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 strikingly beautiful woman in an elevator. 

Over the course of a couple more encounters in my building, we became fast friends. 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 the course of 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.

Over what?

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.

Period.

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.
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What life is like after retroactive jealousy

For most people, “overcoming retroactive jealousy” means that they are able to reassert 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, my former patterns of constant curiosity and obsessive thoughts have 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 experienced none of my former obsessive jealous impulses in the relationships that have followed. In short:

I beat retroactive jealousy for good.

Still, I look back on my retroactive jealousy and cringe more than a little.

I still have vivid memories of the pain and anxiety I felt when I was struggling with retroactive jealousy. I remember the pain I caused my partner. I remember all of the mistakes I made. Above all, I regret all of the time I wasted over something so inconsequential, which led me to writing the guidebook Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, designing my video course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast,” and creating the website you’re reading now.

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.

So let’s get started.

Click here to read the frequently asked questions to get a quick overview of my thoughts on how to start the process of overcoming retroactive jealousy.

Ready to take the next step?
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  • cheney

    hi how will I be able to get this book?

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  • ALM

    Man i really hope this isn’t a scam… God knows i need some guidance… going to start taking SSRI’s on monday because of this, and i need all the help i can get

    • I can assure you it is not. I wouldn’t have created the site, and written the book, if I didn’t believe that I have some insight that can help a lot of people.

      And I’ve been there re: drugs. I once considered SSRI’s, but never actually started taking them. In retrospect, I’m really glad that I didn’t, but I can’t say what will work for you. As I point out in the book, I’m not a doctor, and you should definitely seek medical help if you feel like a threat to yourself or others.

      Otherwise, thanks for your comment. I hope you start feeling better very soon.

      • ALM

        Thanks man… I bought the book… It is worth the money no doubt about it… I still obviously have trouble believing it since it is just so fresh… I’ve been dating my gf for 6 months and we were totally open from the getgo… and nothing EVER bothered me.. until 3 weeks ago I did the (i feel terrible about it) incredible mistake of going through old text messages, and i found texts from her one and only… fuckbuddy if you might call it… that were pretty sexual… Even though I didn’t learn ANYTHING i did not already knew about, and even though i have a 5x (!) longer list of past lovers… this one thing opened a pandoras box, and I spiralled into a dark pattern of imaging and a 24 hour (I kid you not) obsessing over this issue…Sadly, SSRI’s are the only “quick” fix i have the moment. I realize it’s gonna take a lot of work and probably counceling to be able to get through this…but i need to function at some level… and if that means a couple of months of talking pills… then so be it…

        I am madly in love with this girl and a month ago we had plans to move in together… Even though i believe that breaking up would probably at least give me some confort I refuse to let something like this beat me out of a loving caring relationship…specially when my own experience was not all that different from hers.

        I especially liked the passage where you write “Her past doesn’t exists, and definitely NOT the way you think it exists”… When learning this details about past sexual encounters the mind tends to imagine the darkest, weirdest, and most degrading porn movie ever… even though you intelectually know this is not the case, and you know your SO had all the right to live her life the way she chose before she met you… emotionally you just don’t see it…

        If anyone has any expierience with meds/therapy, i am all ears

  • Kendra Smith

    Hey there, im really hoping this will work. I have been with my boyfriend, well ex-boyfriend for a year and a half and we split up last week; all because of this ridiculous obsession i have about his past. It started a year ago, and he was very helpful trying to reassure me for all this time. But i guess enough is enough for any person no matter how madly in love they are with you. Im obviously very devastated about the break up, we have an flat rented out together for next year. Anyway, bottom line is i need to get myself fixed and hopefully win my boyfriend back. and if not the hopefully have a healthier relationship with someone else in the future.

    • Hi Kendra. Sorry to hear about your breakup. I hope my guidebook is helpful to you. If you do the exercises, and most importantly, put in the work, I’m confident that you’ll start to see results. Best of luck to you, and feel free to send me an email any time.

