Dear Ms Peirano,
I, a jazz singer, 29, have a problem with a dear friend and colleague Giselle. We've been friends for about seven years and have often made music together.
Giselle is 43, also a jazz singer and pianist. I am a singer and saxophonist.
We are private friends, I like her husband, from whom she has been separated for a year, and her daughter very much. She often gave me advice on love matters and we often went to concerts together or on tours (including cruises together as musicians).
For some time now I've had an underlying feeling that when I talk about my engagements, projects or performances as a singer, Giselle will become very taciturn and pinched or quickly change the subject. I've now been offered a CD recording of my own and I have a queasy feeling thinking about how Giselle will record it. I know that she has problems with her age and often says that as a woman it is not easy to grow older in the music industry. Appearance always plays a role, especially as a woman.
And a year ago her husband broke up with a woman my age and she's been on some very uncomfortable dates since.
I can imagine that Giselle has problems with the fact that I'm much younger, that I'm well received by men and that I'm asked about more often than she is. I've already given up a few performances where she used to sing and I've now been asked. I wouldn't have found it loyal to take on these jobs and compete with her.
It's really a pity for me that everything has become so complicated between us and that we avoid some topics. I don't know how we can deal with this at all.
And for me it is clear that the topic "singing" is at stake. Because when I play the saxophone and she plays the piano, everything is relaxed between us. Or when we meet privately and leave out the subject of singing. But we're friends too, and it's difficult to always ignore such an important topic.
What do you advise me?
Dear Irina M,
From the outside, I share your suspicion that Giselle sees you as a competitor in terms of singing and probably feels inferior to you in some respects too. The balance of power between you has probably tilted in recent years.
A lot comes together: You're significantly younger, and in an industry where looks matter. As you know, age is also important when it comes to singing, because the voice changes. As a woman, the fear of reaching your own sell-by date can creep up on you. That sounds very bitter and it is!
You seem to be on the up: you're being asked to produce your own CDs (congratulations!), you've got interesting inquiries and you're both musically and erotically attractive. I can imagine Giselle struggling with her age, aggravated by the fact that her husband left her for a younger woman. This is a great insult and it takes time to process it. She is actually still in the middle of processing this separation. The - as you say - ugly dates have certainly contributed even more to the damage to self-esteem and the feeling of no longer being in demand. Giselle is obviously chewing on it, which I can understand.
I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the relationship between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.
Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.
Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.
And now you come along, also a much younger woman, and you are compared to her from the outside, asked to appear in the same way (that must hurt) and noticed by the men. It's not your fault, but you trigger it.
I've spent countless hours listening to women being jealous of another woman. One finding was that women often blame another woman for feeling bad about her. The other (often more attractive, younger, slimmer) woman doesn't even have to have misbehaved to get caught in the crosshairs, just as I said, if the other woman feels bad about her, that's enough.
It is bitter and sad that women, because of their inferior role, have not had the opportunity to openly compete or compete (as men have been able and expected to) for several thousand years. But women were always compared based on their attractiveness and only the most beautiful young woman got the prince. The women who weren't as attractive had to put up with it and weren't allowed to protest openly about it either.
For centuries, women were not allowed to study or learn a lucrative profession. This is still the case in many countries today. This presented the only chance for a woman to rise socially and financially through association with a successful man. And that was coveted, hard-fought, although you weren't allowed to fight openly, but had to be conquered because of your youth and beauty. And if you weren't beautiful and young, you were unlucky.
The traces of this socialization can still be seen today in the fact that many women secretly compare themselves to one another and judge their supposed deficits very harshly. Another woman who is more attractive and more successful then becomes a projection screen for one's own dissatisfaction.
I can well imagine that Giselle herself is not happy that she compares herself to you and feels that she comes off worse. She's well aware that this is straining your friendship, but it seems like she's stuck and hasn't found a way to deal with it yet. So far she has avoided and kept silent about it and hopes that she will come into contact with your successes as little as possible.
If Giselle wrote to me myself, I would say that envy is actually a very constructive feeling. Because envy shows me how I would like to be and what I would like to change about myself. I would tell her that at least the age is distributed fairly. Giselle was also in her twenties for ten years, just like you are now. The only question is whether she is satisfied with how she has spent this time. Perhaps there is something to mourn or question here?
And with other criteria, envy shows me the way for myself. If I'm jealous of a friend's toned figure, I could use that as an opportunity to eat less and exercise more myself. Or if I'm jealous because another woman is so popular with other people, I can think about how I can approach other people more openly and warmly.
Envy only becomes a problem when it is actually resentment: That means that I don't begrudge the other woman her good figure or her popularity and I wish she would lose that. But if I just think: I would like that too (and of course she should have it too), then it is a very interesting, trend-setting feeling.
Two book tips:
Verena Kast: "Growing beyond yourself - envy and jealousy as opportunities for personal development"
Franziska Schutzbach: "The exhaustion of women. Against female availability."
And I'll go one step further: If we women (and of course everyone else) want to get rid of this old braid from traditional competition, we should behave like sisters. And in this case I would advise you, because of the actually loving friendship with Giselle, to dare to talk about this often taboo topic "envy". The flight forward, so to speak.
I often start such problematic conversations with the following: "I would like to discuss something with you that might be unusual. I thought long and hard about whether I should say something. But since we both have such a trusting relationship with each other and I trust each other that we deal with it carefully, I now take heart and talk about it."
After that introduction, which values the trust between you two, you can ask if your gut feeling is true that Giselle finds it difficult when you're successful as a singer.
And then you could very gently see if she opens up and shares her feelings. It would be very courageous to admit envy and feelings of inferiority to yourself and to you! Maybe you'll manage to thank her for the honesty?
However, if Giselle were to deny that there is a problem, I would recommend that you not press further and wait until another situation that demonstrates the conflict arises (e.g. an interesting musical commission of yours). Then you could tell Giselle and see how she reacts to it and, if necessary, repeat the observation that you do not sense whether she is happy for you.
Their friendship finally faces this hurdle now. Either you manage to get over this hurdle together and deal with Giselle's envy. For example, you could ask how she would act if she were in your situation. This is how you get good advice!
Or the envy - and maybe resentment - will continue to be denied, and then your friendship will probably be destroyed sooner or later by the creeping poison.
But I think you should first try to talk about it and show your girlfriend that it's good to accept your feelings, especially if they're feelings you have trouble with. Who likes to say, "I'm jealous of a girlfriend?" On the other hand, it is precisely this honesty and the courage to speak out that is the basis for a friendship that has much more depth.
I'll keep my fingers crossed that the conversation will be successful. It can be a fine degree.
Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano
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