How to stop being jealous: The surprising truth behind this emotion (2023)

I’m sure you know the feeling: Your face flushes. Your heart races. You feel challenged by a “rival” who’s trying to take away something you value. Maybe this feeling arose when you saw someone’s eyes linger on your partner a little too long. Or perhaps it reared its ugly head when a coworker landed that coveted promotion you’d been hoping for. They don’t call it the green-eyed monster for nothing—jealousy is never a pleasant feeling.

So how do you get rid of jealousy? Well, as counterintuitive as this may seem, eliminating the emotion entirely is not the goal. Jealousy is a natural feeling that arises when you’re at risk of losing something you care about. From an evolutionary perspective, the emotion exists to protect the precious resources that help you survive. So, of course, your heart will race, your body will tense up and you will feel that rush of adrenaline—your body is revving up to guard that resource!

But the thing is, not everything that makes you feel jealous has any rational basis. Not everything that appears to be a threat is one. And what’s more, it is never okay to yell at, stalk, accuse, control or otherwise make someone miserable because you feel jealous.

So if jealousy is a normal emotion but can wreak havoc if unmanaged, the better question is: How can you cope with jealousy in a healthy way? And that, my friend, is what we’ll attempt to tackle in this article.

Jealousy vs. envy

We must clear up a big misunderstanding before discussing how to stop being jealous: Jealousy and envy are not the same things. Yes, we use the words interchangeably in everyday conversation, but at a psychological level, they are different emotions.

  • Jealousy is the desire to protect a relationship you feel is being threatened by someone else. For example, you might feel jealous when your best friend gets engaged and starts spending more time with her fiancé than with you. Jealousy arises because you value your relationship with your best friend, and you fear her fiancé might replace you.
  • Envy is the desire to obtain what someone else has, and it involves feeling pain that they have it, and you don’t. Let’s use the same situation as above but flip it to envy instead of jealousy: You might feel envy when your best friend gets engaged, not because you fear your relationship with your friend is being threatened, but because you want what she has: a committed romantic relationship.

    You can feel envious about an object, quality, relationship or position that someone else has. Envy goes beyond mere desire because it has pain attached to it, along with a perceived “rival.”

In short, jealousy is about protecting what is yours; envy is about obtaining what is not yours. Knowing this crucial difference sheds light on the misunderstood emotion of jealousy and shows that it’s actually quite useful. Why? Because it protects the relationships you value.

Most often, we talk about jealousy in terms of romantic relationships, but it can exist in any type of relationship. A child might feel jealous when her widowed mom starts dating again because she fears the new boyfriend might take away her time with her mother. Or a man might feel jealous when his boss starts mentoring a new team member because he fears the new coworker might replace his job.

Jealousy itself is not the problem. The problems are:

  1. Seeing a threat where no threat exists.
  2. Excessive jealousy and inappropriate behaviors that may arise from it.

What is jealousy a sign of?

Most of the time, jealousy is a sign that you fear an important relationship might be taken away from you. Quite simply, it’s a sign of what you value. (If you didn’t value it, you wouldn’t feel jealous.)

However, research has also shown that jealousy could be a sign of:

  • Low self-esteem [1]
  • Loneliness [1]
  • Low levels of trust [2]
  • Anxious attachment style [2]
  • Mental health issues [3]

Why do I get jealous so easily?

If you get jealous easily—as in, you feel jealous even when you have no real evidence of a threat—there could be a few factors at play:

  1. You might have low self-esteem.
  2. You might be lonely.
  3. You might have trust issues.
  4. You might have an anxious attachment style.
  5. You might have an underlying physical or mental health issue that needs to be addressed.

Extreme or excessive jealousy is known as pathological or morbid jealousy and can be a symptom of a mental health issue. In the DSM-5, a handbook used by clinicians to describe and diagnose mental illness, there is something called delusional disorder - jealous type. A person with this disorder has “delusions about his or her lover being unfaithful.”

However, this article does not provide medical advice and should not be used to diagnose. If you think you might be experiencing excessive jealousy, speak with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or therapist, to get qualified advice.

How to stop being jealous of others: A 5-step process

If you’re Googling “how to stop being jealous of others,” I’d be willing to bet that what you’re experiencing is not jealousy, but rather, envy. The quick way to find out is to answer this question: “Does the thing I desire rightfully belong to me?” If the answer is yes, that’s jealousy. But if the answer is no, that’s envy.

