In today’s video I’m going to talk about the differences between retroactive jealousy vs. regular jealousy.

I’m also going to discuss the many similarities between retroactive jealousy vs. regular jealousy.

Transcript below

Zachary Stockill: So a lot of people ask me what are some of the differences and similarities concerning retroactive jealousy vs. regular jealousy.

I also get a lot of emails from retroactive jealousy sufferers describing their symptoms and situations. Saying that they feel like the word “jealousy” doesn’t truly apply to them.

In a sense, they’re correct.

So, when I use the term retroactive jealousy, I use it in a rather general sense to refer to being bothered by thoughts of your partner’s past relationships and/or dating/sexual history.

This does not necessarily refer to being concerned that your partner is cheating on you. Being actually concerned that your partner’s going to get back with their ex.

I’m referring to any feelings of worry or unease or anxiety around your partner’s past relationships/dating, sexual history.

This can involve things like intrusive thoughts, unwanted intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity. Feeling the urge to ask your partner endless questions about their past, stalking details about their past on social media.

If any of that sounds familiar to you, you are struggling with what I call retroactive jealousy.

You’ll notice that all of those symptoms don’t necessarily relate to feeling jealous in the usual sense that people use the term “jealous.”

When people speak about “regular” jealousy, they’re usually referring to things like worrying that their partner is cheating on them. Being suspicious of other guys or other girls around their partner. Often going through their partner’s phone to make sure that they aren’t cheating on them. Being very possessive and controlling of their partner.

There’s often a real sense on some level, it can either be rational or irrational, which we’ll get to in a minute, but there’s often a sense on some level that there’s actually some cause for real concern.

There might be some real breakdown in the relationship coming up. Our partner might not be able to be trusted, et cetera, et cetera.

In my view, when someone’s dealing with “regular” jealousy, there is occasionally some real cause for concern there.

In other words, sometimes their partner is fooling around on them. Sometimes their partner can’t be trusted. Sometimes their partner’s demonstrating or displaying a number of serious relationship red flags that need to be taken seriously.

Frankly, the same goes for retroactive jealousy. I think it’s rarer that there’s actually some rational basis for retroactive jealousy.

However, there are cases of retroactive jealousy when there is genuine cause for concern. When we find real genuine red flags in our partner’s past that indicate future problems or at least likely future problems in the relationship moving forward.

For anyone struggling with any kind of jealousy, whether it’s regular jealousy or retroactive jealousy, is remarkably similar. Differentiating between rational jealousy and irrational jealousy is often more productive when we’re having these discussions.

When you’re struggling with “rational” jealousy if your partner is giving you genuine cause for concern. If they are texting their ex in secret every night. Genuinely fooling around behind your back. If they are in general being kind of shady and demonstrating real cause for concern, demonstrating that they might not be trustworthy, guess what?

There’s not a whole lot you can do other than to communicate to them. They’re being shady and see what’s going on there. And failing that, moving on finding someone who’s a better fit for you. Finding someone who is actually worthy of your love and trust.

I get emails from people sometimes just describing their situations and I tell them straight up my work might not be much help to you because this is really on your partner.

You’re not doing anything wrong here, your partner is genuinely demonstrating that there’s a number of red flags that you need to take seriously. That is what I call “rational” jealousy.

Irrational jealousy represents the overwhelming majority of emails that I get, represents the overwhelming majority of the content that I put on this channel, as well as the content in my two online courses on jealousy.

My first course Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast, as well as my brand new course out this week, The Overcoming Jealousy Blueprint, primarily deal with irrational jealousy.

Irrational jealousy is something that you and you alone really can actually put the work in and cure.

Irrational jealousy is just that. It’s irrational and quite often irrational jealousy poisons an otherwise amazing relationship.

Irrational jealousy has been responsible for more than a few breakups and divorces, I have the emails to prove it.

The good news is irrational jealousy, once you’ve clearly defined it, once you’ve clearly identified it within yourself, as soon as you identify that you’re dealing with something irrational, it immediately becomes much easier to solve because your rational brain can realize the irrationality of your feelings and then you can find a plan, you can find a program, you can get to work and actually solve this irrational jealousy and put it behind you.

If you’re at all confused about the term retroactive jealousy vs. regular jealousy, it might be worth asking yourself: “Is what I’m feeling rational?”

In other words, “Is my partner genuinely demonstrating that there’s real cause for concern here and I can’t trust them or is my jealousy mostly or even entirely irrational?”

In other words, “Am I really just struggling with intrusive thoughts, obsessive curiosity that has nothing to do with my partner and everything to do with me and am I willing to put in the work to truly put this irrational jealousy behind me for good?”

If you want information on my just-released online course, The Overcoming Jealousy Blueprint, please click 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, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.