Obsessive curiosity sometimes feel like an albatross across our neck.

I recently got an email from a reader named Eric dealing with “hitting a wall,” and his obsessive curiosity regarding his girlfriend’s diary:

Dear Zach,

      First off, I would like to thank you for your book. I bought it after I continuously obsessed over my girlfriend’s past. Wanting to know every detail was only hurting myself and her for having to disclose this information to me. Your book has kept me retroactive jealousy-free for approximately 6 months now!

      My one concern is this recent wall that I have hit. I feel a lot of the obsessive curiosity of the past coming back and was wondering if you had further advice. I usually re-read the book when I feel this way, but for some reason I am leeched on this recent event.

     My girlfriend recently misplaced her diary, and accused me of taking it and looking through it. I understand why she would think this way, and assured her I did no such thing… After she got so panicked that I might have read it, my curiosity peaked about what the contents of that book hold…

     And why they are so sacred to her. I am having such severe trouble keeping away from an “all access” look into the past. Do you have any insight as to what I should do in this situation? Im sure she is just so secretive of it because it is her own thoughts, but I cant help but wonder why…

     I know in your book you say that past relationships leave a fleeting mark on a person that should mean nothing.. so in your opinion, why would someone feel the need to keep a record of past relationships? 

      I’m nervous about what is in there. Would something that occurred before she knew me change my opinion of her? We also had “the talk” you mention in your book (before I read your book), and if I saw something groundbreaking that was excluded from “the talk”, theres a part of me that would feel lied to..
      But there is the more reasonable side of me (thanks to your book) that says it is something that is none of my business, or might even be regrets that she would be embarrassed to share.
      Sorry for this long rant. If you have any words of advice, please let me know. In the meantime I am going to re-read the guidebook. Thanks again for everything!

Thanks for your email, Eric.

First off, I think re-reading the book would be valuable to you.

Most of my readers re-read Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy or watch the videos in the course several times in order for all of the ideas and exercises to really sink in.

But you need to accept that your partner has a right to their past.

Your partner also has a right to privacy, just like you, obsessive curiosity or not. (I’m sure you know this, on an intellectual level at least, but I thought I might remind you…_

Retroactive jealousy and obsessive curiosity really mess with your perspective, I know.

And guess what? There’s a very good chance that the details of your girlfriend’s past are… well… flat-out boring. Seriously — if she’s anything like 99% of people who keep a diary, they’re probably mundane, trivial details that don’t matter anymore.

They might have been important to her as she was writing them, but not anymore. And they might still mean something to her because they are a record of her growth, maturity, and development, but they’re not as important as what’s happening to her right now.

How do I know that? Because me, you, and 99.9% of other humans function that way — the now is what’s really important to us.

We evolved as a species to place more precedence, importance, significance, etc. on the present, as opposed to the past. It can be downright shocking to feel how quickly we can move on from past relationships. Forget details of our past, and lose our connection to people we once loved.

The simple truth is this: most of us are interested in living right now, and don’t spend a whole lot of time or energy thinking about or reflecting on the past.

It’s nice to reminisce now and then but I’m wired, as a human being, to care about what’s happening right now — the woman I’m seeing now, my current living situation, my current worries, stresses, and triumphs, etc. Most people function the same.

Ask yourself: how often do you think about your own past?

Probably not much.

So forget about the diary… it really doesn’t matter. It’s almost certain that it’s filled with mundane. Predictable details of growing up, just like your diary would be if you kept one.

Focus on living now. Create memorable, incredible experiences that you can share with her right now. Read the book again, make sure you do all of the exercises, and move forward with your girlfriend right now.

That’s the real path to freedom — nothing I say or write to you can substitute for that.

Stay strong, brother.

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.