Tianna Soto, M.A.

By Tianna Soto, M.A.

mbg Contributor

Tianna Faye Soto, M.A., is a Puerto Rican, Jamaican-Chinese writer, editor, and wellness speaker based in New York City. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology in Education from Columbia University, where she received specialized training at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute. She is also certified in yoga, meditation, and Reiki levels I & II.

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April 22, 2023

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Have you ever been jealous in a relationship or friendship and wished the feeling would just…go away? You get suspicious every time your partner’s phone lights up, or your coworker’s recent promotion makes you a little envious, even though you’re genuinely happy for them.

Jealousy is a complicated feeling that doesn’t necessarily feel great in the moment—but chances are, there’s a reason you’re experiencing it. Identifying the root cause can help you understand yourself better and, eventually, learn how to stop being jealous of the people in your life.


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Here’s how to stop being jealous and start feeling more at ease, according to experts.

What exactly is jealousy?

“Jealousy is when someone experiences feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and fear in response to a perceived threat,” Becca Smith, LPC, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer at the mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy, tells mbg. “It can be triggered by someone else’s success, accomplishments, possessions, or relationships.” 

Because we’ve been evolutionarily trained to protect our relationships, jealousy often feels personal and primal, often causing anxiety, lack of trust, anger, and physical reactions like a heightened fight-or-flight response

But although jealousy is often painted as a “negative” thing, it is a perfectly normal human emotion that isn’t inherently bad—just like sadness, anger, or any other uncomfortable feeling. Jealousy can even be healthy in some cases by indicating that something important needs to be communicated in your relationship, or that you have unmet emotional needs that could use some attention. 

There’s no shame in experiencing jealousy, but it doesn’t have to rule your relationships, either. 

Why do I get jealous so easily?

Some people may be more prone to jealousy than others, according to licensed mental health counselor Nicole Ellen, LCMHC. “Psychological factors that may lead to jealous reactions may include low self-esteem, anxiety, moodiness, depression, possessiveness, fear of abandonment, codependency, and anxious attachment style,” she says. If you’re sensitive to betrayal, rejection, or deal with trust issues, jealousy may become amplified as well. 

According to a 2022 study1 in Frontiers in Psychology, both personality and attachment styles are important predictors of jealousy. High neuroticism, for instance—one of the Big Five personality traits—is consistently linked to higher jealousy, and anxious attachment—which can involve insecurity, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of abandonment—can also contribute. 

Licensed counselor Greg Cheney, Ph.D., says that past life experiences matter, too. “Those who have experienced significant relationships as untrustworthy and unreliable may feel insecure in their relationships,” he explains. For example, research shows1 that people who have experienced sexual infidelity from a current or past partner report higher levels of jealousy. 

Jealousy can also sometimes be a sign that your needs or desires aren’t being met, according to California-based licensed marriage and family therapist Kaylin Zabienski, LMFT. “I teach my clients that jealousy is an indicator of something that is missing in your life…something that you deeply crave,” she says. “For example, if you are jealous that your partner spends too much time with their friends, maybe you don’t feel like you are getting enough attention or the connection that you want in your relationship.” Or if you’re jealous of someone’s fancy house or car, you may feel insecure about your financial means in some way.


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How to stop being jealous of your friends

Jealousy is often discussed in the context of romance, but you can be jealous of your friends, too. Research shows2 that friendship jealousy is a pretty common experience—and Danielle Bayard Jackson, a friendship coach and relationship expert at Bumble for Friends, says you shouldn’t shame yourself for it.

“Many of us think that feeling jealous makes us a bad friend, or perhaps that we weren’t a real friend at all if we’re having these feelings,” she tells mbg. “However, jealousy is a completely natural feeling to have, and denying or shutting down these feelings can preclude us from using the situation to grow for the better.”

Bayard Jackson also calls out the important difference between jealousy and envy. “All too often, these words are used interchangeably,” she says. “If you’re envious of your friend, you may find yourself wishing that you had what they have (i.e. they got a new house, announced a recent pregnancy, or were accepted at the school of your dreams). Jealousy, on the other hand, involves some kind of perceived ‘intruder’…you fear that the friendship you have will be threatened, taken away, or jeopardized by another person or situation.” 

