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Divorce Recovery: Dealing with Jealousy

Compare and Despair: On Losing JealousyYou know that moment. Some of us know it all too well during and after divorce. The moment when one of your grown children, after spending the weekend with your ex, tells you about the “new friend” who is at your ex’s house. Or when you hear about the trip your ex is taking to Europe while you’re struggling to make ends meet.

Ah, jealousy.

The Green Eyed Monster that consumes us, when what we should really be doing is focusing on our own divorce recovery.  

You’re not alone when it comes to dealing with jealousy, especially after a divorce. And I have to share with you two very ugly truths about this emotion.

Jealousy is selfish.

Have you ever known someone in your life who was always “me me me” and never bothered to ask you about your day, or your hopes and dreams? Well, jealousy is like that person, because it’s a barrier that causes you to worry about something (your ex’s new life) that you have no control over.

And instead of focusing on yourself, jealously is there telling you, “Oh, look at their wonderful life! Oh, look at all the amazing things they’re doing!”

What benefit is there to focusing your energy on what the other person is doing? What benefit is there to thinking about how good your ex has it, when you feel like you were screwed over?

You already know the answer. Being jealous has no benefit. So why is it still something that we can’t seem to shake while trying to move on from divorce?

The truth hurts and you’re about to learn why.

Jealousy is also lazy.

You know what’s easier than working on yourself? Sitting there, stewing over about how much better your ex has it.

One of the many reasons that jealousy brings out the worst in us is because it diverts attention away from putting ourselves first. And instead of doing the hard work of focusing on how we can move on, jealousy leads us astray, by taking the easy road of being reactive about things beyond our control. And while you’re worrying about that, you waste precious time that could be spent focusing on the most important thing — YOU. It’s easier to say, “Oh, it should be ME taking that vacation instead of my ex”, rather than focusing on your own finances and schedule, so you can plan a vacation that fits your lifestyle and budget. It’s easier to say, “That jerk already has a new partner! It’s not fair!” than starting to take care of yourself, learning how to plan for your own future, and focusing on getting out of your rut and getting your life back on track.

See what I mean? Jealousy is sapping you of your energy to move on. It’s a lot easier to remain bitter over something you can’t control than it is to be responsible for your own happiness and moving ahead under your terms.

But I am jealous! So what am I supposed to do?!

I know, I know… you’re human and you may be hurting, especially if your marriage lasted decades. But there’s something you can do about it.

Exercise: Turn your jealousy into productivity.

The next time you’re feeling jealous about whatever your ex is doing, or anything going on in your life for that matter, do the following.

  • Pinpoint exactly what is making you jealous. These are your jealousy triggers.

“I heard from my son that his father is going to Europe in the fall with his new girlfriend, and I’m here having trouble paying rent. What the hell?”

  • Dig deeper. What is it exactly that you’re jealous of? List it, and be honest with yourself. Jealousy rarely has anything to do with the other person. It has everything to with what you’re doing and how you’re thinking about yourself. It is an emotion that has no power when you are being mindful and proactive with your own life.

“I am jealous because I am hurt. I feel hurt because we never did anything fun or adventurous or travel in our relationship and I feel left out. I am also jealous because, financially, I feel like I cannot treat myself.”

  • Ask yourself what you can do instead. How can you divert that energy you are spending being jealous into something actionable for you?

“My feelings are hurt and maybe I can’t fix that pain myself. The next time I am triggered, perhaps I can reach out to friends or family for support, or instead direct that energy into doing an activity that I like to do. As far as finances go… sure, I can’t go anywhere exotic right now. But I can start looking at my finances and budget, and maybe start planning a getaway or a nice trip for myself that is within my budget.”

How about you? Do you struggle with jealousy? And what actions can you take to overcome it?

Divorce Recovery: Dealing with Jealousy


Martha Bodyfelt

Martha Bodyfelt is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® whose website "Surviving Your Split," helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Warrior Survival Kit, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or drop Martha a line at [email protected]


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APA Reference
Bodyfelt, M. (2018). Divorce Recovery: Dealing with Jealousy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/divorce-recovery-dealing-with-jealousy/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 3 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.