  • Chris

    I have not yet ordered the book, but it appears it will be helpful. My issue is not dissimilar to others, I’m sure. I’m in a successful, long term marriage – over 20 years. But, lately, there has been a possible change in the information I thought I knew about my wife’s sexual past. Many years ago we had ‘the talk’ and I was given a number. In the years since I never got the same information twice but never pressed the issue. About 5 months ago we were talking and I mentioned the notion that woman will always lie (under report) about the number of sexual partners they’ve had in the past. She just kind of smiled and gave a knowing nod. When I made a comment about the nod she didn’t say anything. Since then, it’s almost all I can think (obsess) about. Was she lying to me about her number? If so, why did she choose now to let on that she hadn’t been honest? I feel I’ve been deceived; sold a bill of goods, as they say. But, after such a long, successful relationship, I realize it is mostly my problem, not hers. Except for the deception. What makes matters worse, to the fragile male ego, is if she has been lying about her number, her number is now higher than mine. Silly? Probably. But, like I said, fragile male ego. Oh well. That’s my sob story.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your situation — it sounds all too familiar. As I write in the book, one has to really check in with oneself to determine whether or not their partner’s values are in line with their own. You don’t know for sure that your partner lied to you, but it sounds like you have reason to be suspicious. Regardless of whether she lied to you or not, or what did or didn’t happen, I do believe my guide could be useful to you. My book focuses very little on what did or didn’t happen in your partner’s past, and instead on how to move forward and regain perspective and control. However you decide to proceed, I wish you courage and strength.

      • I should also add that, for male sufferers of retroactive jealousy in particular, whether or not one’s own “number” is higher than their partner’s matters little. I’ve received emails from men who have been with two or three times more people than their partner who are still deeply troubled. Fragile male ego, indeed.

      • ALM

        5x times here… with a girl whose history is really by all accounts “on the green zone”… it really does not matter… one detail too many about a one night stand or casual sex… and you are in for the ride

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  • Dave

    You mentioned being wedded to the imaginary past in Chapter 6. Could you elaborate on the imaginary past notion? What if it’s not imaginary? What if too many details have divulged and it’s not imaginary anymore?

    • Zachary Stockill

      Dave — this is a great question. Stay tuned to the site, and make sure to sign up for my mailing list. I’ll be posting a video on this topic very soon…

  • Adam Ruhl

    if you took control then why did you write a book about it

    • I don’t understand your question.

      • Adam Ruhl

        i’m sorry, i’m just very upset right now.

  • Joe Jordan

    I am serioudly thinking about buying this book, I just wish I knew if it was a scam or not. I guess for teh price it’s worth the risk…

    • If you have misgivings about my work, don’t buy.

      Or, if you’d like to get the book without any of the bonuses, see here for the Amazon page (with a bunch of reader reviews): http://amzn.to/1voHhku

  • Nicole Baker

    Hi Zachary, I would like to know how you get retroactive jealousy?

    • Zachary

      Thanks for your comment, Nicole. There’s no simple answer, but I get into the causes of retroactive jealousy briefly in this article: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/what-is-rj/

      I’m actually working on a longer post addressing your question directly, so be sure to sign up for email updates so you’re notified when it gets published.

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  • Brian Lannister

    Hi Zach, i suffer from RJ but my partner’s past (oral sex, once) was given to someone i work with and i have received intense bullying and ridicule because of it. What can i do to overcome it if i’m constantly reminded of it?

  • Jay

    I wake up and the first thing I think about is my girlfriend with a guy she met just before me. She slept with him 6 times over 3 days and the first time she slept with him, she’d met him that night. I can’t get it out of my head. I’ve seen messages they’ve sent each other and he is pretty graphic about what happened with them too. I think about it from the second I wake up to the second I go to sleep. My chest hurts, my arms go numb and I don’t see how I can possibly get over this. It’s feels like the more I let myself love her, the harder it gets.

  • Beth

    I search my husbands ex for hours, he told her the night before we got married he wanted to kill himself and he was only marrying me to get over her, he texted her for hours on end while ignoring me on the road and when I found out and threatened to leave and blocked her number he called on his friends phone for the next six months escalating to calling her husband and offering to trade us sexually. I left filed for divorce and was never going to look back until he came back a few months later with a new perspective and no longer a raging alcoholic. He hasn’t talked to her in five months but I dream about her and stalk her for hours a day sometimes. Someone help ????

    • Zachary

      So sorry to hear about your situation, Beth. “he told her the night before we got married he wanted to kill himself and he was only marrying me to get over her.” For me, this would be a dealbreaker. I’m sorry that I can’t offer something more constructive, but the way I see it, we owe it to ourselves to choose people who are choosing us deliberately, decisively. And if that’s not the case, I think we owe it to ourselves to move on. Still, if you decide that you want to work on this, you might want to start by reading this article: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/stalking-my-wifes-past/

  • SJ

    Hi Zach, I’ve come accross your story as I’m trying to save my relationship for similar issues but in my case it’s my boyfriend who is suffering from this type of jealousy. My problem is, he doesn’t admit that he is jealous and he believes he has a right to be upset with me over something I did 2 years before I even met him. My situation is a little more complicated as I lied to him about this when he first questioned me in fear he would judge me which happened once I came clean. So now he is hurt that I lied but above all he is hurt about what I did. I have read your article about values and maybe this could maybe fall under this category although I don’t believe that is the case. He constantly pictures scenarios about what happened and no longer touches me or kisses me as he says it reminds him of what I’ve done. My question is, if he doesn’t admit he could be suffering from retroactive jealousy, is there any way I can help him? I have bought your book but I’m wondering if me reading it can help me helping him in any way?

