Do you ever find yourself clicking through cutesy pictures of other couples on Facebook and sighing over their seemingly perfect life? Or perhaps you want to roll your eyes when your friend is gushing yet again about how charming and romantic her significant other is? It’s normal to feel jealous of others’ perceived happiness — especially if you’ve been in a long term relationship — but this envy could also lead to some feelings of resentment and anger.
“Couples tend to have reference points — the friends who are the ideal, or the couple they don’t want to be like — and they measure themselves by those standards,” says Anita Astley, a marriage and family therapist and the president of the Albany Hudson-Valley Chapter of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. “In truth, if a couple or individual is happy, it shouldn’t matter what they think is going on with other people.”
When you start to look outside at other relationships for validation, that should raise some internal red flags in your own, warns Astley. Here are three key reasons to avoid jealousy when it comes to other couples:
1. Their happiness has no effect on yours.
No matter how happy or unhappy another couple is, your own circumstances will be unchanged.
“It all goes back to needs and expectations,” says Astley. When ours aren’t being met, we project our dissatisfaction on others, and if we’re receiving what we need in a relationship then we don’t care how happy other people are.”
Instead of letting jealousy steal your energy, turn the focus back on yourself and try to determine what about the relationship is making you feel dissatisfied.
2. You don’t know the whole story.
What you see on the surface of other relationships isn’t always a true indication of reality, according to Astley. “There’s always been a tendency to compare relationships to others, but social media has amplified it.” In her own practice, she’s seeing an increase in marital strain as a result of social media.
“It’s just another medium through which we can feel badly or better about ourselves,” says Astley. “We think that everybody is having a great life but us, and it can bring us down.”
She advises couples to try to see social media, and any other forms of comparison, for what they really are: empty. Instead of focusing on other people, turn the energy back to the relationship at hand and what can be done to improve it.
3. You have it pretty good, too.
When you start to feel the green-eyed monster creeping into your relationship, take a moment to reassess. What is it about your relationship that you love? What areas need improvement — and how can you proactively communicate them to your partner?
“If I’m hungry and my partner is giving me food, I’m happy; if not, I’m unhappy,” says Astley. ”If we’re getting our individual needs met, the jealousy will fade.”
She suggests that couples take the time to reevaluate their needs and expectations regularly. A couple married in their 20s, for example, will have much different desires and goals in their 40s, but both partners may be operating on the original setup.
“Check back in and see if you’re still compatible,” advises Astley. “Find areas to compromise if the realities have changed.”
Keep in mind that there are things about your own relationship that likely make other people envious too, and that there actually is a lot to be content with