In a recent Bumble for Friends survey of U.S. adults, 77% of respondents said that friends are one of the main factors of a happy and healthy life. “If you find that you’re in an insecure or sensitive space in life and it’s making it hard for you to show up for your friends, this can have a direct impact on your overall capacity for happiness,” Bayard Jackson explains

So, here’s how to stop being jealous of your friends: 


Identify the source of your jealousy

Does your friend no longer have time for you? Are you jealous of their career success or new boyfriend? Consider what’s actually triggering your jealousy—whether it’s the fact that you feel abandoned, envious of something they have that you don’t, or even a little competitive.

“Take time to evaluate what the feelings of jealousy are signaling about you, and be completely honest with yourself!” Bayard Jackson says. “Jealousy offers an opportunity for us to look within and be more mindful of the underlying reasons that are causing us to feel this way.”


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Carve out time to reconnect with them.

Sometimes, jealousy is an indication that you simply miss being close to your friend. “Consider the ways that you can turn jealousy into a positive outcome—for example, if you see your friend spending more time with a new friend, maybe this encourages you to be more attentive or check in with her more,” Bayard Jackson tells mbg.

Zabienski agrees. “Instead of feeling jealousy as a negative emotion, it can be a pathway to asking questions,” she explains. “If you feel jealous of a friend’s dating life, be curious and ask her how she does it. The jealousy can be used as a moment of vulnerability and a way to bring you closer in your relationships, instead of something that tears [you] apart.”


Communicate with your friend about how you’re feeling.

If your friend did something to hurt you or their behavior is triggering in some way, it may be time for radical honesty. “If you’re feeling jealous, it may be helpful to have a conversation with them so they can understand where you’re coming from, or you can work together to address any underlying issues,” Smith says.

Keep in mind—while you’re stewing in a state of jealousy, your friend may have no idea what’s going on or realize their behavior is activating you. Trauma and anxiety therapist Lauran Hahn, LMHC, tells mbg, “Open communication often helps dispel any perceived threats that are contributing to feeling jealous. If you’re struggling with jealousy, talk to your person and let them know that you’re having a hard time.”


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But if the friendship feels toxic or draining, distance yourself.

Having toxic friends is no fun, and not all connections are for the best. If you repeatedly feel drained, discouraged, or hurt by the friendship, consider taking a step back or cutting ties altogether.

“It may be helpful to distance yourself from situations or people who trigger feelings of jealousy,” Smith tells mbg. “When you focus on your own path instead of comparing yourself to others, you can move forward with more confidence and gain a sense of satisfaction in your own progress.”

According to Smith, having a gratitude practice can also help you stop fixating on jealousy and gain valuable perspective on yourself and your relationships. “When you feel jealous of someone else, take a moment and make a list of all the things that you’re grateful for,” she says. “This can help remind you of how much you have going for you and how far you’ve come.”

Using journaling techniques, positive affirmations, and other healing modalities can help you reground and root in the present.


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How to stop being jealous in relationships

From social media-induced jealousy to concerns about cheating, dealing with jealousy in a romantic relationship can feel daunting. Maybe you feel jealous when your partner likes their ex’s photos online or comments on a celebrity’s attractiveness—or maybe your heart races when a stranger flirts with them at the bar.

Tropes like “the jealous girlfriend” run rampant in pop culture, and many people chalk jealousy up to being controlling, insecure, or overly dramatic. But jealousy isn’t just about you being insecure—it’s caused by a variety of factors, including your past. “Maybe you were cheated on before and now you don’t trust that it won’t happen again,” Zabienski says.

Here are some tips for overcoming jealousy in a relationship: 


Reflect on where your feelings are coming from.

In friendships and relationships alike, it’s crucial to unpack why you’re feeling jealous in your relationship. “Once you understand what in your past is contributing to feelings of jealousy, you can identify present-day triggers that activate the feeling,” Hahn tells mbg. “With this awareness, you can utilize mindfulness to manage feelings of jealousy.”

In a moment of jealousy, it may help to remember your inner child and be patient with yourself—it’s natural to have old wounds come up sometimes, and they can take a while to heal.


Challenge your negative assumptions.

According to Hahn, intense feelings of jealousy can lead to overgeneralized negative assumptions about your partner—for example, “They must be seeing other people” or “Our relationship is doomed”—but that may or may not be the case at all.

