I am jealous of my friend.
April 19, 2015 3:11 AM   Subscribe

I am very jealous of a friend I've known for ten years. Mostly, it seems like he has an easy and fun life, and he doesn't have to deal with the problems that keep me down (like chronic health worries). I also feel like he takes a lot of his privileges for granted; he doesn't understand why I don't just travel internationally all summer. Plus I think he can be a bit spoiled; I've seen him pout when one thing goes wrong out of dozens that go really great. My trouble right now is that all of the stuff I just mentioned makes it hard for me to talk to him and/or remember the things I like about him. I want to be able to put the jealousy and resentment aside and just be friends. I know I mostly need to keep working on my own self-confidence and enriching my own life. That said, what do you think the best ways are to navigate this friendship right now in terms of how I interact with him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, why are you friends with him? If he's that privileged and spoiled, what is keeping the friendship together?

Your answer is probably what you should concentrate on. Everybody is made up of a lot of things; their struggles, their petulance, their humor, their pain, their wealth or lack thereof. What brought you together as friends is what's important, and your jealousy about how "easy" his life is is the distraction.

There's probably a lot about his life you don't know, and he may have a lot of struggles that he chooses not to share with the world. So concentrate on what made you friends in the first place and concentrate on being a good friend to someone you chose to be friends with for the reasons you chose to be friends with him.
posted by xingcat at 4:34 AM on April 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides.*
That is a start; none of us know what others have gone through. What may look peachy keen from the outside, may not be the situation at all. Life will never be fair and I have found it is helpful to find a way to truly accept that fact - whether it is a mantra, or therapy, or reading a book - the sooner you are able to accept the fact that we are all different and will never be equal, the happier you will be - or at the least, the less energy you will waste on those things. Think of the many blessings that you have and be grateful for them.

*I had a friend in high school and I was super jealous of her life - her parents let her do whatever she wanted, no curfews, no rules, her parents trusted her to do what she wanted. My house was the complete opposite; lots of rules and punishments. Years later she and I talked about it and I found out she was jealous of me! I was completely surprised. In her eyes, she saw that my parents cared about me and took the time to raise me and hers really didn't. True story!
posted by NoraCharles at 4:46 AM on April 19, 2015 [14 favorites]

NoraCharles has it right; we really don't know what goes on behind closed doors of someone elses house.
I would recommend that you first remember these two phrases:

"Don't compare your rough draft to someone else's highlight reel." This is a version of the phrase that NoraCharles gave above and I think it even better encapsulates the dissonance we sometimes feel when we're viewing someone else's life from outside. There could be a dozen different things going on that would make you feel EVER so happy that you don't have this person's life.


"Everything has a price." Either figurative or literal. Do you know if there are any strings attached to this international travel? I don't. Again, you're only seeing one part of this person's life: the part they want you to see.

Secondly, if this person is really that annoying and arouses such jealousy and hurt feelings in you, remove yourself from the area immediately.

Just how good a friend are they?
Are you using the term "friend" when you might actually mean "acquaintance", because a friend really wouldn't treat you like this, nor rub your nose in their good fortune. They would actually SHARE it.

Think on these things and take the appropriate action to make your life even better and less stressful.
You deserve it.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:41 AM on April 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you are quite young (in college maybe?) Many people at that age haven't had the type of experiences that teach them humility and self-awareness yet. Assuming that your friend isn't a rich douchebag, life will change that. In the meantime, if he's draining energy away from your recovery, it's ok to distance yourself from him. You can also try focusing on what you do like about him and avoiding situations where his privilege will upset you. If he treats you with respect and is there when you need him, grant him the grace of letting the other stuff slide, just as you'd want him to be compassionate about your jealousy.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:23 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I was in my twenties I had confidence issues and could be judgmental. I saw a lot of things in black and white and because of that I behaved poorly with some of my close friends. My advice is to don't do anything you're going to regret down the road because you have confidence issues. Treat yourself and your friendships well. We are all different and have different personalities, backgrounds, and challenges. Take care not to jeopardize your relationships over differences.
posted by Fairchild at 6:41 AM on April 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

First off, try not to blame yourself so much for feeling this way. Clueless privilege in your friends is hard to deal with. It's that much harder if you are with this guy and you're thinking, "Here are these feelings of resentment again; I need to stop having them." It is totally legitimate to feel jealous of people who are not under material pressure all the time!

