As usual, some profound insight from one of the funniest humans on the planet, comedian Louis CK:

A few years ago, upon initially seeing this bit on Louis’ special Hilarious, I immediately drew a connection to my own struggles with retroactive jealousy.

I live in one of the richest countries on Earth (Canada represent), and the majority of the visitors to my website come from Canada, and other comparably wealthy nations (the USA, the UK, Australia, Germany, etc.). This has led me to believe that citizens in wealthy countries are more likely to suffer from retroactive jealousy than those in less fortunate nations. Now, there are surely many reasons why this site receives most of its visitors from wealthy countries — wealthier nations usually have more citizens with internet access; a secular society is more likely to permit men and women to have multiple romantic and sexual relationships, resulting in more widespread RJ; at the moment this site is in English only, etc. However, I argue that this is also partly due to the “Everything is amazing, and nobody’s happy” principle laid out by Louis CK in the above clip. It seems that, for many of us, no matter how good our lives and relationships are, no matter how amazing the present moment is, we seek out an excuse to spoil it. No matter how much we have, we always want more.

Many sufferers of RJ feel, on a conscious or subconscious level, that they want “all” of their partner. This may include our partner’s virginity, all of the details of their sexual history, exclusive access to their love and affection, etc. What we fail to realize is that each and every moment with our partner is an incredible gift, and we have no right to expect “all” of them.

If you suffer from RJ, chances are you have wasted time wishing you could “change the past.” What sufferers of RJ all too often fail to realize is that the past — and the entire universe — conspired to allow your relationship to happen. An unimaginable coalition of forces, processes, and circumstances converged at a particular moment in history to let you and your partner find each other. Altering the past, in any minute way, could and probably would result in that never happening. It may sound trite and/or naive to suggest that your partner’s past is a gift, but it’s undeniably true if you value your partner and your relationship at all. Stop trying to create excuses to convince yourself otherwise.

I do not need to convince most sufferers of RJ that their jealousy is irrational. For many of us, we know that the present moment, and our current partner, is wonderful, joyous, and should impel us to quit living in the past. We know that we only have access to the peace we are seeking by accepting the reality of the present moment, rather than interrogating our partner about their past. We know on a subconscious level that “everything is amazing” —  that now is amazing — and yet, still, we are hung up on hallucinations based on an imaginary past.

The past is a hallucination. The past does not exist as you, your partner, or anyone else imagines it. The past doesn’t exist at all. Permitting a hallucination to have power over you is delusional living — and it’s time to stop.

The more we can grow into our best selves, the more we can submit to the bliss of the present moment, and the more we accept that we can never “accept” our partner’s past — how can we accept something that doesn’t exist? — the more we will realize that “everything is amazing,” and be open to the incredible happiness that we have access to in each and every moment.


Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

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