When I was jealous of my girlfriend’s past, I used to spend a lot of time browsing relationship advice forums in the vain hope of finding an “instant cure” for my retroactive jealousy.

For reasons I will expand on in a future post, it doesn’t exist–there is no instant cure for retroactive jealousy. There are strategies, practices, and perspectives that will help you overcome retroactive jealousy, but it won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, I found this thread on LoveShack.org to be among the most insightful, informative, and valuable conversations about retroactive jealousy on the internet.

The original poster, a user named “bazool,” offers a familiar story:

First of all, I’m aware my being jealous of my girlfriend’s past (12 guys, a few one night stands) is irrational. I have a past. I’ve slept with 31 girls and done some dodgy things that’s for sure. This is my problem, not hers.

It really is a double standard. I want this to be the one for me. I’ve never loved like this and will happily propose to her once/if I get over this!

I just wanted to see if there are any people out there who HAVE gotten over this. It’s rationality vs the animal in me, the crocodile brain. I’m just hoping I can win this one.

I never hold this against her, judge her or make her feel bad about the choices she made. I know she loves me more than any of these men, enjoys sex more and the past is not in my control but it eats away at you!

How many of you identified with this? I know I did back when I was jealous of my girlfriend’s past.

(And just for the record — yes, there are people who have “gotten over this.” I’ve got an inbox filled with emails to prove it.)

Many of the responders to this thread demonstrated great insight. I’ve featured some of the highlights below.

Rproctor writes:

Hmm… I feel for you guys, I really do. Im not too old here, only 25, but I think this issue starts to subside with maturity. Not really age per say, but experience. Not sexual experience, but through mental experience. My current gf is really great, but some of the things she did in her past sent me in this problematic state of mind. I was making issues where there was no reason, you know what I mean.

There have been numerous things I have realized about myself, about relationships, and about love that has shifted me out of that mindset.

Really, its all in your head, and no where else. Your girls experiences and past are blessings, not that they make you feel good, but like someone posted before it gives her stability and makes her decisions more grounded.

Really, you need to step outside of this and see your girl for who she is. She is just another human like you and I, and if you put her on a pedestal than that is your own fault, not hers. If you treat her like an object than that is your own fault, not hers. Don’t cloud your mind with these “normalities” that society feeds you.

You know, women do not lose anything after they have sex with someone, its not like a part of their vagina falls off, or they lose a part of their emotion to love.

Women dont hold onto these past men, they are not trying to juggle it all at once. Its over man, just like you will be over if you leave her. You will be pushed back into her mind just like the rest of the guys, and she will find someone else.

And you know what, 10 years from now, when you meet the next love of your life, and you find out that she did the dirty deed way more than you feel comfortable with, what are you going to do? You can’t keep depreciating women because of their past, or what they did without you before they knew you. Im sure you realize that, but do you acknowledge it?

It’s important to separate yourself from this, because it will be a life long problem for you unless you overcome it now.

The best advice I can give to anyone who is going through this, is to literally step outside this and look at this situation from another perspective. Really, you cant “beat” this, or really overcome it. There is nothing to beat, and nothing to gain. Your emotions and feelings will always be there, its about learning how to cope with them. Its natural, the way you feel, its inevitable, but irrational and often clouded.

AAlike writes:


I also think that this is probably a by-product of moving too fast in your own head. I mean, on the one hand you’re talking about “this is the one, I want to propose to her” and on the other hand you’re agonizing over the fact that she’s had what really isn’t an out of the ordinary past, and is relatively tame when compared to your own.

You’re thinking in extremes – on the one hand, you have this “sugar and spice” view of your girl that you’ve probably never felt and puts her in a class beyond all other woman, then on the other hand you have the fact that she has had what were probably some akward and relatively unfulfilling hookups, and this bothers you because it “normalizes” her, or places her in a class with other women, which “taints” that idealistic view.

As time goes on, eventually your view of her will fall somewhere square in between of those extremes (i.e., a normal human) and you will have way less trouble processing that she’s done things that a normal young female very well may do at that age, and you’ll learn to get past them and trivialize them just as she has done and I’m sure you have done with your own experiences. and that’s another thing – when this gets real bad, do your best to think of your own casual experiences and how little they mean to you in the big picture.

Realize that both her and all of the other people that participated in her sexual past have most likely gotten well past it and the only reason that it perpetuates is you.

Oldguy writes:

Remember; this person you care about so deeply is a PERSON not a problem. In almost every case I can assure you she almost certainly has issues with her past also, especially now that she’s found someone who actually cares for her and treats her right. Don’t stop treating her right.

I’ve talked to so many women who wish they could, “do it over”. If you are agonizing over this it is because you have found someone you love. Kicking her to the curb because you want to feel better is not the answer and is just plain sad.

