I often get emails from the partners of sufferers of retroactive jealousy.

Typically, their letters go something like this:

My partner suffers from retroactive jealousy. I’m so glad that he/she found your website, and bought your book/took your course. My partner is finding it very helpful.

I want to support my partner as s/he progresses through your program. Do you have any advice for me?

Watch the video:

(Transcript below)

I’ve often felt hesitant to offer advice to these readers due to the fact that

a) It is always the sufferer’s problem, not their partner’s, and

b) I never had a partner who suffers from retroactive jealousy.

It has taken me a long time to collect my thoughts on this topic, and sit down to write this post. I hope you find it useful.

Without further ado, please consider the following if your partner suffers from RJ:

1.) Your values may, in fact, be incompatible with your partner’s.

Some sufferers of retroactive jealousy eventually discover that their values are genuinely incompatible with those of their partner. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes, once the initial passions have subsided and the ability to think clearly returns, sufferers of retroactive jealousy realize that their partner’s past is actually a “deal-breaker,” or whatever you’d like to call it. This may be a result of conflicting religious or moral values, or simply differing relationship priorities. If your partner comes to the conclusion that they simply cannot deal with your past, try to look past the pain and see the situation for what it truly is: you just got saved several more months (or even years) of heartache and pain. And the relationship would have absolutely dissolved sooner or later.

More often than not, however, your partner’s jealousy and struggles with your past are delusional and the product of an emotional disorder, rather than genuine moral incompatibility.

And more often than not, after discovering this website, reading my book or watching my videos, and putting my plan into action, sufferers of retroactive jealousy make the decision to work on themselves, and get their problem handled, while remaining in their current relationship.

If your partner chooses to stay with you, please remember that…

2.) The problem belongs to your partner, not you.

As I advise sufferers of retroactive jealousy:

There is nothing your partner can say or do which will allay all of your insecurity, and put your jealousy to rest. Nothing.

As the partner of a sufferer of retroactive jealousy, you may be used to being questioned about your past relationship and/or sexual history, perhaps incessantly. It is important that you recognize that there is nothing you can say, no conversation you can have with your partner, which will “solve” his or her issue with your past. It doesn’t matter how many details you do or don’t provide, or what exactly happened in your past, or even how you see your former relationships now — your partner has a problem that cannot be solved by you in any way.

Only your partner has the power to do the necessary work to get their issues handled. You are not the solution, but that is not to suggest that there is nothing you can do to support your partner as they heal.

Try not to indulge your partner in conversation about your past relationships and/or sexual history. Emphasize that these conversations have become tedious, counter-productive, and extremely uninteresting. At the same time…

3.) Try to cultivate presence as much as possible.

Sufferers of retroactive jealousy feel like captives to an imaginary past. They may experience thoughts, worries, and fears about the past as if they are real, but in truth, their perception of the past is a hallucination. You can support them as they emerge from this hallucination by being as present as possible, whenever possible.

There is much emphasis on cultivating presence in my guidebook. The more you can make it clear to your partner that you are interested in living in the present — recognizing that neither past nor future exist — the more your partner will recognize the necessity to quit dwelling in the past, and step fully into the now.

I am not suggesting that you disown or disregard your past. I am suggesting that conversations about your past, and your lingering connections to the past, are probably not helping your partner as they try to overcome their jealousy. You can support them in this process if you make it clear — through your lifestyle choices, your outlook, and in conversation with your partner — that you want to live in the now as much as possible.

Take time to recognize that living in the now is, in fact, the only option available to both you and your partner at any time.

4.) Give your partner space and time to heal.

If you’ve seen my video seminars, you know that I advocate constant self-improvement and personal development as a route to overcome retroactive jealousy.

This involves many different practices, exercises, and activities intended to be completed outside of the relationship.

If your spouse wants to put my plan into action, they are going to need some space and time away from you. Nothing drastic, but I do recommend that sufferers of retroactive jealousy prioritize taking time for productive and rewarding interests and hobbies that do not involve their partner’s participation.

Relationships often thrive with a little distance. That old cliche “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a cliche for a reason; it’s true. You must recognize that taking the time to pursue independent interests and activities outside of the relationship is not about creating emotional distance between you and your partner.

Your partner needs to take the necessary steps to ground, heal, and move on from their jealousy, recognizing the infinite possibilities for happiness, growth, and real fulfillment both in and outside of the relationship.

I recommend that you respect and honour your partner’s need to take some space, and not worry that it will negatively impact your relationship. If your partner follows the program I advocate and does the necessary work, I can almost guarantee that it will help to repair and revitalize your relationship.

5.) It’s all gonna fade.

Always important to keep in mind.

Stay strong.

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 passionate about helping others overcome jealousy in their relationships, and become happier human beings.

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  • Kayla

    What if my spouse doesn’t think he has a problem and he won’t get help? I’d like to suggest your website and book but I know it would only start an argument no matter how I say it. We’ve been together for nearly 12 years and we have 3 kids. His rj has caused some major issues in our marriage and I am at a place of needing to get us healed or something more drastic will have to happen unfortunately. I’m at my wits end.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kayla. The short answer: you can’t help someone who doesn’t want help. Your spouse needs to want to change before change is possible. Hopefully he’ll get there sooner rather than later.

  • Marcus

    Hi Zack, I believe I’m suffering from RJ…I’ve been with my girlfriend soon to be fiancee for about 6 years now & we share a child together & actually have another one on the way…We went thru some troubling years of arguing & disagreeing but we’re in a good space now…We had some recent reconciliation & we talked about our past, more so hers than mines…I found out somethings about her past that I didn’t know & I went thru her phone & seen some old photos, nothing too drastic but enough to make me question & doubt myself…I love her dearly & I know she loves me but I really rid of these mental movies & thoughts out this brain of mines…I’ve slept with alot of women in my lifetime & she’s fine with it but I’m having a hard time dealing with hers…She hasn’t slept with alot of guys, mostly boyfriends but I REALLY NEED YOUR HELP ZACH, I NEED SOME ENCOURAGEMENT & FEEDBACK ASAP

  • Christine

    Hey Zach, probably a different case to most here. My boyfriend and I are in an online relationship, have been for a year and are very much in love, we are finally seeing each other this Christmas. Although we are both virgins (almost 19) he has serious RJ about my past do to with my first kiss at 14 and oral sex I had with a guy at 17. He struggles to identify that I did those things as he knows me to be a conservative, innocent person. The mental movies he has created of these events are like “memories” in his mind, he can’t erase them and they have become obsessive thoughts that stay with him 24/7. He refuses to believe that there will be any cure for him and refuses to get help, even though his RJ is depressing him so much he’s been having regular suicidal thoughts. Urgently need help here…

  • miss amy

    Hello Zack,

    I have never been a jealous person and have never felt bothered about a partners past, however when I met my current partner things changed very quickly. He was not the nicest of men when we met and he bragged very openly about the amount of women he had slept with, which was heartbreaking. He seemed to be trying to create jealously and spoke often about other girls, he swifty changed over the months and is now a wonderful person – which I know he was all along, however even now – 4 years later I still cannot get over what her has said to me in the past.

    I have come to the conclusion that its because I know so much and because he bragged about it, it has caused me to think that these girls must have been very important, or that I am not what he wants. As before this moment, I never found myself jealous.

    What do I do in this situation? I feel so exhausted having this hung over me for years and its killing me.

    Thank you!

    • Zachary

      Hi Amy, thanks for your note. This is a huge question–one I’ve devoted an entire blog, guidebook, and online course to. Far too much for me to cover in a comment or email. Lots of resources to give you some direction and help you get started on this page: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/faq

      Hope this helps.