Envy in Intimate Relationships

By | 25/05/2015

Nobody likes to admit they feel envy, much less of someone who is close to them. However, it’s actually most common precisely between people who know each other well.

Envy comes from our habit of comparing ourselves to others; we feel diminished when they have more than we do. The feeling will be even more intense if we are comparing ourselves to peers in age or social standing.

It’s even more common between siblings. Each has their own qualities, of course, and will stand out in different areas, be it for their looks, intelligence, social skills, or professional and financial situation. In this case, as in many others, envy and jealousy are intertwined. Siblings fight for their parents’ love, and their desire to be the “favorite” creates an inevitable rivalry. Tension grows and the envious hostility becomes very clear when one of them, over the years, achieves better results at their endeavors. The sibling that feels as if they’re losing experiences a mix of feelings – first off, they feel belittled and their vanity, which is a desire to stand out, is hurt. Then, they get angry, which causes subtle or explicit acts of aggression. The truth is that almost every form of seemingly gratuitous hostility comes from envy.

Throughout adult life, most of us keep comparing ourselves to others, especially those we see as competition, and whenever we feel as if we are losing – which, of course, depends on how we perceive ourselves and others – we feel humiliated, which can either make us hostile or, if we are mindful, make us step away from the person provoking our envy, to avoid these aggressive reactions. But even after stepping away, the discomfort of feeling like a loser will torment us for a while.

It must be said that envy can affect any of us at some points in our lives. People who claim to have never felt envious are either lying or just haven’t yet felt inferior enough to experience it.

In some instances, however, people already feel so different, so disadvantaged, that comparisons would not even be possible as, for instance, back in the days of absolutist monarchy, when plebeians would have felt so underprivileged that they could not even conceive of comparing themselves to nobility.

Often, envy is present in romantic relationships, for countless reasons. Envy is born from admiration, felt after you compare yourself to someone who seems to be better than you and is, therefore, admirable. But love also springs from admiration, so if two people in love aren’t cautious, they’ll experience conflicted feelings.

Introverts, for instance, frequently think extroverts are charming and are, naturally, attracted to gregarious people, if they believe this is a better way to be. But these differences that can sometimes delight can also annoy or cause envy. The only way to escape this cycle would be through personal growth and by learning from others the traits we lack, yet admire. Sadly, however, it is not the norm, as most people are able to sense that they are loved precisely because they are different from their partner.

Also, many men and women are envious of the qualities they see on the other gender. While many men envy the seductive power of women, many women grew up thinking that boys had a better position than they did. This has been changing, as the world evolves to equality, but the discomfort over these differences still remains for some. Sexist men are always talking about the limitations, weakness and foolishness of women – this is clearly their envy speaking! Women who believe they are in an inferior position are hostile to their male partners, can’t be happy for their success and often refuse erotic intimacy, although they make a point in presenting themselves as provocative and sensual, to depreciate and hurt the object of their love and envy.

A good way to minimize envy in romantic relationships is to accept who we are, and pick a partner with whom we are compatible.

Tradução: Amanda Morris