Guys, you need to work through this. You don’t need to make her feel bad, or worse. You will just become one of the jerks and her self esteem and self worth will take yet another hit. If you have too, talk to a councilor, one who deals in relationship issues. First on your own, you probably will never need to involve her.

I don’t want to sound cold but this issue is owned by the one it bothers, that person needs to resolve it. Step up to the plate, do the right thing, don’t hurt this wonderful person who you obviously love.

Walk writes:

You can share a few moments with other people, and enjoy it for what it is. OR you can view a gf as something you acquired, and when there is some part of her that doesn’t meet your ideal, then that attribute would need to be altered.

When men “own” something they can alter it to suit their wants. We don’t own our partners.

I think it’s an important concept to understand that you’re only borrowing a short amount of time with this other person.

You can either make the most of that time together, or you can attempt to adjust the person to fit your ideals for who someone should be.

It’s the attempting to adjust that persons past that causes the discord and emotional turmoil.

I was once jealous of my girlfriend’s past. I remember full well what it was like…

So if you’re struggling with your girlfriend’s past relationships/sexual history I can relate.

If you feel like I used to feel, and are dealing with constant, intrusive painful thoughts and/or “mental movies” about your girlfriend’s past, you’re probably suffering from something called retroactive jealousy.

Click here to read my own story about being jealous of my girlfriend’s past, and confronting and overcoming retroactive jealousy.

Retroactive jealousy can be an extremely painful experience, but here’s the good news: it is absolutely possible to overcome.

Watch the video below to learn more:

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I’m a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in The Huffington Post, PopMatters, Mic, HuffPost Live, and many other publications. I’m passionate about helping others overcome jealousy in their relationships, and become happier human beings.

  • p.l.m.

    Bless you. Thank you.

  • BRI

    HI guys . Just to let you know I paid the ultimate price for this . She left me . She couldn’t take it anymore. I would spare you this pain brothers. Whatever advice you have received to help then use it . Find some way to deal with it. when you next hold her close and the demons come calling just tell yourself that no one from her past was able to hold onto her or was special enough for her . She is yours now and that is ALL that matters. Please brothers . Don’t pay the price I paid . It will hurt more than you know . good luck . Stay strong brothers

  • Bruchibre

    Why isn’t breaking up an option? I got into this situation, felt terrible, in the end she also left me and… I felt so relieved, like if I had dodged a bullet. Be more confident guys, if it’s not her it will be somebody else.

    • Breaking up is of course an option, and yes–sometimes bullets are dodged in the process.

  • daniel

    I have a unique situation that i really hope Mr Stockill will give advice on. Btw, i read his book and it is great. My situation is that my girlfriend had a one night stand with a celebrity years ago. She saw him in a bar, walked up without saying a word and dropped a napkin with her number on it on the table before walking away. Hours later she was asleep at home when he called. She got up and dressed and drove over to his place. He started kissing her as soon as the door opened and she slowed him down. They sat and talked for an hour then she had sex with him on the couch. He immediately got up afterward and she went home. A month later she went to an autograph signing and he blew her off. That was it. I see him on TV all the time and it enrages me. It is ruining an otherwise great relationship with an amazing woman. Also, it turns out he was with my girlfriend less than a month after getting married to his current wife who is also famous. The constant reminder of this event is ruining my life.

    • Thanks for your note (and your support!). That’s a very tricky situation.

      However, I think all of the advice I offer in the video below applies (the only difference being instead of “running into” this guy in the flesh, you’ll encounter him on a magazine cover, TV ad, whatever). You actually have a great opportunity before you to use this challenge as an opportunity to get stronger, and really put the principles and practices I outline in the guidebook to the test. It may seem insurmountable, but it’s not; your situation just requires you to work a little harder, and as I say, it could actually be a blessing in disguise.

      Hope this helps.

      (P.S. Aforementioned video is here: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/video-partners-ex/)

      • daniel

        I appreciate your advice. As you know from having RJ effect you it seems right now that i will never be able to even come close to getting past this. I never think about the other men she has been with because i never see them or have contact with them. Also they didnt treat her like a prostitute so it doesnt make me as mad as this jerk does. If its not him i see on TV then its his girlfriends or wife or 3 famous brothers that all have the same dopey face as he does. Its a CONSTANT reminder. I will watch the video and im hoping i can make it work for me. If you have anymore advice i am all ears. Thank you for your help.

