In today’s video, I offer my opinion on exposing yourself to retroactive jealousy triggers.

Read or watch below to hear my answer to the question, “Should I be exposing myself to retroactive jealousy triggers?”

Zachary Stockill: When you are struggling with retroactive jealousy, is it a good idea to be exposing yourself to retroactive jealousy triggers? Some people say yes, and some people say no. And in today’s video, I’m going to tell you my opinion.

First off, a quick definition for the people who are new here: the term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, often painful curiosity, and vivid and painful mental movies about your partner’s past relationships and/or sexual history.

And when I talk about “triggers,” as it applies to retroactive jealousy, I’m talking about… 

Situations, things, people, places that conjure up intrusive thoughts, and seem to inspire the typical symptoms that we associate with retroactive jealousy. 

exposing myself to retroactive jealousy triggers

For example, this could be a bar that your boyfriend and his ex used to visit. This could be a sweater that your partner’s ex-wife gave to your partne. It could be any number of things that, for you, when you encounter them, tend to inspire the intrusive thoughts, tend to provoke that anxiety that we associate with retroactive jealousy.

In a lot of my work, I talk about limiting your exposure to retroactive jealousy triggers. 

In other words, maybe it’s a good idea for a little while to avoid that bar. Perhaps it’s a good idea to, say, spend less time on your boyfriend’s Facebook page, or something like that.

But note that I say limit your exposure, and I don’t say avoid. Because if we intentionally avoid something, and we’re fretting about ever encountering it, it often makes it much more powerful. It often gives it a lot more power over us. 

In other words, if your girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend used to walk down a certain street, and you avoid that street like the plague, you’re making the idea of that street very powerful in your brain. And you’re actually increasing the power of that retroactive jealousy trigger.

So again:

There’s a difference between limiting your exposure, if possible, and completely avoiding something, if that makes sense. 

Many people have retroactive jealousy triggers that involve specific details about their partner’s past. 

Some retroactive jealousy sufferer has a lengthy conversation with their partner about their partner’s past. And that sends them down this rabbit hole and all of a sudden they’ve got new retroactive jealousy triggers.

“Should I be exposing myself to retroactive jealousy triggers?”

When that same sufferer of retroactive jealousy learns about things like exposure therapy, or they hear “You have to face your fears…” Some people take that information to mean “That gives me permission to ask my partner a thousand questions about their past…”

I don’t think that’s helpful.

As I say endlessly on this channel, and to coaching clients all the time:

Getting more granular, insignificant details about your partner’s past is not going to help you overcome retroactive jealousy. 

exposing myself to retroactive jealousy triggers

I’ve been doing this work for over 10 years. I have corresponded with literally thousands of men and women from all over the world struggling with this issue.

And there have been exactly zero retroactive jealousy sufferers who ever told me that more information about their partner’s past is what helped them beat retroactive jealousy

So that’s what I’m talking about when I talked about limiting your exposure to retroactive jealousy triggers. You probably don’t need to have that conversation with your partner about their ex for the eighth million time. You probably don’t need to go digging into your partner’s ex on Facebook and stalking them. Limit your exposure to these triggers.

Of course, there are many techniques that can help you deal with these triggers, if and when you encounter them. 

But my point in this video is that you should not be voluntarily exposing yourself to all kinds of granular, insignificant details about the events of your partner’s past.

It’s not going to help you overcome retroactive jealousy. In fact, it will probably delay your progress.

There are many ways to overcome triggers. There are many ways to kind of steel yourself against triggers and transcend them. But don’t make the mistake of voluntarily gathering endless information about your partner’s past, because it won’t help. 

If you need more help with retroactive jealousy, check out my online course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”, or consider applying for one-on-one coaching with me.


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.