In today’s video, I’m going to share the worst advice for retroactive jealousy sufferers that I’ve ever heard.

Read or watch below to discover the worst advice for retroactive jealousy.

Zachary Stockill: Advice about retroactive jealousy is often suspect simply because public knowledge of retroactive jealousy is so lacking. Academic knowledge of retroactive jealousy is also lacking in a big way. 

By the way, the term retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity, and what I call “mental movies” about a partner’s past relationships and/or dating/sexual history. 

If you stop a random person on the street today and ask them “What’s retroactive jealousy?” Chances are good that you’re going to get a blank stare in return. 

I get emails all the time from people who’ve talked about this issue with their therapist or their psychologist, and they, too, often get a blank stare. 

Not a lot of people know about this very peculiar issue that we call retroactive jealousy. And thus, many people give very misleading, inaccurate, and often damaging advice on this topic. 

So what is the worst piece of retroactive jealousy advice that I’ve ever heard? By far, I would say the most common and, in many ways, the most damaging piece of advice that retroactive jealousy sufferers often receive is “the fact that you’re thinking about this so much automatically means that you’re in the wrong relationship.”

“The fact that you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy automatically means there’s a conflict between your values and your partner’s values…”

“…It automatically means that you should break up.”

Now needless to say if you’ve seen any of the videos on my YouTube channel, if you’ve been reading my blog, or if you read my books, you’ve been through my online courses. I don’t think this is very good advice for all kinds of reasons. But before I get into that, I want to make it very clear that sometimes there is indeed a conflict between your values and your partner’s values. 

If you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, sometimes your intuition may be telling you that something is genuinely off here, and you need to leave this relationship. Sometimes, if you’re a retroactive jealousy sufferer, walking away, ending that relationship is absolutely the right move. And I would encourage you to do so if I was your friend or family member, and you told me about your issues. 

However, in my experience, almost 10 years of working on this issue and interacting with thousands of retroactive jealousy sufferers from around the world, I have found that represents the minority of cases. I have found far more often than not that retroactive jealousy is irrational. It’s related to OCD, or it’s related to intrusive overthinking, and there really isn’t a huge gap between the sufferers’ boundaries and values and their partner’s boundaries and values. 

And in other words, most of the time, this isn’t a values conflict. This isn’t a moral quandary. This is purely irrational, obsessive jealousy. 

But the good news is there’s a way through that, which I’ve talked about in many other videos. But the point of this video really is to tell that if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, and either people in your life or maybe people on sketchy random, open Internet message boards are telling you that you need to break up with your partner, really pause and consider that for a moment and see if that feels like the right move.

It may feel like the right move in certain moments… when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and exhausted by constant intrusive thoughts, and obsessive curiosity, about your partner’s past. 

In those moments, when you’re feeling exhausted, defeated, walking away can feel like a relief. It can feel like absolutely the right move and something you need to do immediately. 

But ask yourself how you feel in your most grounded moments as well. When you’re feeling good, spending time and enjoying your life with your partner, consider whether this is really a values question. Do you really think your partner did anything deeply wrong? And that you need to walk away? 

Is your partner’s past truly a red flag? Or is it simply that you can’t stop thinking about it? 

retroactive jealousy advice

And that’s a very important message that I really want to communicate in this video. Just because you can’t stop thinking about something does not necessarily mean that it’s important. It does not necessarily mean that your concern is rational…

If you are struggling with pure obsessive-compulsive disorder, one of the ways that may manifest for you is wondering if the front door of your house is locked. You may be going down the street, to bed at night and wondering, Did I lock the door? Are you sure it’s locked? I think I remember locking it, but I should probably go check, double-check, just to make sure. There are many people who fall into this category, people who struggle with intrusive thoughts and constant self-doubt.

And they often lock the door 10, 20, 30, 50 times a day, even though rationally they know in their most grounded moments that the door is locked. They can’t stop thinking about it. Would you tell that person that thinking about the door is rational?

Would you tell that person that their concerns, their fears, and their thoughts are totally rational and totally logical, and they need to think more about it? 

Of course, you wouldn’t, because you’d realize that’s irrational, as the door is locked. It’s not important. Unfortunately, one of the ways that retroactive jealousy can manifest is in constant intrusive thoughts about a partner’s past. 

But just because you can’t stop thinking about your partner’s past does not necessarily mean that it’s a dealbreaker.

It does not necessarily mean that you need to leave your relationship. 

Again, sometimes that is the right call. But in my experience, once people start taking the necessary steps to put retroactive jealousy behind them, and start getting clear about their boundaries and values in their relationships, and their most grounded moments, once retroactive jealousy sufferers start doing what we know works when it comes to putting this issue behind them. 

Once they start getting a handle on their brain and thinking clearly, most of these people realize their partner’s past is not a dealbreaker.

Once they managed to get a handle on their brain and get that clarity and peace of mind…

All of a sudden, things click, and they realize what they’re thinking about is not logical. It’s not rational. It’s not important.

retroactive jealousy advice

“… And I’ve got so many better things to think about that I can’t wait to start thinking about immediately.”

So my point to you is if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, and people are telling you that means you need to leave your relationship. Maybe that’s true, but more often than not when I’ve seen people go through this issue, that’s not true. So don’t risk throwing away what could be a beautiful, healthy, happy long-term relationship just because of irrational retroactive jealousy.

If you need more help overcoming retroactive jealousy, then do check out my online flagship course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”.

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, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.