Almost everyone has felt the pangs of jealousy.
As humans with feelings and emotions, jealously can manifest in us naturally. Before getting too far into it, it is important to recognize that jealousy and envy are two totally different things.
Because of the similarities one is often mistaken for the other.
Envy is an emotional reaction to something desirable that someone else has. This could be tangible items such as a huge home or a fancy car. People are also often envious of nontangible things such as popularity, a sense of humor, or even good looks.
Jealousy, on the other hand, is the reaction we have to feelings that someone may take something that belongs to you.
While jealousy can sometimes be legitimate and even understandable, it is never productive.
The Psychology of Jealousy
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, jealousy is deeply rooted in neurology.
While the signs of jealousy most often manifests in romantic relationships, jealousy is prevalent in almost all types of interpersonal relationships. A popular study performed by the same found that out of 20 individuals that participated, 17 of them were found to display neurological signs of jealousy after experiencing damage to the brain from strokes.
There are conflicting studies such as the one performed by Cleveland Clinic that classify certain types of jealousy as an actual mental disorder. There are several psychological studies that state that feelings of jealousy can come from early childhood teachings and traumas.
It can indeed be a natural occurring feeling, however, when it gets to the point of delusion, it can eventually cause a problem for both people that are involved in that relationship.
Causes of Jealousy
There are several causes that contribute to the signs of jealousy. Some of these causes include but are not limited to:
- General sense of inadequacy
- Low self-esteem
Now let’s delve into these causes a little further.
General Sense of Inadequacy
Those who have a general sense of feeling inadequate often feel the type of jealousy that does not correlate with a relationship are unique from the rest. This person doesn’t put much value on themselves, so they in turn don’t put a lot of value into relationships.
People with this feeling of inadequacy often have a hard time keeping a job or even keeping friendships. They may even act out by being sexually promiscuous because they feel that’s all they have to offer. It is easy for these people to internalize the jealousy they have.
It doesn’t often manifest outwardly because they use these feelings to reaffirm what they already to be true. These people are often nonconfrontational. Feelings of inadequacy have internal triggers.
Insecurities are a direct opposite of feelings of inadequacy. Instead of being internal, an insecure person perceives that there is an external threat. This now gives the jealousy a target. A person who is insecure perceives another person as being better than themselves. This could manifest in interpersonal and professional relationships.
Unfortunately, popular media fuels many of the insecurities that people have. We have Instagram models that are absolutely gorgeous that have hundreds of thousands of followers. We have movie stars that never seem to have even a bad hair day.
We see it daily.
Eat this, drink this, do this, and you can be just like us. Instead of seeing these things like suggestions, some insecure people will look at these advertisements like they are road maps to designing a better you.
Paranoia causes the jealous person to feel like everyone is out to get what “belongs” to them. This may be a job or even a mate. Paranoia is one of the causes of some of the jealous behaviors that manifest as control issues.
For example, a paranoid person in the workplace will not see other coworkers as being helpful. They see that these people are vying for their jobs. A popular thought may be, “They don’t really want to help me. They just want to make me look bad so they can take my job.”
While there are situations that can be legitimately seem threatening, paranoia amplifies these situations to unhealthy levels. People with this type of jealousy are often perceived as being unforgiving and unable to let conflict go.
Jealousy from low self-esteem is often confused with feelings of inadequacy. While they do have similarities, they do have some pointed differences. One of the major differences in the way that the jealousy manifests. When a person has low self-esteem, there are particular attributes that they don’t like about themselves. For example, a woman who does not like her body will lash out at women have the type of physique they desire.
Having low self-esteem can be perceived as having a generally bad attitude or even being a “negative Nancy” instead of celebrating the success of others. A person with low self-esteem will often lash out at people who are close to them but also do not have a problem picking on those they don’t even know.
These people are often described as bullies.
Neuroticism is the tendency to be moody, emotionally unstable, and even anxious. As with any other type of mental disorder, jealousy of this type often manifests when it is triggered. The hard thing about this one is that the trigger itself may have nothing to do with the relationship in question.
For example, a woman who may have had bad relationship experiences with other men may irrationally feel jealous when the object of her desires doesn’t answer the phone. Normally, when someone doesn’t answer the phone, the first thought is that they didn’t hear the phone or maybe they’re busy and will call back. A person that suffers from neuroticism may automatically think that him not answering the phone means that he is with another woman because of previous experiences.
