Dear Dr. Yael,
I am happily married man with a wonderful wife and children. Both of us work and our parnassah is decent. So, why am I writing?
My younger brother, who is also happily married with a family, is a multimillionaire. He is wonderfully generous to all myself and our siblings; he is also very charismatic and good looking. My wife gets along very well with his wife and is grateful to Hashem for all that we have. I am the one who is jealous of his money.
My wife suggested that I write to you. She said that Baruch Hashem we have no issues with our children – my brother struggles with two of his – and that I should not be comparing our lives to anyone else’s. She thinks this middah of jealousy is terrible and that if I don’t work on myself, Hashem will be unhappy with me.
Besides my issue with his money, I have always felt that my parents favored him. However, my wife disagrees. She says that our parents have always treated us fairly.
Don’t get me wrong, I speak to my brother every day and would really like to get past this issue. I don’t want to feel this way. Can you help me?
Dear Jealous Brother:
The challenge in writing this column is that there are so many variables that I do not know. Thus, I can only give general answers to any given situation.
Jealousy is not an emotion that is productive for many reasons. We can never really know what is going on in another person’s life. Some people’s troubles are visible for all to see, other’s are under the surface. You see what your brother’s challenges are and your wife is right that you are better served focusing on what you have.
They say that money does not buy happiness; it only makes misery easier to live with. However, I don’t think your brother’s money is what you are jealous of. You mentioned three other issues which can be at the root of your problem:
- Your perception that your parents favored this brother.
- You perceive your brother as very good-looking.
- You perceive your brother as charismatic.
The money competition just exacerbates the situation. Your brother and sister-in-law sound like special and generous people who truly love their siblings – something which may add to your jealousy.
Let me start with the first issue, probably the most critical, your feeling that your parents favor your brother. Parents do not realize the damage they cause by having favorites. However, in this case we do not know that your parents truly played favorites; it might just be your perception. Was your brother more popular growing up? Was he better at sports? Did he have more friends? Did you always see him as better looking and more charismatic?
Hashem makes children different. Last week my column spoke about sibling rivalry among young children. In the case presented, the older brother was shorter than the younger brother. This made the older brother jealous. I want you to try to look deep into yourself and see if your jealousy stems from unresolved childhood issues.
In an article titled “Sibling rivalry: Why the second born child is more likely to succeed in life,” researchers noted that younger offspring who argue with older siblings are more likely to be successful as they get older. Scientists at Cambridge University have found that arguments between brothers and sisters actually increase social skills, vocabulary, and development.
“Second siblings do better in our tests, and children who have better social understanding go on to be more popular in later life. The traditional view has been that having a brother or sister leads to a lot of competition for parents’ attention and love. In fact, the balance of our evidence suggests that children’s social understanding may be accelerated by their interaction with siblings.”
Thus, it could be that your brother became successful because he had to deal with a sibling from the moment he was born.
Please look deep inside yourself, listen to your wife who loves you, and try to figure out where this jealousy is stemming from. My best advice is to work on letting it go – you are the only one who is suffering because of it. You are blessed to have a loving and caring brother, sister-in-law, wife and family. If you cannot make peace with this situation, please seek professional help. Hatzlocha!