Recently, I received an email from a reader named Ryan in the UK concerning retroactive jealousy, and reduced libido:

As I’m working on my issues my girlfriend has noticed that sometimes when my RJ is at its worst I don’t perform with her at my best and also we don’t have sex as much – a byproduct of feeling low due to my RJ and resulting in a reduced libido. Have you ever suffered from this issue? What did you tell your girlfriend?

A good question, and one I’ve been meaning to write about for some time.

To answer Ryan’s question, yes, I have suffered from reduced libido as a result of my retroactive jealousy. On occasion, I would either tell my partner that I didn’t feel like having sex because of my jealousy, or I would be cagey, roll over, and tell her nothing at all. In retrospect, I think both approaches were misguided.

It’s normal for sexual desire to wax and wane in a long term relationship; even more so when one of the people in that relationship suffers from RJ. So Ryan — it’s normal for you to feel the way you feel; what’s more, it might even be a good sign that you’re feeling the way you feel.

Ryan may think that his libido is lower because of his RJ, but it may actually be a signal from his subconscious that it’s time to focus less on sex and the relationship, and more on working on himself, and growing into a better man.

If you begin the necessary work on your jealousy, and start pushing yourself to grow, your priorities may start to shift in a positive direction. Instead of seeking external validation, affection, and reassurance, you will be increasingly able to cultivate the ability to create your own self-worth, self-assuredness, and happiness.

Ryan and I have been engaged in a dialogue for some time, and it seems that he’s making real progress. I told Ryan that he should continue working on himself, and realize that his internal sense of worth and confidence is paramount to maintaining a healthy relationship. Furthermore, half-hearted sex is never satisfying; I recommended that Ryan doesn’t put pressure on himself regarding his sexual performance (or lack thereof), and give his libido some time to rejuvenate. If he does the necessary work, believe me, it will.

As far as what to say to his girlfriend in the meantime, I recommend that Ryan doesn’t make a big deal out of it, does not tell his girlfriend his reduced desire is because of his RJ, and that he simply tell her he isn’t in the mood at the moment. Again, don’t make a big deal out of it — if his partner is mature, has relationship experience, and has any understanding of human nature and sexual dynamics, she will understand that the odd dip in the frequency of sex is to be expected in any long term relationship.

(As an aside: fellas, you shouldn’t always be so easy to get into the sack. I’m serious — if you’re anything like me you might initially think it’s counter-intuitive to turn down sex, but really: be unavailable once in a while, and make her work for it. You might be surprised to find that your partner responds very positively to a little challenge.)

When you begin the process of overcoming retroactive jealousy, your mind and body might respond in unexpected ways. One of these ways might be focusing less on the relationship, and more on yourself. This is a good thing, as the relationship will continue to disintegrate, and your partner’s attraction to you will continue to fade, unless you truly step up, work on yourself, and focus on exorcising your demons and taking the power back.

I emerged from my retroactive jealousy a new man. I felt stronger, both physically and emotionally, than ever before. And I had a renewed desire to truly ravish my partner into oblivion, own her love and affection, and give her a sexual experience unlike any she had experienced before. You’ll get there too, Ryan. Stay strong, brother.

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.