Here’s a friendship cunundrum: While your BFFs are supposed to be the people you root for and help succeed, one of the most common sources of platonic breakups is jealousy. She lands a promotion or gets into a great school, or maybe she gets engaged or pregnant or meets the perfect guy, and instead of being genuinely happy for her, you’re about 80% happy and 20% jealous. And as things keep going her way, the jealousy festers and the 80/20 split is suddenly closer to 50/50.
This type of frenvy (different than the envy that arises when you see your BFF growing close to other friends) is present in many female friendships, according to social psychologists. And my question is, why?
The more I try to uncover the root of this particular relationship plague, the more I think it’s not that complicated. Yes, we love our friends, but when someone achieves something we want for ourselves—a raise, a gorgeous new sweater, a 10-pound weight loss—jealous feelings emerge. And when it comes to close friends, I propose that two factors contribute to our jealousy:
1) The In-Your-Face factor: If you hear through the grapevine that an acquaintance got a fat raise, you may have a momentary flash of envy, but it dissipates quickly. You hardly see her, so you don’t think much about it. But if your BFF is suddenly bumped up a tax bracket, you’re probably confronted with this new reality pretty often. The more she (inadvertently or not) calls your attention to her new income, the more jealous—and perhaps bitter—you become.
2) The It-Could-Have-Been-Me factor: You might dream of winning a Golden Globe one day, but you probably aren’t legitimately jealous of Natalie Portman because it doesn’t really feel like the statuette could have been yours. When it comes to close friends, we know their shortcomings. If something great happens to them, it’s easy to question how they got so “lucky,” as friends don’t seem as untouchable as Natalie Portman. If your BFF, with all her quirks, can find a man/job/little black dress on sale in the perfect size, then why can’t you?
I was thinking about this in the first place because a dear friend of mine was featured on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times Business Section! I am incredibly proud of him, as this is someone I’ve been friends with since I was an 18-year-old freshman roaming the dorm hallways looking for a late-night snack ten years ago. And now he’s being featured in the Sunday New York Times. I mean, really. Amazing. (Check out the article and then check out his dating website, Ignighter.com.)
In this case, I can say with 100 percent honesty that I am ecstatic and not jealous. It got me thinking: Why are we jealous of friends sometimes and not others? (In this instance: 1) This friendship goes so far back that I want nothing but success for him, but also 2) I am not an entrepreneur so being in the business section of any paper isn’t a dream of mine.)
I anticipate there are people out there who will say a true friend should never be jealous of her BFF. And maybe it’s true, but it’s not reality. Jealousy exists, unfortunately. The question is: When does it start to erode a relationship?
Why do you think friends often grow so jealous of each other? How do you suggest they keep the green-eyed monster at bay? And, in your own life, has frenvy ever been the culprit in a falling out?
8 responses to “The Green-Eyed Monster”
Many years ago, my BFF (at the time) was promoted before me at work. We were both up for promotion, but I had one more year of experience and a professional certification she lacked, so we had both assumed that if only one person could go, it would be me. When she was promoted first, our manager (who wasn’t responsible for the final decision) told me he didn’t know why, perhaps it was because her last name was alphabetically before mine…
I actually would not have been bothered by it (I was promoted 3 short months later) except that I found out about it from a blast email that went out to our entire department, instead of from her. It was embarrassing to find out that way and I spent some time crying in a conference room before I went back to my desk and sent her a congratulatory email.
In this case it wasn’t that I was unable to be happy for her, it was the way she handled her good news by not making sure I heard it from her first. It made me feel like we WEREN’T BFFs and that she didn’t trust me. In the end, our friendship was never the same.
i think the jealousy stays and erodes when whatever starts it is constantly brought up
my situation was a money one…all of a sudden i had to listen to the new housekeeper that was hired, the trips they went on, the new stores they visited…i couldn’t relate or participate in the conversations! i was happy for them but felt quite left out
does that make me a green eyed monster? i don’t know…..
