08/05/2014 02:50 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2014

Is Envy Controlling Your Life?

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"I am seriously thinking of breaking up with Caryn," says my cousin Tony after our weekly tennis game.

"Seriously?" I say. "I thought you were crazy about each other. What's the problem?"

"Nothing is ever good enough for her. Caryn calls us 'have-nots' because all her friends seem to have more than we do. She is jealous of everybody, and it is destroying our relationship. Vacations, cars, even our apartment; she's always envious of what others have and are able to do. I mean, come on, I just am tired of all the bullsh*t competition! You know what I mean? I'm beginning to feel as if she thinks that I'm not good enough for her, either. What's with her, anyway?"

Tony, your girlfriend has been bitten by the green-eyed monster called Envy.

Envy is one of the most common of human feelings. Realistically, we know that most people have times in their lives when they covet what others have. Whether it is a nicer car, a bigger house, a better wardrobe, or just an assumed happier lifestyle, we envy it and, oh boy, do we want it. It's human nature. What others have sometimes looks better than what we've got; most of the time it isn't, but it sure looks better to us! Eventually, we are able to get over an attack of envy and it has little impact on our daily lives.

Truthfully, there is nothing terribly wrong with having envious feelings every so often. You can't help entertaining the green-eyed monster once in a while. And truthfully, there are times when a little envy can actually work to your advantage. Using that small amount of envy can spur you on to work harder for what you want. If you are envious of someone who may have succeeded in something you want to do -- say, changing careers, relocating to a better area, or furthering your education -- that feeling of envy might just help you to set new goals and make you determined to achieve them. The "monster" then, is little, friendly and helpful.

That same little monster, however, has a tendency to grow and become a big problem when you allow it to take control of your everyday life and adversely impact your relationship. It becomes a negative thought process that colors every single thing you do. You're never happy because you feel that you're not getting what you want and deserve.

How you think defines how you feel. If you think you look good, you'll feel attractive. If you're contented with the way you live, you'll feel happier. Like your job? You'll do well at it and your workday will be happier. But thought processes that are consistently negative can seriously interfere with all that. A little bit of envy is not harmful; it only becomes an unhealthy problem when you allow it to become a constant part of your thinking.

How happy can you be when you are always unfavorably comparing what others have to what you have? Being envious of what other people may have in their lives is not only unhealthy, it is downright unproductive. You develop a relationship with the "green-eyed monster" and it can be a destructive, lifelong one if you allow it. It not only affects you, but all other relationships you may have.

Being satisfied with what you have now does not make you complacent and "stuck" with what you have in your current life. Let that little spark of envy work for you not against you. Let it energize, not exhaust you. Look around and make needed or wanted changes to your life but for God's sake, try to enjoy what you do have!

The danger of courting the green-eyed monster named "envy" coupled with calling yourself a "have-not" can become a self-filling prophecy because eventually what you "have not" is happiness or a healthy relationship.

© 2014 Kristen Houghton