as some ways to deal with it.

As most of us regularly misuse the term, psychologist Richard H. Smith addresses the difference between it and envy (Psychology Today):

“Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another.

Jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person.

And so envy is a two-person situation whereas jealousy is a three-person situation. Envy is a reaction to lacking something. Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something (usually someone).”

Who experiences jealousy? Again, most of us. It’s how we handle it that matters.

Some tips from Robert L. Leahy, PhD, Psychology Today, who pithily describes jealousy as “angry agitated worry.”

  • “Accept and observe your jealous thoughts and feelings.”
  • “Recognize that jealous thoughts are not the same thing as a REALITY.”
  • “You don’t have to obey your jealous feelings and thoughts.”
  • Observing your jealousy may increase it in the moment. It’s okay to feel this. Often it will weaken as you’re being mindful of the thoughts and feelings you’re having.
  • “Recognize that uncertainty is part of every relationship…You can never know for sure that your partner won’t reject you. But if you accuse, demand and punish, you might create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
  • Look at whether you have “unrealistic assumptions about relationships,” e.g., that partners shouldn’t have other attractions.
  • Work on using effective relationship skills to try to make things feel more secure.

More tips from Clifford N. Lazarus, PhD, Psychology Today, whose advice is particularly applicable to couples:

  • Face the feeling as soon as possible, each time it happens.
  • “There are often false, baseless beliefs that underlie reactions of jealousy. If you examine the belief, you can often reduce the jealousy.”
  • Despite your insecurities, continue “to act respectfully, trustingly, and affectionately toward your partner.” This will enable a better internal frame of mind as well as relationship rapport.
  • Talk to your partner about your jealousy issues.

For expanded info regarding any of the above, click on the article links.

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