It has helped me, in these circumstances, to see these differences among the people we know as a function of social forces that are ripe for criticism. Life is profoundly unfair in the US, for instance. In some very shocking and visible ways but also, people who are just barely or recently in the middle class have a much harder time than people who come from money. That's not part of our national mythology so it's kind of a secret until you bump up against it. I think our politicians have been very good at convincing people who are on the downside of things that it's their fault.

That said, there are some one percenters in my extended family and I find hanging out with some of them gets old really fast. Some of them are nice people, but some are just awful. It's not just their money; it's their money and their attitude. And I don't feel bad for feeling that way! When we're at a social gathering where the obnoxious ones dominate, I sit with a like-minded person and there is a certain amount of eye-rolling.
posted by BibiRose at 6:50 AM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I trust you've never mentioned your jealousy of this friend to him. Nothing give some people an un-earned ego boost than knowing they're the object of envy. Sounds like this guy doesn't need any more advantages.
If I were you? I'd give this friend some distance, and try to cultivate more nourishing friendships, though that's not really the word I want. I don't mean cut him out completely; simply find other people with whom you feel more comfortable.
Your friend could be any number of my in-laws. Blithely clueless, and blind to other folks' realities.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:38 AM on April 19, 2015

Part of your solution could be to steer conversations with him away from those annoying things. And if he doesn't get it, well it's worth it to say "look, I really don't want to talk about that." And explain in as few words as possible that you feel differently about his woes than he does, and would rather just not talk about it at all rather than get jealous or irrationally annoyed.

A lot of my husband's family go on regular beach vacations and cruises and just HAVE to show us all the pictures when they come back, when I haven't been able to go on a vacation for a few years myself. I really don't want to see them and am becoming a lot better at dodging the show-off sessions. These are people who will always be in my life and I have to play nice with, so I have to make the effort to simply change conversations. I've let a lot of friendships peter out where this sort of thing was happening - nowadays I just don't care to spend my time with people who make me feel bad about myself for whatever reason, if I can't get over it.
posted by lizbunny at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who can kind of be like this. If I didn't know so much about him, I might not be as close to him. The things that I do know about him temper and explain a lot about the things you describe. In addition, he's extremely generous, funny and thoughtful - can you say the same about your friend? If not, then I'd say it's OK to back away from a friendship that makes you feel bad about yourself.
posted by mibo at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2015

I really empathize with you. A family member recently shared some exciting news and my response was to sob for two days because I was so jealous. It wasn't a rational response and I'm not proud of my behavior.

However, I tried to channel those feelings into healthy behaviors. I bought her a gift to celebrate. I thought about why I was so jealous and identified ways in which I am keeping myself from achieving my goals so I can work through them. I told a few people close to me that I was struggling and they agreed that I'm not a jerk and I'm doing my best.

All of that has helped. Now when my family member talks about this thing, I think of the people who support me. I practice a few phrases about how happy I am for her and keep going. I think about how I love this person and want her to be happy and I also want to be happy. Those thoughts can co-exist in my head and they can co-exist in yours.

You're going to be okay. Think about ways in which your lives are different. Little things that don't concern you bother him a lot because he doesn't have other things to worry about. You probably experience more joy than him when you travel because it's not something you do all the time. Your lives are different. That's okay. Focus on what's awesome about your life and what you want to change.
posted by kat518 at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I know I mostly need to keep working on my own self-confidence and enriching my own life

In addition to all the excellent advice above, can you find a way to appreciate the fact that his presence in your life is helping push you to do these things?

We all encounter people who make us feel insecure and jealous, and we all need to learn how to cope with that and find satisfaction and contentment within ourselves. He is giving you the opportunity to work on nurturing that. The difficult parts of our lives are what help us learn. So it might feel perverse, but try to tap into a feeling of gratitude to him for presenting you with this challenge!
posted by aka burlap at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

It can be hard to be happy among others who have much more than you have. Even a millionaire will start to feel bereft if she only hangs out with billionaires. You might just be at a point in your life where it feels better to spend more time with people whose state in life is closer to your own, whatever that means. It might mean a person who just lost a leg feels unhappier around ballerinas; it might mean an infertile person feels sadder around a glowing new parent, it might mean an unemployed person feels worse around a newly-promoted person, it might mean a person busting ass to develop a particular body shape avoids those who have that shape effortlessly. Those all sound understandable, right? Your situation is probably similar, cut yourself some slack.

