Jealousy isn’t necessarily an unhealthy emotion, but there are ways to handle your jealousy more constructively.
If you tend to get jealous in romantic relationships, you’re not alone. Jealousy is a very natural emotion that many people experience at some point.
Jealous tendencies can pop up in other situations, too. For example, a 2019 study found that women are more prone than men to get jealous over their employers’ physical attractiveness.
Men, on the other hand, are more prone to feel jealous over their employers’ physical dominance. Both men and women experience jealousy when their employers appear more socially successful.
Research suggests that jealousy is not inherently a bad thing. A 2021 study found, for instance, that friendship jealousy (when a person is threatened by their friend’s new romantic relationship or friend) can help to protect and maintain friendships.
Wherever your jealousy stems from or whom you feel it toward, healing is possible. How do you control jealousy? There are several ways, and some are listed below.
Whether you have jealous tendencies in romantic relationships, friendships, or other situations, here are some tips on how to handle your jealousy in a healthy way.
“Be real with ourselves about what our insecurities are, where they come from, what we do to keep them alive, and what we could potentially start doing to transform them into secure bases of existence,” recommends clinical psychologist Dr. Dena DiNardo, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Consider speaking with your partner about your experience. Opening up about your feelings of jealousy can give them the opportunity to understand where you’re coming from and adjust their behaviors to help you feel more secure within your relationship.
To realize that you’re not alone, DiNardo recommends asking other people about what jealousy is like for them and how they cope with it. “This offsets the shame associated with feeling like ‘there’s something wrong with us for feeling this way,’” she says.
Jealousy has a bad reputation, but it’s not always a negative feeling. DiNardo says to try to stop judging jealousy as a “bad” or “wrong” way to feel because it’s neither.
Jealousy sends us a message about the unhealed parts of ourselves, she adds. “The defensive behaviors we exhibit to protect us from feeling jealous are usually what feel bad or wrong. But the feeling itself is actually a useful tool for us to get to know ourselves better.
“Allow yourself the space to be a human, which often means feeling things we don’t want to feel and having thoughts we don’t want to have,” she says. “While it’s a universal experience, the context and nuance is unique for each of us. Get to know your jealousy roots and stories. Try to do it with compassionate curiosity instead of judgment.”
You might find some of these practices helpful whenever you start to feel jealous:
- emotional freedom techniques (EFT), or tapping
- repeating positive affirmations
- exposure therapy (e.g., entering settings that provoke jealousy to promote desensitization versus trying to control or avoid situations)
- grounding exercises
- trust building exercises
A therapist who specializes in relationship issues can offer more personalized tools for you to use as well.
Jealousy almost always has a deeper-rooted emotion behind it. “It can be a manifestation of fear: that we’re not enough, attractive, or interesting, that we won’t be chosen, that other people or things are more important to someone than we are,” says DiNardo.
She lists some other potential sources of jealousy:
- a partner’s ongoing relationships with their exes
- not trusting that your partner is committed to your relationship
- wishing you had what someone else has (e.g., career, friends, relationships)
- a learned emotional pattern from observing or being raised in an environment heavy with jealousy
- conscious or unconscious attachments to competition
- a projection of how we genuinely feel or think about ourselves
- a lack of security in the relationship we have with ourselves
- losing one or both parents (from divorce, death, or physical, psychological, or emotional abandonment)
While jealousy is often something internal that we need to work on, that’s not always the case. “Sometimes people want us to be jealous of them or something they have or do because it gives them a false sense of elevation about their own lives. This is something others may or may not be conscious of,” DiNardo adds.
Either way, learning more about yourself can help you better understand where your feelings of jealousy come from and how, based on your personal needs, you can cope with them.
To start, consider these resources:
If you’re wondering how to minimize feelings of jealousy in a relationship, friendship, or a colleague, there are many ways to find relief and overcome it, such as:
- identify your insecurities
- talk with your partner about your feelings
- ask others how they experience and cope with jealousy
- let go of judgement
- practice grounding, tapping, and other self-led exercises
- learn more about jealousy, its triggers, and how to heal
If your jealous tendencies adversely impact your relationships, career, or life, consider speaking with a therapist. Learning how to manage jealousy in a healthy way may take time and effort, but it’s possible and it’s never too late.