The Green Eyed Witch
September 15, 2010 12:40 PM   Subscribe

About a month ago a non immediate family member shared that she is sometimes envious/jealous of me, the more I think of it the more it drives me mad.

A once close cousin confided in me that she recently has come to resent me because she is envious of what she considers big successes/advantageous in my life such as: great education, fortunate relationship, successful business venture, good looks. I suspected that myself but I didn't want to be pretentious enough to assume that was the case. In all honesty, it bothers me. It really does. Lately whenever I am in her presence she is incredibly and unnecessarily cold and even rude to me (completely ignoring me, won't greet me hello or goodbye, I also know that she gossips ruthlessly about me.) Whenever I think about it my emotions are all in disarray. My mind can automatically reason all of this into proper perspective however, I don't know if this all hurts my feelings or if I feel pity for her. I really wish that I did not care a whit about her frustrations with me, but they weigh on me whenever I find myself trying to figure her out. Personally, I feel that it's useless for people to envy others when they can accomplish themselves whatever they envy so much. Nevertheless, her outright disdain for me arouses negative feelings from me and I need them to stop. What other rationalizations can I comfort myself with to lessen the blow from this situation? Also, is it normal for me to admittedly care about a jealous person's rage, why do I care?

Additionally, I have absolutely no desire to appease or reason personally with her. I want to know if there a way to let all this honestly roll off of me.
Possibly relevant info: The green eyed monster is a single young (new) mother with little obvious prospects and not on the best course of life for livelihood and success.
Also, I have NEVER rubbed or flaunted any of my proposed advantageous any more than any normal person share about their personal life within family.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total)
I don't think it matters that she's jealous of you. What matters is that she's really rude to you--the reasons for it don't really matter. But her behavior isn't about you, no matter how hard she tries to make it about you. It's about her and her insecurities.

She's probably pretty overwhelmed with life right now. I suggest taking the kill-her-with-kindness path. Pretend like she's acting normal, be friendly and chirpy, and try really hard not to let her rudeness get under your skin.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, let me try this.

but they weigh on me whenever I find myself trying to figure her out.

Is there any reason why you need to figure her out even more than you have? You are what she thinks she should be. She's jealous. That's really all there is to it. It would be nice if she were a stronger person who does not get devoured by green eyed monsters, but there it is, the simple truth.

Nevertheless, her outright disdain for me arouses negative feelings from me and I need them to stop.

It's really really hard to like people who dislike you. I'm not a saintly enough person for that either. Is there any reason you need to stop these feelings 100 percent rather than just avoiding the person as much as possible? I get that she's family, but how often do you really have to talk to her?

As to rationalisations...well, you write so succinctly I'm sure I'm telling you stuff you already know. But maybe it helps to consider:
This is her problem. Not your problem. Nothing you can do will make her happy for you, no matter how much you want her to. Nothing she can do can spoil your success, no matter how much she'd like to. What is making both of you unhappy is that you are hinging your happiness on how the other person is acting.
But this is something neither of you have control over.

For some reason, you can't be totally happy until this person recognises you as a good person who deserves what you got. Maybe you can find out what specific insecurity her disdain of you is raising inside you that won't let the issue go. For me, in a case of a person who hated me, it was the feeling that maybe the other person is right and I should be more like her. It was a niggling, hard to dispel doubt. It could be something totally different for you. If you corner this thought as what it is, instead of a general "she hates me ad I can't accept it", it will be easier to deal with.

And lastly, if she is actively rude to you and spreading rumours, there are specific classy ways of dealing with that and deflecting her. You do not have to just lie down and take it. But your question seems focussed on your overwhelming feelings, rather than on the mechanics of dealing with rude relatives.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:57 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try to keep in mind that it's comparatively easier for attractive, well-educated and successful people to be kind and patient. The overworked, underpaid and unsuccessful struggle simply to keep a smile on their faces sometimes. This isn't to excuse abominable behavior, but only to help you work your way around to taking the high road.