  • Jim

    I need help! I married a woman I love very much in May, 2015. I knew that she had been recently divorced and obviously had partners before her ex-husband. The problems is that they are still very much present in her life and I am sick over it. Of course, because she has children with her ex-husband, they are in constant communication. My thoughts always move to the sex act. He knows EVERYTHING about her and that bothers me tremendously. To make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend from before her marriage is her boss at work. They were together for two years and had sex many times. He is in her office everyday. I trust her and do not believe she will cheat. This is irrational. I just wish that her past lovers were PAST lovers and not such a presence in our day to day conversations. I love my wife and am well aware of what these feelings will do to our marriage. I guess I am insecure. I am so troubled by the fact that they have been with her sexually and still interact with her daily. What the hell am I supposed to do with these feelings. Honestly, I am depressed and anxious over this. Every day when she leaves for work, looking beautiful, I imagine him in her office thinking about their sexual past and it makes me so mad!! What can I do?

    • Zachary

      Thanks for your comment, Jim. I can completely understand how difficult that must be. If you’re brand new to my work, I’d strongly recommend you start going through these articles: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/about/start-retroactive-jealousy/

      I’d also encourage you to sign up here to get my free report on how to get started overcoming RJ: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/free-report/

      Hope this helps.

    • James

      Man2man- I would tell your wife to quit that job because you’re uncomfortable with her seeing a previous sexual partner everyday. Also mention that her dressing provocatively with perfume etc. is definitely NOT helping. How would she feel if you were going out top-sexy everyday to encounter your ex-fling? Very clear warning sign if that idea doesn’t bother her… Be polite but confident about it, if she refuses or ignores it after a good amount of thinking time- I would sit her down and insist that she leaves the job. If that fails, you better call your lawyer in secret and begin figuring out a plan because your situation has moved from plain jealousy to your wife clearly not caring about your feelings, which is twice as bad.

      P.S. Don’t listen to any fem-shrinks / relation advisors who tell husbands in such a situation to bury their dumb beta heads in the sand in order to uphold their lowerhand status in a relationship. Be a man, and be smart.

      • Worse advise I have ever heard, sounds like you treat a woman like a possession that you have control over! No he needs to suck it up and not be so insecure. She left them all for a reason, they have a past and it played out. If she is going to cheat just because an ex is there has nothing to do with it!

  • Tom

    Where to start ? I’m with my Girl 5 years and at times things are great . When we are arguing that’s when the demons creep in . This girl is beyond gorgeous and frankly out of my league . I know she loves me and is trustworthy, this problem is mine .

    One person in particular bothers me . She had a one night stand (years before we met ) it was at a low point in her life right after her divorce . The problem was they were friends on Facebook and their kids were in school together . She finally deleted him from Facebook and my step son is in a different school now. She has no contact with him at all .

    My jealousy makes me irritable and is causing problems . I try to hide it the best I can but it creeps up on me . The thought of anyone laying down with Her makes me nauseous. Why can’t I just accept the fact that she is now mine and be happy ?

    • Zachary

      Thanks for your question, Tom. I’m not sure if it was rhetorical or not, but I’ll take a stab at it. You write that your girlfriend is “out of your league,” and I think this might be a big part of your problem. See this article: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/book-excerpt-jealousy-telegraphs-insecurity-2/

      You need to do more than just tackle your insecurity to overcome retroactive jealousy, but it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle. Hope this helps.

      • Tom

        did you ever see a gorgeous girl with a guy and think “either he is hung like a horse or he’s rich ” ? Well that’s what people think when they see us together . That’s what I mean by out of my league . Let’s face it , some women are just knockouts in the looks department and I have one of them .

        She loves me and has given me no reason to doubt it . The sex is beyond amazing for both of us . It’s just that at times , those demon thoughts creep into my head . Some times they keep me up at night .

        She treats me great , with love and respect . Always takes my feelings into consideration. I just want these stupid thoughts to stop

  • ff

    My boyfriend has been treating me very badly over this. And i didnt react well for a long time. I dont know how to help him and its really always been very terrible. He thinks im tainted. That im disgusting. Because my first time was with someone at a movie theatre. He insults me and shames me for it. He has also been depressed and i really need help. I dont know what to do and im desperate. I want to help him overcome this as well as help him with his insecurities and low self esteem. I also do not want him to keep hurting me like this but i just need to help him first.. I feel so stresed out and sad. Im still hopeful and optimistic about things.