Again, jealousy would be if your girlfriend starts spending a lot of time with a guy you know is interested in her, and you feel threatened by him because you fear he might try to interfere with your relationship with her. But envy would be if your girlfriend went on a lavish vacation with her family, and you feel pained because you wish your family could afford vacations like that.

So if you’re talking about envy, here are some ways to stop being envious of others:

Step 1: Accept the emotion.

Contrary to popular belief, acceptance doesn’t mean you enjoy the feeling or approve of it; it simply means you don’t shame yourself for experiencing something you can’t control. When you deny that the envy is there, an act known as suppression, you may actually make the emotion stronger while simultaneously damaging your mental health.

In his book Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, psychologist James Pennebaker shares his research confirming that suppressing emotions can suppress your immune system. In one study, participants who were instructed to write about emotional or non-emotional topics and suppress their thoughts had lower levels of lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system) after the exercise. On the other hand, participants who did not suppress thoughts during the exercise showed a boost in lymphocytes.

Further, a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that bottling up emotions can increase aggression. Researcher Kathleen D. Vohs and colleagues had participants watch a "notoriously disgusting" scene from a movie and then either express themselves freely or hide their reaction to the scene. Those who were instructed to show no reaction displayed more aggressive behavior afterward than the subjects who were free to express their revulsion.

The lesson here? Suppressing your emotions isn’t healthy. But lashing out isn’t healthy either. Instead, try journaling about your envy or talking it out with a confidante.

Step 2: Cultivate gratitude for what you have.

Since envy focuses on what someone else has, one way to stop it in its tracks is to cultivate gratitude for what you have. The next time you find yourself pining after something that belongs to someone else, push the “stop” button in your mind and redirect your attention to the things you’re thankful for. List three things you’re grateful for and spend some time thinking about why you appreciate them.

Step 3: Practice empathy for the person you’re envious of.

Empathy has a special way of pouring water on the flames of envy. Envy always involves another person whom you may see as a rival. Try, instead, to see them as the human being they are, with their own scars, struggles and stories. That makes it extremely difficult to feel pain over what they have.

Step 4: Ask yourself, “If given the chance, would I switch lives with this person?”

A lot of times, when we’re mired in envy, we have this false belief of “If I had that person’s life, I’d be happy.” So here’s a little trick I learned a couple of weeks ago when someone said, “No one has it easy.” It made me think of all the people I’m envious of whose lives seem pretty easy to me as an outsider. But then I thought, “Well, if I could, would I trade places with them?” I actually started crying because I realized that, as much as I envied their lives, I wouldn’t want to swap with them.

Why? Because that meant I wouldn’t get to know and love all the people I care deeply about in my life. Swapping lives might mean I’d get all the nice things the person I’m envious of has, but it would also mean I wouldn’t get all the people who make my life rich and full of meaning. That instantly shifted my perspective and completely eliminated my feelings of envy.

Step 5: Give it time.

So did you go through steps one through four and still feel envious of someone? That’s okay. Just give it time. No, really. Research shows that often the best remedy for envy is the passage of time.

Researchers at The University of Chicago conducted four studies related to time and envy and made two fascinating discoveries: First, people are more envious of future events than past events. For example, subjects' envy about Valentine's Day rose as the holiday approached but quickly plateaued as soon as February 14th had passed.

Second, time dulls the pain of envy. In the research paper, which was published in Psychological Science, the authors conclude, "Other people's good lives sting less if they have already lived them."

To give yourself some perspective, try to remember: This will sting a whole lot less three months from now.

How to stop being jealous in a relationship

As we read in the section on envy, emotion and thought suppression do not work in the long run. However, if jealousy is not handled in healthy ways, it can ruin relationships and be extremely harmful to your partner.

So what can you do? Thankfully, you have options.

Talk to your partner about it

Do not use this as an opportunity to blame your partner. Instead, use it as an opportunity to open the lines of communication. Focus on how you feel and the facts at hand, not on how you assume your partner feels or any unfounded suspicions you have about them. Your partner may be able to offer you reassurance, and you may be able to apologize for your past jealousy-fueled harmful behaviors.

Try the Boredom Technique

Here’s a tip from psychologist Robert Leahy, author of The Jealousy Cure: Repeatedly tell yourself that the thing you fear is possible as a way of habituating yourself to the thought so it no longer controls you.

In an interview on “The Psychology Podcast,” Leahy gives this example: He had a client who was consumed with the idea that his wife might be unfaithful to him while she was away on business trips (despite having no evidence to support this). So Leahy had his client learn to accept that infidelity was a possibility but not a fact. To do this, his client had to tell himself over and over, “It’s always possible my wife could be unfaithful to me,” until the idea became so boring to him that he no longer feared it. Leahy calls this The Boredom Technique.

