In today’s video, I’m going to talk about something that I’m sure many retroactive jealousy sufferers can relate to: “discounting the positive.”

Read or watch below to learn more about the cognitive distortion of discounting the positive.

Zachary Stockill: Welcome back to my ongoing series about retroactive jealousy and cognitive distortions. 

In today’s video, I’m going to talk about something that I’m sure many retroactive jealousy sufferers can relate to: discounting the positive. 

A quick refresher for the people who are new here. The term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, and often obsessive curiosity about your partner’s past relationships and/or sexual history. 

Cognitive distortions refer to unhelpful, counterproductive mental patterns, and thought patterns we fall victim to. These patterns can hold us back from being happy, and can contribute to things like retroactive jealousy, various anxiety disorders, and even depression. 

The whole point of this series on cognitive distortions is to encourage you to start thinking a little more carefully about where you are falling victim to cognitive distortions in your own life. And in particular, if you’re a retroactive jealousy sufferer, my hope is that this series will help you start thinking about where you’re falling victim to cognitive distortions as it relates to your experience of retroactive jealousy.

So what is discounting the positive?

Discounting the positive refers to ignoring or invalidating good things that are happening to you in favor of only focusing on the bad. 

discounting the positive

It’s very similar to what we covered in the last video, which involves what’s called the mental filter. Discounting the positive involves trying to “deflect” good things in your life, relationship, career, or anything else. 

So what are some examples of discounting the positive as it applies to retroactive jealousy and/or relationships?

Some people will look to their partner to provide endless reassurance to them. For example, when they question them about their past, a guy will go to his girlfriend and ask 18 million questions about… you know, why did you date this guy? What is his penis size? How many people have you been with? Why are you with me and not him?

Often, his girlfriend will provide endless reassurance, endless love, and endless praise, and try to prop up the guy’s ego as much as possible. 

But her boyfriend won’t entirely accept this validation. Or he may accept it in the moment, but then, half an hour or maybe a day later, he’s back to focusing and ruminating on her past. Discounting all the positives that his girlfriend just offered him. He might start thinking things like, “Oh, she’s only with me, because she has no other options. I’m her last choice to find a husband,” or something like that. 

He’s completely ignoring all the beauty and positivity in his life, and in his relationship, in favor of only focusing on the negative. 

If you’re wracked by intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity, and mental movies about your partner’s past, and you’re on the “extreme end” of the retroactive jealousy spectrum…

If that describes you, you will encounter what I call bumps in the road. There will be times when things are going along great; you’re feeling good, you’re making progress, you’re feeling happier than you’ve felt in a long time… and then you may have an occasional bad hour, or a bad day, or whatever. 

The good news here is that they happen to the best of us, and it’s not a big deal. 

discounting the positive

And there are time-tested strategies, perspectives, and practices that you can engage in that will reduce the severity of these bumps in the road. 

But anyway, to go back to my point: you’re going along great, you’re making progress toward overcoming retroactive jealousy, and you have a bad day. So you start telling yourself things like, “Oh, I’ll never be free of this problem. Everything’s hopeless, and that that guy on YouTube is full of crap…”

You’ll start discounting the positive; you’ll start focusing on the fact that having kind of a slightly off day, and weeks or months of peace. You’re not looking in the rearview mirror at all the wonderful progress you’ve made, and you’re not looking ahead to the progress that you’re going to make if you keep doing what we know works. Instead, you’re discounting the positive–you’re only focusing on the negative without considering the whole picture. 

So, as with all these videos, my homework assignment for you is to encourage you to think about where you are discounting the positive in your own life. 

If you’re a retroactive jealousy sufferer, maybe you’re discounting some of the positive elements of your partner’s past. 

Maybe you’re discounting some of the positive aspects of your present with your partner. Maybe you’re discounting the positive relating to many aspects of your life. 

The point is: think hard about where you are discounting the positive in your life. And then start thinking about new thoughts, new perspectives that you can take on that represent a better story to tell yourself. 

As I say all the time, so much of our happiness in life comes down to simply choosing to tell ourselves better stories. We’re telling ourselves certain stories about the past all the time anyway, so why not choose a better one?

If you are struggling with unwanted, intrusive thoughts about your partner’s past, I hope you’ll take a minute to check out my free four-part mini-video course.

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, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.