Blood may be thicker than water, but that doesn’t stop jealousy from rearing its ugly head in families.
Jealous friends and acquaintances can be bad enough; jealousy from a member of your family can make you feel like you’ve been dealt a double blow.
After all, your relation is someone you love and who is supposed to love you back. They should want the best for you, celebrate your successes and comfort you during bad times, not behave as if they dislike you and begrudge you everything you have or achieve.
Jealousy stems from our deepest insecurities. It is one of the most raw, negative and destructive human emotions, and is surprisingly common in families.
Most of us have been jealous of someone at some time in our lives, and know how unpleasant it feels. And it’s very likely we’ve been the objects of another’s jealousy, which is – arguably – even worse, especially if the jealous person is a loved one. A family member’s jealousy can seem far more confusing, hurtful and damaging.
Luckily there are a number of effective strategies you can use to help you deal with this difficult situation. These strategies can also be applied to jealous friends, colleagues or acquaintances.
It is of course necessary to mention that all families and relationships are unique and the way you use the following strategies will depend on the closeness of your relationship with your family member. You might feel a stronger bond and a greater sense of obligation to a sibling than a cousin or an in-law, for example. And a lot depends also on the quality of your connection before the jealousy began.
Let’s start with the first important point:
Don’t waste your time and energy searching for the cause of their jealousy
The truth is, you don’t need to know why your relation is jealous of you.
There could be any number of reasons. They might not even know exactly why themselves.
You can waste a lot of precious time and energy, as well as increase your misery in the process, agonizing over why your family member is jealous of you.
The reason why is irrelevant and it’s none of your business. Their emotions, actions and thoughts towards you are their concern not yours, so do not fixate over why.
And besides, what use is that knowledge? How would it help if you knew the cause of your relative’s jealousy?
Suppose the reason is your promotion and pay rise – does that mean you should quit your job to please them? Should you downgrade your life in order to appease their insecurity and jealousy?
Of course not.
Never make yourself small in order to make others feel bigger.
Know that their jealousy is all about them, not you
Jealous family members will sometimes try to imply you’ve done something wrong and blame you for the situation. They might even express this opinion to people you both know. Their viewpoint is based entirely on their self-reflection.
Although you have not intentionally hurt them, they nonetheless feel hurt by you simply because of their jealousy of you.
You are not responsible for their actions, feelings or opinions. You are not responsible for their happiness or unhappiness.
“Everybody is not you”
We cannot and should not expect other people to live by our personal standards. We are all unique individuals with different viewpoints and values, and while you would never consider behaving in such a hurtful way to a relative, the truth is we cannot demand that others follow our example.
Sadly, some people, due to their insecurities and unhappiness, do not care if they hurt others. Hurt people hurt, as the saying goes. Their pain makes them quick to blame others and slow to question their own motives and actions.
It is very likely you and your relative view and react to the situation in very different ways. That is something you will have to accept. Acceptance of the circumstances rather than brooding over the unfairness of it all is an important step in handling their behavior, and your response to it.
Confrontation and conflict are sometimes necessary – but not in this case
Most of us have been brought up to avoid confrontation and conflict as much as possible. It is true that we should stand up for ourselves when necessary but in this case, confronting your jealous family member about their behavior is not a good idea at all.
Firstly, when someone is jealous of you, regardless of whether they are family or not, they cannot react towards you in a rational way.
To them, most of your actions are a confrontation. Simply being around you creates conflict in their feelings. They believe you are the one who’s in the wrong and deserving of blame, not them.
Secondly, confrontation in this situation simply adds fuel to the fire. It creates more ill feeling and will likely drag other family members into the mess, forcing some to take sides.
Thirdly, no one likes to admit to being jealous. And no one likes to be labeled as a jealous person. Your relative is likely to claim that you are the jealous one, not them.
So, how exactly do you go about handling their jealousy – without creating confrontation and conflict, especially if you cannot avoid meeting up with them from time to time?
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do:
Act as if their behavior doesn’t affect you
You might need to brush up on your acting skills when you come face-to-face with your relative, but acting as if their behavior does not bother you is vital.
It transmits the clear message that their actions have no power over you. They might find this frustrating or confusing, especially if their intention is to hurt you, but whatever their reaction, act as if it is all water off a duck’s back.
Remind yourself you have far more important things to focus on in your life than their behavior.
Of course, if they are in any way threatening or abusive to you, it is best to not have any contact with them whatsoever.
Remember, their behavior is not your responsibility.
Be careful what you disclose to them
You cannot control your relative’s thoughts and feelings about you, but you can control what you choose to disclose and share with them about your life. How they react to what you tell them is, of course, their business, but you may prefer to tell them as little as possible.
