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–for me, there was no instant cure for being jealous of my girlfriend’s past.

As I learned, there are strategies, practices, and perspectives that will help you overcome retroactive jealousy, but it won’t happen overnight.

Watch the video below to learn more about my experience of being jealous of my girlfriend’s past:

Way back when I was jealous of my girlfriend’s past, 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.

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.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was once jealous of my girlfriend’s past.

In fact, I wrote about it for BBC News.

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. When I was jealous of my girlfriend’s past, it used to feel like nothing would help, that I was doomed to feel this way forever.

But I was wrong.

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 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.