Because no two people are alike—in terms of their looks, intellect, achievements or style—it’s normal for people to compare themselves to each other.
In fact, from the time we are very young, our family and friends serve as “virtual mirrors” that help shape us as individuals. In essence, we come to define ourselves by looking at the people around us, and the way they behave and react.
As adults, even though we tend to choose friends with whom we share some common ground, there also are bound to be differences. One friend may be more attractive, more outgoing or more happily married. The other may have achieved more success at her career or have more friends. Everyone feels pangs of jealousy and envies a friend from time to time, but things usually balance out because we recognize that although a friend has more of one thing, we have more of another.
But sometimes, whether it’s real or imagined, a good friend may feel as if she can never measure up to you. Envy and jealousy are so intense that they seep out in insidious ways that are hurtful and destructive to the relationship.
What can you do to handle a jealous friend? Here are some tips:
1. Recognize The Signs Of Jealousy
When a friend is jealous, your relationship may feel tense most of the time. For example, your friend may be uber-competitive, always trying to outdo you whether it comes to weight loss or material things. After you’ve just purchased a new car that you’ve fallen in love with, she goes out and buys the next model up even though she can’t really afford it.
She may have a habit of making passive aggressive, undercutting remarks—to or about you—that are hurtful. When you tell her that you finally received a hard-earned promotion or raise at work, rather than congratulating you, she tells you that she could never stand doing the type of work you do. You have the sense that she is constantly belittling you.
2. Talk About It
If your relationship has started to feel bumpy and you have the sense that your friend is excessively jealous, you need to say something. Of course, this isn’t an easy type of talk to have and you don’t want it to backfire. At a time when you’re both feeling relaxed, point out a specific instance when she said or did something that felt particularly hurtful. For example, you might say, “when you made fun of the way I looked in the new dress I bought for my sister’s wedding, I felt awful.” Give her a chance to respond. She may not even realize that she said something to make you feel badly. Having this discussion may make her more sensitive and aware of your feelings so it doesn’t happen again. Moreover, you’ll feel less resentful because you spoke about it.
3. Offer Reassurance
In most cases, jealousy stems from someone feeling insecure in the relationship. Every time your friend is with you, she may be reminded of her own deficits. If your friend is unable to acknowledge her feelings of jealousy, reassure her of your friendship and admiration. Remind her of her strengths. Tell her you aren’t in competition with each other. Be a good friend and mentor, and try to encourage her.
4. Be Cautious Not To Brag
If you know your friend’s insecurities, don’t show-off or brag, which is likely to only intensify her jealousy. For example, if your friend isn’t confident about her accomplishments in the workplace, don’t remind her of your stellar performance evaluations. If your friend’s boyfriend is inattentive, don’t tell her each time your boyfriend sends you flowers. Try not to engage in arenas where you know she can’t compete.
5. If A Relationship Is Very Toxic, You May Have To Opt Out
Unfortunately, not all friendships (even very good ones) last forever. Perhaps you and your friend were once great pals and your admiration for each other was reciprocal. However as time passed, your lives took different trajectories and the differences between you became so great that they can’t be reconciled.
Your friend is constantly comparing herself to you and her excessive envy has made it impossible for you to be yourself and share your successes. Sadly, if the friendship becomes too much of a drain, you may have no alternative but to back off a bit and minimize the amount of time you spend together.