“Help! I constantly bump into my girlfriend’s ex…”

If you tell me “I constantly bump into my girlfriend’s ex,” and you’re a retroactive jealousy sufferer, my heart goes out to you. Not a fun situation–but it’s actually an opportunity, if you handle it properly.

Before I get into it, a quick reminder that my brand new audio series Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations is available right now.

This is a fully downloadable audio series filled with guided meditations, addressing each of the specific challenges posed by retroactive jealousy one by one.

Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, The Guided Meditations is available right now, and you can find all the details here.

Transcript below

Zachary Stockill: Email came in from Tony. Tony writes:

Help! I have to bump into my girlfriend’s ex. What happens if you meet a person from your partner’s sexual past? How do I deal with seeing this person on a weekly basis?

Okay, Tony, thank you for your message. I could go on for hours and hours and hours on this question. So it’s tough to give a short answer.

The short answer is number one, really commit to overcoming retroactive jealousy, and this problem will take care of itself.

And number two, start changing the story that you’re telling yourself about this person.

On the first note, overcoming retroactive jealousy, there’s no short way to immediately become okay with seeing this person from your partner’s past every day or every week as the case may be.

Because overcoming retroactive jealousy is a relatively big topic, there’s a lot going on with this issue. Depending on your specific issues, you might face certain challenges that other retroactive jealousy sufferers don’t face.

So the first piece of advice I would offer you is to really commit to overcoming retroactive jealousy, whether that means reading a book or taking a course or watching videos or meeting with a therapist or working with a coach, whatever it is, don’t give yourself the option of putting off your recovery from this issue.

A lot of retroactive jealousy sufferers do this.

They’re kind of half-heartedly approaching this issue. They’re kind of one toe in the water of actually healing and working toward beating it.

Don’t do that. Be committed, and eventually this problem will take care of itself.

A very practical short-term tip in the meantime as you put in all the work to overcome retroactive jealousy, I like to advocate a technique called the BB technique, the breath body technique.

So when you run into this person from your partner’s past, what you want to do is you want to tell your body, you want to tell your physical body, “Everything’s okay. Don’t worry. We have nothing to worry about here,” because in the moment, your heart might start racing. You might start feeling very tense. Your breath might quicken up. Your body might experience something akin to a fight or flight response.

And in that moment what we want to do is deliberately tell our bodies that “Everything’s okay. Calm down. We have nothing to worry about here.”

So, the BB technique:

Number one, become immediately conscious of your body. So if I was beside you when you’re running into this person from your partner’s past and I looked at your body, I could probably see the reaction on your body. In other words, maybe your shoulders would tense up. Maybe your face would get kind of clenched. You might be having any number of physical reactions. It might be strictly internal. You might just have a tight feeling in your stomach.

So the first part of the BB technique is to become conscious of your body, become conscious of where this tension is in your body, and then deliberately relax that area of your body.

For me, the example I always give, my shoulders used to get tense when I was dealing with retroactive jealousy. I’d immediately become conscious of the tension in my shoulders and I might just shake them off a little bit and deliberately relax them.

At the same time, part two of the BB technique is to become conscious of your breath and deliberately change your breathing. So again, in this moment when you’re bumping into someone from your partner’s past, very likely that your breath is getting very short and your body’s not getting enough oxygen. What I want you to do is take some deep breaths. You can do three deep breaths. You can do five deep breaths, whatever the case may be.

Be sure you’re filling your entire lungs up with air. Your belly should rise slightly when you breathe and just immediately start breathing deeply and start telling your body through becoming conscious of your body, your physical body, any areas of tension and becoming more conscious of your breath, tell your body deliberately that, “Everything’s okay. There’s no real threat here. We have nothing to worry about.”

Aside from that, start changing the story that you’re telling yourself about this person.

So you might be telling yourself all kinds of stories about this person from your partner’s past, building up their interaction with your partner into something that it wasn’t. Maybe on some level threatened and worried about them, Tinking they’re a better lover than you.

There’s a million in one ways that you might be building up this person in your head into something they’re not.

A quick tip is to start telling yourself a different story about that person.

For example, if I was in your position and I encountered a man from my girlfriend’s past, the story that I would tell myself is “I’m grateful for this guy because he taught my girlfriend that I’m a better match for her.”

I would encourage you to do some journaling and to think about examples that are personally meaningful to you, personally resonant for you.

But the point is start challenging the narrative in your head that you might be telling yourself about this person from your partner’s past, when “I bump into my girlfriend’s ex.”

Don’t give this person power over you or your partner. Don’t let this person interrupt your day. Start telling yourself a different story. Whether they’re nothing to my partner, it has to be personally resonant to you.

Above all else, use this as a challenge and an opportunity to grow stronger. So the only way you’re really going to know if you’re truly growing stronger and truly overcoming retroactive jealousy is challenges like this. And this is a challenge. Don’t get me wrong.

Encountering someone from your partner’s past in the flesh can be a challenge, but guess what?

The more work you put in toward overcoming retroactive jealousy, the less this person will bother you and the more evident it will become that you’re actually making progress, you’re actually overcoming retroactive jealousy. So believe it or not, this is actually a great opportunity to grow stronger and to improve, and maybe even speed up your recovery from retroactive jealousy.

Thanks for watching this video.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.