I think it’s a combination of the factors above. I grew up with some girls that are jealous of me, becuase I found a guy, make decent money, and don’t have kids. These were choices I made. They will flat out tell me they are jealous of me, and with that look in their eye too. Even though we grew up and hung out together back in the day, I knew back then, I would never be actual “friends” with them. They weren’t my kind of peeps.
So I guess it’s that first impression, or getting to know period where you figure out how much of friend you two can actually be, that determines how the relationship will weather jealousy issues. It probably depends on the issue too.
This post came at a very interesting time in my life…a week after finding out my BFF is having a baby…and a week after my first ever real, legitimate feelings of jealousy towards my BFF emerged.
I absolutely love her to death. I would take a bullet for her. We met during frosh week at university and have been inseperable ever since. I’ve been there through all of her grown-up life milestones: engagement, wedding (MOH extraordinnaire!), first house, job changes etc…and in the five-ish years that she’s done all that…I’ve done nothing. I have the same job from my university co-op terms, I’m chronically single, and the search for a place to call home continues. However, aside from the rare “woe is me, why can’t I find a guy as great as your hubby” moments, I’ve never been jealous.
I’m not sure why a baby-to-be has changed things, but I spent the hour-long drive home from her house after hearing the news in tears…full-out sobbing. Maybe I resent the news because it puts a huge kink in our plans to travel to Vancouver in August…which is selfish. But in my heart, I know it’s because her life – along with that of most of my friends – is moving forward and hitting all these milestones that come with being adults – and I’m missing out.
I was feeling like a pretty shit friend for my secret so I decided my best course of action was to just be honest with her. She seemed to understand how I was feeling and I think and hope we’ll continue on the same course and be BFFs until we die.
Thanks for writing this post, and to the commenters who have let me know that maybe I’m not alone in how I’m feeling!
This made me tear up! I know exactly what you mean about people moving forward while you feel like you’re just treading water and missing out. I had a similar reaction when within a month of each other, one best friend got engaged and another best friend moved to a different city to be close to her boyfriend and go back to school for a career she’s certain she wants.
Sometimes it’s a real kick in the gut isn’t it? The conflicting “happy for them”/”sad for me” feelings can get overwhelming…
I have a buddy and sometimes I feel like she is the younger, prettier, richer, more successful version of myself. It is almost creepy. We kinda look like we could be sisters. It is like her life is what I would have had if I had come from a more well-off family and had more opportunity, and was just plain lucky, as she seems to be. Honestly, she is just one of those people who the universe smiles upon. You could ask anyone in our friend group and they would agree it is weird how everything works out so well for this friend. She has the guy, the job, the house, the family, the money, the looks…and anything else awesome you can think of.
What makes this even weirder is that she is quite competitive, and I could not help but notice that when I got engaged recently, she suddenly wanted nothing but to be engaged too (She is younger than me by about 5 years). She basically planned her entire wedding out with her boyfriend once she heard I was engaged, then was just waiting for that ring. She finally got it a few months later, and is now also planning her wedding in close proximity to mine.
It is really tough not to get bummed and jealous sometimes, especially since her parents are paying for a very extravagant wedding in a high end place with elaborate decor and all the bells and whistles, and she likes to share everything about it with me.
Meanwhile, I need to stick to a tight budget and be extremely frugal with my wedding since I don’t have rich parents. It all just seems so weird and surreal sometimes. I have had to separate myself from her a bit and not bond over our mutual planning simply so I don’t go insane with jealousy. And it is tough not to have the weird feeling in the back of my mind that it seems like she just decided she wanted to do this thing I was doing so she could out-do someone on it. I know its a little nutty to think that, but honestly, I sometimes wonder.
Anyway despite all this, I really like this girl and we were getting pretty close before all this. I am sure once “wedding season” is over next year it will be fine, but right now, it is pretty awkward for me to interact with her, what with these mixed feelings of jealousy. After this experience, I now totally understand how close friends can also be incredibly jealous at the same time they are happy for their buddy.
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