In today’s video, I respond to a viewer of my YouTube channel who’s worried because his girlfriend has a “past,” and he doesn’t.

Read on or watch below to discover what to do if your girlfriend has a past, but you don’t.

Zachary Stockill: The term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts and obsessive curiosity about your partner’s past relationships and/or dating history.

Dealing with retroactive jealousy isn’t easy. And sometimes it can feel like it’s even harder if your partner has a past, but you don’t. 

In today’s video, I will respond to a viewer of this channel who’s worried because his girlfriend has a past, and he doesn’t. He’s struggling with retroactive jealousy, and he wants to know what to do. 

I just want to address something that has been popping up a lot lately. I’ve been getting a lot of questions on my YouTube videos from people looking for where to go to work with me; where to go to learn more about my online courses, and where to learn more about my products and services. 

Needless to say, I put out a lot of content on this issue.

Here are the links to some of my products and services: my online courses, my guided meditation series, my books, and more.

Now: I’m going to read an email, or I think a YouTube comment I received from a viewer on this channel. He’s worried about the fact that his girlfriend has a past, and he doesn’t. Let’s call him R. 

So R writes:

I’ve been struggling with retroactive jealousy for a few months now. I’ve been in my relationship for six months. My main issue is that I feel like I’ve missed out. And I’m going to miss out because I have no past. 

girlfriend has a past

And my girlfriend has had a fair bit of experience. I’ve recently been feeling regret, for not doing anything in the past. And I’m worried that I might be this way forever. I just have this FOMO of not doing anything with anyone else. 

But I think it’s only because she’s experienced everything. Whereas I haven’t experienced anything. I feel like even if I had a small past, it would be so much easier for me to get over it. I just don’t want to end up regretting something in the future, or wasting our time. 

Okay, thank you for your email, and thank you for reaching out to me. And what jumps out to me right off the bat is the fact that you’re pretty self-aware, at least you seem that way. Judging by the email you wrote to me because I liked the way you ended this:

You said you don’t want to end up regretting something in the future. You don’t want to waste your time or her time, crucially, and you don’t want to end up resenting her as well. 

This issue of resentment is so important. There’s a lot of research out on the longevity of marriages, long-term relationships, and what predicts the downfall of a marriage or long-term relationship. In particular, Dr. John Gottman has done a lot of research on this topic. And he’s found more than anything else that resentment predicts the downfall of a relationship better than just about anything else. 

In other words, as soon as you start having feelings of resentment towards your partner, that’s a real warning sign. You have to be careful. Because the further down that road you go, the more likely it is that your relationship is going to fall apart. So good on you for having that self-knowledge, and self-awareness to understand what the stakes are here and what the dangers are moving forward. 

Secondly, I want to be really clear in this video, because I think sometimes people misinterpret me and my work. They ascribe messages to me that I’m not putting out there. 

So I want to be clear: if you feel like you need more experience as a young man, if you need more dating experience, if you need to have a few more girlfriends before you “settle down,” or anything like that, I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. 

Some people need a broader range of experience compared to others before they’re ready to “settle down.”

girlfriend has a past

I certainly fall into that category. I’m glad I’ve had a broad range of relationship and dating experiences for the past 20 years. They have served me really well. It gave me the perspective that I needed and taught me all kinds of precious lessons which I still draw on today, talking to you as a man in his mid-30s. I don’t think I’d be as content in my relationship today if I hadn’t had a broad range of experiences in my past. 

So if you check in with yourself, if you start doing your own work of self-interrogation, maybe you can work with a coach or a therapist, or a friend… If you get in touch with these feelings, and you think “I need more experience before I can settle down with someone,” nothing wrong with that whatsoever. 

However, I need to be equally clear about something else, which is when it comes to this particular little demon of an issue that we call retroactive jealousy”

Even if your girlfriend has a past, and you don’t, the “numbers” don’t matter as much as you might think.

Because I often get emails, from men in particular, in situations that are very similar to yours, where they’ll write to me… They’ll say:

Listen, my girlfriend had five partners in the past, and I’ve had two… What do you think about that? Is this where my retroactive jealousy is coming from? 

