Reader Q & A: Envy among friends

Published: November 18, 2008 | Last Updated: November 18, 2008 By | 11 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

Just want to say thank you for this blog. I just walked away from a very painful friendship that almost ripped off my self-esteem. It is true that I have not always been the most confident person, but I have never encountered anyone like this before. She is always judgmental, negatively critical, pessimistic, and uses emotional blackmail. When I read your 20 ways to spot a toxic friendship, I answered YES to 16 questions.

It took me a year to finally be decisive and realize that the friendship wasn’t worth saving. What pains me the most is the fact that she has always been envious of me even though she has the same things that I have. I never feel comfortable sharing my happiness or success with her. It really hurts because I see her as a sister and have always wished her well so it feels like a betrayal.

Now that I have walked away she accused me of abandoning her and took this opportunity to play the victim in front of others. She keeps saying I hate her and never want to see her again. People have no idea that I am just putting up my boundaries and protecting my mental well-being.

I have been patient, forgiving and understanding over the past three years. All she did was take me for granted. Although it is over, sometimes her negativity still bothers me and some of the hurtful remarks are hard to let go of. Nonetheless, at least now I am certain I no longer want her close to me. I am determined to move on and want nothing to do with her. The writings in your blog help me a lot, knowing that a lot of people have experienced the same thing. So once again, thank you and all the best for your forthcoming book.


P.S. I hope you will write more about envy among friends. I have experienced it a few times and surprisingly enough, people who are envious of me are almost always those I consider my best friends. I find this very difficult to understand. It is okay to feel jealous of someone – wishing you have what they have. I feel that way sometimes, too. But I am always happy for every success and happiness of my friends, and I never take pleasure in seeing them miserable. It is sad how some people can only sympathize with someone’s misery but not their happiness.


Dear Bruised:

Thanks for raising the topic of envy although I’m sorry that you feel bruised by an envious friend. It is always disappointing when a friend falls short of meeting our expectations.

Because we are all different, it’s a natural instinct for each of us to compare ourselves to others. We tend to gauge ourselves by how we stack up against our friends and acquaintances along a variety of dimensions-e.g. looks, intelligence, career success, wealth, material possessions, and social cache. Most times, we realize that while our friend may have X, we are lucky to have Y.

However, women with low self-esteem, or who are depressed, tend to focus exclusively on their shortcomings and are bitter about what they perceive as the advantages or good fortune of others. Taken to its extreme, such an individual can be very self-involved, hostile and cutting. It’s natural to feel envious occasionally but if this is a persistent pattern, it can be toxic to a friendship. (By the way, jealousy is an attitude of possessiveness when someone feels that a valued relationship is threatened; envy is a broader concept that can include coveting another person’s characteristics or possessions).

An excess of envy makes for an uncomfortable relationship because you can’t be open and share your successes. If you do, you run the risk of making your friend feel more badly about herself. After three years, it sounds like you have finally realized that your friend is consistently envious and resentful and you have become confident enough to let go of the friendship. It’s unfortunate, but predictable, that your friend felt more threatened and put down, becoming more openly hostile to you when you decided to distance yourself from her.

Stick with your decision because it isn’t very likely that your friend will change: She is who she is. On the other hand, make sure that you aren’t falling into the trap of choosing best friends who feel one-down to make you feel one-up. Solid friendships need to be reciprocal—with two friends looking up to one another.

My best,


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Comments (11)

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  1. Irene says:


    I posted a response to your comment here:

    My best,


  2. Julie says:

    Confused, I’m not Irene. When she comments, her comments are usually in a black lined box with a white background-not blue like us regular commenters. 🙂

    I don’t know your friend. It’s easy to give advice, but carrying it out can be hard. The simplest thing to do might be to back away from the friendship. She’s guilt-tripping you to the ends of the earth, and honestly, how do you feel after you see her? Are you relieved when you don’t see her or talk to her? Is the friendship more of a drag, and you’re only keeping it out of nostalgia or memories?