It isn't about you. When you get irritated or are hurt by her, just keep reminding yourself of that.
posted by felix betachat at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

I think if your feelings for her aren't pity, they should be. It's a sad situation. If she's looking at her life and feeling like a failure or a dead ender or a nonstarter or a loser, she's hurting badly. Envy and jealousy are natural and common and when they are focused on a feeling of life failure, they can be so intense. You haven't done anything wrong but she doesn't know how to handle what she's feeling. Seeing you reminds her of how disappointed she is in herself, and she can't snap her fingers and be like she wants to be, so she semi-consciously feels that her only other option is to hurt you so you won't seem so awesome. Remove the stimulus, remove the reaction, she semi-thinks.

It's a sad thing for her, and she'll have to deal with it. You, on the other hand, don't have to. You do have to put up with her coldness and all, but that'll only cost you patience - it shouldn't cost you anguish. If you can keep in mind the sadness she feels about her life and just look at her in that frame when you're around her, it'll be easier to keep her behavior in perspective and let it remain her problem instead of being yours. She'll get over it in time, but you can start now. I like the plan of just continuing to be kind to her no matter what she does. Deep breath, reset button, fresh start!
posted by kookoobirdz at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2010 [13 favorites]

A once close cousin confided in me

What happened that changed your relationship? Did you once share some level of expectations for the future but you've had good fortune and she hasn't? Or was there a specific incident that altered things?

If her envy bothers you so much, it makes me wonder if there isn't something about the comparison between you two that irks you - should she recognize that your success is due to your hard work? Or was it pretty much luck of the draw, and you'd feel similarly in her position? If you can better articulate where your own feelings are coming from, maybe it won't be so hard to get past them.

On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time with someone who is mean to you, it's hardly surprising if it gets to you eventually, so you may also want to remember to limit your exposure to her (depending how often you see her now). You can be polite to her at family gatherings, but concentrate elsewhere for your social life, and just forget she exists.
posted by mdn at 1:16 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a very hard problem, but I think you do actually have a winning move.

For her to be having feelings of such darkness as a new mom, when most women are utterly preoccupied with their babies and fairly radiant with it is a sign of postpartum depression (note that "Spells of anger toward others" is a listed symtom) , and should not be taken as an indication of her true character, in my opinion.

See if you can stir up some interest in her immediate family in getting her some help that she may desperately need.

It will make you look good, it will serve to deflect anything bad she might say about you, and it has the unassailable virtue of being the right thing to do.
posted by jamjam at 1:27 PM on September 15, 2010

I feel that it's useless for people to envy others when they can accomplish themselves whatever they envy so much.

Obviously, like kookoobirdz said, your cousin doesn't feel she can accomplish whatever she wants to, which is why she envies you. Unfortunately, not everyone has the right combination of self-esteem and luck to have perfect control over their lives. It's easy for people in a position of privilege to think that anyone can do what they've done, but there are plenty of people who just don't know how to make life work for them.

Short of trying to help your cousin, which you've already said you don't want to do (and she might not want anyway) for your own peace of mind, don't judge her. There are probably reasons the good things in life have not come as easily to her as they have to you. You may not know what those reasons are, but I would bet they exist. Just assume that they do and you may feel less frustrated with her.
posted by xenophile at 1:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Okay, you're already realized (I think) that there's no way to not feel the you feel. Emotional responses are a bother like that. The only thing you can do is try to distance yourself from it.

Provided you want to not feel this way, because you realize it is a waste of your time and energy, I have a suggestion/thought exercise that might help you get that distance, even if it seems, on the surface, ridiculous:

Imagine you and a person shared an office. One day you started to notice this bad smell all around. It was really unpleasant, and you couldn't figure out where it was coming from, if it was you, or if there was something you could do about it. Finally, noticing that something was bothering you, eventually the person you were sharing the office with said to you, "This is very embarrassing for me to admit, and I could have just let you wonder, but I have a bladder control problem, and frequently, I wet myself."

