What makes a friend turn against you without warning?
You’re going along thinking everything’s fine and dandy when you notice your friend has changed out of nowhere.
It starts with little things like forgetting to say thank you when you do a good deed for them. You might dismiss it as nothing — all in your head.
If you have a new partner, maybe your friend seems moody around them. The resentment is palpable.
Maybe you have a new job or hobby, and your supportive friend hasn’t asked you a single question.
These behaviors can be signs of envy; your friend is jealous. So how do you handle this situation?
1. Accept the problem.
Stop doubting yourself. You aren’t imagining it — your friend is behaving differently. The withdrawal you’ve been noticing means precisely what you think.
You have to understand envy is natural among friends. We choose friendships because the person shares our interests and values. At some point, one of us will advance further than the other — we may gain something the other wants.
Envy is natural in this situation, yet we deny and suppress it. The denial is unconvincing and prevents personal growth in your relationships.
Learn to admit and accept envy. Look at the behavior of children. They have insatiable jealousy, yet their parents force them into denial and expect them to hide envy from the world AND themselves.
The overriding message from society is you can’t be nice and envious.
2. A mutual confession.
Good friends should acknowledge the elephant in the room and discuss the presence of envy.
What sort of envy is showing itself? According to Van de Ven, there are two distinct experiences of envy. One is benign, and the other is malicious. Benign and malicious envy lead to different behavioral expressions.
In benign envy, the envious person tries to make themselves as good as the person being envied. In this way, envy increases personal effort and drive.
In malicious envy, the envious person tries to degrade the person being envied, vilifying them and denigrating their advantages.
Write down what you and your friend are envious of in a non-judgmental way.
This is not about blame but honesty. If you identify malicious envy, it doesn’t mean the end of the friendship, but it does need to be nipped in the bud as early as possible before it grows into a monster.
You can’t be expected to give up your possessions, relationships, and work just to make your friend feel less envious.
Your friend wouldn’t want you to.
The envious person seeks reassurance that you still love them despite your new advantages.
They want to know you are still attached to them and care as much as ever. So respond with empathy. Examples of good ways to provide reassurance are:
. Sorry if I made you feel left out or insecure.
. I appreciate your honesty and want you to know I value our friendship.
. I understand this may be tough — is there anything I can do to help?
. I want to be sensitive to your feelings and ensure a supportive friendship.
. I want to support you but I must also care for myself and set boundaries.
4. Setting boundaries.
If your friend’s envy is causing you too much stress and negativity, you may have to reassess the friendship and ask yourself if it’s worth keeping.
If you think it’s still a positive in your life, you may have to communicate clearly and compassionately what conversations and behaviors aren’t acceptable.
Some examples of healthy boundaries:
. Avoid bragging or excessively sharing accomplishments.
. Refuse to engage in gossip or negative talk.
. Let them know when they cross a line.
. Take breaks if the relationship becomes stressful.
. Refuse to loan money if it causes tension.
. Avoid discussing topics that trigger their envy.
. Be clear about your own needs.
. Seek support from other friends or professionals.
5. Encourage self-care and growth.
Encourage your friend to focus on their own development. This will take the focus off unhelpful comparisons.
Remember that while your friend is busy envying you, they neglect to work on their own life.
Be open and ask your friend if there’s anything you can do to help.
By supporting your friend, you benefit them and the friendship.
Begin the process with a compassionate approach to dealing with envious friends. Encourage open dialogue, emphasize your support and love for them, and stress you’re willing to help them in any way they need.
Despite our best efforts, some friendships aren’t salvageable. If you suffer more pain and frustration than anything else, it may be time to end the friendship as compassionately as possible.
The hard truth is you can’t help everyone and must take care of yourself first.
Your friend may be too consumed with envy, and you might not be the right person to save them.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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