In today’s video, I’m going to talk about how to break free from the various vicious cycles associated with retroactive jealousy.

For anyone who has been struggling with retroactive jealousy for a while, there are various, vicious cycles, associated with retroactive jealousy. So, how to beat the retroactive jealousy cycle?

Whether it’s retroactive jealousy, OCD, or the more standard, more common experience of retroactive jealousy where it isn’t necessarily related to any kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it’s still really annoying, and it’s often very difficult to break free from it.

The term retroactive jealousy refers to being bothered and frequently consumed by intrusive thoughts, unwanted curiosity, about a partner’s past relationships/sexual or dating history.

They say it takes around three weeks to build new habits. And even though it might not seem immediately obvious to you now, if you’re watching a video like this on my channel, or you’ve simply taken the time to Google around a little bit and find out more about what you’re dealing with, chances are good that you have developed some negative habits associated with your unwanted intrusive thoughts or perhaps your obsessive curiosity with your partner’s past.

What I’m saying here is it doesn’t take very long. It can take three weeks, sometimes even less than three weeks for you to develop some unhelpful habits as it relates to your retroactive jealousy.

What I’m about to describe constitutes sort of the main retroactive jealousy cycle. And when I say main, what I’m talking about is the most common retroactive jealousy habit.

Retroactive Jealousy Cycle

So, something in your life happens that is in some way associated with your partner’s past. Whether it’s their past dating history, their past sexual history, the interesting thing to note about this particular disorder is it can be completely innocuous. It can be very tenuously related to the actual issue of your partner’s past.

It can be very abstract. But in essence, the first thing that happens in this vicious retroactive jealousy cycle, is some stimulation. There’s some trigger that triggers your unwanted obsessive curiosity.

So the trigger occurs, and all of a sudden, you’re going to wrack with some kind of highly charged emotional experience. Now, this can vary from person to person. Sometimes it manifests retroactive jealousy as an obsessive curiosity. When there’s something that happens, it inspires you to think of a person, place, or event from your partner’s past. And you just need to know more.

You feel this intense urge to know. It’s like this itch that you’re just dying to scratch. And, you feel like you’ll get some relief when you scratch that itch, which is actually an illusion.

You had this experience filled with this highly intense, highly charged, emotional response.

This doesn’t always have to involve curiosity. Sometimes this can just involve a flood of mental movies, where you’re picturing all kinds of scenarios or events related to your partner’s past. Maybe you simply just can’t stop thinking about a certain person. Or, an event that took place in your partner’s past.

Maybe you learned about your partner’s past that you really wish you hadn’t.

The second part of this cycle is a highly charged emotional response to a trigger. Frequently, the next thing that happens is a real craving for some kind of relief.

You want to get rid of these feelings, you want to get the answer to the question that you want. And, you’re having this unpleasant, highly charged emotional exchange.

You find yourself seeking relief from these unwanted feelings.

Now, your attempts to seek relief are often misguided and often counterproductive. These attempts can include things like, asking your partner more questions about their past. Or, getting just a few more details about certain events in their past.

And the next part in the cycle is usually some temporary relief.

So let’s say you have more questions for your partner. You ask them those questions, you feel better for half an hour, an hour, or for a day. But then, all of a sudden, the cycle starts all over again.

Trying to quash these feelings through more conversations with your partner. Through stalking their partners or their ex-partner on social media, this is a temporary solution to a very serious problem.

Retroactive jealousy in general is a problem that everyone needs to take seriously.

I am taking these shortcuts to temporary relief. Whether it’s another unnecessary conversation with your partner, stalking their past on social media, or seeking a temporary solution to a permanent problem is a losing strategy.

Retroactive Jealousy Cycle

And the whole result of this vicious cycle is, it keeps the broader retroactive jealousy cycle going.

In other words, if you’ve been doing this long enough, your body’s conditioned your whole psyche. Your brain is conditioned to seek that payoff. And when I say pay off, I mean the temporary relief at the end of this cycle.

You get an answer about your partner’s past that makes you feel temporarily better for the night or for the day. It eases some of your insecurity and makes you feel like a better better person than their ex. There is some temporary payoff here.

But again, this is a temporary solution. I often compare the retroactive jealousy cycle, to a junkie looking for the next fix, where you’re always trying to replicate that original high.

The point is, you can never replicate that original high. And, the junkie is gonna keep trying to get high over and over again.

They’re gonna keep feeling that itch, but they just feel like they need to scratch, even though they’re not itchy.

Retroactive jealousy is not one of these problems that can be solved through conscious thought alone.

Retroactive jealousy requires a holistic approach to healing. We need to incorporate elements from cognitive behavioral therapy, physical exercise, diet and nutrition, some spiritual practices, perhaps thrown in for those of us who feel that might be helpful in developing a broader perspective on sexuality, dating, and relationships.

But the point is, unfortunately, this is a complicated problem. The more you look for temporary solutions to this problem, the more it’s frustrating for you. And the more you’re going to keep this negative thought, action, and behavior release cycle going.

So the first step in overcoming any kind of cycle as it relates to retroactive jealousy is to become conscious that it is a cycle, it’s a habit. It’s a pattern of behavior that you’re finding yourself engaging in over and over and over.

Then, number two, acknowledging that it’s not serving you.

Thus, if you are falling into any kind of vicious cycle associated with retroactive jealousy, pause and think about multiple scenarios in your life throughout your day with your partner in which you’re engaging in some negative habits, some destructive patterns around retroactive jealousy. They’re going to be slightly different for each of us, but the point is, to become conscious that you’re doing this over and over again, that it’s a problem.

And finally, being conscious of the fact and accepting that you have the power to change it and the only person who can break this cycle and truly commit to overcoming this problem is you.

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.