People that are jealous because neuroticism often have a track record of unhealthy relationships. They will often blame outside factors on the demise of a relationship or the loss of a job. They won’t feel like they have done anything wrong and often portray themselves as the victim.
Possessiveness most often manifests in romantic relationships although it can be prevalent in many different relationship types. Possessiveness can also be the most dangerous types of jealousy. This type often shows as being controlling in a relationship.
While partners of any sex are susceptible to being possessive, it is often stronger in men. Men tend to be more aggressive, and being possessive goes hand in hand.
A possessive man may isolate their partner from doing anything else with anyone else. The possessive partner will find reasons that the other can’t go out with friends. They may say things like, “I don’t like your friends.” They may even keep their partner from having friends of the opposite sex for fear that those people are trying to get next to their partner and eventually lure them away.
Almost any type of dependence can spark jealousy in a relationship. Out of all the causes of jealousy, this one is the most universal. Dependence can be on a parent, a sibling, a child, or even a best friend. A person who is dependent on others feels as if they cannot live without the other person.
For example, a wife who is financially dependent on her husband may feel like if the pretty new intern at the office were to lure the husband away, she would be ruined. She may even go to the extreme and feel as if this woman can entice her husband, she will be homeless, and the children will become indigent.
Although the husband may be an amazing provider that makes an even better salary, she will always perceive a threat because she has something to lose. This type of jealousy often manifests as being overly selfish.
Jealousy in Romantic Relationships
There is a huge misconception about relationships and the role that jealousy plays in them. There is no shortage of songs on the radio that talk about having the jealous partner and how good it feels to have someone care that much. This is, in fact, unhealthy. Jealousy can destroy a relationship.
There are some situations where the jealousy is understandable because of the contributing factors. For example, if a woman finds out that her boyfriend has been talking to an ex, she has the right to be jealous. It is the way that she expresses that jealousy that can be an issue.
While most women will understand if that same woman was to forbid her boyfriend to continue communications with this ex, it’s just not the right way to handle it. Attempting to control the behavior of others can be self-defeating in the worse way.
Another example is a man that is initially attracted to a scantily clad woman. While he loves the way that she looks, and it was the first thing that drew him to her, he will soon start to resent this behavior. In popular media, it is often said that it is a rational request for him to ask her to be modest with her body now that she is in a relationship. Where it becomes unhealthy is when she refuses to change and now, he holds this very thing against her.
It is a basic reality that relationships are better when there is not a partner involved that is overly jealous. It is important that jealousy is an internal problem and not the problem of the partner. Abuse is often fueled by jealousy. Even jealous rages can be blamed on the victim. An abuser will say things such as, “See what you made me do?” and, “You make me act this way.” This is where the cycle begins.
Unless the underlying issues are addressed, the jealousy is not going to fix itself.
Jealousy in Friendships
Jealousy in friendship is often one of the first types of jealousy many people feel next to sibling jealousy. Jealousy in friendships can manifest in different ways. As with any interpersonal relationship, there tends to be one person that is the dominant personality.
That’s perfectly normal.
However, the problems arise when either of those parties start to feel too attached to the other. Everyone wants to have that best friend that’s more like a kindred spirit. You have so much in common. You love the same kind of music, activities, TV shows, and food.
Feelings of jealousy can come in if one of those friends are hanging out with others or even just tending their own lives. One friend will tend to feel ignored and even abandoned. There are some studies that discovered that some people feel strong feelings of betrayal when they feel shunned by their friends.
This friendship jealousy has been found to be prevalent across all sexes and age groups. Although the way that people handle this jealousy can vary
How to Deal with signs of Jealousy
Almost all the signs of jealousy can be dealt with by using healthier coping mechanisms. Whether you have a partner, a good friend, a family member, or even a coworker that are exhibiting jealous behaviors toward you, there are a few things you can do to cope and maybe even help to alleviate these feelings.
Some of these tips will work universally while others are more appropriate depending on the relationship.
One of the most passive-aggressive signs of jealousy is false praise. While that coworker may give you what seems to be a genuine compliment, we often question the tone of that compliment, right?
You can turn that around by giving them sincere congratulations when something good happens for them. Maybe they will be able to see that you are genuine and that will help them alleviate those feelings of resentment and jealousy.
