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Seeing Green: All About Jealousy

We all feel jealous from time to time but admitting it is the first step to overcoming it.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

So your best friend wears a size 0 -- and complains that it's too big on her! Your next-door neighbor is driving a Mercedes and your car can barely make it to the end of the driveway. Your sister's headed for a week-long vacation in the Caribbean and you can't get farther than the state park. Jealous? Who wouldn't be?

Sure, there are times when everyone else seems to have more, do more, look better. But is that really the case?

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"Jealousy may reflect a person's view of him or herself," says Jo Anne White, PhD, professor of education at Temple University. "It's more about how people feel about themselves and whether they're confident about who they are."

For many, jealousy has to do with personal relationships. You might become jealous, for example, if you feel your partner is not paying enough attention to you. Jealousy might also be provoked if your partner or spouse consistently makes you feel uncomfortable through both their words and their actions. "In any relationship, trust and mutual respect are essential to keep the relationship flourishing and communication strong," White says.

"A person who has a poor self-image may feel threatened and believe that she has nothing to offer to keep someone else interested," White adds.

Flattery or Jealousy?

Jealousy might seem flattering at first, if your mate wants all your time and attention, but it can also be a sign of emotional instability, warns Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.

"That flattering interest in your attentions can turn into a chronic lack of trust and suspicion," says Tessina. "A husband who is jealous of your innocent friendships with other women, and who tries to control you and separate you from your friends, can become a big problem."

Most jealousy arises when someone feels insecure and threatened, Tessina adds -- either of losing the relationship, or that someone else will get the attention she is craving.

"When you handle jealousy properly though, it doesn't have to be a disaster," says Tessina, who offers these suggestions for coping with jealousy within relationships:

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