When jealousy occurs in romantic relationships it often is the root cause of a break up. This is because it can trigger possessiveness and this can result in toxicity within the relationship. It is defined as “a defensive reaction to a perceived threat to a valued relationship, arising from a situation in which the partner’s involvement with another activity and/or person is contrary to the jealous persons definition of their relationship” (Bevan, 2004).
It could look like controlling what kind of clothes your partner wears out of fear that they might attract others every time they leave the house or forbidding them from socialising with their friends and many other ways. This feeling of jealousy can become so intense that it can also result in death. I know that this sounds very extreme but it is really common. If I had to count how many times I read about articles on the news about partners killing their significant other due to fits of jealous rage I think my head would explode.
Mark Consuelos a.k.a. the town villain in tv series Riverdale recently admitted that he “once tried to catch Kelly Ripa doing something wrong when she wasn’t answering his calls once.” He continued on to add that on in order to do so he “had the doorman tell her that there was a flower delivery” then when she opened the door he barged in searching the apartment for a man with hopes to catch her in the act of cheating. He flew all the way from Boston to New York in order to do this. This is an example of “Morbid Jealousy, Othello syndrome or delusional jealousy which is a psychological disorder in which a person is preoccupied with the thought that their spouse or sexual partner is being unfaithful without having real proof” (Kingham, Michael & Gordon, Harvey, 2004). There have been many recent examples of fits of jealous rage in the media recently like the woman in NSW who recently ran her boyfriend over with her four wheel drive, pinning him against the brick wall of a car park. Another example is the London man who is now jailed for 35 years for killing his pregnant girlfriend and her baby, stabbing her 21 times due to a bout of jealousy. It is difficult to determine what kind of jealousy someone might have because psychotic and neurotic jealousy for example have very few differences (Kingham, Michael & Gordon, Harvey, 2004).
So if we understand how toxic, dangerous and destructive jealousy can be in romantic relationships why do we let is slide in friendships? Jealousy in friendships might look different than jealousy in romantic relationships, however both are still underpinned by controlling and competitive behaviour stemming from insecurity. For instance if friend A) never gets female attention while friend B) constantly gets it, then friend A) could go through great lengths to ruin the reputation of friend B in order to sabotage all of his romantic opportunities. Another example could be if friend A has worked very hard to receive a work promotion and friend B receives it without even trying then friend A might start to go around and gossip about how undeserving friend B is of that position to co-workers due to jealousy. This is also an attempt to sabotage their reputation because person B feels that they “lost” therefore they might feel compelled to do anything they can to make themselves look good to feel better.
In my experience I initially found it very hard to spot jealousy in friendships because I honestly couldn’t believe that your loved ones could actually be mad that you are reaping the rewards of your own hard work. Or if it isn’t jealousy in regards to your achievements, I found it bizarre to think that “friends’ could be jealous of things that you can’t control like your personality traits such as being extroverted, resilient, willing to try new things, unbothered about the opinions of others, taking constructive criticism well etc. We all know someone who has a best friend and a partner that cannot stand each other because they might feel that they constantly have to compete with each other for quality time. Friendships that are disrupted due to one individual feeling replaced by another close relationship whether platonic or romantic have been associated with feelings of guilt, anger, stress and depression (Zelazo & Phillip 2013).
A great example I always think about when explaining the severity of jealousy is by analysing the behaviour of Janis in the movie ‘Mean Girls’. Janis feels disgruntled because she used to be close friends with Regina, however as Regina “rose to the top” of the social hierarchy Janis got replaced with more popular friends. This left Janis at the bottom of the hierarchy with only one friend, watching Regina bathe in popularity from a distance. This evoked feelings of anger, stress, resentment and depression within Janis resulting in her coming up with an evil plan to sabotage Regina’s reputation so that she can feel better about herself and her own place in the social hierarchy. She used Cady to do this and then became infuriated when she found out that she had yet again been left behind at the bottom of the hierarchy as Cady began to rise to the top of the social hierarchy. The common theme here is that Janis kept getting left behind as she got replaced with more popular friends, resulting in fits of jealous rage.
