When I was in the grips of retroactive jealousy, I used to take some comfort in this John Lennon classic:

As were many of John’s songs, “Jealous Guy” was intensely personal: all indications suggest that the former Beatle struggled with jealousy in relationships for his entire adult life. John would incessantly question his wife Yoko about each and every lover she ever took before getting together with John.

From the time Lennon was in his early twenties until his untimely death at the age of forty, he was one of the most pursued men on the planet. Women of all ages fawned over him, and his sexual conquests were legion. Aside from all of this feminine adulation, he was acknowledged and respected by his peers as one of the world’s finest songwriters, forming the most celebrated and successful rock band of all time.

At the core of it all, however, was “just a jealous guy:” tortured by the early death of his mother, John always felt inadequate. He often acted like an invulnerable “bad boy” in public, and emanated bravado for most of his public life, but inside John was insecure. Unsurprisingly, Yoko’s attraction for him waned after several years of marriage, and the two separated in 1973. They would reunite after a year and a half, but if anything John returned to Yoko needing her even more than he did before. “I could literally not survive without her,” he is quoted as saying.

It pains me to think that he may have gone to his grave never really confronting his retroactive jealousy, and overcoming his perpetual sense of insecurity.

John at least acknowledged his jealousy (and in the most public of ways). For this, he deserves our respect. Acknowledging our jealousy is the first step to overcoming it.


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.