Dealing With Jealous Family Members Effectively

Published August 5, 2020
sister jealous and criticizing brother

Jealousy is a normal human emotion, but dealing with jealous family members can cause serious relationship problems. It's important to understand family jealousy, including the signs of and reasons for jealousy, so you can deal with it effectively. Keep in mind that every person is different, so how you deal with one jealous family member might not work for a different jealous family member.

Know the Signs of Jealousy From Family Members

Jealousy can present as different behaviors from different people. You may not even recognize at first that a family member is acting out of jealousy. If you know some common signs of jealousy from a family member, you can try to address the issue as soon as you spot it so it doesn't grow out of control. Common signs of jealousy include the following:

  • They don't congratulate you when everyone else does.
  • The family member jumps at the chance to point out your flaws and mistakes.
  • This person keeps raising their expectations of you.
  • They criticize you often.
  • The family member often comments about how easy your life is.
  • This person copies everything you do.
  • They seem happy when something doesn't go your way.
  • Your advice given with good intentions makes them angry.

Understand Why a Family Member Is Jealous

You may never be able to figure out the cause of the jealousy, but if it's obvious or clear, it can help you deal with the situation more effectively. The best way to know why a family member is jealous of you is to have an open conversation with them about it.

Sibling jealous over sister being pregnant

Common Reasons for Family Jealousy

If your family member is not able to have this type of honest conversation with you, you may be able to figure out on your own which common cause of jealousy is the root.

  • Jealousy comes from personal feelings of unimportance, inadequacy, or inferiority when a family member compares themselves to you.
  • Jealousy toward you could stem from unresolved issues that a family member had with another person.
  • A person's jealousy could stem from their own traumas.
  • Frequent self-comparisons and comparisons by other family members, such as parents, can lead to sibling jealousy.

General Strategies for Dealing With Jealous Family Members

About half of all people experience family jealousy, so know that you're not alone. The most common types of family member jealousy are sibling jealousy and parent-child jealousy. Dealing with a jealous family member can be difficult. Doing so requires you to self-reflect as to why their behavior is triggering to you and to reach out to them only when you feel ready to connect in an empathetic and non-defensive way.

Communicate When Calm

Immediately after a jealous rant or comment is not the ideal time to address the issue. Find a time when you and your family member are both calm, and try to start a conversation about the issue. Use "I" statements to say things like, "I feel like when I share some good news, at times it feels as if you're being a bit dismissive. I want us both to be able to celebrate each other's wins."

Acknowledge Their Feelings

People who feel jealous of family members often feel insecure. Take time to acknowledge their feelings and know that the jealousy you see may not have anything to do with you, even though their unconscious "stuff" is being displaced onto you.

Avoid the Blame Game

Jealousy can be a problem for all involved parties. Acknowledge this is a problem between the two of you, rather than placing blame on the jealous family member. If you blame them by saying they have a problem or they need to get over their issue, they will likely become defensive.

Forget Fixing

Everyone feels jealousy in life; and a little jealousy is okay. If you want to address a jealous family member, make sure you're not trying to fix them. You don't need to make them feel as if their feelings are being censored, but you do want to work together to resolve the issues within your relationship.

Woman jealous sister has a boyfriend

Assess Your Own Behavior

You can't control the thoughts and actions of others, but you can work to understand your own. While the jealousy is likely not your fault, some of your behaviors may fuel it. Notice what tends to trigger this particular family member's behavior and try to find ways to minimize their reactions to you. For instance, if they tend to react jealously when you mention work accolades, try not to bring these up anymore. Know that there are some people who will support your success unconditionally, and others who are unable to do so because of their own personal reasons and triggers.

Limit Interaction If Needed

If you've tried to deal with your family member in a nonconfrontational way without success, your best option is to limit interaction with that person. Their jealousy may cause some negative feelings for you, and it's important to take care of yourself. Keep conversations short and general whenever possible.

Fielding Family Jealousy

From jealous siblings to jealous parents, you are likely to experience some form of family jealousy in your life. You can also use strategies for dealing with difficult family members to help you deal with jealous family members. Keep in mind the importance of family communication as you work to lower jealousy levels.

Dealing With Jealous Family Members Effectively