How to deal with jealousy in friendships

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Nov 22, 2021

How to deal with jealousy in friendships

We all experience jealousy from time to time. But what if it starts to hurt our friendships?

Envy. It’s something we all experience. Four in five of us (79.4%) have felt it in the last year, while those of us aged 30 and younger are the most likely to experience it. Whether we feel a twinge of envy over how successful our friend’s careers are, or feel envious over a friend’s bigger house, more frequent holidays, or more fruitful love life, envy and jealousy are feelings that can not only leave us feeling uncomfortable, but can damage our relationships, too.

Can jealousy damage my relationships?

If left unaddressed, even the best of relationships can be negatively impacted by excessive jealousy. One of the most common causes of jealousy between friends can revolve around money. Our finances are one of the greatest causes of anxiety for us in the UK, with 30% of us saying money causes us more anxiety than anything else. A third of us feel stressed, primarily due to money.

Despite this, many of us are reluctant to open up and talk about money with our friends due to embarrassment, fear of being judged, or even jealousy. Understanding and acknowledging that there will be differences in what you and your friends earn is important. While wanting what your friends have can be a perfectly normal thing, it’s when those feelings of envy turn to resentment that it can begin damaging relationships and causing problems.

Counselling Directory member and expert in passive-aggressive behaviour, Andrea Harrn, explains more about the causes of envy.

Being jealous of others’ possessions, financial status, or perceived luck are all possible reasons why we may feel envy. It’s important to examine and identify the possible underlying causes which could be fueling these feelings. For example, insecurity, feelings of not being good enough, unrealistic life expectations, or even a warped perception of how to be truly happy can all fuel feelings of envy.

Feeling left out (of situations or friendships), seeing others being offered more opportunities than we have had, or even seeing friends being luckier than us can all make us feel jealous. But how do these feelings affect our relationships? They can fuel unhelpful behaviours which can harm not only ourselves but others, too. As Andrea explains:

“Unhelpful behaviours fuelled by envy [include] malicious acts (spoiling things for others), gossiping, putting [them] down, or being two-faced. Trying to outdo or beat others in underhand ways, wishing others to fail rather than thinking of your own ways to succeed, [or] manipulating situations and people for your own advantage.

“Unhelpful jealous behaviours [include] comparing yourself with others, having confrontations, feeling entitled to make demands on others, [or] making assumptions about other people’s behaviour and lives.”

Although jealousy is a common emotion, that doesn’t make it a pleasant one to experience. Over time, it can begin to negatively impact your overall sense of wellbeing and could even take its toll on your mental health. What can we do to put out wellbeing first, without damaging our relationships?

How to deal with jealousy within friendships

Relationship expert at Condoms UK, James Thomas, shares his top tips for keeping your friendships intact despite how jealousy and envy may be affecting us.

Practice honesty

Fostering an open, honest friendship can help everyone to better understand each other, despite differing perspectives. From the outside, our friends lives - or even our own - can look ‘perfect’, as we often don’t show our struggles or bad days on social media. Sharing openly and honestly can help to create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable sharing how they feel.

Avoid confrontation

While you can’t control others behaviour, you can do your best to control yourself. Avoid starting confrontation about feelings of jealousy or, if it does arise, try not to hit back. Remain calm and try to fin the root cause of any feelings of envy.

As James explains, “Jealousy is often a result of deep insecurities that have nothing to do with you. Finding this out will diffuse the situation and reduce any overthinking.

“If tension becomes difficult to deal with, it might be wise to take some time apart. Having a break will help both of you to put everything into perspective, and allow everyone to remind themselves of the root of your friendship. Sometimes friends can take bonds for granted and fail to realise the bigger picture of their actions.”

Acknowledge the issue(s)

Burying your head in the sand is unlikely to help. Feelings of jealousy - and any resulting problems - will still be there, waiting to rear up when we least expect them. Ignoring problems often results in making the issues worse. Pretending there isn’t jealousy within a relationship can cause feelings to fester, leading to resentment over time. If your friendship is important, take a deep breath, find a time that feels right, and take the plunge. Speaking about the issues can only help to strengthen your relationship.

Give it time

The underlying feelings that lead us to feeling jealousy don’t happen overnight - and neither can the solutions. Having a conversation with friends where either of you are experiencing jealousy is just the beginning. Take a step back, allow emotions to settle, and take the space needed for everyone to really acknowledge how they are feeling.

When to let go of a toxic friendship

If you’re worried that your friendship may have turned toxic, it could be time to rethink things. Friendships can come to a natural conclusion. Sometimes, hanging on to them when things have taken a turn can be more harmful than helpful.

Friends are people that we should feel able to trust, enjoy spending time with, and feel able to give and receive support. If speaking or spending time with a friend leaves you feeling more drained than revitalised, you feel like there is more competition, criticism or judgement than support, or you feel unable to rely on them, it could be signs that your friendship may not be healthy, and it could be time to let go and move on.

Should I see a therapist to help me with feelings of jealousy?

Counselling can help not only with romantic relationships, but with friendships and personal issues, too. If jealousy has begun to dominate your friendships, it may stop having the potential to harm our relationship, turning downright destructive.

If low self-confidence, low self-esteem, or even stress are contributing to how you are feeling, harming how you view yourself, or causing you to lash out at others, working with an experienced, qualified therapist could help.

As therapist Linda Helena Boutet explains, “Counselling gives us space to be the truest version of ourselves, offering us the opportunity to look at what we, as individuals, really want from our relationships.

“It offers us the opportunity to explore past and current experiences of being close to others, and what this really means for us, whilst working to strengthen our own sense of self. Counselling can lead us to a greater sense of ourselves in the world we live in, and a deeper understanding of our relationships.”

Therapy can be a great tool to help us to better understand ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we build (and maintain) relationships.

Need support from a mental health professional? Connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk

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