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Jealousy – Pathological Jealousy and Envy
by Melanie Tonia Evans

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How to understand the differences between jealousy and pathological jealousy, envy and pathological envy, and how to identify if 'insane jealousy and envy' is playing out in your life.


Jealousy is often synonymous with relationships, and it's simple to understand why. Individuals in love want to protect a relationship, and from a biological point of view this is an ancient instinct in order to secure a mate for procreation reasons and to ensure security.

It truly is a part of the human genetic makeup to be jealous within relationships, yet not a great deal is understood in regard to the envy that often takes place in love.

There are profound differences between jealousy and pathological jealousy, and this article is intended to make these divisions clear. It is also helpful to know the different meanings of the words 'jealousy' and 'envy', and to realise that 'envy' can also escalate to pathological levels.

The Definitions of Jealousy and Envy

Jealousy refers to a fear of losing something we have to another person.

Envy refers to wishing we had something that another person has.

When we apply these emotional states to love relationships, we understand:

  • A jealous individual may fear their partner leaving them for another mate, or committing an act of infidelity, and
  • An envious individual may feel 'left out' or resentful because their partner feels good about themselves, has great friends or a satisfying job.

When these states become pathological, then delusion and insane behaviour sets in - and the results are devastating...

Can Jealousy be 'Healthy'?

The jealousy I am discussing in this article is not connected to adulterous behaviour. Obviously we can appreciate a person's concern if their partner commits an act of infidelity, contradicting the expressed understanding of a sexually exclusive relationship. That is another subject. What I am discussing here is jealousy in the context of relationships that are exclusive and committed.

Many relationships that are deemed healthy may have twinges of jealousy in them, and this is a generally accepted society view. Most people believe that without the feelings of jealousy, a couple may not love each other enough to care, and the relationship would be flat and lifeless without this spark. I can understand why society has this view, although I believe this jealous spark requires good communication skills and respect to be productive rather then detrimental to a couple's love.

I have many partnered friends who take self-work and spiritual growth very seriously and thus have evolved past the need to have jealousy as a confirmation of love. I personally don't like and certainly don't endorse feeling jealous or being exposed to the jealous feelings of a partner.

The love for and of another person doesn't require jealousy to prove it or protect it. Love, devotion, caring and the secure feelings of knowing your partner is committed to you and loves you are sufficient. This requires two people who are emotionally secure (and mature) enough in themselves to know and trust the security of their love. Evolved couples also know: if their partner did leave them for another or play around, there is nothing they could do about it (other than accept it!)

More than this, they know that feeling jealous and behaving in insecure ways is the fastest way to destroy and lose a relationship.

Evolved people deeply understand: What you fear is what you create, and what you focus on grows.

For less evolved couples (individuals working on self-emotional security issues), jealousy can be used as an ingredient to help strengthen trust in a relationship, and can be 'normal' feelings of insecurity within love. This requires being honest about these feelings without projecting blame. This grants the person being confronted the ability to reassure and reconfirm their love and commitment to the insecure individual and also enables them to realise the person discussing these fears loves them enough to care and discuss their feelings in a controlled and honest manner.

A discussion on 'jealousy' (insecurity) can actually bring two people in love into an even deeper intimacy and connection. As with any 'disruption' within a love relationship, if a greater result is sought and a genuine desire to fully listen and understand the other individual is created, then a third and higher solution can be born... This is true interdependence - which is the goal of love relationships.

The Devastation of Pathological Jealousy

Pathological jealousy is a totally different story. This form of jealousy means an individual believes they have exclusive ownership over another and that this ownership is necessary for them to maintain the relationship.

If an individual isn't secure within themself within a relationship, they may display above healthy and normal levels of jealousy.

If an individual allows abuse into their life and is too insecure to stand in deservedness and lay healthy boundaries, they may be at risk of attracting a partner who displays pathological jealousy.

I whole-heartedly agree that both men and women can be insecure and jealous. Many men are terrorised by jealous women. However, fortunately for men, they don't tend to be sexually and physically damaged as a result of pathological jealousy, as men generally can defend themselves against irrationally jealous women. Women have been known to kill as an act of jealousy, but this is a rarity. Men also tend to wake up a lot quicker than women and leave an insanely jealous partner. Women should take note and learn from many men's (superior to women's) ability to disconnect from unhealthy relationships and move on.

