Envy: (noun) discontent aroused by another’s better fortune etc.; object or cause of this.

Jealous: (adjective) 1. resentful of rivalry in love. 2. envious (of person etc.). 3. protective (of rights etc.). (The noun “jealousy” was not defined in this dictionary, for some reason – I would define it as “the state of being jealous”.)

Essential Oxford English Dictionary (Australian Edition) 2010

The purpose of this article is to get clear about the real meanings and actual differences between these two words/concepts. I have often been confused about them, so this writing exercise certainly shed some light on this for me, too.

Jealousy is the one that is more encompassing in its breadth of meaning, for it includes envy. It is, however, most often used in relation to despising a romantic rival. In my experience, and for those of many others, it is often an imagined rival. In the most severe cases of such jealousy, even talking to someone who seems to be a competitor for your lover’s love, can set you on fire. This is quite unhealthy, to say the least, and serves to make everyone feel lousy (jealousy actually contains within it the word “lousy”). It would be understandable if there were several romantic prospects for someone that you were not yet involved with because there would be an element of competition in this scenario. Your jealousy would then be an indication of the depth of your attraction to, or love for, this person.

Healthy jealousy within romantic relationships reflects the extent of passion felt between the two people involved. In my opinion, if this does not exist, you do not care about your partner (or s/he does not give a toss about you), and you may actually be looking for an excuse to step out on her/him yourself.

Envy is one aspect of jealousy that can be tied to romance in that you may be envious of the fact that someone is in a relationship with someone you love or like – s/he is involved with the “object of your affection”. However, the good fortune of another may take many different forms: wealth; career success; beauty; fame; power; health; family and so on. So it is essentially wanting something/one that you do not have. The easiest way to remedy this is to go out and get it yourself. The only exception here would be to not ‘go after’ the people already involved with, or things in possession of, the person in question. Then you are stepping into the pathological mentality of, “If I can’t have you, no-one else will have you.”

This darker more disturbing envious condition is very rarely spoken of, or, even defined in a dictionary. It is essentially not wanting a person to have something that you do not have. You may go to great lengths to destroy another’s happiness in order to feel better about yourself instead of looking within and facing those demons. As painful as self-healing is, the Karma accrued by such actions will ultimately destroy you. This is heavy going, I know, but unfortunately, I am seeing it too often these days.

I hope this has left you with plenty to think about…

Helen