5 Ways to Cope When Jealousy Rears Its Head



I have this memory from back when I was in grad school.  I was working 3 different jobs, keeping up with classes, in my own therapy, and probably stuck in a bit of a depression as the stress piled on and on (and on).


I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough and would get caught up in the compare and despair cycle I wrote about last week.


On top of that, I was holding really high expectations for myself to keep the house immaculate because “I wasn’t contributing enough.” (My words.  My partner definitely tried to reassure me that I was actually doing too much).


Anyhoo, I was home on a rare day off and putting off writing a paper.  So I did what anyone would do…decided to do a deep scrub of our hardwood floors including moving all our furniture and rugs to different locations in the house as I literally Cinderall-ed on my hands and knees.


I was listening to podcasts while participating in this totally normal behavior and landed on an episode of The Moth where someone told a beautiful story about learning to accept themselves when they felt jealousy.  


My first reaction: “WHAT?! No! Jealousy is bad! Do not be jealous!”


My mind raced to all the times in my life jealousy got me or a loved one in a hard spot: jealous of an ex-partner’s new relationship and lashing out in an embarrassing way, my little sister’s jealousy when I had a slumber party with a friend and we didn’t want her to sleep in the room with us, jealous of how well a friend was doing at something and bad-mouthing her behind her back.  *SHAME* 


It just seemed like jealousy got us into trouble and it’d probably be best if we just you know, made ourselves never be jealous.


Ummmm…but the thing about emotions is that if you try too hard to control them, they often end up controlling you.


While listening to this podcast where someone opened up with understanding that jealousy is just a completely normal emotion, I found so much compassion for myself.  


Right now as I type, I so vividly remember moving from shame, tension and judgment of myself to…feeling relaxed in my body and mind as I just felt so good and normal.  Oh, what a good feeling.


When jealousy rears its head in your life I’d like you to be able to move to that place of love and acceptance as well.  So, here’s how:


1. First you gotta notice that jealousy is what you are feeling.  Because jealousy is seen as a “negative emotion” we often aren’t encouraged to recognize this feeling and instead we’re socialized to pretend we aren’t even feeling it or that having the feeling is bad.  Great, huh?  NOPE.  Gotta get familiar with the feeling in order to have more peace around it.  You might be feeling jealous if you are: beating yourself up for not being good enough, criticizing someone or trying to diminish their traits or accomplishments, angry at or hurt by a partner who seems to be prioritizing someone or something over you.  This list isn’t complete and if you are doing these things, you might not be jealous. Check in with yourself so that you know your own signs.


2. Next, work on your self-talk.  Number one thing to remember: Jealousy is a normal emotion.  Everyone experiences it.  The only way we wouldn’t experience it is if we did not form attachments to people, things, experiences, or our own identity.  Forming attachments is normal and healthy—and you can’t not do it (attaching to others is literally the most important survival need we have as humans).  I like to remind myself “Feeling this feeling is normal.  It’s just jealousy.  It means that the person or thing that is triggering this feeling is important to you.  Isn’t it nice to have this person/thing in your life?  They/it are so special which is why you are feeling this way—because your mind thinks your connection to them/it is threatened.  When we’re threatened we feel angry, sad, scared, and all kinds of ways that feel uncomfortable in our bodies—let’s try to take away the threat together.”  Cheesey, I know, but it’s all true, y’all.

3. Remove the threat.
Sounds a little intense, but seriously that is what our body and mind wants us to do.  This may include talking with the person who triggered the jealousy (be thoughtful with your words and practice doing so in a non-attacking manner for best results) and seek some reassurance (“Hey partner, when you told your friends you were feeling really stressed about work, but didn’t open up to me about it, I felt jealous because I want you to trust me, too. Can we talk about it?).  It may also include checking in with yourself to see whether or not the threat is actually a threat (seeing your friend excel at something you want to excel in doesn’t actually mean you can’t excel at it, too). 


4. Accept what you can’t control.  Sometimes we’re just going to be jealous.  My friends without kids get plenty of alone time with their partners.  I am extremely jealous of this.  It is what it is.  It’s okay I feel jealousy.  I know their lives aren’t perfect and that I get a lot of joy in having a kiddo.  I’m just jealous, y’all.  No need to talk shit on them, wallow in despair, or say passive aggressive things to them.


5. Practice showing others compassion in the face of their own or other’s jealousy.  This means…when your partner is jealous you are still friends with your ex?  Yep, show them some compassion and understanding.  Listen to them, normalize their feelings, try not to be defensive.  Know that they feel this way because you are special to them.  Talk about how you each feel and how you can work together to give them reassurance.  No, it doesn’t mean doing things you don’t want to do—but it’s important to sit with compassion for others when they are being hurt by jealousy.  


Want to talk about this more?  Bring it up with your therapist or schedule an appointment with one of our at Love Heal Grow.  


Hi! I'm Megan Negendank, founder and executive director of Love Heal Grow Counseling.

I help hurting, worried couples & individuals heal from pain and create thriving lives & relationships. 

You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Megan

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