The truth of the matter is: statistically the most obscene homicidal and suicidal effects of IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) generally occur from pathologically jealous men against female partners. Obviously men are capable of acting out rage and powerful emotions more violently than women. Women obviously can be powerless to defend themselves against these acts.

Pathological jealousy is soul-destroying, and shatters an otherwise loving relationship piece by piece. Trust, intimacy and connection are destroyed. Pathological jealousy is extremely dangerous, and usually leads to significant abuse and often violence. These serious emotional insecurities have the potential to become life-threatening. It's the most dangerous aspect of abusive relationships - leading to the demise of the victim mentally, emotionally, physically, (and often financially) if an individual stays and sustains the abuse for a length of time.

This form of jealousy is born from deep insecurities, feelings of being unlovable and a panicked need to have to control to feel safe. Pathological jealousy is truly narcissistic.

The most frightening and frustrating part of pathological jealousy (which I endured for some years) is that the individual cannot be appeased or reassured. They don't trust, and no matter what is said or done, the panic never eases. Pathologically jealous individuals are hyper-vigilantly on the lookout for reasons to be jealous, and this can take on unthinkable levels.

This behaviour is devastating for people who have no inclination to be unfaithful. Quite to the contrary, the individuals I know who have lived with pathologically jealous partners are usually so tormented with the isolation tactics, name calling, interrogations and accusations - the last thing they think about is sex with other people. In fact they wish members of the opposite sex didn't exist.

What is heart-breaking is that many of these people adored their partners from the onset and were fully committed. In fact, I've found that many individuals with pathologically jealous partners have high morality and a conviction about fidelity and marriage values. It's a tragedy that no matter how many times these people reassure their pathologically jealous partners, they simply don't have the emotional components to trust.

Some Signs of Pathological Jealousy:

  • Accusations of looking at other people.
  • Accusations of giving attention to others.
  • Accusations of being uncaring and appearing single if not granting enough body contact or attention in public.
  • Interrogation of behaviour.
  • Interrogation of phone calls and all other forms of communication.
  • Reading diary, going thorough belongings.
  • Incessant questioning: where you were, who were you with.
  • Demanding reports of people in your company.
  • Isolating, not allowing you to socialise on your own.
  • Threatening with 'tit for tat' retaliations if you pursue own interests.
  • Taking your car keys and money.
  • Hiding makeup, damaging clothes.
  • Interrogating and accusing if home late.
  • Laying stipulations and conditions in regards to contact with other people.
  • Checking up on you.
  • Accusations of affairs when pulling away or attempting escape from the abuse.
  • Accusations of affair when libido suffers as a result of the abuse.
  • Not being reassured.
  • Not trusting you.
  • Verbal and physical violence triggered by jealously.
  • Blaming you for jealous behaviour.
  • Always an excuse for jealous behaviour,
  • Denying jealous behaviour (except when hitting 'rock bottom).
  • Gaslighting techniques trying to confuse your trust in self, trying to prove there is reason to be jealous.

The Lies and Manipulation of Pathological Jealousy

The gaslighting techniques that pathologically jealous individuals commonly use are ones such as:

  • Declaring you said another man's name in your sleep.
  • You were seen in a supermarket talking to someone.
  • Information from an ex-associate revealed how adulterous you were in your past.

I had all of these occurrences happen to me (and many more). One of the worst gaslighting stories I've heard was from a student of mine who had too much to drink one night and was told by her boyfriend that she kissed a male friend passionately (part of a group who were visiting) and it was disgusting and totally embarrassing for everyone present.

Talking to other people present that evening confirmed her boyfriend was lying. After he was exposed, he sulked and refused to give her any attention until she apologised for her 'behaviour'. The disgraceful part of this story is that she was being consoled by others that night after she discovered her mother had cancer, and rather than her partner being supportive, he was carrying out his need for narcissistic attention (directing it away from her) by using pathologically jealous manipulation. The unfortunate trait of escalating abuse at times when expected to grant attention or support is a horrible aspect of being in a relationship with a narcissist. I call it "being kicked when you're down".