    • Zachary

      Hi SJ, thanks for your comment. First off, I’d encourage you to take care of yourself–regardless of what your SO is going through, don’t stay in a situation in which you’re facing constant emotional abuse, and it’s not looking like it’s going to get better.
      Secondly, check out this article: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/help-my-partner-suffers-from-retroactive-jealousy/

      I hope you find it helpful. Good luck.

  • Mogli

    Wow thank you for this information- I’ve been struggling with finding a way to understand these feelings and intrusive thoughts I’ve been having and creating for myself for over a year or two. I think it is definitely a form of OCD popping back up in my life- but it has to do with my own insecurities and jealousy of another person than any ritual or repetitive behavior to calm anxiety.

    It’s such a terrible feeling to be constantly comparing yourself to someone that you feel you could never measure up to no matter what you do- taking away from any accomplishments or good feelings that you have in your life or in that moment- and it is completely stemming from within!

    I have since broken up with my boyfriend, Jay, of about a year and a half for lots of reasons, but mainly because I couldn’t stand the person I was becoming- totally insecure, uptight, jealous, couldn’t let go of the past, crazy/stalker person, competitive, angry- completely jaded, forgetting about all the blessings and good things in my life. It was too self-destructive and I’m trying to get over it. All due to jealousy of his ex-girlfriend.

    The story is kind of nuts- a couple of years ago I moved to a small town. i met a guy, we had a casual relationship for a few months- eventually he dumped me over text and I’d see him around town with a pretty blonde chick named Ella. I looked up Ella on various social media outlets- found she was a very beautiful, successful, popular, adventurous woman a few years my senior and I didn’t give it much thought after that- though it kind of bummed me out and sparked the obsession.

    A year or so later I met Jay. He was very handsome, funny, charming, nice to me and could cook a mean steak, so we started hanging out regularly. Eventually we became a couple and we shared bits and pieces of our pasts with each other. Turned out a year prior he had broken up from a 3 year relationship with a woman named Ella. I freaked out. At that point I realized how small the world really is. We had swapped ex-partners! A strange coincidence that should have been laughed about and disregarded, but my mind took it elsewhere- it was the catalyst for a self-destructive rollercoaster I dragged myself on for the next year and a half.

    Since then I have checked this woman’s facebook accounts, interrogated poor Jay and accused him of still being in love with Ella and just have turned into a monster- anxious, aggressive, angry, unable to let go of anything- I have even admitted to Ella herself these feelings and wanting to let them go- but it’s almost like an addiction.

    The worst (or the best, depending how you look at it) part of it all is that Jay has been so loving and patient and understanding with me- reassuring me all along that he loves me, that he doesn’t want to be with her any more- that it is part of his past and he wants to be happy with me in the present moment and build our future. I would feel ok for a bit whenever he would reassure me- but then a few days later i would become insecure about something, get curious about what she was like, check pictures or status updates on facebook or instagram and then we would fight- I would accuse, not be able to drop the conversation, etc. etc. I’m sure this was a huge strain and annoyance for Jay- I really do care about him and I wanted to get myself right before I damage anything further. Still- we are in contact and he tells me the same things over and over.

    Even on the best, sunniest day- one thought of her sends me spiraling into obsessive thoughts and bitter resentments. It sucks and I’m getting sick of it. I’m done with beating a dead horse.

    But it’s freakin hard to let go, or establish new patterns in your brain- especially after a year and a half of the same actions, feelings and behaviors.

    In any case, I am so glad to find this blog and it feels damn good to vent, because I’m sure we have all dealt with something of this similar nature or have known someone who has. It’s just like an addiction- self-destructive and a waste of time, but almost feels out of anyone’s control at times.

    Thank you for the help and the advice! 🙂

    • Zachary

      Thanks for sharing your story! I’m really glad that you’re finding my work helpful. Put in the necessary work and good things will come.

