Getting Over Jealousy
By Keith Ablow, M.D.
Jealousy is normal, it's human - and it's wrecking your relationships.
Here's what to do.
Maria came to see me because she was having second thoughts about the
clothing boutique she'd opened with Kendra, a close friend of many years.
"It just isn't fun for me anymore," she said. "Before, it was
all about the two of us going out on a limb together and being creative. Now,
the place is up and running, and everything's changed. It's all about managing
stock and shipping and employees."
"Do you think Kendra feels the same way?" I asked.
"She's more ambitious than I am," Maria said. "She spends a lot
of time thinking about the 'next level' and how to manage people. That just
"How many employees do you have at the boutique?" I asked.
"Actually, we just hired our first full-time person three months
ago," she said. "Nancy, an old friend of Kendra's from high
Managing one employee didn't seem as if it should take much time. "What
do you think of her?" I asked.
"She's fine. And Kendra wants to grow things faster." She paused.
"I mean, in the last three months, they must have had 20 lunch meetings.
Personally? I think we were doing fine on our own."
It didn't take long to zero in on the real reason Maria was dissatisfied
with her work. The presence of a third person at the boutique meant Kendra's
focus and attention had partly shifted away from Maria. And Maria felt
"Do you ever feel like Kendra is choosing Nancy over you?" I
Maria looked at me as though I were accusing her of something terrible. But
her disbelief and outrage slowly faded. She shrugged. "Maybe, sometimes. I
"That could be a big part of the reason work doesn't feel fun anymore.
It isn't fun to feel jealous."
Maria took a deep breath and let it out. "Wow. I'm actually jealous of
someone having lunch with my friend. I guess that means I'm a pretty pathetic
"No," I said. "But it might be worthwhile to think about a way
to remind Kendra of how much you value your friendship — instead of running
All of us compete, at times, for success and attention and affection. It
seems to be part of our psychological DNA to judge ourselves not only on
whether we're well loved but whether we're outshined or outdone by those around
us. When we feel as if we haven't been "chosen," it's very painful —
and entirely forgivable — to suffer deep pangs of jealousy. When friends and
family members appear to be doing much better than we are, it's completely
normal to get a sharp twinge of envy. The trouble is that envy and jealousy
don't feel normal, or forgivable.