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What to Do When Jealousy Threatens a Friendship

Building and maintaining friendships can sometimes mean navigating feelings of jealousy and/or envy. While the two words are often used interchangeably, they are different. Envy is the painful feeling of wanting what someone else has, like personal attributes or possessions. Jealousy means to feel threatened, protective, or fearful of losing your position or situation (friend status, job, promotion, etc.) to someone else.

Even among the closest of friends, these emotions can sneak in, creating tension and putting distance between those we care about. To maintain healthy friendships, it’s important to understand where jealousy comes from and learn effective ways to deal with it.

Here are some practical ways to identify if jealous or envy are invading your friendships and some tips on how to handle it with care.

Why do friends experience jealousy?

Jealousy in friendships can arise when we worry that we’re not quite measuring up, or worrying about being left out or replaced. Sometimes, it’s about the fear of missing out, especially if we see friends spending time together without us. Envy can arise when we begin to compare ourselves to a friend’s achievements or possessions, like a great job or a supportive family. It’s natural to think, “I wish I had what they have.”

Emily Brault, a Team Leader at Centerstone, reminds us, “We often think the grass is greener on the other side without realizing the effort it takes to nurture what we have. It’s crucial to focus on how we can contribute to our relationships and, importantly, how we can take care of ourselves to be the best friend we can be.” Making a deliberate choice to stop comparing ourselves to others and practicing gratitude for what we have can often prevent us from spiraling into jealousy and envy.

What if you’re the jealous friend?

Jealousy is often rooted in not feeling good enough about ourselves. Working to strengthen our sense of self-worth and confidence, we can begin to experience these feelings from a new perspective, leading to a stronger sense of self. According to Brault, “The first step is recognizing and acknowledging your feelings. Do this by asking yourself, ‘Where are these feelings coming from?’ and ‘What situations make me feel jealous?’”

What if your friend is jealous of you?

If you notice signs that a friend may be feeling jealous, it is completely appropriate and usually helpful to talk about it directly, but be gentle as you approach it.

  • Start by sharing what you value in your friendship,
  • Then mention the behaviors you’ve observed – be specific.
  • Depending on how the person responds to the conversation, you might need to set some boundaries to maintain a healthy friendship.
  • Moving forward, open and honest communication is key.

How to preserve a friendship when jealousy is present

  • Being open and honest about your feelings is crucial for keeping a friendship strong.
  • If it’s tough to bring up, try writing down your thoughts, practicing what you want to say, or seeking advice from someone you trust.
  • Sharing your feelings can improve understanding and strengthen the bond between you and your friend by building trust, respect, and empathy.
  • Dealing with jealousy means understanding each other, communicating openly, and showing empathy.

If you are looking for support in managing feelings of jealousy in a friendship, Centerstone can help. Visit our counseling services page or call us at 877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123).

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