Note: this article contains excerpts from my guidebook, Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: A Guide to Getting Over Your Partner’s Past and Finding Peace.
. . .
A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, I met a beautiful woman in an elevator.
Over the course of a few months, we fell deeply in love, and began a committed relationship that would last for several years, and profoundly alter my development as a lover, and a man.
The girl was attractive in every sense of the word: intelligent, funny, kind, considerate, and very sexy. We shared a deep connection on nearly every level. And then, one day about a year after we first met, my impression of her changed.
We had “the talk.”
By “the talk” I mean a conversation regarding her past.
I mean the self-destructive cycle of unnecessary questions, details, analysis, and judgment regarding her sexual history that so many guys I know seem to love. Or hate. Either way, many men feel compelled to interrogate the women in their lives about their past relationships, and I too fell into this category.
My compulsive “need to know” changed me from a compassionate, and fun-loving boyfriend to judge, jury, and executioner in a heartbeat. The more questions I asked her about “her past,” the more I would probe for more and more unnecessary details.
These details were not shocking, extreme, or anything out of the ordinary. Quite the contrary. But still, my rational brain decided to succumb to the tornado of disgust, repulsion, and judgment whirling inside of me as I learned about my girlfriend’s past.
Over time, and despite her love for me, little by little she pulled away, until our relationship became a shadow of its former self.
That was the question I was forced to consider in the months that followed.
Although my retroactive jealousy was not the only reason for our breakup, it was the foremost contributor to the deterioration of our relationship. I was utterly confused by what I was feeling, and I couldn’t seem to find much good information on the topic.
I wondered: Why am I so hung up on this stuff? Why does no one else in my life seem to experience these sorts of feelings? Why does nobody seem to “get it?” Am I just crazy or something? How do I move past this nonsense?
Some time later, my ex and I reunited. And after a brief respite, my retroactive jealousy reappeared with a reinvigorated intensity.
This is when I developed a new, fierce determination to deal with retroactive jealousy for good. I was fed up, like an alcoholic who finally hits “bottom,” and realizes that it’s finally time to put in the work and change. I decided that I was not about to let my girlfriend’s past determine my present or future. I decided that I was no longer going to be a hypocrite, and abuse my partner for the same things that I had done. I wasn’t going to let my insecurities determine my thoughts and actions.
In short, I decided that
I was NOT going to let retroactive jealousy win.
And I didn’t. After nearly a year of experimentation, soul-searching, unlearning, relearning, risk-taking and help-seeking, I started to take the power back. I started to get serious about understanding, and tackling my problem.
I read every self-help book and psychology book I could get my hands on. I browsed every internet forum devoted to psychology, OCD, and relationships. I attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat. For a brief time, I tried therapy. I registered for lectures and workshops.
Along the way, with several bumps in the road throughout, I discovered that there is no simple or overnight solution to overcoming retroactive jealousy. There is no quick fix, magic bullet, or “instant cure,” despite what some people may try to tell you.
Instead, it involves some soul-searching, hard work, dedication, humility, strength, courage, and a willingness to consider yourself and your partner from a new, healthier, and more grounded and realistic perspective.
But let me tell you–the payoff is so, so worth it.
What life is like after retroactive jealousy
For most people, “overcoming retroactive jealousy” means that they are able to reestablish control over their actions and emotions, rather than let their jealousy dictate what they think and feel, and how they behave.
Most people involved in romantic relationships are at least a tiny bit uncomfortable thinking about their partner’s past relationships, but it doesn’t run their lives.
Today, the pattern of constant curiosity and obsessive thoughts has disappeared.
Once I discovered and developed my own program, insight, and perspectives for healing, things finally started to “click.”
I took everything that was working for me–personal development exercises, insights from modern psychology and ancient spiritual traditions, techniques from the literature on obsessive compulsive disorder–put it all in writing, and committed to sticking with my plan for at least a couple of months.
As I put in the work, and followed my program, the obsessive thoughts and questions began to dissipate, until one morning I woke up and realized that they were gone. I felt peaceful, happy, and optimistic about the future for the first time in a long time.
Today, years later, if negative thoughts or questions arise I observe them for what they are—fleeting, and not particularly noteworthy or interesting—and change my perspective and focus accordingly. In short: I’m in the driver’s seat now. I’m in control.
My girlfriend and I would eventually part ways, and I have successfully managed and overcome jealous impulses in relationships which have followed. In short:
I beat retroactive jealousy for good. And you can too.
You can rid yourself of the pain and anxiety. You can stop causing your partner pain. You can stop making the same mistakes over and over.
My blog, guidebook, and video course are intended to help retroactive jealousy sufferers gain clarity and peace of mind about their partner’s past, let go of unwanted thoughts, and move on from the vicious cycle of destructive behaviour associated with retroactive jealousy.
In my guidebook, I wrote down everything that had helped me overcome retroactive jealousy–all of the practices, perspectives, and exercises that led me to freedom. In the video course, I go much deeper into the topics covered in the guidebook, while at the same time sharing additional wisdom and insight from others who have successfully overcome RJ.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have all the answers–far from it. And when I launched this site back in 2013, I didn’t think this was my “calling.” But I’ve been doing this work for a few years now, and my experience (and the experiences of people like you) has proven to me that I have a pretty good idea of how to help RJ sufferers help themselves, and start leaving retroactive jealousy behind for good.
Anyone can suffer from retroactive jealousy, and, similarly, I believe anyone can overcome it with the right tools.
…as long as they stay proactive, patient, and persistent. There will be the odd bump in the road as you start making progress, but it’s up to you to take ownership of your situation, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward no matter what.
I have an inbox filled with emails from people who’ve beaten, or are in the process of beating retroactive jealousy, and enjoying much happier lives and relationships as a result. That makes me happy.
If you’re suffering from retroactive jealousy, it should make you happy too.
Because it means that no matter what your current situation is like, or how severe your RJ is, there’s hope for someone like you. Aside from the emails in my inbox, I’m living proof of that.
Because for years I suffered from debilitating–and I choose that word advisedly–retroactive jealousy. As I write to you today it’s been several years since I’ve been RJ-free. And if you put in the work, you can do the same thing.
You can leave retroactive jealousy behind for good, and emerge from this painful experience a happier, more grounded, and more peaceful person and partner. Yes, it really is possible.
But you have to believe you can get better before you can get better. So, before you get started, I hope you realize that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your partner’s past is like, you can move on from retroactive jealousy, and reestablish control.
You can get a hold on your brain, and patterns of compulsive questioning and obsessive thoughts.
You can gain real, lasting peace of mind and clarity about your partner’s past.
You can be the partner you want to be — you just have to understand where retroactive jealousy comes from, and how to overcome it.