You realize after hearing this that you noticed her acting strange before, and you can tell that it was really hard for her to admit it. Even though this is obviously going to be unpleasant for you both if you're going to keep sharing the office, and that maybe it isn't fair that you have to put with it, wouldn't you also realize that it was probably hard for her to admit this, and that she did so in order to try to put you both more at ease, so you wouldn't constantly be worrying about where that smell was coming from? And can't you just be glad that it isn't you having to deal with that?

This comparison obviously isn't a perfect metaphor for your situation. For one, it requires a generous reading of the situation -- that your family member told you how she felt for non-selfish reasons, not just so she could have an excuse to act horrible around you. If you think the non-selfish reason is the case, you have to ask yourself why you care so much about what this person is doing to you. Yes, you were once close, but at a certain point, present bad behavior has to outweigh past closeness.

For another, you feel like she should be able to control her jealousy. But why should she be able to control it anymore than you should be able to ignore her feeling or treating you poorly? Yes, there's actions she could take to change somethings, but the same applies to almost any emotional response. That doesn't always make them completely invalid. You can only control your own actions, and as others have suggested, the best thing to do for this person is to not judge her harshly, and if you do pity her, don't act on this pity, except to excuse her bad behavior and attempt to distance yourself and/or construct barriers so that you can feel okay if you have to continue to be around her.

In the long run, it comes down to this:

Fair or not, nobody is going to be liked by everybody all the time.

That's a tough one for some people to learn, but another thing that might help is this:

Someone not liking you because they are jealous of your awesome life isn't among life's harder crosses to bear.

Good luck!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2010

The green eyed monster is a single young (new) mother with little obvious prospects and not on the best course of life for livelihood and success.

Actually, the disdain seems to be from you to her. What you're describing seems to me like a strange reaction to this person being kind of vulnerable and open with you and what I wonder from this reading is if her behavior is coming from your perceived coldness toward her, not the other way around.

So if I were you I'd be wondering what's beneath my own feelings, not hers. Sounds like she has some natural feelings and was honest about them.

This sounds like a really complicated relationship.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Personally, I feel that it's useless for people to envy others when they can accomplish themselves whatever they envy so much.
The green eyed monster is a single young (new) mother with little obvious prospects and not on the best course of life for livelihood and success.

I think you refuted your own point there. Regardless of how fortunate you've been in your own life and how well you've done for yourself, some people just have a really hard time making good things happen for themselves. That's not to say that her getting jealous is an appropriate response, but all it means is she's not happy with her own life.

The part where it gets really annoying for you is probably where she starts trashing you to other people, right? But the fact that you even know she does that means you've got others on your side, just another hole she's digging for herself. I'm guessing you're not the only one who knows she's like this. Just protect yourself by not telling her anything you don't want spread around.
posted by wondermouse at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2010

Anon, this is horrible and it's sad that you have to experience it. It sounds to me like you're simply a convenient target for this person. You are targeted because you two were once close and presumably she felt as though she was on equal stature with you and isn't now. I think it's a form of projecting the anger she should feel about herself onto you. That in itself is sad and not something you should have to work out or have feelings about. That's her problem.

Why do you feel so strongly? I'd guess that you're an empathetic person and feel for her while also feeling wrongly accused of something completely out of your control. Perhaps on a deeper level you even feel some guilt. Clearly she's trying to press your emotional buttons in an attempt to bring you down a notch. That empowers her.

Having spouted all of that psychobabble, here's the thing to do. Let yourself off the hook. This really has nothing to do with you. This problem was brought on by your cousin, so let her deal with it. You have no responsibility here and no fight to fight. Make a little mantra for yourself for when the thoughts of this come. Something like, "Nope, it's not my problem, let it go."

Good luck with this!
posted by snsranch at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2010

Personally, I feel that it's useless for people to envy others when they can accomplish themselves whatever they envy so much.

You should reexamine this and put yourself in her shoes. What does she envy? Sure, it would be annoying if she bitched about something she could easily accomplish. But she envies your "great education, fortunate relationship, successful business venture, good looks."

As a single young mother, how can she accomplish any of that? Can a young mom afford to go to an expensive school for a new education or start a business? Relationships are difficult even without a young kid around. Should she get plastic surgery? Magically lose the baby weight?

