How to Overcome Jealousy in a Friendship

“Is it normal to feel jealous of my friend’s relationships with other people? My best friend has another best friend who she has been spending more time with, and I am worried she likes her more than me. Should I talk about this with her, or do I just need to get over it on my own?”

Jealousy is a normal emotion you experience when there is someone (or something) that feels like it could come between you and someone you care about. Feeling insecure or threatened can lead to feelings of jealousy, even among friends.[1][2] Because jealousy is an intense emotion, it can be hard to overcome, and it can also lead people to say or do things that damage their friendships.

In this article, you will learn more about jealousy in friendships, when and why it shows up, and how to overcome it.

10 ways to overcome jealousy in a friendship

Experiencing jealousy in a friendship is normal, especially in close friendships that are really important to you. What you do when jealous thoughts and feelings come up can determine how intense your jealousy is, how long it lasts, and the damage it does to your friendship. Below are 10 tips on how to cope with jealousy and keep it from coming between you and your friend.

1. Accept your jealous thoughts and feelings

Putting a lot of effort into trying to stop, change, or suppress a negative thought or feeling usually doesn’t work. These efforts can leave you feeling frustrated, exhausted, and sometimes even more emotional. Judging yourself for being jealous can also make things worse by adding shame, guilt, and anger into the mix.

Research shows that being willing to accept and experience difficult emotions like anger, jealousy, or sadness is the best way to overcome them. People who accept negative emotions describe being able to work through them more quickly and are less likely to make bad choices when they’re upset.[7][8] The next time you feel jealous, remind yourself that these feelings are normal, valid, and ok to have, instead of fighting them.

2. Don’t feed the jealous feeling

Rumination is one of the bad habits that intensifies jealousy and can also make you more likely to do or say something you regret.[7] Repeating and focusing on angry, jealous, negative thoughts is one of the main ways that you may be making your jealousy worse. Thoughts like these feed into negative emotions, making them bigger, stronger, and more lasting.[8]

Some of the thoughts that can feed into jealousy are:

  • Comparisons you make between you and your friend
  • Ruminating on your insecurities, flaws, or shortcomings
  • Assuming a friend likes someone else more than you
  • Rehearsing fights or arguments in your mind with a friend
  • Being overly critical of someone else your friend likes

When these kinds of thoughts show up, refocus your attention on something else by focusing on your body, your surroundings, or by using your 5 senses to become more present. These simple mindfulness skills can interrupt the rumination cycle, helping you to calm down more quickly.[7]

3. Identify your underlying fears and insecurities

Jealousy is normally linked to fears and insecurities you have about yourself or your friendship. By identifying these, you can better understand your jealousy, where it comes from, and why it is showing up in that situation.

Some examples of common underlying issues that can cause jealousy include:

  • Fears of being replaced
  • Fears of being abandoned
  • Fears of being betrayed or hurt
  • Insecurity about the strength of your friendship
  • Feeling unworthy, unlovable, or “less than”
  • Not feeling valued or prioritized by a friend
  • Worries about loss of trust or closeness

Often, these insecurities have more to do with what you think and feel about yourself or your friendship rather than what your friend thinks. In some cases, your fears are more about past betrayals in other relationships than they are about your current friendship. When jealousy comes from past issues or personal insecurities, boosting your self-esteem or dealing with your own insecurities may be needed to overcome these feelings.

4. Separate real and imaginary threats

Sometimes, jealousy comes up in response to real threats. Other times, the threat is imaginary. Real threats can indicate a trust issue or conflict in your friendship and may need to be openly addressed and resolved with your friend. Imaginary threats are more likely to reflect personal issues and insecurities and often should be worked through on your own.

Some of the questions to consider when assessing whether a threat is real or not include:

  • What do I feel threatened by?
  • Is this really a threat to me or my friendship?
  • Do I have any proof that this is a threat?
  • What role are my own fears and insecurities playing?
  • Would an outside person agree with my assessment?

