ORJ reader Alan sent me an update about his ongoing struggle with retroactive jealousy:

Ah it was all going so well… I was feeling much better about things, hardly thinking about this ex friend with benefits and then… He got in touch again… and it transpires now that there was more to their relationship than just sex.

Turns out she liked him at first and thought about dating him but said no when he asked her out because she found out about him sleeping with someone else.

Why him sleeping with someone else should matter if they weren’t dating I’m not sure, but anyway I’m now right back where I started — thinking about this crap all the time.

On reading Alan’s note, the following cartoon sprang to mind:

Cartoon by Rex May: http://www.toonpool.com/artists/rmay_997

It is crucial to emphasize that there will be bumps on the road to overcoming retroactive jealousy.

There will be periods of time when all is well, life is rolling along swimmingly, the obsessive thoughts seem to have ceased, and then all of a sudden — BAM. A partner’s innocent remark, or a Facebook post, etc. can leave us feeling like we’re back at square one.

If you ever experience a setback like this, remember that you are not at square one. You have begun the process of taking ownership for your condition, working on yourself, and doing the necessary work to reclaim the power, and get your jealousy taken care of. Stay the course, weather these mini-storms, and you will continue to grow stronger, and more confident in your ability to overcome RJ.

Use these minor challenges as inspiration to work even harder, grow even stronger, and realize that no thought can have power over you without your permission.

As I have emphasized on numerous occasions, both on this site and in my guidebook, the path to overcoming retroactive jealousy is laden with twists, turns, and obstacles of all sorts.

My own process of overcoming RJ was not an easy one, and no matter how much progress I made, there would continue to be moments or even whole days in which I felt that I was “losing,” and that the jealous thoughts and anxiety were here to stay.

I managed to take comfort in the fact that I felt myself growing a tiny bit stronger with each mini “attack” of jealous thoughts, and I felt devoted enough to working on myself, and overcoming my condition, that each attack began to trouble me less and less.

Each time a jealous thought threatened to take hold, I took refuge in observation and other techniques aimed at dissipating my anxiety. With every “step back,” I felt myself taking two steps forward, and over time these minor setbacks didn’t really discourage me any more.

I had a plan, and most importantly, had the will and dedication to carry it out. I told myself that mastery over my mind was coming, if slowly, and this gave me inspiration to carry on:

The patterns of compulsive questioning and obsessive thoughts have disappeared, and though I am still occasionally bothered by thoughts of my partner’s past, they have nowhere near the impact on me that they once did.

When negative thoughts arise I observe them for what they are — fleeting, and not particularly noteworthy or interesting — and change my perspective and focus accordingly. I’m in the driver’s seat now, and I’m here to tell you that you can be too.

So carry on, Alan, and don’t let these minor setbacks discourage you from continuing on the path. Only you can reclaim your inherent inner power, and do the necessary work to getting over your jealousy.

Your letters indicate that you are well on your way to doing just that.


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.