I often get emails from retroactive jealousy sufferers in which they ask me, “What should I do? My partner wants to talk about their past.”

It’s tricky when you are a retroactive jealousy sufferer and your partner wants to talk about their past.

Transcript below

Zachary Stockill: If your partner wants to talk about their past, the first thing I would encourage you to do is to practice empathy.

We want to talk about our past with the people we love. Now, we don’t necessarily want to talk about all the nitty-gritty sexual details or all the nitty-gritty romantic details, nothing like that.

But if we’re in love with someone, we want them to know us. We want them to know our past. We want to share funny stories from the past. We want to relate our past to our partner’s past. It’s a very, very normal thing to do.

So the first thing I would do is don’t necessarily assign malicious intent to your partner.

Don’t automatically assume that they’re acting this way or sharing details out of some nefarious reason, or you might think they want to hurt you or something like that. Obviously, this isn’t necessarily true.

I like talking about my past with my partner now and then. Your partner does too. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

That said, if you feel like your partner is sharing details about their past in an effort to be disrespectful or hurt you, or you get the real sense that there’s something kind of funny going on there, you should talk about it with them.

It could also be an indication that you might be in the wrong relationship.

I wouldn’t want to be with someone who’s intentionally hurting me, intentionally disrespecting me, intentionally crossing boundaries which I’ve laid out. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with establishing boundaries in this regard, and if someone’s violating them repeatedly, moving on. You should be with someone who respects you, who respects your feelings in this regard.

And frankly, I think most people, regardless of whether or not they are retroactive jealousy sufferers, most people don’t want to hear all the really nitty-gritty intimate details about the past.

There’s a difference between sharing a funny story now and then, and sharing really intimate details about your past that no one needs to know. If your partner doesn’t understand that, that reflects poorly on them and not you.

Now, if your partner starts talking about your past and you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, and you don’t necessarily want to hear about it, my biggest piece of advice is don’t make a big deal of it. Don’t make a big dramatic scene out of it, but gently change the subject.

There are many ways to do this. You could ask them a question related to something that’s sort of related, but not entirely related to the topic at hand. You can shift the topic entirely to something totally different.

If this continues on and on and on, and your partner doesn’t kind of take the hint, you can say to them, “Listen, I’d rather not talk about that aspect of your past. Can we just focus on other things? I want to be present. I want to talk about the future. I don’t need to know these details.” You can make it clear like that.

If they still don’t get the hint after that, then frankly, I’m not sure what else you can do.

Again, if you’re in a situation where you have a partner who’s kind of tone-deaf and seemingly oblivious or not responding well to your requests for respect, I’m not sure what to tell you because so much of our success in relationships comes down to making the right choice for a partner.

If your partner is continually disrespecting you, not listening to you when you lay out boundaries, when you’re very clear about what you need and what you want, then frankly, you might be in the wrong relationship.

But otherwise, try to be empathetic, understand that most of us want to talk about our past sometimes.

There are artful ways in conversation to kind of shift the conversation topic gently without making a big scene out of it.

If you need help with overcoming retroactive jealousy, and you’d like to join an active, very supportive, very cool community of fellow retroactive jealousy suffers, people who have overcome it entirely and people who are in the midst of overcoming it, I hope you’ll consider joining my online course for retroactive jealousy sufferers.

It’s called Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast.

Since 2014 it’s liberated over 1,500 men and women from around the world from the chains of retroactive jealousy.

If you’d like to join us, enrollment is currently open. We’d love to have you.

You can click here to learn more.


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.