My boyfriend and I have been dating for a couple of years. He’s my best friend and I love him. However, recently I’ve been putting a strain on our relationship because I’m envious of his successes and his skills.
As far as he’s concerned, there’s no reason for me to be jealous of him. We’re both broke 20-somethings in a similar place in life, so usually we can find comfort in commiserating with each other.
But I’m jealous of his knack for making friends, I’m jealous that he likes his job and I hate mine, and I’m jealous of his enthusiasm for so many things in life. Sometimes when he talks about having fun with his coworkers or being praised for something, I feel so jealous I want to cry. I feel pathetic in comparison.
I don’t want him to stop telling me good things in his life. Really, when I’m not upset, I’m proud of him and I want the world to recognize how great he is. Besides, I feel he should be able to tell his own girlfriend about things that make him happy.
I don’t always get jealous, but when I do, I get mean and resentful. It makes both of us feel awful. I know this is my own problem, not his, but how do I stop being eaten up with envy? And how can I ask for his support in a constructive way when I’m feeling down about myself, without making it a competition between us?
Pippa, great. You’ve taken the first step. We praise you for that. You recognize this is your problem and that is the truth, because you would be this way with anyone.
Where you go off track is asking for his support when you feel down about yourself. You don’t need to be coddled. You need to focus on, what am I doing to change this?
What is envy? He has this and this and this, and I don’t. I will see what someone else has, and instead of doing something about it, I will feel sorry for myself. That is why we say envy is the easy way out.
First, act as if you have the power to change. Because you do. Acting powerless will make you powerless and acting miserable will make you miserable.
Second, identify your problems. What concrete, observable, action steps do you need to take to change. You can’t say people don’t do this all the time. What’s a trend? This guy has a cool haircut. I’m going to get my hair cut like that. Those people dress like this. I will get an outfit like that, too.
Are you doing anything to improve your work situation? It’s not fun to be a broke 20-something, but can you get a better job? Or can you decide to be the best employee until you get that better job? Becoming a high performer will make you feel better about yourself, even in a job you don’t like and want to leave.
Observe how your boyfriend (and others) make friends. Can you use them as your example? Can you see what you might be doing wrong? Imitate others in the things you admire.
Your logical mind and your kind heart want to share in his successes and happiness, but your lower self is trying to drag up this parasitic, relationship-killing envy. Envy is like a dog that won’t stop digging holes in your backyard. Accomplishment and personal change are the only things that will stop it.
In asking for his support, you ask to make him complicit in whiny feelings. He cannot comply because then you will feel you have a right to those feelings.
Over and over we tell people the only person they have power to change is themselves. You have a choice. Be with him and change yourself, or find someone to be miserable with.
~ Wayne & Tamara
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Wayne & Tamara answer as many letters as they possibly can.
Column for the week of December 31, 2018