I wouldn't suggest spending your whole life among people who are exactly at- or below- your level in whatever area. It would be good to work on creating the life you want, so you can feel happy with your own lot and not envy others so acutely, and plus, spending time with others who have more than you have can be inspiring, and (thoughtfully, compassionately) spending time among others who have less can be humbling and help you develop gratefulness.

But for the short term, it's totally ok to avoid this guy and spend more time with people who aren't flaunting their luck in your face at exactly the time when you feel unlucky.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:53 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I'm envious of someone I use that envy to teach me something. Why, exactly, are you envious? Is there a way to get what you envy the other person for? If not, is there a way for you to attain something else that is valuable? For example, maybe it is impossible for you to achieve the seemingly perfect health of your friend, but is there anything your chronic health problem has taught you about compassion or living in the moment?

Your envy is not something to run away from in shame, and it is not good to structure your life to be completely free of it. People who surround themselves with others who just make them feel good about themselves are often missing out on an important source of self-knowledge and motivation. And don't forget how valuable it can be to have privileged people in your corner.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:21 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this will help you the way it has me in similar situations, but I've often found a sense of balance and realization that "all might not be what it seems" when I remember the poem about Richard Cory.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:24 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, in situations where a friend of mine has won an award or something, and I find myself envious, I reach out to that person and send them a warm note of congratulations right away (even if I'm not really feeling it). When I act supportive, I find that my emotions will, eventually, follow.
posted by girl flaneur at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a 30+ year friendship in which I am perhaps a little bit like your friend, and he is possibly a little bit like you. Just to maybe suggest another perspective, looking over a long history.

Through the years, my friend made conscious, career-limiting choices, based on his ethical principles. His work was rewarding and meaningful, but it didn't pay that well. I, on the other hand, succeeded in a career that I loved and that paid well, where ethical dilemmas were few and far between. I don't feel privileged, I totally realize it was pretty much dumb luck, being in the right place at the right time.

For about the past ten years, I've had to tip-toe around our interactions, because he has told me that if I say anything remotely involving dollars and cents--that I'm going out of the country on vacation, say--it plunges him into a depression that lasts for days, and to please stop it. He says it's waving my "wealth"--I am not wealthy--in his face.

So I've developed safe story lines: my pets' hijinx, cooking, politics, movie reviews, news of people we know in common.

And that's okay, but it's not the friendship we once had. Because I respect his stated boundaries, I cannot share some things that are important to me. And, I'll go ahead and say it, occasionally I feel resentment, since he can tell me about his financial life, and does, but I am not allowed to comment in kind. Seriously, sometimes I feel like a leg that he's dog-humping, and that's all I am to him.

Truthfully, if we had less history, I would withdraw from the friendship. But we went through a lot of experiences together over the years and are pretty much family. So I hang in there, and now that I'm "trained," he does, too, and that's preferable to the alternative.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:48 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a chapter in Richard Carlson's You Can Be Happy No Matter What that talks about this very issue
posted by tiburon at 6:02 PM on April 19, 2015

Jamie Johnson (the Johnson & Johnson heir) did two documentaries interviewing friends and family and trying to talk about wealth. It was super eye-opening, and it might help you a lot. They're on YouTube and pop up in Google "Born Rich" and "The One Percent"). Wealth certainly has it's own issues, and I don't envy them one bit! If you have "that kind" of friendship I bet it would be super interesting to watch together.

Also studies show that once basic needs are met, your happiness level is sort of on a default setting. I think one year after either a limb amputation or winning the lottery, folks are back to their default. I don't know how to internalize that, but there you go. I also really like "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner. In it he notes that one of the keys to happiness seems to be a perception of being equal to your peers: huge differences in income/resouces make people unhappy and unsatisfied. The wage gap in the US is increasingly huge, and your oblivious friend is representing that and sorta rubbing it in.

Honestly, he sounds pretty clueless. I'd either speak up for myself more "Uh, I don't travel because I make X amount a year and that's ALL my income!" or cut back and possibly do the slow fade. He's sounds like kind of a dick. It's one thing to go "yay Europe I am so grateful that I'm able to go can I get you anything!?" and another to be...well, a dick about it! (Whoa, you're not going to Europe this summer? What's wrong with you?) If he's going to ask why you can't go, it needs to be an earnest question and he should spend time listening to the answer. Otherwise, I don't think he's really that good a friend.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2015

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