It is likely they do not wish to hear very much about your life, or prefer to hear only bad news. You might find they never ask you anything about yourself anyway, which can make things easier.
In general, it’s best to steer any conversations towards neutral topics or talk about what they are up to.
Be polite at all times
Be polite to your relative at all times and never give them the opportunity to accuse you of bad behavior or rudeness. Your actions towards them should always be above reproach.
Their behavior is not an excuse for you to lower your standards – you have an obligation to yourself to treat everyone with respect.
If you hear from others that your relative has bad-mouthed you, do not be drawn into a conversation on the matter or say anything negative in return.
Simply acknowledge what they tell you with an “OK” and then change the subject. Continue to act like the situation does not affect you.
Don’t avoid all family gatherings
Family gatherings that also involve your jealous relative can be awkward occasions. You might be tempted to stay away, but why should their actions stop you from seeing your family? It is important to spend time with people you love.
Be polite and friendly to your jealous relative and then focus on enjoying the company of your other family members. It is often best to limit face-to-face interaction with your jealous relative and seek fulfillment in other relationships.
You might find that your jealous relative will not invite you to certain gatherings and that’s OK, it’s their choice. In the circumstances, you might prefer this arrangement too.
Do not get involved in their business
While it is polite to show an interest in their lives, do not get involved in your jealous relative’s business.
Do not try to push yourself into their lives. Accept that it is necessary to take a step back and wait for them to make the first reconciliatory move.
Accept also that reconciliation may never happen. It is best not to hope or wish for things to be different. Coming to terms with the reality of the situation stops you wasting time dwelling on the past and imagining the future.
Continue to love them – from a distance
Although your jealous family member appears to no longer love or care about you, based on their behavior towards you the truth is they probably still do; it’s just hidden beneath all their conflicted feelings.
And despite their actions, it is very likely you still care about them too, even if you no longer particularly like them. Use your feelings of love to strengthen your benevolence towards them, but be mindful that you also need to love yourself. This means that in some circumstances it is best to care about your relative from a distance.
Don’t feel guilty about removing yourself from their life if that is what you need to do to protect yourself. Instead of seeing them in person send a card in the post, or send a message via social media instead of telephoning them.
Don’t become bitter, become even better
Never let your relative’s toxic behavior make you bitter.
Yes, their behavior is unnecessary and unfair, but instead of feeling aggrieved concentrate on making your life even better. Take your energy away from the situation of their jealousy and use it to focus on improving your life.
Learn to forgive
Forgiveness is an important part of handling the situation.
You might have to deal with a lot of broken trust, which can take some time to forgive.
Forgiving your relative doesn’t mean you’ll forget what they did or condone their actions. Forgiveness frees you from the power their actions had over you – the upset, the confusion, and the sadness. You forgive for your sake, not theirs.
Feel compassion and wish them well
We all know how horrible it feels to be jealous. Jealous people are usually unhappy with themselves and their lives.
Your jealous relative doesn’t like being jealous. They don’t want to be jealous of anyone, including you.
It is possible they are looking for a scapegoat onto which they can project all their negativity and pain – and that person just happens to be you. It’s very likely they are jealous of other people too.
Send them your best wishes whenever you think of them. They need all the positivity and kindness you can give them.
Feel a little flattered
You might not be able to imagine feeling flattered by your relative’s jealousy, but after some time has passed, you are likely to see why they are jealous of you.
Perhaps you have a great job, home or partner or have achieved success of some sort. In light of this, you can understand their jealousy a little more.
So, allow yourself to feel a little flattered, and continue to make your life better and better.
Know that time often heals
It’s possible that your relative will gradually begin to behave better towards you when their life situation starts to improve. When they feel better about themselves, they are more likely to be nicer to you. Sometimes, it just takes time.
Focus on the lesson, not the pain
Every difficult experience is an opportunity for us to grow and learn more about ourselves.
It is important not to fixate on the pain you have felt as a result of the jealousy, or relive in your mind what your relative said or did. It’s far more productive to channel your energy into insight, learning and empowerment.
We need to remind ourselves that human nature is complex, and sometimes confusing and irrational, and we are all fallible. We need to continue to be compassionate to others, even to those who have not shown us kindness in return.
And as you can see from these strategies, you can handle this difficult situation in a much more self-empowering way when you take confrontation and conflict out of the equation.
KJ Hutchings is a fiction and self-help writer and artist. Much of her work focuses on self-empowerment, self-esteem and creativity, as well as relationship issues. Visit her site kjhutchings.com to get 25% off any artwork in her online shop, free e-books and chances to win original paintings. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Robert Baker.