Jealousy is a very basic human instinct. Thus, at some point in life, everyone has felt jealous or has been the subject of another person's jealousy. It's a complex emotion, but its ramifications are concrete: for the jealous person, jealousy creates health problems similar to anxiety. For the person on whom the jealousy is focused, it can impact both platonic and romantic relationships, sometimes to the point where those relationships end. Depending on whether you're the giver or receiver of jealousy, several strategies can help you manage this emotion and stop it from affecting your life.
Receiver: Banish Behavior Rewards
If you're receiving jealousy from a friend or romantic partner, it may feel like the best route is to continually answer the person's jealousy and assuage his or her concerns. For example, if a jealous partner calls you every five minutes when you're out with your friends at the bar, you may want to answer each phone call to reassure your partner that everything is fine. However, all this does is reward the jealous behavior and perpetuate it, warns celebrity therapist Dr. Phil McGraw. Instead, answer the phone once, calm your partner's concerns or fears, then turn off your phone so you are no longer providing reinforcement for your partner's jealous behavior.
Receiver: Avoid Trigger Situations to Stop Firing the Jealousy Gun
An individual's jealousy is often triggered by similar situations or behaviors. For example, your friend may feel jealous and act out on it every time you "check in" at a restaurant or bar on social media without inviting her. With self-awareness, identify what situations trigger someone to feel jealous toward you and try to limit their exposure to those trigger points. This doesn't necessarily require lifestyle modification on your part, but simply communication modification between you and the person who feels jealous, such as changing your privacy settings specifically for her profile.
Receiver: Do a Background Check
In most cases, jealousy stems from a background story or event that hurt the person who feels jealous. Thus, the person isn't truly mad at you, but simply mad at the fear, doubt or paranoia that your actions or words inadvertently provoked. For example, if a partner feels jealous every time you text someone on your smart phone, perhaps it is because he or she was cheated on by a past partner via text messages. Try to gather as much background information as possible on why your friend or partner feels jealous, then communicate with him or her in a way that deals with this underlying fear and not the surface situations that sparked the jealousy. This helps deal with the problem at its root.
Giver: Know the Full Story
Life isn't a fairytale or storybook. What you're seeing in a partner or friend is often not the full deal. To cope with jealous feelings, try to gather as much information about the situation as possible. For example, maybe you feel jealous about your friend's glamorous life. Yet, further digging reveals that he or she is in debt or struggling with family problems. Knowing the full story can help shatter any fairytale-like stereotype that you may have created in your head and help you feel better about your own imperfect, messy life.
Giver: Open Your Mind to Close Off Jealousy
In many situations, the person you're jealous or angry toward has a different viewpoint of the situation that sparked your jealousy. Understanding that perhaps your friend or romantic partner did not set out to do something to purposefully hurt you can help you release your anger and frustration. For example, if your spouse was chatting with someone at a party and you felt slighted, perhaps your spouse did not mean it that way, but was simply being friendly. Instead of listening to your inner voice that casts a certain situation or certain words in a negative light, try to see if there's another angle for you to explore.
Giver: Hand Over the Keys to the Car
For some people, jealousy is about control and power. Ask yourself where your jealous feelings are coming from. Perhaps it's not because of your friend or partner's actions, but because you wanted to control those actions. If control issues are at the core of your frustrations, simply recognizing this can help you move toward a healthier place of respecting your friend or partner. "You have more power in your love, respect, personality and magnetism than you do in control," says Dr. Phil. "You can't make [your partner] come home, but you can make him want to come home."
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