Don’t Wallow in Your Successes
This tip works especially well in the workplace, and even in friendship. While we love to share our good news and successes with others, doing so can spark jealousy in others. It is not necessary that you downplay your good fortune, but you don’t want to rise to their criticisms.
There’s no problem with being proud of your achievements. Stand on that strongly. But you want to be careful with the way that you celebrate so that you are not stepping on sensitive toes.
Be Quick to Flaunt their Successes
Even if someone has not made achievements of the same level, it is important to celebrate and congratulate their victories. Be empathetic. It is very easy to be conceived as arrogant if you are not gracious toward your counterparts. When someone is jealous of your achievements, they are likely to bring up their achievements during your celebration.
While this behavior can be frustrating, exhibiting your own negative behavior will only add fuel to the fire. Getting upset with them or making negative comments will make them feel as if their behavior is justified. Lead by example and offer sincere praise when they flaunt their success.
When someone is exhibiting jealous behavior, it can manifest through competitive words or actions. They want to be the one that’s receiving all the accolades all the time. They have the need to prove their superiority. They may try to seem that your success is just a fluke or luck instead of skill.
Counter this by simply not feeding into it. Let them know that you are not competing and refuse to be a part of that game. They will get the message and picking on you will no longer be fun for them.
How to Stop Exhibiting Jealous Behavior
If you are the one that is exhibiting signs of jealousy, it is you that must fix it. As you may already know, jealousy can destroy relationships and opportunities. You can also push some of the people closest to you away. Here are just a few ways you can stop this destructive behavior.
Be Honest about What Jealousy is Doing to You
Jealousy hurts. It hurts you and it hurts the people you are on the receiving end. You must acknowledge the behavior and know that it is destructive. You have to take full responsibility of your actions. You must know that you cannot control the behavior or actions of others, but you can certainly control the way you cope with stressors and triggers to your bad behavior.
Be Honest about Your Feelings
Bad behavior and destructive actions often take place after a long period of inner turmoil. You may have ignored your feelings for a long period of time. You may have been feeling doubtful. While you certainly didn’t like what may have been going on at the time, you have held on to those feelings until everything comes gushing out at once. This is especially true in relationship jealousy.
When you are feeling jealous, don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about it. The most important thing to remember about this is that delivery is everything. If you go to your partner in an accusatory or aggressive tone, they are not going to be very receptive to hearing what you have to say.
Don’t tell them what they’re doing wrong. Tell them how certain things they do makes you feel or how you perceive their actions and why.
Identify Your Triggers
In order to fix this behavior, you must identify what sets you off and what the root issue is. Jealousy is often just a side effect of something bigger. Past emotional trauma tends to follow us into adulthood. Something as simple as a boy you liked wanting to date your sister can cause feelings of insecurity and adequacy for years to come.
It can be difficult because identifying where these feelings come from often requires pulling back some hidden layers that you may be unwilling to deal with. You are going to deal with these issues if you want to get better and eventually improve the quality of your interpersonal relationships.
Keep Yourself Out of Questionable Situations
This is perhaps one of the most important tips for people who are in romantic relationships. If you are experiencing feelings of jealousy, you don’t want to stoke your own fires. Take the time to fix yourself before you try to address the faults of others.
For example, if you know that you are having jealous feelings because you feel like your partner is acting aloof and not spending time with you the way that you expect, the last thing you want to do is go through his phone. When you are already suspicious and are looking for wrongdoing, you’re going to find it.
Something as simple as an LOL at a joke that you didn’t find humorous is going to make you feel like they are spending time that should be dedicated to you. This is only going to cause further issues for the two of you. Not only are you jealous, but you are accusing your partner of something they may not even be doing. In short, if you are looking for trouble, you will find it.
As you can see, jealousy is ugly.
Signs of jealousy can show themselves in many ways and forms. There is almost no relationship that is safe from feelings of jealousy. While it is a very human response, the way that we express these feelings can be destructive.
Having someone that cares enough about you that they want you to be a part of their lives forever is great, and it feels nice. Don’t destroy that good feeling with bad behavior. If you find that you need help with these feelings, talk to a trusted friend or loved one.
Sometimes just bouncing those thoughts off someone else can help you see how you may be blowing things out of proportion. In some cases, you may need to seek out counseling to deal with some of those emotional traumas that you may have not dealt with as of yet.