What is Retroactive Jealousy?

Jealousy is part of human nature, and everyone has experienced it at some point in their life. Typically, you feel jealous at the moment, whether it is the delicious ice cream your friend is having or the shiny new Ferrari of your boss. It is also pretty normal to experience some amount of jealousy in romantic relationships. You could feel insecure or worry about your partner getting attracted to someone else. But what if you feel jealous about who your partner was attracted to in the past? There is a name for it- retroactive jealousy.

What is retroactive jealousy?

Retroactive jealousy refers to extreme feelings of jealousy regarding your partner’s romantic or sexual past. It could also involve painful thoughts about the past relationships of your partner or their sexual history.

Some people feel jealous that their partner had more sexual partners than them or that they engaged in different sexual behavior. Some are troubled knowing that their partner was in love and committed to someone else.

Retroactive jealousy sufferers usually have intrusive thoughts, mental images, and a highly-charged emotional response to their partner’s romantic past. It is different from normal feelings of jealousy in that retroactive jealousy is of obsessive nature. Sufferers are usually caught in a loop of painful emotions, obsessive thoughts, and inconsiderate actions that lead to self-loathing. They tend to ask their partners a ton of questions about their past and overthink their condition instead of putting their jealousy behind them.

Over time, retroactive jealousy tends to drive a wedge between you and your partner.

How to Cope with Retroactive Jealousy

Being consumed by the thoughts of your partner’s romantic past can be hell. If you don’t deal with your feelings, retroactive jealousy could soon turn into an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Here’s how you can work through your feelings:

Accept your feelings

You must accept your feelings before you can work through a difficult emotion. You may hesitate to accept it, but jealousy is a normal feeling.

Are you having a hard time accepting your jealousy? Then ask yourself what your feelings of jealousy truly mean to you. Is it something about your own past or something about your relationship that makes you feel that you can’t trust your partner? When you better understand your jealousy, you can also face the fears that are causing the jealousy.

Retroactive jealousy sufferers are not necessarily bad, but their feelings could lead to strained relationships.

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes

Your partner may have had romantic partners in the past, but what about you? Haven’t you also had some partners too? What do you feel about your ex-partners?

Even if your ex-partner was more attractive than your current partner, there was something amiss which is why you broke up. There is something that your current partner has, and your ex didn’t, which is the reason why you love your current partner. Similarly, your current partner also felt the same about their other partners, which is why they are with you.

If your partner accepts you despite your past relationships, you should also do the same.

Talk to your partner

Communication is the foundation for strong relationships. If you want to work through difficult emotions, such as retroactive jealousy, there is no other way but to talk about it.

Being curious about your partner’s past is quite normal. Discussing each other’s past could help you know and understand each other better.

If you are jealous of your partner’s past, talk to them respectfully about it. You do not want to shame them for having multiple partners. Rather, you want to focus on what you are feeling in this relationship and not what they did in the past.

Your partner may not even know that you were feeling insecure about them. Perhaps they could address your feeling to assuage your fears. Keeping your feelings bottled up inside you will only cause more stress in the relationship.

Trust your partner

Talking to your partner is definitely helpful, but letting go of the feelings of jealousy and insecurity is not as easy. Doubt could easily creep in, and you could end up worrying what if their attractive ex shows up one day and asks to be taken back.

This is where you need trust. You need to trust your partner and trust their feelings about you. If you still have lingering feelings of jealousy that you are unable to overcome, you should also consider seeking professional help.

Analyze your real concerns

Ask yourself what is causing these extreme feelings of jealousy? Do you wonder about your partner’s life before they met you? Do you wonder about what attracted them to you in the first place? Or, are you jealous because you do not know everything about your partner’s past?

Some people do not like to talk about their past. That is because they do not want to hear about infidelity, or they want to keep their own past private. Even if you don’t discuss these things, you may still end up wondering about them.

Openly discussing what you are curious about could help you bring it up with your partner.

Remind yourself of your self-worth

A lack of self-worth can fuel feelings of jealousy. If you have limiting beliefs about yourself, several things about your partner’s exes could trouble you. You could worry about them being more attractive than you, or them having more money than you. You will end up comparing yourself with them, which is only going to lead to more intense feelings of jealousy.

Remind yourself why your current partner chose you over the others. You must surely have something that made you more special than anyone they have ever met before. Thinking about your own talents and unique attributes can help boost your self-confidence, which, in turn, will also reduce feelings of jealousy.

Talk to a counselor

Overcoming retroactive jealousy, especially if it has turned into an obsession, could be difficult to do on your own. If that’s the case, you should seriously contemplate talking to a counselor.

Talking to a therapist could be immensely helpful if feelings of jealousy do not go away no matter what you do. If your feelings are causing anxiety or depression or straining your relationship, then a therapist can be of immense help.

Being curious about your partner’s past is completely normal. However, the way you handle your curiosity and feelings could have a significant impact on your relationship. Retroactive jealousy can be overcome, and you should not allow it to add stress to your life.

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