Obsessive jealousy disorder often feels a little like hell.

If you’re struggling with any kind of retroactive or obsessive jealousy disorder, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s no way out.

But that isn’t true.

I received a moving letter from a 46-year-old reader named Shawn from the United States.

It’s a bit lengthy, but well worth the read.

In the letter, Shawn recounts his struggles with his wife’s past, the ebbs and flows of his journey with retroactive jealousy, obsessive jealousy disorder, cancer, multiple suicide attempts, and the toll his jealousy has taken on his marriage over twenty-five years:

Mr. Stockill,

Please call me Zachary. 🙂

I wanted to thank you for writing your book and setting up your website. My story is a lot like many of the others, but as with all of them there are differences. I am 46, happily married to the same wonderful woman, who has undeservedly bore the brunt of my retroactive and obsessive jealousy disorder for over 25 years now.

The biggest problem I felt I have had, until I started reading your blog, is that I didn’t bring this down on myself, and that I had no control over my obsessive jealousy.

Shawn went on to write that one afternoon while they were still dating, Shawn’s then-fiancee revealed all of the details of her previous sexual experiences with other men.

He continued:

In the moment I brushed it all aside, filed everything away, not suspecting how it would rear its ugly head later.

As one of the quotes you mentioned in your book said, it created a small but infected wound that would grow and nearly destroy me and my marriage. We got married, but obsessive jealousy was starting to fester in the back of my mind, and to chip away at my happiness.

We moved into an apartment and unpacked our things, which at that time were almost all from the time before we got married, and little things started bugging me.

Her pictures of her having fun with her friends bugged me and I didn’t know why, and they were the least threatening. She put up old prom pictures, so there were some of her boyfriends (we were young, probably too young really, and we both did kind of stupid things, as all young people do, she says now that she is embarrassed that she started putting up old prom pictures when we first got married…live and learn).

She had group pictures, and I would ask who they were and she would list their names, and all of a sudden I had a face to go with the name of the guy she first had oral sex with, or took her clothes off with. She had pictures of just about all of them…And then she brought out her journals and that is where I screwed up more than I ever have before or since. She put them on the bookshelf and said that they were fair game, because I was the one who could read them and still love her and she had nothing to hide from me.

Out of morbid curiosity at first, I opened one and read a few pages… well, I guess about 20 pages. To my eyes it seemed like all she ever wrote about was sex. I opened initially right to the page where she was first naked with the guy she would eventually give her virginity to, and it went into what they did next, and….ugh, what the HELL was I doing?!?!.

My obsessive jealousy disorder and compulsions grew and nearly consumed me.

I have since dealt off and on with depression and feelings of anger, resentment, and objectifying her in ways that are horrible to think about. For the most part I was good at keeping it all bottled up, but she noticed that I was no longer the patient, loving, happy-go-lucky guy she married. I was more often sullen, snappy, angry, and hurtful.

Over time I became obsessed with sex, I started thinking that maybe if I had some of the same experiences she did it would even things out and would make this all go away. At this time, the first couple of years of our marriage, we nearly split up as it was.

Since she finally felt safe and secure she was starting to face and deal with the demons of her past, not just bad decisions and experiences with boyfriends, but abusive step-mothers, and molestation by a baby-sitter and a cousin when she was a little girl.

I had a hard time working through all this with her, although I did all I could to not let her see any of it. I was supportive and loving, but everything weighed on me, with the echoes of RJ always in my head, especially as I helped her through therapy and other issues came to light from her past. This, along with the thoughts of “evening” things out by having my own sexual experiences, culminated in a near-tryst with an old girlfriend after I had been married about 2 years. We didn’t consummate the infidelity, but we came very close, and the thought of the whole thing to this day fills me with shame. I have never told my wife about it.

And then as the internet took off a few years later I became mired in pornography, always picturing that it was her with the other men, always looking for more stimulation to occupy my mind so I could crowd out the all too frequent movies of her with other men, all while making it worse, far worse, as I was feeding myself images that would fill in the blanks in the RJ images, so to speak.

It was a deadly obsessive jealousy disorder spiral that I tried to end by ending my life, unsuccessfully of course.

Over the years I learned to repress it all, but with definite negative consequences for both of us and my children. It just wouldn’t leave me alone.At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with an especially aggressive form of cancer. The treatment was highly intense for over a year and a half, but it was all-consuming enough that the RJ issues faded into the background somewhat…

It was a very hard time that pulled us closer together than we had been, and kicked me into a decade-long depression that, combined with a new RJ outbreak due to her connecting on Facebook to the man who took her virginity and him posting flirtatious things on her wall and so forth, would lead to a suicide attempt, one I was actually able to keep secret when it didn’t succeed.

That experience pushed me to find out how to deal with the obsessive jealousy disorder before I ended my life, and destroyed the lives of the ones I loved, for good.

I have gone as long as months in a stretch and even a year at a time with very minor issues with my RJ, but it still taints everything and every now and then rears its ugly head for real and I spend anywhere from a few days to several weeks obsessing and engaging in the same self-destructive behaviour.

And it always is somewhere in the back of my mind, especially when my wife goes to visit family or whatever and I am alone with my thoughts, as happened this past week when I found your website.

I learned from online forums that it was called retroactive jealousy, and I have been through counselling more than once, and am looking to go back. It has helped a little, but not very many counsellors truly understand it and the standard “talk” therapy was only so effective.

LoveShack helped as well, but mostly what I got there was the “just let it go” stuff that was not only ineffective but in some ways insulting. I am a reasonably intelligent person and I couldn’t understand why something so irrational would have such a hold on me.I have had a few outbreaks over the past year or so and was feeling that I was regressing in my attempts to suppress my RJ. Then I found your website the other day and it spoke to me in a way nothing has in the past 25 years.

It helped tremendously to see that so many others have experienced the obsessive jealousy that I have been living with, and that it isn’t that out of the ordinary.

It helped me to see that, even though I KNOW that the problem is mine, it doesn’t mean I am insane or evil or a terrible person or what-have-you, just that I have a problem I need to get control of.

I needed especially to read the part about not being a victim of obsessive jealousy. As you can tell from my long-winded story, the victim part of this is deeply ingrained for me. In some ways I still feel I really was a victim at first, as I was kind of ambushed with all this and never once until that day did I ask about any of it, but I need to get over that part of it and not fall into the trap of victimization.

Everything I read rang true and reasonable and so I bought your book and in one night read more than half of it, and for the first time in a long time I feel hope that this won’t be something I will be stuck with until the day I die.

Hope that barely coping, which was all I thought I would ever be able to do, will not be the only way I can deal with this. Hope that I can actually get past obsessive jealousy as you have done, and make something more of myself and my life and my relationship with my amazing wife, and give her the husband she deserves.

I can’t tell you how rewarding it feels when I receive letters like this.

I shared this letter with the hope that it will provide other sufferers some inspiration and motivation for getting a handle on their retroactive and/or obsessive jealousy disorder as soon as possible.

Thankfully, Shawn now seems well on his way to doing just that.

Click here to learn more about overcoming obsessive/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 RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.