In today’s video, I’m going to talk about the most effective way to let go of your partner’s past.

Read or watch below to discover how to let go of your partner’s past.

Zachary Stockill: Today’s video will probably end up being one of the most important free videos that I’ve ever recorded for this channel. I’m going to pack a lot in here, so you might even want to take notes. I’m going to talk about the most effective way to let go of your partner’s past. 

So today, I’m going deeper into what is commonly referred to as retroactive jealousy. It refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity, and what I call “mental movies” about your partner’s past relationships and/or sexual history. 

And the good news is, after doing this work for almost a decade, thousands of students in my online courses, people who’ve read my book, as well as hundreds of coaching clients… we know what works and what doesn’t. There’s no more guessing anymore. As opposed to when I was struggling with this issue over a decade ago, now we know what works, and we know what doesn’t. 

So I’m introducing this video by saying this to help you understand that this isn’t based on my opinion; this stuff isn’t based on my random whims or guesses or shots in the dark. This is based on a decade of working on retroactive jealousy, and thousands of success stories from all over the world. This is what we know works. 

The first point I want to make, and I think it’s so important, is: when you’re working to overcome retroactive jealousy, when you’re working to let go of your partner’s past…

Be sure you’re also treating the source of your feelings and not just the symptoms

What do I mean by that? The symptoms, believe it or not, are often relatively straightforward to manage. It’s often just about building new habits and building new resilience and re-wiring some mental wiring that perhaps isn’t working. Gaining new perspectives. And really, just about habits mostly, about “rinse and repeat,” changing the way you respond to intrusive thoughts, the way you’re responding to obsessive curiosity, ways to get rid of the mental movies, which I’m going to go into a little bit later. 

If you’re committed and disciplined, and you maintain an open mind and a sense of humor, eventually, over time, you can manage these symptoms. But I think it’s so important to also go into the source of your feelings rather than just treating the symptoms.

If someone is struggling with a serious illness, sometimes they need antibiotics to remove the source, rather than just taking Advil or Tylenol. You get my point. So… 

So what could the source of your retroactive jealousy be? 

how to let go of your partner's past

Sometimes it’s related to childhood conditioning, sometimes it’s related to a dysfunctional relationship you had maybe with your mother or father as a kid growing up. There could also be a genetic component to this. If you ask around your family, you might find that maybe mom was jealous, or dad was jealous, your grandfather, grandmother… you get my idea. Or, sometimes your formative relationship experiences were somewhat traumatic, and they can inspire feelings of jealousy later on in life. 

For example, if your first serious girlfriend and boyfriend cheated on you, and humiliated you or whatever, that can inspire feelings of jealousy sometimes years or even decades down the line.

These are just theories, these are just ideas, and everyone’s story is going to be a little different. But this is where working with a great therapist or coach can be so incredibly valuable. Getting to the bottom of the source of these feelings. Because once you start investigating that, once you start digging that stuff up, all of a sudden, many of the symptoms may start taking care of themselves. 

So I think the most important thing I can tell you is if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, if you’re struggling with unwanted intrusive thoughts about your partner’s past, be sure you’re addressing the source and not just the symptoms of your feelings. 

My second point is more related to the symptoms: learn how to practice observation. 

Observation can refer to many different things; it can refer to mindfulness habits, can refer to meditation. The basic point is to learn how to observe your thoughts rather than react to your thoughts. Realize that the thought and your reaction to the thought are two separate things. And if you start changing your reaction to the thought, the thought starts losing power over you. All of a sudden, the intrusive thoughts become much easier to shrug off, and it becomes much easier for you to move on with your day. 

So how can you strengthen your ability to practice observation? Every time you have an intrusive thought, just remember that your reaction to this thought is not predetermined, or guaranteed. Even if you’re having a strong negative reaction to that thought, you can change your reaction. You can take a deep breath, and can start telling yourself a different story. And, you can relax the area on your body that might feel tense as a result of that intrusive thought. 

You can also practice some kind of mindfulness habits and or meditation. I realized that everyone’s preaching about meditation. The rest of you are probably sick of hearing about it. But there’s a reason why people have been practicing meditation for thousands of years. It’s because it works, and it’s one of the best ROI you can ever receive in your personal life. 

Because meditation teaches you, on a deep and profound level, that the thought and your reaction to the thought are two different things

And you actually have way more power over your thinking, over your mental habits, than you might realize.

Meditation helps you get a handle on your brain to let more things go. And realize that life is fleeting, we’re all going to die, and other great insights. 

But above all, that meditation is an incredibly valuable and very practical tool. You can use it to start disconnecting from thoughts that aren’t serving you. And just in general, it will help you enjoy greater clarity and peace of mind on a day-to-day basis, if you’re really struggling with persistent obsessive, intrusive thoughts. 

I’d also recommend looking into all the literature on OCD. I recorded a half-hour video going in deep into the book Brain Lock. Many people refer to this as the OCD Bible. Now, I’m not diagnosing you with OCD. I’m not diagnosing anyone with anything. But the truth is that a lot of the common symptoms of obsessive retroactive jealousy disorder are also shared by OCD. 

