Can a friend who is ‘green with envy’ really be a friend?

Published: February 28, 2010 | Last Updated: February 28, 2010 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

 

Dear Irene:

I am in my mid-thirties and have always made and had easy friendships. People really like me and I like them and being liked. All would be well except that I harbor a very strong and miserable envious streak. I cannot bear to see my friends be happy in their romantic relationships. This is the case no matter what my own romantic situation is at the time. It is no less painful for me to see them in love when I’m in a happy and loving relationship than it is when I am completely alone.

 

The very fact that they have "someone" eats me up inside. I find reasons to fight with my friends or be overly critical. I give them advice designed specifically to screw up their relationships. But, because I have such a strong history of being a "good" friend, no one would ever suspect my real motives.

 

I hate this about myself. I am a spiritual, introspective person. But when this envy problem flares up, I feel like a very mean child. Any insight or suggestions would be very welcome. Please know I am sincerely troubled by this condition. I love my friends and hate being this miserable person who wishes the worst for them.

Signed,
Donna

 

ANSWER

 

Dear Donna:

It’s natural for even a very good friend to feel envious once in a while when a friend has something she doesn’t. For example, a woman might wish she had one friend’s good figure or another’s quick sense of humor. But these are usually passing feelings that recede in the background because there is an overall sense of balance in the relationship. A friend may have some qualities or characteristics you admire and wish you had, and vice versa.

 

Because, the envy you describe seems to rear its head repeatedly and isn’t specific to any one friend or situation, you need to consider the possibility that it stems from your own feelings of possessiveness and insecurity. Why else would you be wishing ill will for people you consider friends?

 

I must say that your problem is somewhat unusual because  it’s obvious from your note that you are very uncomfortable, and even feel self-loathing, about feeling the way you do. Someone can’t feel good about wishing the worst for her friends. Also, you have to feel ashamed, especially, about acting on your feelings by fighting, being critical, and purposely giving friends bad advice.

 

What doesn’t make sense to me is how your friends can overlook this rather fatal flaw in your ability to be a good friend. I believe that it is more transparent than you realize and that it lessens the intimacy of your relationships. Close friendships are built on trust, honesty and respect.

 

If you want to salvage your existing friendships or develop new ones that are mutually satisfying, you need to change your behavior. The fact that you have some insight and are able to admit your peccadilloes to yourself and to me suggests there is hope for you to do so.

 

You might benefit from speaking to someone you trust—-perhaps a counselor or mental health professional—-to explore what’s going on and find out what’s making someone who isn’t ordinarily a bad person act in ways that are destructive to her and to others.

 

I hope this is helpful.

Best,
Irene

 

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Comments (3)

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  1. waeza says:

    To Donna and Irene:

    Donna: I think its admirable the way you were so honest about your feelings of jealousy. Many people cannot be honest with themselves the way you were. While I don’t think it is conducive to your happiness to act out on these feelings —not just for the sake of your friends, but also for your own well being—I can understand how you may be spiteful and follow in action accordingly. I think the reason that people act out in these ways and harbour these feelings in the first place is partially personality inclinations but also a lack of self love. I like belle’s suggestion to try to understand why you may be jealous. I would go further and suggest that sometimes it is not just you either, it could also be that your friends lack a certain amount of sensitivity to your needs. As an example, perhaps some of your friends are tactless and do not possess the sensitivity to be humble in a relationship. I would not blame them, but understand that it may not be solely a problem in you. This is where I did not like Irene’s statement that you should feel ‘ashamed.’ There is nothing to feel ashamed about. We all have our dark sides and you’re already ahead of the game because you are introspective.

    Irene: I really like your website. I find it to be very insightful and interesting, so thank you for this. However, in this particular case I did not appreciate your response to Donna’s dilemma. As i mentioned before, shaming someone for having feelings and acting out on them I do not think is productive. It shows a lack of empathy and if indeed Donna is lacking in self love or is insecure as you suggest, I do not see how that kind of answer which shames her is helpful in any way. She is not a flawed person and there is plenty of hope for her to change for the better.

    Sincerely,

    Waeza

  2. belle says:

    Dear Donna,

    I love your honesty. Women never admit their jealousy but you threw it out there. Is it good to have these character traits? Of course not but I challenge you to find the friend who hasn’t felt this way at one time or another. And listen, I feel this way too at times and do my best to disguise it but it rears its ugly head. It is insecurity on my part; I think my friend won’t seek my friendship or time as much if she is in a fabulous relationship. I will be less important to her. And it makes the friendship unbalanced because surely she must be superior to me because this fabulous man loves her. Of course, that my fab man loves me means nothing. He’ll see through me any day now or he must not be that great to love me.
    You’ve been honest thus far – try and explain what you are jealous of. Many women can learn from this when the truth is revealed and perhaps we can all become friends to one another.
    Go ahead, keep telling the truth.

    Belle

    • Kiki says:

      I have plenty of friends who let jealousy eat away at them, most are aware of their behavior. They try really hard to feel differently, but it still consumes them. From what I have learned from my friends, they just have a lot of longing for things to be different or better. Nothing wrong with that unless you take it out on others. I have one friend who drops friends who have more success than she does. I think the only reason we are still kind of friends is we are related via a family marriage.

      This may sound odd, but I never feel jealous or envious of my friends or colleagues. It just never made sense to me to feel that way, as it serves no one. I am genuinely happy for them if they achieve whatever it is they seek. I must say I don’t see life as a competition either. My life is like a game of golf – I only compete with myself as I am the one who can improve MY game, which cannot be compared to or defined by someone else’s life.

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