  • KB

    Hello. I’m glad I found your article as I am struggling with something similar. My boyfriend and I just moved in together less then two weeks ago. We plan on spending the rest of our lives together. BUT I guess he thought it would be a good idea to go through his pictures on his laptop in bed with me this morning. I rolled over and saw images of him having sex with an ex. He claimed he was trying to delete it. I just wish he would have done this while I wasn’t around. I cant get it out of my head and im so disgusted I don’t know what to do. I knew he had a past. He can even speak briefly about his past experiences as long as it isn’t enough to form a mental picture in my head im cool. BUT now its burned into my photographic memory. I am not even sure how to apply this information to my situation. Is this still jealousy or am I traumatized? I am feeling like I never want him to touch me again. What do I do? Please help.

  • Jog

    What if your partner brings up comments like their past in jest or the off comment here and there. When i request that she not discuss with me this she says “you’re jealous and need to get help.” What are your thoughts on this?

  • Mick

    Hi Zack , not sure if you still read these or not but lately I have been really struggling with retroactive jealousy , it all started a couple months ago because of my own stupid idea to go reading through my girlfriends old messages and finding information I really wish I hadnt found , ever since then I have been trying to deal with it but it just seems to get worse , I keep getting visual thoughts of her with another guy and picturing different scenarios in my head , Every now and then I get a grip on it but then they come back gradually , and I try to fight them off and it works for a little bit but then they get louder and louder and they get too much to handle and then I lose my control of my thoughts , I really need help

    • Zachary

      Lots to help you get started right here, Mick: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/faq

      • Mick

        Hi Zack , I purchased your book abput 3 days ago and have already made alot of progress! , I still have my moments but with your advice I have managed to come so far already!

        • Zachary

          Very glad to know, Mick. Put in the work and good things will come.

  • khawkins

    Zach –help us. My husband has retroactive jealousy — (so glad to have a name for it, thank you.). His first sign of jealousy was really negative (I don’t remember what he did but it was some sort of verbal assault) which from that point on, I withheld and/or covered up details of my past relationships –which made things worse. We are in therapy, which is helping. I still have anxiety/fear around his reaction to my past. (Perhaps I have shame about my past??). I desperately want my husband to love me simply and completely — and my past is part of me. I really wanted single life to be over and to find one man- one partner for the rest of my days here on earth –he is it. This retroactive jealousy is in our present now, and it blows. What advise do you have for ME and how to handle when this happens?

  • Jammas

    Hi Zach, I am really struggling with my partners sexual past, mostly with one woman he continues to converse with. Early on in our dating phase, I contracted a STI from him, He was very sorry, we both got treated and continued to see eachother. We went on a holiday not long after, I had no reception on my mobile phone and asked to use his phone to which I found messages between himself and a former lover of his. There was discussion between them that was a bit inappropriate and also about myself and my children. I was deeply hurt by this as by this time I had developed very strong feelings for him. He reassured me that I was the only one and they only talk as friends. I have never really got over it. I felt used after the STI, they are still talking and it feels like he never sticks up for me! Either I’m too sensitive and emotional and should be more mature like her. I’ve even tried messaging her in my desperation but that just fuels her, fuels the pair of them. It causes me much pain and anxiety. What can I do?

    • Zachary

      Hi Jammas–impossible for me to really assess the situation, as I’m not familiar with the intimate details of your relationship, your partner’s characteristics or yours, etc. The only real piece of advice I can offer you is to consider whether or not this is an issue of conflicting values. Talk the situation over with an impartial-as-possible third party, such as a therapist or a trusted friend and get their perspective. And then make a decision about how to proceed.

      Some reading for you here: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/values

      • Jammas

        Thanks Zach, I’m not entirely sure what it is but I do have some jealousy to some degree. I wish I could just let them be friends, while there may have been some inappropriate talk between them it was very early on in our dating phase neither of us were sure that things were going to become serious. I feel like I push my partner away with my distrust and jealousy

  • Omar Harper

    Hi Zach, I first want to thank you and congratulate you for your blog. I will be purchasing your guidebook as soon as I’m done with this comment, as I am confident that I can overcome my RJ. Unfortunately, I only came across your blog today and I have already done some damage to my relationship by ‘trying’ to talk things through with my girlfriend. I know every relationship is different, but from your experience in helping people with RJ, do you often hear stories of people getting their relationships back on track, even if they have already done some damage to it?

    • Zachary

      It’s often possible to repair the damage RJ does to a relationship. It’s a cliche, but time does, often, heal all (or most) wounds.

      Other times, however, your partner hits the “point of no return” where there’s nothing you can say or do to reignite attraction, or get them back. So it’s impossible for me to say with certainty, but if there’s still a spark, a connection there–if she’s still attracted to you on some level–you can likely work through this. Otherwise, it’s just about impossible.

      I hope you find my book helpful.