So a lot of the literature on OCD can be very helpful if you’re struggling with unwanted intrusive thoughts, whether they’re relating to your partner’s past or anything else. This can involve things like the four-step process outlined in Brain Lock, telling yourself “it’s not me, it’s OCD,” and changing your focus immediately as soon as you can at the moment. These are just examples. But be sure you look into the literature on OCD, as there’s lots of valuable stuff there. 

You can also start asking yourself, if you’re in the midst of a retroactive jealousy attack: what is the fear

how to let go of your partner's past

There is some experience of fear underlying your feelings. Any retroactive jealousy sufferer is experiencing some kind of fear. Now, if you’ve read my guidebook, Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, you know that I talk about insecurity in that book. 

But insecurity, in many ways, is just a synonym for fear. There’s some experience of fear underlying these feelings about your partner’s past.

So again, not to plug my own services too much. But working with a great therapist or coach can be so valuable for helping you get to the bottom of these feelings.

What is the fear? Maybe it’s a fear of being abandoned, maybe it’s a fear that your partner’s ex was more amazing in bed than you are, maybe it’s a fear that your partner prefers her ex to you… 

Maybe it’s a fear that your relationship is never going to be as great as the one they had, or you’re never going to be able to stop thinking about your partner’s past. Or maybe you realize that it’s completely irrational. But you’re afraid you’ll never be able to stop thinking about it. Which, ironically, increases the fear and increases the likelihood that you’re going to keep having these feelings. 

Ask yourself at any moment, what is the fear? The deeper you go into that, and the more you clearly identify exactly what it is that is fearful, the less fearful it becomes. There’s a reason why in so many horror movies, there’s some killer lurking in the shadows, or some strange noises that we don’t know what it is, or whatever. 

The thing that is fearful is always mysterious and opaque. 

And we don’t quite know what’s out there; we just know that something’s fearful. There’s a reason directors do this: it is because what is fearful is the unknown. So if you start identifying and clear Technicolor, exactly what it is you’re afraid of… Very soon, you’ll see that it’s actually not so scary. You can actually live with it. It’s not a big deal. Or you may realize that it’s completely irrational and illogical for you to be fearful of that thing. 

You start seeing it clearly. yYou start seeing it for what it is, and you realize it’s actually not so fearful at all.

how to let go of your partner's past

But before you reach that point, you need to get very clear on exactly what the fear is.

I’ll also ask if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy: are there any current deficiencies in your relationship that could be, in part, spurring on these feelings? 

In other words, are you concerned about your partner’s past sex life because your sex life with your partner is underwhelming, or perhaps even non-existent? Are you not getting the reassurance and love and affection and attention from your partner that you crave? And thus, you’re worried about her past the way that she was with her ex?

Take an inventory of your current relationship and spend some time considering if there aren’t deficiencies in your current relationship that could partially spurring on your feelings of retroactive jealousy. So, so important.

Coming back to the fear element:

If you’re having insecurities or fears around your relationship: how can you start addressing those?

How can you start telling yourself a better story about those insecurities? Or, if these are insecurities that you actually have some degree of power over?

Are you insecure, for example, about the fact that your partner once dated some guy who’s super, super fit? Maybe you’ve got a beer belly that keeps expanding every year? You can take steps to start addressing that right now.

I think it’s a great use of your time to start focusing on addressing your insecurity, start focusing on the things you actually have some power over… not for your girlfriend or wife, or not for your husband or boyfriend, but for you, things you can do for yourself. They’re going to make you feel more confident, more secure in yourself as a person. 

On that note, the last point that I’ll share is a quote I think about all the time.

“The size of your problems is the size of your life.” 

In other words: are there bigger and better problems that you could and should be focusing on in your life? If your biggest problem if your partner’s past sex life, for example, then it seems to me you need bigger and better problems. 

Now, for these problems, you can substitute the word problem for challenges. What are some big goals that you could be working on in your life that have nothing to do with retroactive jealousy? Nothing to do with your relationship? What is your mission as a human being? Or what do you want to accomplish? What are you passionate about? Or what do you want to spend your time doing and working towards, and thinking about?

It sounds like a strange idea. But it can be valuable sometimes to actually write down better things to think about. For those moments when you’re struggling with unwanted thoughts, or you feel like you’re drifting, or you’re lacking focus…

Pull out your list, remember, “Oh, no, this is what I should be thinking about. This is what’s important.”

So for me that involves things like doing this work, you know, speaking to this camera right now, recording this video in my dad’s beautiful backyard.

Or the coaching calls that I already had this week, or fitness goals. I’m going to go lift weights later. I’m so busy, and I have so many inspiring challenges and goals that I’m working toward in my life, that my partner’s past is just not really on my mind. Because I’ve got bigger and better things that I need to be focusing on. And I imagine you do too. 

All right, before I ramble all day, I will stop here. But I have a lot more to say on this topic.

And if you’d like more information about my thoughts on overcoming retroactive jealousy:

Then you can check out my online courses, Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast, and The Overcoming Jealousy Blueprint, or my guidebook Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy.

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.