And as I often tell these men that I’ve received emails from men whose own past is way, way more colorful than their girlfriend’s past, or their wife’s past, yet they’re still struggling with the exact same symptoms that you’re struggling with. 

In other words: the experience of retroactive jealousy is pretty similar across different categories of people. Regardless of how many people you’ve been with, or your partner has been with, the symptoms are generally pretty similar. 

And again, I can speak personally about this issue. When I was struggling with retroactive jealousy in my personal life, my past was much more eventful than my then-girlfriend’s, at the time.

I’d also like to remind you:

You are not a victim. You’re not a victim of your partner’s past, you’re not a victim of their past choices, you’re not a victim of your own past. And you have options right now, in the present. 

And if you take on a victim mentality, this issue is going to be much harder to get over.

The men who struggle with retroactive jealousy for years, or sometimes even decades are often the men who take on a victim mentality, where they feel like a victim because their girlfriend has a past, or a victim of circumstance or a victim of their own past, or whatever. It’s a really disempowering attitude to take on. 

And if you take on that victim mentality, you’re going to be spinning your wheels in the mud for many more months, years, or even decades.

On that note of not being a victim: in terms of practical steps you can take,

Number one, I’d recommend, frankly, signing up for my free mini course.

It’s a totally free four-part mini-video course. It will help you get started, taking baby steps towards getting more clarity around these questions and eventually overcoming retroactive jealousy. 

Aside from that, students in my premium online courses know that I’m a huge fan of journaling. I think journaling can be an exceptional tool for getting clarity on your true feelings; about what’s truly important to you, and clarity about the next steps moving forward. 

So I would definitely devote some time to journaling. Get to a quiet place where you can be alone. 

If it troubles you that your girlfriend has a past, and you don’t, write out your feelings, all of your impulses, all the things you’re struggling with, and all the questions you have.

Because often having that clarity and perspective can be very helpful, about exactly what you’re feeling, what you’re struggling with, and what you want. 

And aside from all that, make sure you’re talking to someone about your options. This can be a coach, someone like me, or therapist, a friend, or a trusted family member. Talking through these questions is really, really important. Make sure it’s someone you trust and respect.

Devote some time to sharing all of your feelings, and questions, and getting an outside perspective on this issue. 

And in particular, you write like a younger man. I’d recommend talking to someone older, someone who’s had a little more life experience, a little more experience dealing with some of the questions that you’re dealing with right now. 

The last point I want to make is in terms of all of your options moving forward. The way I see it, you really have two options. 

Option one, you can take the steps to break up with your current girlfriend, and go out and find a little bit more experience. 

Option two, you can commit to beating retroactive jealousy in your current relationship.

I don’t think either one of those options is “wrong.” And obviously, I can make that call for you. That’s on you. 

But don’t give yourself an “option three.”

girlfriend has a past

What a lot of guys would do in this situation is: they like the woman, they like the sex, they like the attention, they like the affection, yet they still want to go out and explore other options. So they string their girlfriend along. So they’ll kind of “half” break up with their girlfriend, break her heart. But kind of keep stringing her along, keep messaging, or keep having sex with her every now and again. Keep giving her hope for an extended period of time.

They’re kind of trying to have their cake and eat it too. This almost always leads to really messy, really complicated, really painful drawn-out outcomes. I wouldn’t recommend going with option three because it isn’t an option. 

The way I see it, you really have two options here. And it’s on you to really evaluate those options to get clear on what’s most important to you.

Remember, you can have most of what you want, but you probably can’t have 100% of what you want.

Get clear on your values, and what’s truly important to you. Your girlfriend has a past, and you don’t, and maybe you need to go out and have your own “past.”

And whatever you decide, I’m sure ultimately it’s going to be okay, as long as you take the time to do the necessary work and the necessary self-interrogation to get to the bottom of your values.

Because the more clarity you can get on what’s truly important to you, the better decision you can make.

If you are struggling with retroactive jealousy, then check out my flagship online course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”.

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.