Jealousy is the less-than-pretty emotion. Jealousy is the thing no one wants to talk about. In a relationship, jealousy not only feels awful, but it can make even the most confident person feel a bit of shame, especially when they’re experiencing it around their partner’s past.
Retroactive jealousy deals explicitly with someone’s experiences around their partner’s sexual or romantic past. But unlike general jealousy that many people experience, retroactive jealously is characterized by obsessive thoughts that negatively affect your relationship. Because of this, some professionals list extreme retroactive jealousy cases under the OCD umbrella.
Retroactive jealousy isn’t uncommon.
And you might experience it.
Some signs you want to look out for that you struggle with retroactive jealousy are:
- Constantly tracking partner’s ex on social media
- Asking many questions about your partner’s past sexual/emotional experiences
- A deep fear of losing your partner to their exes
- Constant doubt about your partner’s love
- Comparing your past to your partner’s
- Imagining scenarios of your partner with their exes in your head
If you tick some of these boxes, and you’re reading this, you may be wondering, “why me?”
Why do some people struggle with retroactive jealousy and others don’t?
Well, it usually comes down to our pasts. If you went through traumatic experiences in the past, have an insecure attachment style, or had your trust broken in the past, you’re more likely to experience this kind of jealousy.
Let’s be clear about one thing: retroactive jealousy sucks.
It’s not only hard to deal with for you, but it ends up hurting your relationship, too.
So let’s talk about several ways to overcome it.
Resisting the urge to stalk your partner’s exes
One habit you’ve probably found yourself doing more than you’d like to admit is stalking your partner’s exes online. It’s one thing to be curious about who they are, but another to know about their entire family and recent trip to Mexico.
Every time you look at their profiles, you make things harder for yourself. So the first step towards overcoming retroactive jealousy is to stop feeding your obsession. Don’t look at your exes’ social media. If you have to, block them.
Your mental health is what matters most here.
Whenever you succeed in not giving in to your urges, I want you to feel pride in those choices. It’s not easy to overcome old habits driven by our obsessions. So on top of resisting your urges to stalk, I want you to acknowledge how strong you are for doing so.
Make a list of healthier coping mechanisms
Part of overcoming retroactive jealousy is not knowing how to cope with your obsessive thoughts. Normally, you’d take a peek at Instagram to see what your partner’s ex is up to or hound your partner with questions.
To change those old coping mechanisms, you have to replace them with new ones. Make a list of activities that will either distract your mind or make you happy.
It can be as simple as calling a friend or drawing.
Maybe a nice walk while listening to a podcast will do it for you.
That way, whenever obsessive thoughts overcome you, you have healthier ways to cope than your old habits, jealousy-driven habits.
Remember that, just like you, your partner has a past
It’s easy to get caught up in your partner’s past. So much so that you may forget you have a history, too.
A past that shaped who you are today.
I want you to reason with yourself that if you’re not thinking about your exes and you actively choose your partner, then, chances are, your partner is doing the same with you.
You’re not longing for your exes, so why do you think your partner is?
Instead of thinking about your partner’s past as this negative baggage, try to see the positives. By dating people before you, your partner learned how to show up better in your relationship. They made mistakes that they didn’t have to make with you.
If it weren’t for their past experiences, there’s even a chance they may never have ended up with you (if you haven’t heard of the butterfly effect, I highly suggest Googling it).
Your mind is framing your partner’s past as a threat and something to be sad about. But that all exists in your head. By re-framing the way you think about things, your partner’s past doesn’t have to be such an issue.
Identify any underlying insecurities you may struggle with
Often, but not always, what we struggle with most in our relationships is a sign of deep-rooted insecurity. You might think that your partner will leave you for their ex, but that might be because you’ve never thought of yourself as interesting or good-looking enough.
If that’s the case, then no amount of trying to feel OK with your partner’s past will help. You have to turn inward and address your insecurities.
But first, you have to find where that insecurity is, which could be deeply buried.
Try this: ask yourself questions when you feel jealous of your partner’s past. What exactly are you jealous of? Perhaps it’s the thought of them being with someone sexually. Then ask yourself, why does that bother you? Maybe it’s that you’re worried they miss the kind of intimacy they had with their ex.
If so, then why do you think your partner misses that? You might realize you believe you’re not good enough in bed. And asking yourself why you think that could reveal it’s because your ex made a crude comment about your sexual performance.
See what I did there? Instead of taking your jealousy at face value, I asked questions until it revealed something deeper. I highly suggest you do the same because insecurities can be worked on, but not until you uncover them.
If things feel too overwhelming, talk with a therapist
As much as we’d love that you completely overcome your retroactive jealousy with this article, things might be more difficult than that. If that’s the case, then don’t hesitate to talk with a professional. You may think it’s not essential, but your mental health should always be your number one priority.
Nowadays, there are plenty of affordable choices for therapy. Online talk and group therapy platforms are excellent. Check your local community center to see if they have resources, as well. Some local therapists may even have a sliding scale, where they offer a few clients cheaper services.
You don’t have to tackle such a complex experience on your own. If you feel like your past traumas and wounds are too overwhelming, therapy could be an excellent choice.
Just because you’re experiencing retroactive jealousy doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. With that said, it’s up to you to work on and understand your feelings, so they don’t hurt your relationship any further.
Your partner may have a past, but that doesn’t mean they can’t choose and love you today. Let that ease your mind a bit and give you hope that you can feel more secure in the relationship you’re in.