    I think you’re on your way to being much more honest *with yourself* about this friendship. If she gets defensive about honesty, no matter HOW you phrase it, or when you’re expressing YOUR feelings, it may be time to start cultivating other friendships and meet with her on neutral territory for shorter periods of time.

    Friendships often do have expiration dates, and when a friend starts disrepecting you or your other relationships, that’s often a signal that the end of the road with that friend is near, & you’re both heading in different directions, at least for a while.

  3. Confused says:

    Thanks alot Irene for your advice, the problem is if i tell this to her, then she would get defensive, is there a nice way or right words I can use to tell her not to control my relationship or myself? Actually I just realized you are absolutely correct, she is a control freak, in the sense that she forces me to go out sometimes when I dont really want to, and I still go ahead with her because I feel obliged to and that she will always say “if its your boyfreind asking you, you would do it or go with it, but when I ask, you dont want ” like this sort of thing… and then I end up doing it unwillingly just not to make her feel bad. Please advice.

  4. Julie says:

    Hey there, Confused.

    It sounds less like your friend is jealous (which she could be) or envious (which she could be!) but more that you no longer need her to lean on for your problems, the dynamic between you both has changed dramatically. IE, she’s a control freak.

    You now have a good relationship now, whereas before you were recovering from one that had just ended. You don’t say if that’s when your friendship started, but I’m going to assume it started around the time of your breakup.

    She’s no longer your go-to-gal for your problems. She’s not “in control” of your friendship. She’s taking it out on your boyfriend, who took all of your dependence on her away. Look at the threat you wrote down: “Don’t come crying to me when it doesn’t work out!” She threatening to not be there when she thinks you WILL need her again.

    So, Confused, you need to straighten your friend out, either nicely or not, and clearly state that you value her, but you can’t when she’s behaving like a control freak about your friendship. She can’t dictate how things are between you and your boyfriend. She’s doing that now.

  5. Julie says:

    I had to tone down a lifelong friendship (since birth, we’re family) because of my own envy. She was always “better” than me and competent; always made a point of being the winner, or the high scorer on tests; was able to keep jobs and was a mighty nonprofit worker; and generally seemed to have a better life than mine. Whether this was true or not is not the point.

    I was the one who had to let it go, because I didn’t like how being around her made ME feel. I don’t like feeling envious. I don’t like feeling jealous. We’re fine now as long as certain subjects don’t come up, and we’re not around each for very long.

    I’m surprised that the original letter writer didn’t BLOCK her cousin from her facebook; meaning, there’s a little X next to every person’s name. You hover the mouse over the X and it gives you the choice of blocking every thing that come out that person’s own facebook page, or not. So instead of deleting her, block her until you think she’s tolerable and you’re no longer close to her for her to hurt you with her passivity.

  6. Confused says:

    Hello Irene,
    Well I do have a disturbing scenario, I have a very best freind whom I really do consider as my older sister, she is like 5 years older than me. She is married and happy with her relationship life, has a good job, car, house and everything. I, on the other hand had gone through some painful break up and during 4 months after the break up, She had been of great support throughout this horrible time of my life, she supported me in every thing she could possibly do, even going the extra mile for me. However, the thing is, after the break up and like after 3-4 months, I found an amazing guy whom I have been dating for about 5 months now. My freind has been acting very weird now, infact when we first met him, she pointed he is the perfect guy for me, we became freinds for like 4 weeks and then started dating, and during the first few weeks she was all ok with it. Now after that, she started acting strange, she doesnt like me spending time with my boyfreind!! When I go and sleep over at my boy freinds place she starts fuming!! and she used to do the same thing before she got married, she lived in with her boyfreind for months before they got married so I dont see anything wrong with that. She stops talking to me when I go for a date with my guy, gets furious when I go sleep over at his place and tells me lame excuses like…. ooo, what if something happens when you are with him, like I faint or get an accident when with him or something……… like completely lame excuses!! My boyfreind also noticed this even before I told him, coz she started refusing to hang out with both of us as we would do previously. She tells me if am gonna be with her alone then we can hang out together but if he will be around she doesnt wana hang out with me!!! And like once she also told me that “just wait until he breaks your heart then dont come crying to me!” like she cant wait for us to fight and break up with my guy??? Well what do you call this? My guy has been so understanding in that he tries his best to please her for my sake, he tells me when we go out together lets invite her so that she wouldnt feel am leaving her behind… but its all not working!! She is moody all the time with me now because of this guy, when this guy has been patient enough to work things with us… He keeps telling me lets help her instead of confronting her .. How do I deal with her? Is she selfish? Coz she has it all, why cant I have a good relationship as well?? Am always praising her and wishing her well with a clean heart, but seems she doesnt like it when am happy in a relationship? Please help me here… am loosing it 🙁