Schedule “jealousy time”

Another tip Leahy suggests for stopping jealousy is to schedule time to acknowledge your jealousy each day. For instance, you might schedule a “jealousy appointment” at 10 a.m.; this is your chance to focus on your jealous thoughts, write them down and then put them off until later that day. Then, at 2 p.m., revisit those jealous thoughts you wrote down. What you’ll typically find is that the intensity of the jealousy has faded, granting you relief and perspective that the next time you feel jealous, this too shall pass.

Lay ground rules for jealousy

Earlier, we talked about how important it is to keep communication open with your partner. Leahy also suggests laying ground rules for jealousy. What should your partner do the next time you’re feeling jealous? Would it be helpful for them to call it out? By deciding ahead of time what each of you should do in response to jealousy, you set your relationship up for success by helping each other cope.

Address the root of your jealousy in therapy

Sometimes, excessive jealousy has nothing to do with your partner. There may be a deeper problem at the root of your jealousy. For instance, if you’ve been cheated on in the past, it may make it harder for you to trust someone again—even if that person has never given you any reason not to trust them.

Again, uncontrolled jealousy can ruin a relationship; it can make your life and your significant other’s life miserable. You owe it to yourself and your loved one to talk to a professional about healthy ways to manage this powerful emotion. Speak to a licensed mental health professional about what you can do to get help.

How do you get rid of jealousy in a relationship?

My guess is the intent behind this question is not to completely eliminate all feelings of jealousy in a relationship, but rather, to eliminate the inappropriate behaviors attached to it. You would probably feel unappreciated if your boyfriend didn’t feel jealous that a guy at work asked you on a date—that might indicate he didn’t value your relationship. But, if your boyfriend starts accusing you of infidelity every time you speak to a man—that jealous behavior needs to go.

By using some of the exercises listed above, you and your partner can cope with jealousy in healthy ways and not let it undermine your relationship.

However, if jealousy turns your relationship into an unhealthy, toxic one—it may be time to leave. It is never okay for a partner to accuse you, stalk you or try to control you. If you need help getting out of an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 and is completely free.

How do I get rid of jealousy and envy? Coming to terms with common emotions

The answer to that question, as you saw above, is that you can’t eliminate jealousy and envy, as these are natural emotions. The better question to ask is, “How can I manage my jealousy and envy in healthy ways?” And I hope that by reading this article, you now know the answers.

Need extra support as you learn how to stop being jealous? Get started for free with personalized coaching today!


How to stop being jealous: The surprising truth behind this emotion? ›

There is not one root cause for someone's jealous behaviors or feelings, but there are a few reasons why someone might feel this way, including insecurity, past history, or fear of loss. Jealousy can be triggered by these and might create tensions within your relationships.

How do I stop being jealous of my emotions? ›

Here's a look at some ways to cope with jealousy and examine what's at the root of your feelings.
  1. Trace it back to its source. ...
  2. Voice your concerns. ...
  3. Talk to a trusted friend. ...
  4. Put a different spin on jealousy. ...
  5. Consider the full picture. ...
  6. Practice gratitude for what you have. ...
  7. Practice in-the-moment coping techniques.
Oct 31, 2019

What emotion is at the root of jealousy? ›

There is not one root cause for someone's jealous behaviors or feelings, but there are a few reasons why someone might feel this way, including insecurity, past history, or fear of loss. Jealousy can be triggered by these and might create tensions within your relationships.

What your jealous feelings are telling you? ›

Feeling jealous is a signal that someone else might be putting a relationship you have and rely on at risk — and you may need to do something about it to either save that relationship or find what you're getting out of that relationship somewhere else. “Jealousy is hard-wired in all of us,” Jalal says.

Can jealousy be cured? ›

Psychotherapy is often an effective treatment for jealousy. A person who experiences jealousy might benefit from working with a therapist to process painful emotions and reframe negative, damaging thoughts that affect their behavior.

Why do I get jealous so easily? ›

Jealousy can come from feelings of low self-esteem or lack of confidence. And when someone is unhappy about themselves, feels anxious and insecure, this can lead to feelings of jealousy and being out of control. Jealousy is slightly different from envy. You can envy someone for something they have.

What trauma causes jealousy? ›

Trust Issues and Past Trauma – Some people are traumatized by their past relationships. Having someone who cheated on them makes it difficult to trust again, even in a new relationship. When a person lacks trust, seemingly innocuous stimuli can easily trigger jealousy.

