In today’s video, I’m going to respond to a viewer who’s struggling with how much he should tell his partner about his retroactive jealousy, and how to ask his partner to keep certain details away from him.

So, can you tell your girlfriend about your retroactive jealousy?

Zachary Stockill: Is it okay to tell your partner that you don’t want to talk about their past? How do you handle this very delicate situation of making sure that your partner is aware that you don’t need to know certain details about their past? How do you communicate that message without oversharing about your struggles with retroactive jealousy?

Today I’m responding to a viewer named A. A asked…

Can you tell your girlfriend/ partner that you don’t want to know certain details about her past? Do girls respect that? Can you tell them you have a condition and it’s best for your relationship that you are ignorant?

How can you tell your girlfriend about your retroactive jealousy?

I am a big advocate for the incredible power of changing the subject and this is an idea that doesn’t occur to a lot of people. I’m not exactly sure why there’s an art to changing the subject to a conversation when you don’t really want to be conversing about the topic at hand. But basically, the idea is, if your partner or girlfriend is sharing details that you don’t want to know, artfully shift the conversation elsewhere. Ask her a question about something unrelated to the topic at hand.

Ask her about a movie that she’d like to see lately, how’s work, or anything other than the topic at hand. If you do this on a consistent basis, unless your partner is very dim, unless they’re shockingly unintelligent, eventually your partner will pick up on the fact that you don’t want to talk about that threesome she had 10 years ago. You don’t want to hear about that random bozo she dated in her early 20s.

tell my girlfriend about retroactive jealousy

If your partner is continually talking about things that you don’t want to hear, rather than making a huge deal of it, rather than oversharing certain details, shift the conversation topic elsewhere. If you do this on a regular basis, when she or he starts sharing certain details, eventually they should get the hint that you don’t want to talk about certain things. And it’s just better for you to sort of talk about other things, rather than the things that they’re talking about.

So, the answer to your first question, “Can you tell your partner that you don’t want to know certain details?” The answer, of course, is yes. And it depends on how you want to do this.

So, what are the ways to tell your girlfriend about your retroactive jealousy?

Certainly, I’m an advocate for changing the topic, but if it becomes necessary, if your partner does not get the hint, you can say, “Babe, I don’t really want to talk about your ex. It’s kind of a turn-off for me to talk about this particular thing, guy, or that period of your life. All these details about your past, I don’t really need to know. Let’s focus on the future. Let’s enjoy each other in the present, in the future, let’s not talk about the past.” So if it becomes necessary, you can be explicit like that.

What I advocate against is sitting your partner down and saying, “Listen, I have retroactive jealousy, I have this condition, it’s very serious and you need to respect this blah, blah, blah…”

Most people out there, 99.9% of humans on the planet, had never heard the term ‘retroactive jealousy.’ What is normal for you, the language that we might use, and the way we might think about this condition is unusual for a huge segment of the population. So sometimes, less is more when it comes to talking about this issue.

Your partner doesn’t need to read my book and know the whole story. You can just kind of communicate the message. You can shift the conversation topic whenever necessary and appropriate.

Your second question is, “Do girls respect that?”

Well, I’m not going to talk about whether girls respect that. I’ll just talk about whether people will respect that, and the answer is, some people will, and some people won’t. I’ve received many emails from retroactive jealousy sufferers whose partners simply can’t stop talking about his or her past. I don’t exactly know why people do this but sometimes people need to vomit the details of their sexual past or their dating past, over and over.

Indeed, there are various reasons people do this, sometimes they’re insecure, and they want to come off like they’re cool and confident. Sometimes they’re simply somewhat unaware, or they lack self-awareness that maybe what they’re sharing isn’t necessarily well received by the people they’re sharing it to. There are many reasons for this but the fact is, some people won’t respect it and that comes down to you, what kind of people are you bringing into your dating life? Who are you choosing to spend your time with?

Personally, if I had a partner who was continually violating boundaries, a partner who didn’t seem to get the hint when I didn’t want to talk about certain things, a partner who was seemingly disrespecting me, that would be a personal deal-breaker. I’m not sure if I would stay in that relationship for long.

tell my girlfriend about retroactive jealousy

Your final question, “can you tell them that you have a condition and it’s best for your relationship that you’re ignorant?”.

Can you tell your girlfriend about your retroactive jealousy?

This is kind of a tricky issue, the extent to which should you open up to your partner about your retroactive jealousy. If they ask you certain questions about why you’re acting a certain way, you can tell them, “I had a bit of an issue with your past, but don’t worry, it’s my problem. I’m dealing with it, you don’t have to worry about it. I’m getting help and it’s not going to be an issue. I would rather not talk about it, and it’s going to be okay.”

A lot of retroactive jealousy sufferers want to involve their partner in their recovery and the reason why this is usually a bad choice is that it doesn’t work. You have to own this problem 100% before you can truly beat it for good.

You can tell your partner that you have certain struggles, or you’re dealing with self-esteem issues, but I would be wary of oversharing about this condition.

Just to kind of underline this point one more time, we’re sold this myth in modern society that communication is the cure to every problem in our relationship. Communicate, communicate and communicate, if you’re having problems in your relationship means you’re not communicating enough. And while that is sometimes true, I also think it’s unwise to air all the petty grievances, insecurities, and all the mock from our sort of lesser selves in our relationship.

I don’t think it’s always good for the relationship to constantly be vomiting all this information about ourselves and our struggles that our partner doesn’t need to know.

Sometimes we’re sharing in an effort to ease some of our insecurities and our fears when in reality, the only way we can truly ease our insecurities and fears over the long term is to take personal ownership of this problem. Take personal ownership of our growth.

Overcoming retroactive jealousy comes down to taking ownership, not putting this problem on our partners to solve.

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.