Tag Archives: jealousy

Jealousy is not love

All too often, when jealousy is presented in stories, it’s portrayed as being related to love. Jealousy is not a facet of love, it is a very specific emotion in its own right, and one that often is in opposition to love, care and respect. It’s a really destructive emotion.

Jealousy often involves wanting what someone else has. Envy is the healthy take on this, because with envy you can look at what someone else has and say ‘I want that too’ and go after it and everyone can have nice things. Jealousy wants specifically what the other person has, and wants to take it from them. It pushes the person feeling it to destroy someone else’s joy out of resentment.

Jealousy is the desire to make the other person smaller. The person who is jealous of attention paid to their partner, or of anyone their partner invests in, is not protecting love with this feeling. Jealousy can be the emotion that justifies controlling behaviour. It’s jealousy that prompts someone to try and limit, punish or control the person they claim to be in love with.

Equally, trying to cause jealousy is not about love, it’s about control. Flirting with someone else to make your partner jealous is emotionally manipulative and hurtful. There’s no love in that.  Parading success or property in the hopes of causing jealousy is about wanting to make other people feel smaller, and inadequate.

Violence justified by jealousy is not an expression of love. We urgently need to stop telling stories in which male jealousy is in any way romanticised – especially when it also involves violence towards women. (This is particularly a romance genre issue – jealous, violent women don’t tend to show up as part of stories claiming to be focused on love although you do find them slapping faces in older films). Anyone hitting someone on the basis of feeling that their romantic relationship is threatened… should not be excused in any way. We also need to stop telling stories where jealousy is portrayed as a reasonable justification for murder. Anything in the same vein as Tom Jones singing Delilah. Anything justified as a ‘crime of passion’. It’s not passion, and it isn’t love.

Running after people

Generally speaking, I won’t fight for attention or for a place in someone’s life. It’s a longstanding policy. I don’t do jealousy (I do envy) so if someone tries to push those buttons with a view to making me compete, I will bow out as fast as I can. I’ve been there a few times, although not recently. In some contexts it makes a lot of sense. Younger me was quite into having strategies for dealing with things and nuance is something I’ve had to learn over the years.

On the whole, if people use rejection as a way to make you try harder, I don’t want to indulge them or play along. Not everyone who might push you away is trying to manipulate you. People do it when they are hurt, or afraid, when they feel guilt ridden and don’t know how to fix things. People push people away to protect them – around both mental and physical illness, around grief and life challenges. Sometimes it’s about being too proud to admit there’s a problem. So when people go quiet, or seem to be ghosting, or even actively push me away I’m no longer so confident about what that means.

I’m not good at rejection. It’s part of why I often prefer to hold really firm lines on this. I don’t want to jump through hoops and be judged not good enough. I’ve done too much of that in the past. I take a lot of persuading to run after someone who appears to be running away from me. They have to be exceptional, and important to me, and I need some reason to think it isn’t just manipulation.

It’s a really exposed thing to do, going after someone who has pushed you away. Most of the time it isn’t worth it, but sometimes it can be a life and death issue. It’s not always easy to tell. Often it can be enough to just keep an open mind and wait to see if the person comes back, and be ok with them if they do. Some people really do need running after, and need perhaps more than it is fair to ask anyone to give. But, life isn’t always fair or reasonable, and sometimes it takes extraordinary effort to get things done.

Delicious envy

Jealousy is a terrible emotion, filling you with bitter, resentful thoughts. Jealousy can make you detest the people who do the most good, or create the most beauty. Jealousy demands that we be centre stage, the best, the most important and cannot tolerate anyone who surpasses us. It sucks the joy out of all encounters with anything better than we could do ourselves. From what I’ve seen of other people going this way, it is a terrible approach to life and the person it reliably hurts the most is the person experiencing the jealousy.

We do get some say over our emotions. Not the most raw and immediate feelings, but how we process and develop them. Those choices, over time, shape us.

So, you see something that is better than anything you have ever done. It might be better than anything you could ever do. It is possible to simply enjoy it on its own terms and not feel diminished by it. Equally, you can look at whatever surpasses you, and see clearly your falling short, and celebrate it. Not being able to do something means there is more to learn and explore, more to do and enjoy. The feelings of difference between what you can do and what you can see do not have to lead to jealousy. They can become envy, and with practice, envy is an experience a person can enjoy.

Envy is jealousy minus the entitlement. If you don’t imagine that these things should have been yours instead, then you are not diminished by the achievements of others. What they do can instead raise you up by enabling you to see greater possibility than before. You can chaff against someone outclassing you without having to resent them for it, or think ill of them.

Competitive culture encourages jealousy. When we think in terms of winners and losers. When we think attention and rewards are limited, scarce even, and that what goes to one means less for yourself. Then we may feel other people’s success as threatening to us. When we think collaboratively, we can see other people’s success as part of our good. We pass each other building blocks to enable more good stuff to happen.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking at what anyone else has or does and feeling the distance between you and them. Feeling the distance is a natural emotional response. It’s what we then choose to do as we recognise the pang that matters. Do we dwell darkly on it and plot revenge? Or do we cheer with delight for the person who has just outclassed us while trying to figure out if we can catch up at all? When you respond with envy, not jealousy, it can be a delightful experience.