“Recognize that these are thoughts generated by your mind and they aren’t necessarily based in fact. Once you can emotionally ‘unhook’ from the thoughts, it is easier to ride the wave of jealousy until it subsides,” she says.


Find ways to build trust and connection with your partner.

“In romantic relationships, jealousy can be a sign of insecurity or lack of trust,” Smith says. “If that’s the case, couples can look for ways to build more trust and connection in their relationship.”

To do this, aim to have open, honest conversations with your partner about what’s on your mind. Incorporate quality time into your schedules. Engaging in different types of intimacy and communicating honestly with your partner can help you feel seen and supported instead of constantly suspicious. 


In moments of jealousy, try to pause before reacting.

Jealousy can be a triggering emotion in the heat of the moment because it makes us feel threatened. Your face gets flushed, your palms are clammy, and you may feel the urge to cry, withdraw, or get angry with your partner. It’s natural to be upset, but Cheney recommends approaching the moment as mindfully as you can.

“Before doing something in reaction to jealousy—like texting, calling someone, or saying something—take a deep breath and take some time to get curious about what sparked feeling jealous,” he says. “Move toward the emotion with curiosity and not away from it. This may be hard to do in the moment and may need to take place after an intense experience.”


Build up your self-esteem. 

Relationships are a two-way street, and the responsibility shouldn’t just be on you to manage jealous emotions. That said, experts say building your self-esteem can help give you the confidence you need to advocate for yourself, be more present in your relationship, and potentially feel less jealous over time.

“When you have a healthy sense of self-worth, you’re less likely to compare yourself to others or feel threatened by their successes,” Smith tells mbg. “You already know your own worth and don’t need anyone else to validate it.”

Practicing acceptance for your emotions

Jealousy is a natural, human emotion that can’t be simply “turned off.” Although it’s impossible to avoid jealousy altogether, accepting your emotions and practicing self-compassion can help you through tough times. “When you recognize that it is okay to feel this way regardless of how painful and uncomfortable it may be, then you release your mind from the emotional pressure and judgment that these emotions can cause,” Ellen tells mbg. “This can take us out of the cycle of shame and guilt.” 

“Remember, everyone struggles with jealousy at some point,” Hahn adds. “Show yourself compassion by acknowledging the struggle…remind yourself that you’re not alone in this and that the emotion is temporary and will pass.” 

Hahn also recommends labeling your thoughts, emotions, and sensations as they arise (i.e., “I feel hurt and angry” or “My body is feeling heat”) instead of suppressing them. “Once we name the different aspects of jealousy, it can work to deactivate the intensity,” Hahn explains.

It can help to remember that jealousy is signaling something you want and care about, Zabienski adds. “A great self-compassion exercise is to place a hand on your heart, close your eyes, and say out loud in a loving way, ‘I see your desire. You deserve to have what you want. I will do my best to give it to you,’” she says.


What causes jealous behavior?

Many factors may contribute to jealous behavior, including attachment style, personality type, low self-esteem, and past relationship experiences. The experience is not one-size-fits-all, and jealousy presents differently for everyone. But jealousy almost always signals an unmet need, whether in your relationship or in your life. 

Is it normal to be jealous all the time?

Feeling jealous is a perfectly normal, human experience—but you deserve to feel happy and emotionally safe in your relationship. If you feel jealous constantly, it may be time to chat with the other person involved or seek support from a therapist.  

Is jealousy toxic?

Jealousy isn’t an inherently toxic emotion, but jealousy that involves controlling behavior, excessive secrecy, guilt, gaslighting, manipulation, or any type of abuse can be highly toxic and should be approached with safety and care.

The takeaway

Jealousy can be tough to deal with, but it doesn’t have to rule your life or ruin your relationships. “A life without jealousy impairing your most important relationships can be realized,” Cheney tells mbg. “It may just take some intentional, courageous steps with someone you trust to complete that journey.” 

If you’ve tried a variety of healing methods but still feel lost, Hahn suggests seeking help from a qualified therapist. “Unremitting jealousy can be a sign of emotional and relational trauma from the past,” she tells mbg. “In therapy, you can work through those old wounds which will free up your mental and emotional energy and make space for healthy relationships.”

At the end of the day, it’s entirely possible to manage jealous feelings and start enjoying your relationships. You deserve healthy, fulfilling connections with friends, significant others, family members, coworkers, and beyond—so find the support you need and know that you don’t have to manage your jealousy alone.