Note: Although I wrote the following article for women jealous of their boyfriend’s past, the same principles can apply to any retroactive jealousy sufferer.

Struggling with a boyfriend’s past isn’t fun.

Overcoming retroactive jealousy is a massive topic (I’ve built a website, wrote a book, and designed an entire online course around it). There’s a lot for me to get into, here.

But in the early stages of overcoming retroactive jealousy, any woman struggling with her boyfriend’s past would do well to keep the following principles in mind.

1.) His past made him who he is today.

Before you groan, hear me out:

If any aspect of your boyfriend’s past was different, he would be a different human being. Pause and consider that for a moment.

And what’s more: if your boyfriend was a different human being, you might not be attracted to him at all.

Whoa.

To a certain extent, we are all a compilation of our past experiences, good and bad. And thus, if we generally like who we are today, we should be enormously grateful for those experiences, good and bad.

There may be certain elements of your boyfriend’s past which you don’t like. But as long as your boyfriend’s values and your values don’t contradict each other, what are you really worrying about here?

Retroactive jealousy is usually based on insecurity. Take a long look in the mirror the next time you have the instinct to go snooping into your boyfriend’s past.

2.) When we date someone, we take the good with the bad.

This is an idea I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Because I’m a straight guy, and it would be a bit odd to write about my “boyfriend’s past,” let’s pretend I’m struggling with my girlfriend’s past–or present, for that matter.

Let’s say I’m threatened by my girlfriend’s sexy exes. Let’s say one of them is a bodybuilding multi-millionaire with three yachts in his backyard. Let’s say another is an Academy Award winning actor.

And let’s also say that my girlfriend is funny, gregarious, outgoing, independent-minded, warm, and loving. Let’s say my girlfriend is a great girlfriend, and a whole lot of fun to be around. Let’s say my girlfriend is highly attractive.

I like her because she’s highly attractive.

Attractive people tend to attract other attractive people. Funny people generally like being around other attractive people. Pretty girls tend to draw the attention of the men around them.

I choose to be with my girlfriend because she has a number of attractive qualities. So why would I be upset that other men also notice these qualities? Why should I be angry at my girlfriend for having attracted men in the past?

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to be honest with yourself about who you are and what you want. And my truth is this: I want to be with an attractive, funny, warm woman.

There are other truths that accompany that truth. For example: attractive, funny, warm women tend to have a number of aspiring male suitors. So if I want to be with an attractive woman, it’s inevitable that there will be other men interested in her.

I need to make peace with this… or, I’ll lose her. And end up with a “safer,” less attractive woman who doesn’t move me in the same way.

Similarly: there is probably a challenging flipside to all of the things you love about your boyfriend.

For example: let’s say your boyfriend is highly attractive, spending hours at the gym every week. Shocker: other women in his past, and present, will notice this, too, and be drawn to him.

It’s pretty unlikely to date an attractive person who no one else finds attractive. Other women will thus be drawn to all of your boyfriend’s attractive traits.

So what’s the alternative, here? Dating someone you, and no one else finds attractive just so you can feel “safe?”

Doesn’t sound great to me.

When we choose to be with someone, we have to do a couple of things.

One, is to accept them for who they are.

Step two is to acknowledge that we are drawn to be with them because of who they are, both good and bad.

And we can look at the challenging aspects of being with them in one of two ways–we can be frustrated, wishing we could have the good without the bad.

Or, more realistically, we can accept that there is a bad occasionally challenging element that comes as a result of their good qualities.

Let’s say your boyfriend had multiple girlfriends in the past, some of them highly attractive. Don’t you want a man who other women find attractive? And if your boyfriend can attract highly attractive women, and he’s currently choosing you, what does that probably say about you?

Trust your boyfriend when he chooses you. Trust his love, his attention, his affection. Remember that human beings are selfish–he’s not spending time with you because he feels sorry for you, or he’s “settling.” He’s with you because he knows that, right now, you are the best choice for him.

What a beautiful thing.

3.) You should be grateful for the women in your boyfriend’s past.

I look back on my earliest relationships and cringe. Hard.

As a younger man, I didn’t begin to understand women. I made constant mistakes. I could be mean to the women I was seeing. I wasn’t confident enough.

Suffice it to say that I was seriously lacking, in several areas.

Today I am so grateful to the women in my past for teaching me–about love, about relationships, about women.

boyfriend's past walking on a dirt path

If you have a good boyfriend–a boyfriend who is kind, empathetic, respectful, confident–I can just about guarantee that his greatest teachers have been women, not other men.

I have learned far, far more about relationships, communication, masculine and feminine polarity, empathy from woman compared to men. The same is almost certainly true of your boyfriend.

So if you met your boyfriend before he knew the women in his past, before he had those experiences, those lessons, you’d likely be disappointed.

You might not even be attracted to him.

If your boyfriend had been a virgin, or extremely inexperienced when you met him, take it from me: he wouldn’t know much about women.

So if your boyfriend came to you as a “clean slate,” he wouldn’t know anything about how (and how not) to treat you–what you want, what you don’t, how to communicate with you, how to turn you on. Your boyfriend would be a shell of the man he is today without his past dating experiences.

So try to be grateful for them. And remember:

Your boyfriend’s past is just that–his past.

You have his present. So ask yourself: which would you rather have?

If you understand all of this intellectually, but are having difficulty overcoming painful, unwanted thoughts and curiosity about your boyfriend’s past, you are not alone.

Click here to receive a free video mini-course that will show you how to start moving forward, and gaining peace of mind about your boyfriend’s past.


Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in The Huffington Post, PopMatters, Mic, HuffPost Live, and many other publications. I'm also the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.