When you’re jealous of someone, you might be fearful of losing your position or status to them.
When you feel jealous of another person, what you might really be feeling is temporal anxiety or unease that the other person may have what could be yours.
With a co-worker, this could be concern over your position. With a significant other, it could be fear of losing your relationship.
Though you may think of jealousy as occurring exclusively in romantic relationships, you can be jealous in many relationships in your life, including those with co-workers, classmates, friends, and family.
Here’s what to look for and work through.
Signs of jealousy can be tricky to identify, particularly if you’re the one experiencing them. Here are some signs that you may be jealous of someone:
- You don’t celebrate their success. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling annoyed that your sister got praise for doing a chore properly, feeling like others are complimenting your significant other too much, or not sharing in a co-worker’s success, you may be jealous of them.
- You act passive-aggressively toward them. Passive-aggressive behavior is another anxiety- or fear-driven response. It occurs when you don’t want to directly act out to express a negative emotion. For example, you become sullen or sulk when you’re around your romantic partner’s friends but perk up once they leave.
- You start to avoid them. If you’re actively avoiding someone, it could be a sign that you’re jealous of them. You may find yourself skipping meetings with co-workers or a get-together with friends to avoid interacting with the person.
- You become overly critical of them. When you’re jealous of someone, you may find yourself being very critical of them. This can go along with not celebrating their success.
How is envy different?
The terms “envy” and “jealousy” are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between them. Even some researchers have blended the meaning of the two words, which only adds to the confusion.
Some researchers explain jealousy as a belief that you may lose a relationship with an important person in your life to a rival, who may be real or imagined. They say that jealousy can affect your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
By comparison, a 2020 study defines envy as “status-related painful emotion.” When you feel envy, you want what someone else has, whether it’s a promotion or a loving relationship.
While your responses to your own feelings of jealousy can vary, the following are some examples of how jealousy could look in real-world situations.
As an adult, you may find yourself avoiding family functions when your sibling will be there because you may fear they will receive all the praise from your parents.
In this case, talking about your fears with your family members or talking with a therapist or counselor may be helpful.
If you’re a parent, you may notice that your children are acting out more. You might also notice that your kid is throwing more tantrums, becoming more clingy, or experiencing more mood shifts. These are all signs that your child may be jealous of their siblings.
You may want to consider setting aside dedicated time to spend with each child. This can help show each child that they are loved and are not in competition for your attention.
If you’re a veteran in your office, you may find yourself becoming jealous of a new co-worker. You may feel like they are coming for your job or like you will be replaced. This could lead you to withdraw from helping them, to find ways to put them down, or not to acknowledge their successes.
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent yourself from becoming too jealous of a co-worker:
- Focus on yourself and your own achievements, as well as areas in which you can improve, if needed.
- Find the cause of your jealousy and use the knowledge to help avoid negative thoughts.
- Practice self-affirmation, such as pointing out to yourself what you’re good at.
Jealousy in friendships can look a lot like it does in romantic relationships. You may feel possessive of your friend. You may want to spend time only with them and prevent them from spending time with others.
Though it’s important to make sure you don’t become possessive, a little friendship jealousy may be helpful for your relationship.
According to a 2021 study, jealousy may actually help you maintain a friendship and be prosocial. If you or your friend fears that jealousy is causing a problem, you can take steps such as identifying triggers and talking openly with each other about your feelings.
With romantic partners
Jealousy with a romantic partner can be a problematic situation. You may find that you can’t trust them, or you might become possessive of them in an attempt to not lose them to others.
If you do find yourself getting emotional about, ruminating on, or acting on the idea of hypothetically losing your romantic partner to someone else, you can try taking these steps:
- Identify triggers of your jealousy and think about whether you have any actual evidence that your partner has done anything wrong or cheated on you.
- Have an open and honest conversation about your fears and desires with your partner. Avoid making accusations or confrontations about their actions.
- Let go of past arguments or wrongdoings and live each day as though it’s a fresh start with them.
- Try to stop your imagination from getting away from you.
- Get involved in groups and activities that help promote relaxation.
Jealousy happens when you fear you’re going to lose your status with another person. It is similar to, but not the same as, envy, which occurs when you want what another person has.
You can be jealous of many types of people in your life, including friends, co-workers, family, and lovers. Your jealousy can show up as various behaviors, such as withdrawing from situations or bad-mouthing others.
If you recognize jealousy in yourself, you can take steps to prevent it from taking over your relationships. Practicing positive self-talk, looking at situations objectively, and trying to identify your triggers can all help.