What are the three types of jealousy? ›

Types of Jealousy
  • Rational jealousy: When there is genuine, reasonable doubt, especially when you love a partner and fear losing them, rational jealousy can occur.
  • Family jealousy: This typically occurs between family members, such as siblings. ...
  • Pathological jealousy: This type of jealousy is irrational.
May 3, 2023

What does jealousy turn into? ›

Just about everyone feels jealous or envious once in a while. However, when these emotions start to become overwhelming, it can trigger concerns about inadequacy or feeling ill will toward others. It can also bring about symptoms of stress. In some cases, it can lead to depression in some cases.

Why am I so jealous and insecure? ›

Jealousy may be driven by low self-esteem or a poor self-image. If you don't feel attractive and confident, it can be hard to truly believe that your partner loves and values you. Other times, jealousy can be caused by unrealistic expectations about the relationship.

Why am I so envious and jealous? ›

Envy is often rooted in low self-esteem – sometimes from very early unmet childhood needs where the person feels inherently not good enough. An envious person may frequently 'compare and despair' and find themselves wanting.

What does God say about envy? ›

Proverbs 24:1

Don't envy evil people, and don't long to be with them.” The Good News: God rewards those who are faithful and patient.

What is cognitive jealousy? ›

Cognitive jealousy involves the appraisal of relational threats or suspicions regarding a romantic partner's infidelity. Behavioral jealousy consists of protective actions that individuals engage in to “check up on” romantic partners.

What are the six types of jealousy? ›

We can identify six major types of jealousy: pathological (paranoid), romantic, sexual, rational, irrational and intentional.

Why is jealousy such a powerful emotion? ›

Jealousy summons a whole host of negative emotions in its wake. It hijacks your thoughts and carries them into dangerous places. It is as though a demon (Shakespeare's “monster”) has perched on your shoulders and is guiding you deeper and deeper into hell.

Is jealousy a mental illness? ›

Delusional jealousy is a psychotic disorder and should be treated mainly with antipsychotics, while obsessive jealousy resembles obsessive-compulsive disorder and should be treated with SSRIs and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Can anxiety cause jealousy? ›

Anxious individuals tend to experience higher levels of jealousy (Buunk, 1997), suspicion and worry that their partner will leave them for someone else (i.e., cognitive jealousy; Guerrero, 1998), and respond to jealousy-inducing situations with elevated levels of fear, sadness, and anger (Sharpsteen & Kirkpatrick, 1997 ...

What is the root cause of envy? ›

In almost every case, envy arises when we are experiencing dissatisfaction in our own lives. It's when we so badly desire and yearn for success, connection or affection from others, and we don't get it.

Does jealousy mean you care? ›

Research has shown that jealousy can be a sign of feeling deeply in love with a partner. It may contribute to relationship satisfaction by signaling emotional commitment and investment.

Who gets jealous more easily? ›

“Studies from around the world have reported that men are more jealous of sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity,” Nicholson explains. “And women are the opposite — they're more jealous of emotional cheating than sexual cheating.”

How to be less possessive? ›

How to Deal with Your Possessiveness
  1. Avoid snooping or situations that lead to unjustified suspicions.
  2. Talk calmly to your partner about your feelings.
  3. Maintain relationships with people other than your partner.
  4. Seek a therapist's help with feelings of insecurity.
Dec 13, 2022

What happens to the brain when you are jealous? ›

Summary: Jealousy increases activity in the cingulate cortex and lateral septum, areas of the brain associated with social pain and pair bonding, researchers report.

What does the Bible say about jealousy? ›

Proverbs 27:4 tells us, “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.”

Is jealousy part of PTSD? ›

Jealousy & Mental Health Concerns

Sometimes, pervasive jealous feelings might be an indicator of a deeper issue related to your mental health, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Here are other mental health concerns that could be related to jealousy: Depression.

What are the 4 levels of jealousy? ›

Conversation. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy - Envy is not an amorphous feeling and can be seen as consisting of four distinct dimensions, labeled identification, confrontive, redirecting, and medea.

What is jealousy the highest form of? ›

“Jealousy is the highest form of flattery.”

What is a very jealous person called? ›


1 resentful, jealous, covetous.

Am I jealous or just insecure? ›

Jealousy vs Insecurity

Jealousy is the state of being envious of another. A person can feel jealous of another individual based on that person's appearance, wealth, achievements, and many other aspects of life. Insecurity, on the other hand, refers to the state of having insufficient confidence in one's self.

