Set aside childhood competition in favor of mutual support.

How to Deal With a Close Family Member Who Tries to Get You Jealous

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Unresolved conflicts from childhood can push your buttons and muck up your adult life. Additionally, family competition can extending beyond siblings to cousins and in-laws. It can make you mad when a family member tries to incite jealousy in you, but you also know you have to set a good example for your children. Take control of the situation by refusing to allow anyone to make you feel unworthy, insecure or ashamed.

The Mechanism of Jealousy

Jealousy often hides shame and insecurity, according to psychologist Lisa Firestone's “Psychology Today” article, “What Drives Jealousy?” Your negative self-talk can feed off family taunts to provoke shame and insecurity, such as bragging about their possessions, income or community influence. Don’t let your inner critic rule your life. Challenge those internal thoughts with truth, listing your accomplishments and successes, suggests Firestone. Be happy for your family members; their success does not diminish your worth.

Changing Your Perspective

Fear that another family member gets more of your parent's attention or more love than you can push away those people with whom you most want to connect. Talk to individual family members about why you feel ignored, under-appreciated or unsupported, recounting specific events when you felt these emotions. Create an internal and family identity as a competent, successful individual. Additionally, remember that it is foolish to compete with family members when you should support one another, suggests psychologist Phil McGraw in “Getting Over Sibling Rivalry” on his "Dr. Phil" website.

Discouraging Negative Behavior

Don’t reinforce the family member's negative behavior by giving him or her the desired power and control in your life, suggests McGraw in his article, "Controlling Jealousy." Ignore taunting remarks by walking away, changing the subject or setting clear boundaries. You can happily say, “The family loves and respects me, too.” You don't have to answer the comments with a list of your accomplishments, which could just provoke further remarks from your tormentor.

Finding Peace

Family rivalry and competition can persist into adulthood when it isn’t addressed and resolved in childhood -- and some family members never resolve it, according to therapist Jeanne Safer, in her book "Cain's Legacy." Build a bridge between you and your family member through words or actions. Ask why your family member tries to incite jealousy. Get his perspective on the problem. Show appreciation for your family member by listing what you love about him. Apologize for any hurt you caused, intentionally or accidentally. Offer a hug and a chance to work together, perhaps in planning a family gathering or creating a genealogy of your family. If it doesn’t work, put distance between you for now and try again later. Perhaps after time to consider your efforts, your family member will set aside the negative manipulation.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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