5. Steady your emotions

Acting on jealous thoughts and feelings can lead you to say or do things that damage your friendship.[5][6] You are most likely to say or do something hurtful when your feelings are strongest and most intense, so it’s important to learn ways to calm down.

These strategies can prepare you to have a calm, productive conversation with a friend, but they can also be used to work through jealous feelings on your own:

  • Take slow, deep breaths and imagine releasing tension when you exhale
  • Use one or more of your 5 senses to direct your attention to your surroundings
  • Use a journal or talk with someone you trust to vent about your feelings
  • Take some time and space to let the feelings pass before calling or seeing your friend

6. Talk openly with your friend

Open conversations are needed when there is a real issue, threat, or problem in a friendship, but it’s important to approach this conversation the right way.

The best way to approach difficult conversations is to:

  • Take time and space to calm down before having the conversation. Wait until the most intense feelings have passed and you feel able to speak calmly.
  • Reflect on main points you want to bring up in the conversation. Think about the specific things you want your friend to know about how you feel.
  • Identify a “goal” for the conversation that is within your control. Consider a goal of communicating your feelings or needs vs. getting them to agree or apologize.
  • Use “I-statements” to let your friend know how you feel and what you need from them. Use the template, “I felt _______ when you _______ and I would really like it if you ______.”
  • Be willing to forgive your friend, let go and move on after the conversation, even if it didn’t go perfectly.

7. Develop a realistic but positive attitude

Jealousy often arises from negative thoughts about yourself, another person, or your friendship. When you intentionally focus on the positives instead of the negatives, it can cause a positive emotional shift.[8]

Feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy can often be overcome by focusing on positive thoughts like these:

  • Listing out your personal strengths, successes, and talents
  • Identifying the things you most admire, respect, and like about your friend
  • Finding things in common with other people instead of focusing on differences
  • Remembering good times and happy memories with your friend
  • Thinking of times your friend has been there for you when you needed them

8. Be kind to yourself

Research shows that self-compassionate people are less prone to jealousy and also are less likely to struggle with anxiety, depression, and insecurities. People who are kind to themselves also have higher levels of self-esteem and tend to have healthier relationships.[8][9]

Self-compassion is something that can be learned and practiced by making small changes like these:

  • Become more aware of your feelings, wants, and needs, and prioritize these
  • Pull back from negative or self-critical thoughts instead of ruminating on them
  • Make time in your schedule for self-care, relaxation, and activities you enjoy
  • Lighten up about mistakes and flaws, and remind yourself all humans are imperfect
  • Stand up for yourself and set boundaries when you’re being disrespected

9. Focus on self-improvement

If you feel jealous of a friend’s success or happiness, this may be an indication that you’re unhappy with your own circumstances. If you were feeling truly content with yourself and your life, it would be easier to feel truly happy for a friend who is doing well instead of feeling jealous or insecure.

Jealousy can uncover areas of yourself and your life that need attention and improvement. Focusing on setting goals that would improve the way you feel about yourself and your life can boost your self-esteem, making you less vulnerable to jealousy.[9]

10. Strengthen your friendship

Jealousy comes up during times when you feel threatened or worried about being replaced, hurt, or betrayed by a friend. This is why you may be especially jealous when you are particularly scared of losing someone. There are many ways to strengthen a friendship, and these will often result in feeling more secure (and less jealous).

Here are some ideas of how to strengthen a friendship:[10]

  • Express out loud how much you care about them and value their friendship
  • Send a thoughtful card, message, or text to let them know you’re thinking of them
  • Offer to help them on a project they are working on
  • Tell them you miss them and suggest ideas to see each other more
  • Check in more and offer support when they’re going through a hard time
  • Open up about sensitive, personal, or emotional issues to build trust and closeness
  • Show interest in things they like and care about
  • Spend quality time together doing fun things you both enjoy

Jealousy in friendships

Jealousy is an emotional response that occurs when a person believes a relationship is being threatened by an outside person, activity, or situation. Jealousy often involves a mix of anger towards the “rival” or threat, personal insecurity and self-doubt, and a fear of being replaced.[1][2] Jealousy can arise when there is an actual threat to a friendship, but it can also be an irrational response to a perceived threat.

