Jealousy and Envy - Can They Be Useful?

Even though jealousy and envy are perfectly normal emotions, for some reason, we have trouble admitting we have them to others (and ourselves, for that matter). Society tells us it's bad to feel jealous or envious, that those feelings represent some sort of deficiency of self (why else would we refer to jealousy a the green-eyed monster?). But, research shows they're not only normal, but may have actual benefits.

First, definitions - jealousy is when we feel "I'm worried you want what I have," whereas envy is "I want what you have."

In its extreme form, jealousy in a relationship can cause a great deal of distress, insecurity, and even violence (jealousy-motivated homicides are hardly uncommon). And, consistent jealous feelings should be taken seriously - what is it about the relationship that's making me feel insecure?

But, in mild forms, researchers say jealousy can actually serve a function. If someone athletic is eyeing your wife, for example, researchers found husbands would actually take measures to BE more athletic. In short, if you need to "step it up" in your relationship, feeling jealous can actually motivate you to be a better partner.

Then, there's envy. Envy seems to be the cause of more internal conflict on the order of "why can't I have what she has!?" But, even envy may have a place in our lives. When we find ourselves feeling envious of someone else, a better question is "what can I do differently to get what she has?" Envy can actually spur change in the right direction.

Yep, even jealousy and envy have their place in our lives. And, the more we accept them, the happier we may find ourselves!


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