Another scene I refer to is where Regina George wrote a whole bunch of lies in the “burn book” and then went to the principals office claiming that Cady wrote it in attempt to sabotage Cady’s image. She did this out of jealousy because she perceived Cady a threat to her position in the social hierarchy resulting in feelings of insecurity. It was clear that she saw Cady as a threat when Regina began competing with Cady for attention. For example when she threw herself onto Aaron purely because she knew that Cady had feelings for him. She also attempted to sabotage Aaron’s reputation during a phone call with Cady by saying that he only cares about “school, his mum and his friends” in attempt to dis-persuade her from showing interest in him seeing as she was jealous. Another example is when she tries to twist Cady’s words in a three-way call by asking Cady whether she is Mad that Gretchen told her that Cady likes Aaron. In response Cady says that she isn’t mad (because she didn’t see the big deal) but then hesitantly agrees with Regina when she suggested that it was a bitchy thing to do. Cady then says suggests that maybe Gretchen just likes the attention. In response Regina then reveals that Gretchen has been on this three-way call the entire time and that she is in shock that Cady thinks she likes attention then hangs up leaving tension between the two. Regina would have instigated this drama to make tarnish Cady’s image because she feels threatened by her and wants to ensure that she does not surpass her spot in the hierarchy.
Another great scene is the stage performance of “jingle bell rock” whereby Gretchen tells Cady that she doesn’t know why Regina would send her a candy cane (but not her) because she doesn’t even like her. Gretchen’s feelings of anger and insecurity resulting from her feeling replaced compelled her to make a remark like this and to begin exposing Regina’s secrets because she was trying to sabotage Regina’s image to make herself feel better about being replaced. For instance she shared confidential information about Regina’s secret nose job and about her parents marital issues. Another instance where she shared private information is when she calls Karen and says, “Regina says everyone hates you because you’re such a slut.” She did this in response to hearing that Regina does not want her to win the ‘Spring Fling Queen’ (clearly because this would be a threat to Regina’s place in the hierarchy.) It is clear that Gretchen responded this way because she was coming from a mentality of “If I can’t win her attention and approval, then neither can you and ill make sure of it.” In doing so she could feel better about herself knowing that she can one-up Regina by turning her friends against her so that Regina feels disgruntled not only at Gretchen, but also at Karen and Cady too.
I could list so many other examples but you get the point and I’m sure you have had your own personal experiences revolving around jealousy. By this point I hope that you are able to see how destructive jealousy can be in friendships and relationships and how it can derail your success in various aspects. The above examples mainly revolve around social hierarchy, which is not valued that highly by many of us however transfer the same examples over to other contexts. For instance in a work, financial or family setting. Friends who do not celebrate your achievements (no matter how big or small) with genuine sincerity do not deserve a place in your life. Nor do those who are always comparing themselves to you and all of your accomplishments and then feeling like they have “lost” because you have achieved a goal of some sort. People like this will often end up doing something malicious in order to make themselves feel better about “losing” the imaginary competition in their heads. It could be in the form of sabotage, one-upping you, putting you down, making it look like you are undeserving of your accomplishments so that you do not receive recognition and praise or discouraging you from achieving your other objectives.
Good friends support each other and are happy for your victories. So if you have just started a business these close friends will share your page around to help you succeed because they genuinely want to see you happy and striving towards excellence. They will never be fearful that they might get “replaced”, “left behind” or “lose against you” and start acting out as a result. People like this are so rare so when you find them, cherish every moment together and show your appreciation for them being so secure within themselves that they do not feel the need to ever compare themselves to anyone else. If on the other end of the spectrum you are that jealous friend then I would recommend some time alone to begin some deep reflection to see what the root cause of your own insecurities are. It would be interesting to find out why you feel the need to compete? Or what makes you feel envious about seeing others happy and succeed? Is this because you lack the motivation to accomplish your own goals and cant bare to see other’s do what you are too lazy to? Is it because you grew up constantly being compared to your cousins and placed in an imaginary competition? Is it because you have abandonment issues and feel that you will get replaced therefore you start rejecting first before you get rejected? Dig deep!