In today’s video, I’m going to break down the 3 most likely possibilities why you are still struggling with retroactive jealousy.

Read or watch below to discover why you feel like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past.”

Zachary Stockill: “Why am I struggling with retroactive jealousy? Why can’t I stop thinking about my partner’s past?” If I had $1 for every time that I’ve been asked that question, I’d be a rich man. And the truth is, depending on your history, your past, your partner’s past, and your individual circumstances, there could be many potential reasons why you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy. (i.e. intrusive thoughts and obsessive curiosity about your partner’s past relationships and or sexual history.) I’m going to keep it very brief. I’m going to break down the top three most likely potential reasons why you feel like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past.”

Okay, three main potential reasons you could still be struggling with retroactive jealousy. Take this for what it’s worth, obviously. I don’t know you and your particular circumstances. But I’ve been working on this issue for a long time. I’ve dealt with hundreds of coaching clients one on one. I think I have a pretty good handle on this issue. 

Here are my top three potential reasons you still feel like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past.”

The first possibility is you’re struggling with a particularly nasty, particularly painful manifestation of OCD. OCD stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of it by now. Some OCD sufferers go check the door ten times a night to make sure that it’s locked. Other people struggle with compulsions that involve washing their hands obsessively. 

There are many different manifestations of OCD. And while I’m not a qualified professional to diagnose you or anyone with OCD, the truth is many of the most common symptoms that people experience when they’re experiencing retroactive jealousy are closely related to many people’s experiences of obsessive-compulsive disorder. So looking into the literature on OCD can be very helpful.

There’s a very good book called Brain Lock by Dr. Robert Leahy, which I strongly encourage you to take a look at. I did a big breakdown of that book. 

But the point is to start looking for information about dealing with intrusive thoughts and overcoming and managing OCD, which could be helpful to you if your symptoms fit the description of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The second potential reason you feel like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past” is plain old irrational fear and insecurity.

thinking about my partner's past

Many people reading this won’t like to hear that. They’ll think “oh, well, I’m not insecure about anything. I’m not afraid of anything.” Sit down with yourself, and be honest. And ask yourself: what is the fear?

If you feel like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past,” on some level, maybe you’re struggling to come to terms with some of the decisions your partner made in their past. Maybe you’re afraid that you can’t trust them. 

Maybe they’ve lied about their past, in the past.

Whatever your particular circumstances, sit down, and try to get as crystal clear as you can about the fear. Because there is some sense of fear-inspiring all of these feelings. And it can take some time and effort, working with a coach or a therapist can be very helpful. It can take some time to get to the bottom of these fears and insecurities. But once you do, everything starts improving from there. Once you start identifying exactly what it is that you’re afraid of, it immediately becomes much less fearful.

What is the fear? 

What is my fear? And go deeper into that. You can also frame it as “what is my insecurity?” This won’t be relevant to all people, but it is relevant to many. In other words, “did my partner’s ex make more money than me? Were they a better lover? Were they better in bed? And were they happier? Was my partner happier in her relationship with her ex?” These are all possibilities. 

But again, similar to identifying your fear, insecurity can be considered a synonym for fear. Identify whatever it is that you’re insecure about, and start confronting and identifying and overcoming those insecurities. This is a big topic.

I’ve already done a lot of content on working towards overcoming insecurities in all of my products like my flagship course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”, books like Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, and many videos on my YouTube channel. But the point is identifying your fear, identifying your insecurity will go a long way toward overcoming retroactive jealousy.

The third and final potential reason why you’ve felt like “I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past,” maybe for a long period of time… Especially if you’ve actively started putting in the work to beat it. If you’ve actually started doing something to truly confront and overcome this issue. I’m not just talking about watching a free video on YouTube now and then. And then, I mean, you’re scheduling an appointment with a therapist, you’re reading books, you’re changing your habits, you’re learning new habits, you’re investing in yourself, whatever that means for you to get this problem sorted. 

If you’re still struggling with retroactive jealousy after that…

One possibility is there could be a serious incompatibility in the relationship. There could actually be serious red flags that you should be paying attention to.

One of the most common misconceptions about me and my work is I say that retroactive jealousy is always 100% irrational. And of course, that’s not true. I would say, for the people who come to me and work with me, nine times out of 10, it is irrational. But for every one time out of 10, I do get a client who comes to me, tells me about their partner, tells me about their partner’s past, and crucially, tells me about their current relationship with their partner…

And it’s very clear that there are glaring red flags that this person needs to be aware of. I’m not necessarily saying that they need to break up with their partner. Of course not. I’m not prescribing that for everyone who thinks they might be struggling with incompatible values. But it is worthwhile, if you’re in this camp, if you’re struggling with your partner’s values, to spend some serious time trying to get to the bottom of your own values. 

“What do I believe in? What are my standards, my values? And what are my boundaries in relationships?”

“And how does my partner fit into that?” Also, be sure you are taking into account your partner’s current actions in the relationship. Sometimes people get locked in this mindset of only focusing on their partner’s past from years ago. They do it without taking into account how their partner has shown up in their current relationship. Because that will tell you a lot about who your partner is, their character, their values, and all the rest. 

thinking about my partner's past

Don’t only be focusing on the past, be sure you’re focusing on how your partner is showing up in your current relationship as well if you’re evaluating their character, and in certain circumstances, evaluating the risk associated with continuing in a relationship with your partner. But above all, if you’re struggling with retroactive jealousy, and you’re feeling stuck, I put out all kinds of resources that can help you get started overcoming this, regardless of the decision you make for the future of your relationship.

Maybe you’re not even sure if you want to continue in a relationship with your partner. You can’t stop thinking about their past, but maybe you’re not sure if you want a future with that person. If that sounds like you, I put together a number of resources that I think you’ll find helpful, and you can start with something that’s completely free. 

Click here to sign up for a free four-part mini-course that will help you get started overcoming retroactive jealousy.

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.