There are girlfriends who are only in a good mood until they realize that the other one is on a real lucky streak: has met a really great guy, got a really cool job or has trained for a dream body. Some women can’t stand it when their girlfriend somehow performs better; they react enviously, cynically or suddenly turn away.
What is behind all this and can you be friends with someone like that at all? We spoke to Nadine Laban. The alternative practitioner for psychotherapy with her own practice in Potsdam (praxis-laban.de) told us how to deal with envious and maybe even envious friends.
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Envy – probably the most unattractive of the seven deadly sins
When it comes to envy, we usually flinch first. “Envious”? Me? Never! The others maybe, but not me!” we like to say. While we admit other weaknesses and vices without problems, we keep our distance when it comes to envy. And it is not for nothing that envy is said to be the only one among the seven deadly sins that is no fun at all. But where does our aversion to envy come from?
“Jealous? Nonsense, not me!” © Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com
“Envy is as old as mankind,” says Nadine Laban, “but very few people openly admit their envy. This is because envy has a bad reputation in our society. Envy makes you lonely”. Those who are obviously envious present themselves as weak, mean and somehow pathetic – all attributes with which one does not want to be associated. Especially not within a friendship in which envy is a “deeply unsettling component”, the expert says.
Resentment may be more base than envy, but it usually passes quickly. “Envy, on the other hand, has much more depth and goes hand in hand with grief and anger,” says Nadine Laban. This even goes so far that envy can sometimes cause physical reactions in those affected, such as sleep or heart rhythm disturbances and even depression.
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Using envy as an opportunity and incentive
But envy is first of all a quite human and therefore also normal feeling, which probably creeps up on everyone sometimes more, sometimes less. “Basically, envy can also have a positive and constructive component,” says Nadine Laban. For example, when it is used as a drive to pursue a goal just as ambitiously as the one we envy.
“Those who are envious should reflect on themselves and ask themselves what exactly it is that triggers one another so much,” says the alternative practitioner. Because if you know what it actually is, what you would also like to have, you can also start working towards exactly this goal.
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Why are we jealous?
But why are some people much more envious than others? “Our socialisation plays a big role here,” says Nadine Laban. In other words, people who, even as a child, had the permanent feeling of being disadvantaged – for example, because their sister’s good grades were constantly held against them or because the teachers somehow didn’t like them – are usually more envious as adults than those who felt they were being treated fairly.
Can envy be treated?
“People who are satisfied with their own lives are less likely to feel envy,” says the expert. This is also the approach she takes in her practice when people turn to her with envy problems.
“In therapy, the patient goes into self-reflection to find out what deficits are wearing him down in his own life and to understand that it is not the envious people who are the problem, but his own way of thinking,” says Nadine Laban, who likes to make it clear to those affected that someone else’s success is not synonymous with their own failure.
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How do you deal with jealous girlfriends?
But what can we do if we have the feeling that our own girlfriend is somehow not really happy about our success and reacts reservedly? In which points should we show understanding and when does envy become a real danger for the friendship? We have picked out three typical situations …
1. jealous of the popularity of the girlfriend
Admittedly, it sounds a bit childish and like when I was a teenager, when there was hardly anything more important than sounding out one’s own popularity in the class or the clique. The fact is that even at the age of 20 or 30, some people still don’t leave the topic completely cold.
Those who are stable in life, who are appreciated and liked among friends and colleagues and who are able to make contacts quickly because they are simply friendly and open, can sometimes hardly imagine how much someone else has to struggle with exactly this.
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If you notice that your girlfriend looks at your popularity with suspicion, then there is one thing you should not do: let her bad mood infect you or even put on a stuffy face so that you are not addressed and your girlfriend is better off. “You better help her by talking to her,” advises psychologist Nadine Laban. If the jealous girlfriend can admit to herself that she would like to be as popular and cheerful as you are, you can help her get out of the vicious circle.
“As you call into the forest, so it is known that it echoes out. That’s why you should help your girlfriend to adopt a positive attitude, so that she too will be more popular with others in the future,” says the expert.
If you notice that your girlfriend is jealous, try to react empathetically. © Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com
2. envious of the new partner of the girlfriend
The classic! As long as you are single and can go out with your girlfriend every weekend, everything is fine. But don’t let a man come between you and your bosom friend – some women see red here.
“Of course, it is normal that as a newly-loved, you first retire to enjoy the time with your new crush. Girlfriends should also be sympathetic to this and not immediately feel set back,” says Nadine Laban. However, she also knows that there are some women who lose themselves so much in the new relationship that the circle of friends is actually like being cut off. Here it is important to take exclusive time for the girlfriend and to cultivate the friendship.
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But if you have the feeling that your girlfriend doesn’t want you to be happy in love, either because she’s bored or because she wants a man herself – watch out! A really good girlfriend should be happy for you and not make the new love away from you. An open conversation should be the first choice here.
“It is better not to open the conversation with the words ‘Can it be that you are jealous of me?'” says Nadine Laban, “Rather ask trustingly what is going on and together we will find out how we can get closer again”.
Also important: Those who have a new crush prefer to talk about their new partner around the clock. This can be quite a strain on your girlfriend’s nerves – especially if her love life is not very good at the moment. “It’s better to ask carefully whether it’s really okay for your girlfriend to tell you about your happiness,” advises Nadine Laban, “A ‘I know it’s a difficult topic for you right now. So please tell me if it gets too much for you’, is a good start”.
3. jealous of the girlfriend’s great job
You and your girlfriend don’t have to be direct colleagues for envy of each other’s job, salary or promotion. However, Nadine Laban knows that the more similar you and your girlfriend are, the more likely it is that you will envy each other. “The more similar you are to each other and the more similarities you share with your girlfriend, the higher the degree to which we compare ourselves with each other,” says the expert.
What is often overlooked when others look enviously at the chic company car or the fat paycheck is the work behind it. “If you notice that your girlfriend is struggling with your professional success, perhaps even letting you know that she considers it unjustified, you should point out what sacrifices and how much work is behind it,” advises Nadine Laban. What many people like to forget: Success usually doesn’t just fall into your lap, or in other words “Pity is free, envy has to be earned”.
When is it time to end the friendship
Envy always arises when a person feels disadvantaged or unjustly treated. But you should never forget this: It is not the envied person’s fault, but envy is merely a sign that something in the life of the other person is not going well. So please don’t start belittling yourself or your successes, or just quietly rejoicing in your own happiness just to make your girlfriend feel better. Better: seek open and honest conversation.
After all, a real friendship can’t knock anything down that quickly.