Can Envy be 'Healthy'?

Wikipedia defines envy as: an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."

Many people at time feel envious. Spiritually, the emotion of envy can be turned to gratitude with the knowing that What I bless in another I bless in myself. However, envy in our society is commonplace and if this painful emotion is used as a stimulus to direct energy into self, it can be productive.

For example, if an individual centres their life on a partner (who has identity satisfaction) they may feel empty and lost. This is a great opportunity to realise the need to create your own interests and purpose – not to be reliant on a partner supplying energy (attention) constantly. Co-dependents often struggle to take charge of their life, placing too much focus on another (often a love partner).

Co-dependent relationships create unhealthy enmeshment and great strain. If envy is owned and discussed honestly, this emotion can provide a catalyst for transformation to improve self and a relationship.

The Pain of Pathological Envy

Pathological envy is extremely painful for the individual with the emotional insecurity and devastating for the love recipient. It isn't as obvious as pathological jealousy, and can be insidious and more difficult to define.

Dr. Sam Vaknin, an expert on narcissism describes pathological envy as "...a compounded emotion. It is brought on by the realisation of some lack, deficiency, or inadequacy in oneself. It is the result of unfavourably comparing oneself to other - to their success, their reputation, their possessions, their luck, and their qualities. It is misery and humiliation and impotent rage and a torturous, slippery path to nowhere. The effort to break the padded walls of this self-visited purgatory often leads to attacks on the perceived source of frustration."

Unfortunately, abusive relationships have a very common element: highly competitive power struggles. Generally, the abuser tries to take energy and power by force (with little respect for personal boundaries) and the abused tries to take back their rights from the abuser.

If you're in a relationship with an individual who displays narcissistic characteristics, the relationship will feel like a 'me versus you' battle with an enemy. A large source of this dynamic is pathological envy. Pathological envy is a very intense and destructive emotion, born from deep emotional insecurities and poor sense of self-worth.

Some Signs of Pathological Envy

  • Being uncomfortable / moody when you're given praise or attention.
  • If not the centre of attention discredits the experience or leaves the scene.
  • Discrediting your ideas, interests, friendships.
  • Depression if you're happy and energised.
  • Depression if you're successful.
  • Creating arguments if you're successful.
  • Prescribing what is or isn't right for your life.
  • Intense anger when not consulted.
  • Intense anger when not utilised for projects, and depression / moodiness when inputting energy that may assist your project.
  • Undermining your reputation.
  • Undermining your interests.
  • Undermining your work.
  • Undermining your friendships.
  • Using gaslighting or abuse to undermine your self-esteem.
  • Imagining and declaring you're the person doing the undermining / discrediting to yourself and them.

The majority of highly destructive and tragic relationships have the poison of pathological jealousy and pathological envy running through them. If you're subject to pathological abuse, you will experience many symptoms of abuse.

If you have the poison of pathological jealousy or envy in your relationship, be very clear that nothing is going to change until you address the issues, and the issues are: why are you trying to fix a pathological partner? There's a grave need to find out how to work on yourself to re-define the truth of your life and how you deserve to be treated.

If you know you are acting in ways that are pathologically jealous and envious - take ownership, and stop blaming other people for the way you feel. This is an essential first step toward recovery and having a possibility of a loving, fulfilling relationship. It's impossible for a partner to continually grant you the ability to feel safe. It's a bottomless pit. Work on your own self-acceptance, identity and ways to feel emotionally secure, and start discussing your issues honestly and get help. There are ways that you can get support and heal.


Healing from a narcissistic relationship - What you can do

Recovery from the psychological, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse of narcissism is imperative for an individual to put themselves and their life back together. Specific healing and procedures do produce the results necessary for an individual to create an empowered life where they will not be susceptible to narcissistic abuse again. In many cases the recovery from narcissism has been necessary for an individual to outgrow co-dependent childhood scripts of poor boundary function and victimisation.

Love, happiness and success are possible after suffering the effects of narcissism.

If you're feeling extremely broken, powerless and like you can't take it anymore, you can access powerful help and relief.
Read about the relief and healing others have achieved »
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