Today, I will address guys who tell me ‘My girlfriend’s past bothers me’ and explore ways to process these concerns.

Read or watch below if you have ever felt like ‘My girlfriend’s past bothers me…’

Zachary Stockill: Just about each and every day, I receive some variation of the question: “Zach, my girlfriend’s past bothers me. Does this mean that we should break up?”

Giving generalized advice on this topic can be challenging since every individual and relationship is unique. However, I’ll do my best to provide helpful insights in this article.

My name is Zachary Stockill, and since 2013, I’ve been helping men and women worldwide overcome retroactive jealousy and save their relationships. If you’re interested in working with me one-on-one, please visit here.

So, if you have ever felt like “my girlfriend’s past bothers me,” and you’re wondering whether or not you should break up, the first question I would pose back to you is:

Is it that you don’t like thinking about it or you feel like you can’t stop thinking about it?

Since those two things aren’t the same, there’s some critical information to uncover in their differences.

For the people who are new here, I describe “retroactive jealousy” as a mix of unwanted intrusive thoughts and often obsessive curiosity.

It can also include what I refer to as ‘mental movies’ about your partner’s past relationships.

And there are different kinds of retroactive jealousy.

Sometimes, retroactive jealousy can feel almost like a form of OCD.

It’s as if there’s a biochemical process in your brain fueling these intrusive thoughts, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop thinking about it.

And other times, it’s more related to a genuine clash of values. In other words, sometimes retroactive jealousy is not exactly irrational.

For instance, discovering that your partner has a history of serial cheating raises red flags. It’s natural for this to put you on high alert. In such situations, it’s fair to say that your feelings of retroactive jealousy aren’t unfounded or baseless.

So, you must get clarity on whether or not what you’re dealing with is rational or irrational, as the case may be.

I would also encourage you to get more clarity about your relationship, boundaries, goals, and values.

In other words, at this particular juncture in your life: what are you looking for in a partner, in a relationship?

my girlfriend's past bothers me

What role do you envision your partner playing in your life? Think about the function you want your relationship to fulfill.

What are your goals for dating or being in a relationship? Are you looking to get married soon or perhaps considering having children in the near future?

Or perhaps you’re simply single and young, wanting to explore your options and steer clear of a committed relationship for a while.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those choices, but many people enter their dating lives, and their relationship lives without clarity about what they want and clarity about where they want to be, let’s say in five years.

So, any decision you make about your relationship—any decision you make about your partner, whether or not to continue in a relationship with them—must be informed by your relationship goals.

Needless to say, journaling can be great for getting clarity about who you are and what you want. You can also work with someone like me, a coach, or a therapist.

The point is, spend some time clarifying your goals this before making any decision.

Now, if you have concerns about your girlfriend’s past and you’re in a phase of life where you do not want to commit to anyone long-term, let’s say you’re very young or you don’t have kids anytime soon and you don’t want to make any real commitment…

Then, you’ve got more time to make any decision regarding your future with your partner. And it’s probably best for you to spend some time with them, giving them more chance to show you who they are, which I’ll return to in a moment.

Give the relationship time to develop, giving yourself time to breathe, and consider your options.

my girlfriend's past bothers me

There’s no real need to rush into making harsh judgments or commitments. The stakes are quite low, so taking your time and seeing how things unfold naturally is okay.

You’re not necessarily looking for a more profound commitment with this person, and hopefully, that person isn’t also looking for a commitment with you, at least not right now.

The most significant point I can make in this article is that people reveal who they are through their actions over extended periods of time.

So if there is some episode or a period in your partner’s past that causes you to be concerned that there could be red flags there, number one, I would say watch my red flags video.

Hopefully, you’ll find this video helpful.

And also, pay attention to how they act over extended periods of time.

People don’t show you who they are on day one. People don’t show you who they are for the first six months of dating….

There’s a great line I heard once that:

“For the first six months when you’re dating anyone, you’re not dating them…”

When you start dating someone, you’re essentially meeting their ‘representative‘ – the version of themselves they want to impress you with.

It’s a common joke, but it’s true: we all do it early in the courtship process. We puff ourselves up, striving to put our best foot forward.

As time passes, we inevitably let our guards down and begin showing our true selves. I’d say this doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time, at least six months.

Realistically, spending a year with someone is the bare minimum to understand who they are at their core.

Give yourself time to commit to them and decide about a future with them. I think you need at least a year to know who they are and, furthermore, to see if you’re truly compatible.

Another great option is…

Talk to an impartial third party if you think your girlfriend’s past bothers you and you’re wondering what to do.

I emphasize impartial advice because parents and close friends often have good intentions, but their love for you might color their advice.

They want the best for you, which sometimes means they may not be brutally honest. That’s why getting a neutral perspective is so valuable.

If you can talk to someone who’s an impartial third party, such as a good therapist such as a good coach, they can give you some valuable insights.

They can see the situation hopefully with a little more clarity as opposed to you and opposed to someone who’s directly involved in your life.

Talking with an impartial third party, expressing your feelings, and working through your emotions with someone neutral can be an excellent first step. It helps you start to figure out how to move forward effectively.

But beyond all this, the big question remains:

Is a person’s past a genuine red flag? Should you consider breaking up with someone because their past makes you upset or concerned?

“My girlfriend’s past bothers me… Should I break up with her?”

This is a very complex question, and any exploration of this question needs to be very detailed and nuanced, which is precisely why I created a video course called “The Path to Peace.”

I released it last year, and many people have found it helpful.

I created “The Path to Peace” specifically for any retroactive jealousy sufferer who has genuine concerns or feels they may have real concerns about their partner’s past, morals, and values.

It’s for those who wonder what their partner’s history signifies in the grand scheme.

As I mentioned earlier, many retroactive jealousy sufferers can’t stop thinking about their partner’s past.

Yet, when they feel calm or grounded, they often realize that their partner’s past isn’t a deal breaker; it’s not a big deal.

This course is not for those people. I created “The Path to Peace” for people with those questions, those concerns, and retroactive jealousy sufferers who want to know if their concerns are more or less legitimate.

If that sounds like you, if you’re struggling with your partner’s past and want some answers, you want to know how or if to move forward, with your partner.

I’d strongly encourage you to look at my all-new video masterclass, “The Path to Peace.”

If you are struggling with retroactive jealousy, you can sign up for a free four-part mini-course to help you get started.

Or, if you need more help, you can consider signing up for one-on-one coaching with me. [Subject to availability]


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.