In today’s video, I am answering an email from Rosie, regarding how to deal with retroactive jealousy in social situations.

Dealing with retroactive jealousy in social situations isn’t always easy, but it certainly can be done.

Rosie writes…

I constantly worry that my partner’s friends/family are going to bring up pastimes or people. Or I’ll come across items in my boyfriend’s room, whatever that are associated with my boyfriend’s ex. These things have happened previously. I’ve gone into a meltdown, my anxiety spirals out of control and I shut myself off.

Please advise how I can control my emotions and thoughts when a past event or memory from my boyfriend’s past gets brought up.

Zachary Stockill: So thanks for your email, Rosie. A pretty common situation, and obviously the answer is you have more work to do in terms of overcoming retroactive jealousy. You have to do more practices and perspectives to help with this issue.

retroactive jealousy in social situations

Overcoming retroactive jealousy in social situations requires a multipronged approach, multiple elements, practices, and exercises.

It’s not an overnight fix, regardless of what anyone on the internet tries to tell or sell you. So ultimately, this really comes down to just putting in more effort and work in terms of overcoming retroactive jealousy.

I want to give you three very practical tips that can help in social situations when there are some memories or some connections to your partner’s past.

First tip is focus on your breath.

So immediately, if you feel anxious, just bring it back to your breath. And I guarantee this will help you. This might not solve the entire problem right away. But immediately, whenever you feel yourself getting anxious, just bring the focus back to your breath.

If you want, you can take a minute and go to the bathroom. Take deep breaths in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. You’ll find that will calm your whole system down, at least a little bit.

Secondly, when someone mentions something about your partner’s ex, bring your attention to the soles of your feet.

This sounds weird, but if you practice this, it can really help. Rather than letting your thoughts race and letting your brain go crazy, immediately, try to feel the weight of your body on the soles of your feet. Try to feel your feet on the grass or on the carpet, or in your shoes.

Put your attention there. Over time, this will become a habit and it’ll just be kind of a grounding exercise. There’s a reason people use this term, “I find him very grounding or his energy’s very grounding”, or “I felt really grounded at that moment”.

It’s because when we put attention into our feet, we’re literally grounded. We can feel our weight on the earth. Everything’s okay, I’m not flying off the planet, I’m here, I’m present. I have the power, I have the strength to deal with this. And, it’s going to be okay.

Bring your attention to the soles of your feet. And if you want, you can combine this with tip number one, which was focusing on your breath.

retroactive jealousy in social situations

So just stand there, focus on your feet, take some deep breaths, and this two-pronged approach will help.

And finally, if you’re in a social situation where there’s a conversation about your ex’s past or someone mentioned something you don’t want to talk about, there’s an art to this. Sometimes you have to be a little bit sneaky about it.

For retroactive jealousy sufferers, you can ask someone a question or, change it to a different topic. You can also comment on something else or comment on a related topic that isn’t directly related to the topic that was previously being discussed.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shifting the conversation topic to something that’s a little less stressful. And something that won’t bother you too much.

But I do think that should be the last resort. You should focus on the first two techniques. And again, the overarching theme of this video is, this requires overcoming retroactive jealousy. Putting in more work on yourself and taking the steps you need to take.

The more you do that, the less these social situations have the potential to bother and interrupt your day.

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.