  7. Anonymous says:

    My friends and I have been going through a really tough time, we’ve actually seen the school guidance councilor about it. We’re what you’d call the “popular group”. Over the summer me and my 3 friends decided we don’t like friend 5, I know that sounds bad, but shes what you’d call the leader, shes very controlling and we’d just had enough. I personally used to be best friends with her in Elementry, then in Junior she started hanging out with two of the friends. This summer me and my friend got close with her two friends, thats when we decided we’d had enough. We let her back in this September, but things haven’t been right since. I can tell she wants it to go back to her and the two friends, (nobody else seems to see that) but that means me and my other friend will be left out? Four of us work perfectly, I love them. But as soon as 5 comes in thinking shes the best, the stupidest fights over nothing break out, and sometimes some of us talk to 5 behind the others back. Shes just that girl, everyone’s jealous of her, you want her to like you, she makes you feel special (but also like shit). Our group of friends has too much jealousy in it. Me and 5 have an unspoken love hate relationship (based off envy). Its perfect with us four, I love them to death, I trust them. But as soon as 5 comes around, you don’t know who will talk behind whose back.
    I’m 13, I don’t know what to do.. if I had it my way it’d be us 4. After our guidance appointment, me and 5 were crying. He looked us all in the eyes and said “what you just explained to me there, is not friendship.”
    We’re the closest group of girls at our school, atleast thats what it looks like from the outside.

  8. anonymous says:

    I’ve got female friend, who always has to talk about her relationship. She says so much about how much he loves him, and just recently she’s told they’ve had sex. I, on the other hand, am male, and quite fat. I was always jealous; worrying that someone won;t have me. so, to combat this, i lost 3 stone. I’m halfway through finishing this excercise regime, but i fear that through this envy and anger, something bad will happen when i lose always all the weight. On one hand, every time she talks about how brilliant her relationship is, I tear up. Yet, she’s a good friend. What do I do?

  9. Irene says:


    Please see the response I posted to your query:

    Thanks for reading my blog!











  10. Anonymous says:


    I first want to say thanks to the blogs, I’ve found them really helpful. I was recently made redundant, had been working in a high powered job and decided to move to a different county to explore what it is i actually want to do, have been volunteering to discover, anyway my closest friend whom i’ve been friends with for over 10 years has hardly been contacting me, any time i’m back home i always make an effort but she hasn’t been asking me how i’m getting on just doesn’t seem interested and it really hurts because i’m on such a journey and want so much to share it with her but she’s always talking about herself and looks bored when i tell her about how i’m doing. I now think that maybe she was envious that i’m off doing something different because she hates her job so much and spends 4 hours a day travelling to and from. It’s really bothering me at the moment because i am always supportive of anything she does and i know if it was the other way around i’d be on the phone to her all the time wondering what she’s up to. I did confront her and asked her if i had done anything on her and she just disregarded it and started talking about work. any advice on how to handle it would be much appreciated

  11. Bruised says:

    Dear Irene,

    Thank you ever so much for taking the time to respond, give helpful advice and clarify the difference between jealous and envy. This experience, although painful, has opened my eyes and made me reconsider what I really look for in a friendship. I totally agree with you that “Solid friendships need to be reciprocal—with two friends looking up to one another.” and I appreciate your support of my decision. I am certain your advice will benefit many others who find themselves in the same situation.

    With my very best wishes,


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