Today I’m responding to a viewer who’s struggling to understand how to reframe retroactive jealousy.

Believe it or not, it really is possible to reframe retroactive jealousy.

Zachary Stockill: Before I get into it, a very quick reminder that my brand new audio series Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations is out right now.

This is a fully downloadable, guided meditation series confronting each of the specific challenges posed by retroactive jealousy, one by one.

And you can get all the details about Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations right here.

Okay. A. writes:

How can I reframe retroactive jealousy?

Did you ever have a problem seeing pictures of your girlfriend from the past, knowing who she was potentially dating or talking to at that time? I just feel like, unfortunately, this is my worst trigger at the moment. I don’t even try to see old pictures of her. She’ll just show me them sometimes, and it never fails to trigger me just a little bit. Are there any positive thoughts you can help me form in these moments?

Thank you for your email. The short answer is yes, I’ve been there. I remember well, I remember what that’s like. I have a lot of thoughts on this. I’ll try to boil it down.

Can I help you form new thoughts in this moment? Yes, I can. I’ll share my biggest sort of reframe that I used to rely on, and one which I encourage many of my students in my online courses, as well as coaching clients to rely on. This is my favorite way to reframe retroactive jealousy.

So basically if you see a picture from your girlfriend’s past, or maybe you see something else associated with her past, or you run into one of her exes or all the rest, my favorite reframe in these moments is, “I’m grateful for this person, because this person taught my girlfriend that I’m the best man for her.”

This might sound arrogant. My inner Canadian is screaming, “Don’t be so arrogant.”

And I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I mean this literally.

So this is a common trope. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it really does make a lot of sense that, if your partner didn’t have any basis for comparison, it’s not entirely easy. It’s not easy for her to realize how great you are, how different you are, how special you are, and what makes your relationship different from anything else she’s ever experienced.

So in a very real sense, this is not me just trying to comfort you, this is truth, in a very real sense, you should be grateful for her past. Now I realize this is going to sound really uncomfortable to a lot of people watching this video. I understand this entirely. Believe me, I get it. I remember what that was like. I understand.

However, for me, you’re asking me personally, can I offer you some thoughts to sort of gather yourself in these moments. If I was in your shoes, I would just remember this, that this beautiful woman in this photograph, an old picture of your girlfriend will say, “She has no idea that she’s going to meet me in a few years or a few decades, as the case may be. She has no idea what’s coming. Look how beautiful she is. And I can’t wait until I meet her.”

This is a bit cheesy, or you might think it is. But if you’re seeing an picture of your girlfriend and you’re struggling with all kinds of irrational thoughts, focus on the good stuff, focus on your love for her, focus on your desire for her, and focus on how grateful you feel, focus on your gratitude for having her in your life now.

And remember that this woman you see in the photograph has no idea what’s in store for her.

This photograph from years ago, this woman has no idea what’s in store. Lucky her for meeting you, and lucky you for meeting her. So what I’m saying here is try to focus on gratitude. Try to focus on being grateful that your paths did eventually cross.

And if there are no serious deal breaker issues in the relationship, which the vast majority of people who write to me, there are no real deal breakers here, if there are no real deal-breakers from her past, do the best you can to focus on what you have now.

And this is like advanced, overcoming retroactive jealousy, this is like the next level of retroactive jealousy recovery, in my view, but eventually you’ll get there if you keep putting in the work.

Eventually, believe it or not, you will be grateful that she’s had some experiences with other people, that she’s flirted with other guys who weren’t anything compared to you, that she’s been on awkward first dates with guys who didn’t know what the hell they were doing.

All of these things that might make you cringe now, if you keep putting in the work, if you keep confronting your insecurities, if you keep taking my coursework seriously, if you take some other person’s books seriously, whatever you’re doing, if you keep putting in the work, I promise you, this is possible.

One day you can get to this stage, where you actually have some gratitude that she’s had some experiences, so she can fully realize how special and unique you are.

Thanks for watching this video and I hope this helps.

One more quick reminder, before I let you go, that my brand new audio series Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations is available right now.

You can find all the details about that right here.


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.