Some of the common triggers for jealousy in friendships include:[3]

  • A friend having other friends or close ties with their partner or family members
  • A friend starting a new romantic relationship
  • A new activity, hobby, or job that takes up a lot of time
  • Any person who seems to have a lot of influence or importance to a friend
  • Comparisons made between a person and their friend (e.g., how popular/attractive/successful their friend is compared to them)

Jealousy is more likely to occur in close friendships and also in new friendships where trust and closeness are still developing.[4] Unlike many romantic or sexual relationships, friendships aren’t expected to be exclusive, meaning it’s OK for friends to have other friends. This can cause people to feel confused, upset, and even ashamed of jealous feelings towards a friend.[2]

Destructive responses to jealousy

Jealousy can be an indication that you really care about someone and value your friendship with them. Still, some of the ways you react to jealous thoughts and feelings can affect you, the other person, and your friendship in negative ways.

When you allow jealousy to change the way you interact with a friend, it can lead you to say or do things that push your friend away or damage the relationship. Using healthy coping skills and direct communication protects against this damage and can even lead to conversations and actions that strengthen a friendship.[1]

Some common responses to jealousy that damage trust and closeness in a friendship are:[5][6]

  • Avoidance: Pushing your friend away, distancing yourself, or shutting down
  • Threats: Making threats to end the friendship or do something to hurt your friend
  • Ultimatums: Demanding that your friend choose between you and someone else
  • Passive aggression: Refusing to talk openly about how you feel but expressing it indirectly through your mood or behavior
  • Denial: Pretending everything is fine, ignoring the issue, not addressing it
  • Control: Becoming possessive or controlling of your friend’s other relationships, schedule, or choices
  • Manipulation: Guilting your friend or trying to make them feel bad for hanging out with other friends or spending time away from you
  • Badmouthing: Talking badly about other people or activities that matter to your friend
  • Reversal: Trying to make your friend feel threatened, insecure, or jealous to get back at them or make them feel the way you do

Final thoughts

Most people assume jealousy only comes up in romantic relationships, but it’s also really common in friendships.[1][2] Jealousy normally shows up when a person feels insecure, threatened, or worried about losing a friend. Learning how to cope with jealousy and talking openly with friends can help you overcome jealousy and can keep it from hurting your friendships.

Common questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions people have about jealousy in friendships and ways to overcome it.

Is jealousy normal in friendship?

Jealousy is a normal emotion people can feel in any close relationship, including friendships. Jealousy is more common in close friendships, new friendships, and in situations where a person feels threatened or insecure.[1][2]

Why do I get so jealous of my friends?

Personal insecurities can cause people to become jealous of their friends. Insecurities about money, your job, relationship status, or appearance can cause you to become jealous of other people, including friends.[3]

What are the signs of a jealous friend?

Because people deal with jealousy differently, the signs of jealousy aren’t the same for everyone. Some jealous friends will withdraw or distance themselves from you, while others may become competitive, defensive, or even mean.[5]

Why do I attract jealous friends?

Having a lot of jealous friends may just mean you have a lot of insecure friends, as people with low self-esteem are more prone to jealousy.[9] Not setting good boundaries with friends can also create imbalanced, codependent relationships where jealousy is more likely.

What causes jealousy between friends?

Insecurity is usually what causes jealousy. A jealous person may struggle with personal insecurities and low self-esteem, or they may have relationship insecurities that cause them to become jealous.[1][2][9]

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Hailey Shafir is a licensed mental health counselor, licensed addiction specialist, and clinical supervisor working out of Raleigh, NC. She has a Masters in Counseling from NC State University, and has extensive professional experience in counseling, program development, and clinical supervision. Read more.

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