  • disqus_gv4zVXKYzA

    Hello, I just broke off an engagement two days ago because of huge emotional issues I faced and still face due to my girlfriend / fiance’s past. It seems like this is an older post, but I figured I would give it a shot. Anyway, early on in our relationship she told me some things about her sexual past that really turned me off, but I was so into her I just shrugged it off. I ended up proposing to her because I knew deep down that these problems should not matter. But, after time went on these things just grew inside me and began to rip me apart emotionally. I started to pry little by little as time went on, and I ended up finding out even more information. One of the big problems was that she even lied to me about a lot of it, the only way I found out was I became so obsessive to find out the truth I came up with ways to get the truth out of her by manipulating her own trust and eventually I was able to pick up on her lies and call her out on it and proceed to badger her until she told me the truth finally. I feel horrible about all this, even though there is no excuse, I was literally driven insane from the emotional torment I faced from dealing with her past. To give some details, to my knowledge (which may not 100% be the truth) she has been with 8 men sexually before me. Four of which were past boyfriends, which does not bother me at all. What really gets me is the 4 “hook-ups”. The first one took place in a stairwell during a rave. One of them was a one night stand from being hit on and picked up by a guy on a night out. The third was a tinder “hook-up” where she literally went to this guy’s house and let him have sex with her and that was it. Now the fourth is the worst part of it all and absolutely destroyed my feelings for her and respect. She had a “f*** buddy” for a period of 3-4 months in which she basically catered to his every need while he just used her for sex. Anyway, she let this guy do basically whatever he wanted like I said. They had unprotected sex, anal sex, he ejaculated into her mouth etc. I literally could not take this emotional torment from knowing all this and I had to break it off. It was the most difficult thing I did and had to deal with in my entire life. I don’t feel right about myself for being this obsessive about it, but I honestly have never felt so disgusted and emotionally ripped apart by anything in my entire life because of the things she did.

    Anyways, any advice or general thoughts would be much appreciated, thank you.

    • Zachary

      If you truly believe that your girlfriend’s actions represent genuine moral incompatibility then you probably made the right decision. If her actions would be a “dealbreaker” with any woman you date, then you probably made the right decision. More of my thoughts on values and incompatibility here: https://www.retroactivejealousy.com/values

  • Anthony

    Hey guys I just need some guidance because I honestly don’t know what to do. I was a virgin when I met my girlfriend and I planned on saving myself until later on. My girlfriend ended up taking my virginity which at the end of the day I’m more than okay with, but I’m not okay with the fact that she had already lost her virginity before she met me. It’s not that she was with other guys before me, it’s more of me not experiencing with other girls before I met her. Maybe this shows some immaturity but I’m constantly trying to get over it and just accept how things went down. I want to be happy, I like to think I am with her for the most part but I’m constantly bothered by what I didn’t do. I know not everything is about sex. I love her and I don’t want to hurt her. I feel terrible for thinking the way I have lately. I’ve been having this, “I should’ve” or “I could’ve” attitude about other people. I know this makes me seem like I’m not ready for a serious relationship like the one I’m in now, but I don’t want to hurt her. She’s over her past and I’m the only one she cares about and she shows endless love to me. It’s just me and the way I have been thinking for a while. Sometimes I forget about it, but sometimes it randomly pops up in my mind and it’s so difficult to deal with. I love her, but with the I have been thinking I just need some hardcore advice if anyone can provide that. Thank you..

    • Let me explain how I explain it to others..You cannot change the past its impossible so you are only left with 2 choices, accept it or don’t accept it. There is not middle ground. What you will do by hoping there is a middle ground is resenting your GF and treat her like crap because you are feeling bad. You might even feel this way already towards her like she is dirty and you find yourself angry at her for no reason because you were thinking about her past. You have to find a way to forgive her in your head and leave it burred or move on.

      • And by forgive her past I mean it never comes up again.. That is what you have to work on with someone. Find a way to deal with it in your head and move on. She should not be involved with this process at all.

        • Anthony

          I really appreciate man thank you

  • Aj

    So my middle name is the same name as my girlfriends ex boyfriends first name . We have been together for 9 months and the past month she told me she has been thinking about her ex when she says my middle name
    . She claims it was cause she ran into him and he was wearing the shirt she bought him when they were together.. can’t seem to stop thinking about what I did wrong or why she is all of the sudden just now thinking about him . Please help

    • AJ please remember you can be a perfect partner and still end up hurt. Take the situation where you are actually perfect and treat your partner like gold but something could catch her eye and she could leave you or cheat or take another partner. NEVER blame yourself this is how insecurities start in my opinion. If you are a wonderful guy and have great strengths that any woman would love then this is her loss. I know its hard to head but if she does not like you enough to stay with you then she does not deserve you. Remember you are in this relationship with her together its not a one way street even though most guys think it is because of sex. Your partner is being very honest with you and telling you that she is thinking about her Ex. You need to have a discussion and ask her what this means, she is thinking of him romantically or she is just thinking about him and the times they had. honest emotions are very important in a relationship and your partner is trying to be honest with you, you maybe shoudl ask yourself why are they being honest with me?

      There is no silver bullet to make you feel better, this is what love feels like and when something you feel threatens it, it becomes very emotional and almost depressive. Talk to your partner and she how she is feel and stand up for your feelings and what you want. Just be ready for either outcome and stand up for your feeling. She could tell you that she is thinking romantically of her Ex so you need to be ready to hear that and what decision you will do. Dont be weak and think ill never find a girl like her so ill just sit here in misery while she likes another guy this is how you destroy your confidence for yourself and possibly other partners and relationships you find later in life.!