Is jealousy a poison? ›

Jealousy is emotional poison. Jealousy causes unnecessary drama. Jealousy is destructive to the other person's self-esteem. Jealousy is cruel and stifling.

Which is worse envy or jealousy? ›

Jealousy and envy both involve a feeling of desire for what another person has, but jealousy is usually thought to be more negative—it often involves resentment toward the other person. Envy is also a negative feeling—like a mix of admiration and discontent—but the word doesn't usually imply hostility.

What is God's punishment for envy? ›

In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire because they gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low.

Does God want us to be jealous? ›

But jealousy and envy are soul-enemies, and Scripture warns us against them over and over. We're told that jealousy is a fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:21), an antonym of love (1 Corinthians 13:4), a symptom of pride (1 Timothy 6:4), a catalyst for conflict (James 3:16), and a mark of unbelievers (Romans 1:29).

How do I stop being jealous biblically? ›

Be Counteractive

We can, through His help, conquer and counteract the sinful flesh with spiritual fruit. Love for another and for the goodness God has shown them (whatever that may be), having patience with ourselves and God's timing, and exercising self-control of our emotions all counteract jealousy.

What brain chemical causes jealousy? ›

Summary: A new study has found that the hormone oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone," which affects behaviors such as trust, empathy and generosity, also affects opposite behaviors, such as jealousy and gloating.

Is jealousy a trauma? ›

Why do we feel jealousy? Therapists often regard the demon as a scar of childhood trauma or a symptom of a psychological problem. And it's true that people who feel inadequate, insecure, or overly dependent tend to be more jealous than others.

Why am I so jealous and emotional? ›

Jealousy may be driven by low self-esteem or a poor self-image. If you don't feel attractive and confident, it can be hard to truly believe that your partner loves and values you. Other times, jealousy can be caused by unrealistic expectations about the relationship.

Why is jealousy a trigger? ›

Commonly, jealousy is an emotional reaction activated by the actual or anticipated interest in another person by someone we care about. When a third party threatens the bond that exists in a partnership, we may feel insecure, rejected, worried, angry, or self-doubting, among a host of other undesirable feelings.

Is being overly jealous a mental illness? ›

While delusional jealousy is a mental health condition in its own right, jealous delusions are more likely to be experienced by those who have been diagnosed in the past with: Anxiety disorders.

What is the mental illness of jealousy? ›

Delusional jealousy is a psychotic disorder and should be treated mainly with antipsychotics, while obsessive jealousy resembles obsessive-compulsive disorder and should be treated with SSRIs and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

What are 3 reasons for jealousy? ›

Jealousy can happen for many reasons, including:
  • Being insecure or having a poor self-image.
  • Fearing abandonment or betrayal.
  • Feeling intense possessiveness or a desire for control.
  • Having a misguided sense of ownership over a partner.
  • Having unrealistic expectations about relationships in general.
Feb 24, 2022

What is the trap of jealousy? ›

This involves a preoccupation with the idea that a partner might be cheating, which then makes a person likely to arrive at false conclusions which then feed the suspicions even more. This is the jealousy trap, which few studies have dealt with directly.

What does God say about overcoming jealousy? ›

Don't do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” The Good News: Doing things out of jealousy or selfish reasons only takes us further away from God. A sincere and true heart is the way to go.

What are the dangers of jealousy? ›

Everyone experiences jealousy at some point, but the emotion can become unhealthy and negatively impact their relationships. It can range in intensity. When it's severe, irrational jealousy can lead to distrust, paranoia, abuse, or even physical violence.

What God says about jealousy in relationships? ›

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is not jealous,” sometimes translated, “Love does not envy.” Well, there is another word for envy, but sometimes they overlap. It simply means love doesn't grasp for and demand affections from the beloved that don't belong to it.

Is jealousy a red flag? ›

Extreme Jealously

When jealousy creeps into a romantic relationship, it can often fester into controlling tactics to assert dominance. “Do not ignore this red flag because it could also lead to an abusive and controlling situation,” says Kelman.

Is jealousy insecurity or love? ›

Research shows that jealousy is often fueled by insecurity, not love for a partner. The best way to deal with a jealous partner may be to reassure them of your affection. Working on your own confidence and having good communication with your partner are key to coping with jealousy.

Why is jealousy so painful? ›

Your brain and body on envy or jealousy

The amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex are active in these emotions, and we experience the social or emotional pain in a way that's similar to physical pain. The sense of threat may send your body into fight-or-flight mode.


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