Can you imagine how hard her life must be sometimes? I'm sure she knows she's being unfair to you (that's probably why she admitted that she is jealous. Good for her for being that aware of her emotions) but it can be really, really hard to be cheerful and kind in bad circumstances. Especially when someone who's doing awesome is around, and they seem disdainful of your plight.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:35 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Personally, I feel that it's useless for people to envy others when they can accomplish themselves whatever they envy so much.

Sometimes, our background and relationships give us the optimism and resilience to take on any challenge. Sometimes, they don't. Blaming her for her own situation doesn't reflect well on you, although I understand your anger.
posted by amtho at 3:43 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

You were once close, and she confided in you that she is envious of you. But how did you react when you told her this?

I think it could be your reaction that is causing this coldness and disdain you say you are now experiencing from her. You say you have no patience with her attitude and you even seem angry about it (I'm not sure why? Maybe you feel she has a sense of entitlement that is unearned and your advantages have come from hard work--well then, share this with her, explain it didn't come easy. But why be angry?). Is it possible your attitude came across when she shared her feelings?

I'm feeling like you should cut her a break. She sounds like she is feeling a bit suffocated, and this is common in many young mothers and will likely pass. She could also be suffering from postpartum depression. In any case, I'd be more inclined to feel sorry for her and let it go than to let it work me up the way you have.

Consider yourself fortunate that others feel you are so successful and happy they wish they had your life!
posted by misha at 6:16 PM on September 15, 2010

<God> Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. </God>

Marianne Williamson
posted by sockpup at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

When I have been in your shoes, the problem wasn't because I couldn't appreciate his/her [disadvantaged] position enough. Quite frankly, it had less to do with recognizing their perspective as it had to do with realizing that from their perspective, they cannot/will not understand yours. The hurt feeling is generated from the disappointment/betrayal of realizing this about a close friend/family member... betrayal, because as a close friend/family member, it is "fair" to have the underlying assumption that they will be sympathetic to your perspective.

When someone conveys this to me, I definitely resent that they assume my life has been so easy... especially when, in my own ways, I have been through a LOT. What I should start telling people who feel they need to remark on my success: "The fact that I am where I am right now has no more to do with me than you feel your life where it is today has to do with you so much as circumstances beyond your control throughout your entire life. This is the hand life dealt me - thanks for letting me know I carry it well."
posted by human ecologist at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you need to feel empathy for yourself at the age of 16. Here's why.

Something happened to you when you were younger, either your parents were hard on you, or you had a rough patch growing up, and you feel pity for yourself at that point in time. That pity has manifested itself in the fact that you might think that you do not deserve what you have, or maybe it causes you to need others to be aware of your success. Those feelings are most likely subconscious. You most likely cannot draw the connection between a reaction today, and what your feelings were years ago. This persons resentment is probably placed in your mind in the form of a sentence like, "you don't deserve the things you have, I do."

Here's how to fix that. Start with some deep breathing exercises to clear your mind, then pick a time when you were younger where you "feel bad" for yourself. Think about those emotions, see yourself at that age from a third person view, then think to yourself, "that person I'm looking at didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't their fault. They needed support." And then feel empathy for yourself at that age, for whatever you went through. Don't pity yourself at that age, provide emotional support to yourself at that age.

Make time to do this three or more times a week. You'll feel better in no time.
posted by Arbitrage1 at 8:34 AM on September 16, 2010

Argh! I just wrote you a long answer and somehow lost it before I posted it. So, unfortunately, here's the much shorter version: get a copy of the book Cinderella and Her Sisters: The Envied and The Envying by Ann and Barry Ulanov.
posted by tacoma1 at 8:35 AM on September 16, 2010

Just remember: Envy = feeling of self-incompetence.
Her being rude is not cool, but it's not out of disdain for you but for herself. And with that, she's probably hurting herself more than she's hurting you.
I'd just feel sorry for her and move on. But that being said, rudeness is never excusable, regardless of the reason/excuses behind it and it should be addressed.
posted by Neekee at 8:50 PM on September 16, 2010

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