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Are you jealous of me?
Female jealousy, let's talk.
Jealousy in female friendships is something almost every woman I know will openly admit to being a “thing.” But of course, we never talk about it because being jealous of your friends is embarrassing. Why do we feel a pang of sadness when a friend announces she’s got a brand new job? Or she got engaged? Or she’s buying an apartment?
I’ll admit it—I’ve been jealous of my friends. As a teenager, I predictably envied my friends’ bodies. I don’t think “thigh gaps” are as big of a deal anymore, but they absolutely were when I was 14. While I don’t spend much brain space thinking about thigh gaps these days, I do find it hard in our visual social world to avoid negative self-talk when a friend’s (or stranger’s!) body pops up on my feed.
I also feel jealous when my friends become friends and hang out without me. Maybe that sounds weird, but I introduce a lot of people because I really love friend-matching. When those friends then form their own relationships (as I intended), I sometimes feel sad to be excluded. Since creating Diem, my social time is increasingly limited, so I think I’m kind of jealous that I literally can’t be more involved and join the fun.
But I know it’s not just me. I asked Diemers about how jealousy shows up in their friendships and I was flooded with stories. For example:
Some women told me they struggled to navigate jealous behaviour when they were struggling to conceive, but their close friend had a child (and vice versa)
Founders told me about incidents where their founder friends behaved insecurely (and competitively) toward them
Women told me they experienced jealousy when they hooked up or dated men their friends also thought were attractive
Of course, there were also replies around appearance-related jealousy and perceived “pretty privileges.” In other words, people think their friends have advantages over them because of their looks, and that sparks jealousy.
Obviously, jealousy can hold us back in so many ways, especially when we react negatively to it. But jealousy can also lead to positive outcomes if we learn to view this emotion as purely information—to acknowledge it as a signal if you will. Jealousy usually means something needs to be addressed—perhaps it’s dedicating more time to a friend, creating personal boundaries, recognizing insecurities, and making space for personal growth.
But the silent competition to be “successful” at feminine ideals such as relationships, childbearing, and beauty are real. They’re central to our early consciousness, so it’s easy to see why jealousy shows up so uniquely in female friendships. A recent research paper on Our Grandmothers’ Legacy: Challenges Faced by Female Ancestors Leave Traces in Modern Women’s Same‑Sex Relationships by Tania A. Reynolds articulates this phenomenon well:
“Investigations of women’s same-sex relationships present a paradoxical pattern, with women generally disliking competition, yet also exhibiting signs of intrasexual rivalry... Across history, women were largely denied independent access to resources, often depending on male partners’ provisioning to support themselves and their children. Same-sex peers thus became women’s primary romantic rivals in competing to attract and retain relationships with the limited partners able and willing to invest. Modern women show signs of this competition, disliking and aggressing against those who threaten their romantic prospects, targeting especially physically attractive and sexually uninhibited peers. However, women also rely on one another for aid, information, and support. As most social groups were patrilocal across history, upon marriage, women left their families to reside with their husbands. Female ancestors likely used reciprocal altruism or mutualism to facilitate cooperative relationships with nearby unrelated women. To sustain these mutually beneficial cooperative exchange relationships, women may avoid competitive and status-striving peers, instead preferring kind, humble, and loyal allies. Ancestral women who managed to simultaneously compete for romantic partners while forming cooperative female friendships would have been especially successful. Women may therefore have developed strategies to achieve both competitive and cooperative goals, such as guising their intrasexual competition as pro-sociality or vulnerability.”
When have you felt jealous in your friendships? Hunter Harris is hosting her Diem salon this evening in NYC on the topic of: “How do you process jealousy in personal relationships and friendships?” I can’t wait to discuss this topic with her guests later and to digitally discuss this with all of you! If you have thoughts, advice, or stories, let’s continue the conversation (anonymously if you wish!) by responding to Hunter’s Diem, here. See you in there 👋
What we’re reading…
Meet the start-up seeking to be “Bumble for Surrogates” (Marie Claire)
Why you probably shouldn’t get a pre-nup (The Cut)
Baby’s first social media handle (The New York Times)
ICYMI! A better way to socially search is here! Test Diem AI with your own “taboo” questions or contribute to other Diemer’s conversations here.
PSA: Diem AI is available on web only, not in-app (yet!) and it’s best experienced on a desktop 🔥
Till next time,