I have been waiting to write this prose. Let’s get into it.
Jealousy is an age old construct in relationships. A relationship can range from intimate/close friendships to an associate/I know you but we are not close level. Typically, the jealousy construct is most often seen in close friendships.
Let’s benchmark this classic example:
We have friends, Party A and Party B. Party A is successful and their life is going in the right direction. Party B is on the struggle bus. Better yet, Party A’s life is going in a direction Party B’s life wish it were going. Party B is stressed and just plain frustrated with life and it’s hills and valleys. As a result, when Party A discusses one of his/her many successes with Party B, Party B seems less enthused and even tired of the same conversations about Party A and how everything seems to go so well for him/her while Party B keeps winning gold medals in the Struggle Olympics. Party B exhibits his/her frustration in the form of being distant, ending a conversation short or even a snarky comment. Party A notices this behavior. Party A and B eventually have a disagreement. The disagreement could or could not be related to exhibited behavior. Party A accuses Party B of being jealous of their success.
Just like it is natural for someone with a successful life want to talk about what is going on in their life, it is also natural for a person who keeps hitting brick walls to be frustrated, angry and even depressed because their life is in shambles. In interactions between two individuals, positivity always outweighs negativity. It is lighter and easier to talk about what is going right versus what is going wrong. As such, when you have one person’s life on the rise and the other person’s life who seems to be on a decline, the person’s life who is on the rise will dominate the interaction and conversations between the two parties. Let’s face it: when your life is in shambles, you really have nothing to talk about. Let me back up: you do have something to talk about, but since it isn’t positive, you don’t want to talk about to and the other person really doesn’t want to hear it.
As such, an imbalance in the friendship develops. One person in the friendship is in the position to be celebrated for while the other person has to muster up energy to balance their frustration with their own life with “being a good friend” and placing their feelings on the back burner to bolster the other person. The balance in energy is so skewed that the person who’s life isn’t going as well is being drained on both ends. To add fuel to the fire, the person who isn’t being drained becomes oblivious to the imbalance. Things are going so well in their life they don’t stop to think or even ask about the other friend. Next, the friend who is being drained acts out. They may roll their eyes or make an asshole comment that may be hurtful to the other person. By the time such behaviors manifest, they are tired of hearing constantly about how life is awesome and pretending like they have the mental space to exist in this emotional imbalance. They want encouragement. They want THEIR LIFE to began moving in a better direction. They are tired of living in someone else’s world and feeling like a shadow. They don’t walk in their friend’s shoes. They want their own pair. Celebration becomes difficult.
Now–do these behaviors on the surface mimic jealousy? Absolutely. But is it really jealousy? I beg to differ.
What may look like jealousy more than likely isn’t jealousy at all.
If it is not jealousy, then what is it?
Good Question. Let’s unpack it.
Although no one wants to talk about and deal with negativity, imagine how one would feel if the successful friend who has a full cup of prosperity stopped and took time to pour into the friend who is struggling? You would be surprised what can happen when the successful friend redirects a conversation and say “Enough about me. My life is good. Let’s focus on you.” In a perfect world, this would fix the imbalance and curb the behaviors being misinterpreted as jealousy. However, this doesn’t happen. As a matter of fact, the person’s life who is going well often times doesn’t see the need to step outside of their comfort zone. The don’t have to dim their light for someone else. It is essentially not their problem. People take the liberty to disconnect when they have the opportunity to pour and build someone else. The successful person not only disconnects from their struggling friend, there is still an expectation for the struggling friend to celebrate and support their success although they don’t feel the need to give the same energy. If the friend exhibits non-supportive behavior, then the automatic conclusion is that they are jealous.
Society often explores jealousy from the viewpoint of the person exhibiting jealous behavior. A perceived jealous person is the ultimate villain. They are bitter, hateful and will kill you if you aren’t careful. However, we never stop to think how a person’s societal superiority of a friend’s success compared to a friend’s struggle may be a culprit in triggering behaviors of perceived jealousy.
Just like white privilege and heterosexual privilege, success privilege also exists. The successful person in a friendship gets the privilege of enjoying success and the expectation of support from a friend while the struggling friend must not only put their feelings to the side but they must be okay with little to no reciprocity from the successful friend. You have to celebrate and support the successful friend, but they don’t have to walk you through the your struggle. To desire reciprocity is asking your successful friend to dim their light because you are a looser. Whew Chile……….the foolishness!
The unfairness of it all! What a tall order to give a person in the struggle when they are already under pressure.
Jealousy does exist. You do have individuals that 100 percent develop a hate for a successful friend even if there is an effort to balance support in a friendship. I would be a fool to surmise that jealousy isn’t real on some level.
Although jealousy is real, the frequency of actual jealousy is less than what people claim. Moreover,the accusation of jealousy is often a default conclusion steeped in oblivion and self absorption of the person who is accusing another of being jealous of their successes. What is often labeled as jealousy is really a byproduct personal frustration coupled with an emotional energy imbalance between two individuals. It is also byproduct of one friend exerting the success privilege without being cognizant of the feelings and pressure upon the friend that is struggling.
If you are the successful friend in a friendship and you have a friend who is struggling and that friend has been exhibiting some unsavory behaviors toward you, I challenge you to slow your roll and THINK. Instead of defaulting to a jealousy conclusion, stop to think about how your actions or inactions may be triggering a reaction from your friend. Are you exerting success privilege in the friendship or are you taking time out from celebrating your full cup to focus and support your struggling friend?
If you use the excuse that you didn’t know they were were struggling because they didn’t say anything, you are walking on Wack Avenue and about to make a turn on Oblivion Lane. Most people that are struggling will not say it because negativity is viewed as a burden. As a friend, it is your job to pay attention.
Back to actual jealousy: even with true jealousy, we often drag the person who is jealous without exploring the person who is the recipient of jealousy. They aren’t always angels and they even feed off that energy……
But we will get to that in Part II. Stay tuned.