In today’s video, I offer thoughts for married men who tell me “My wife’s past is bothering me.”
Read or watch below if you’ve ever felt like “my wife’s past bothering me.”
Zachary Stockill: When it comes to retroactive jealousy, the path to peace is similar for all of us. Gay, straight, young, old, male, female–doesn’t really matter.
The path to freedom is remarkably similar for every retroactive jealousy sufferer, at least in my opinion. That said, each of us requires slightly different strategies and slightly different perspectives at one time or another.
I will offer thoughts for married men struggling with retroactive jealousy, who’ve ever Googled “wife’s past bothering me.”
Married guys with kids who’ve been with their partner for a while and are still struggling with retroactive jealousy… I think you’re going to want to see this video.
Point number one: don’t fall into the mental trap of thinking that you’re a unique snowflake.
I’ll get emails from people all the time-sharing their entire retroactive jealousy story, often very lengthy. They’ll tell me “you know, I’m sure that you’ve never heard a story like this before.” Or “I think I’m unique… I’m sure you’ve never encountered this situation before, even though you’ve been a coach for 10 years.” Most of the time, I’ve read similar emails dozens and dozens of times, before.
It is a dangerous mental pitfall when it comes to retroactive jealousy… To think that your situation your problem, your struggle is unique, and no one could possibly understand. Because it’s not true. I have heard every retroactive jealousy story that you can possibly fathom.
Many of them are remarkably similar, including the people who say that their story is so unique.
Don’t fall into the mental trap of feeling like a victim. Feeling helpless, feeling like nothing will work for you. That’s the first point I want to make in this video. It’s very important because if you follow this way of thinking, you’re going to be struggling much longer.
So I’m very comfortable talking about this topic. The first piece of advice I would offer to married men struggling with retroactive jealousy is to:
Be sure to carve out time to be selfish sometimes.
What the hell am I talking about? This might sound strange, but what I mean is:
When the demands of life take over and leave you zero time to be “selfish”, problems like retroactive jealousy can take hold. I think it’s important for a married man not to be completely swallowed up and consumed by the demands of work, family, and relationships.
So by carving out time to be selfish, I literally mean, even if it’s only a half an hour a week, something is always better than nothing. Carve out time in your schedule that is just about you. Pursuing a new goal or a new hobby or something you’re interested in, or working on a certain personal development goal, whether it’s related to retroactive jealousy or anything else. The point is:
If you feel like “my wife’s past is bothering me,” don’t let the demands of the world your woman, your kids, consume you.
Be sure to carve out some time to be alone and to pursue interests, passions, and hobbies that have nothing to do with anything else. I can hear the objections already. “Yes, Zach. But I’ve got kids, and you don’t know what it’s like, and I’ve got a wife and…” I get it.
But the thing is: you’re only going to be the best husband and father and friend and family member you can be if you’re carving out some time to be alone and recharge. Don’t lose yourself in the demands of daily life. Don’t lose yourself in your relationship.
Because if you do, all the people you love and everyone you care about will feel it. They might not know exactly what the problem is. They might not be able to diagnose the problem. But they will feel, on some level, that you’re not being true to yourself. You’re not being selfish sometimes and taking that time to reenergize, refocus, and recharge. And they will pay the price for it.
So if you love your family, you need to take time to be selfish, sometimes.
At the same time,
Men are goal-seeking machines. We need to have a focus in life, we need to have direction, and we need to have clear goals that we are working towards, at all times.
And by clear goals, I’m not just talking about, you know, getting a promotion at work or making more money or anything else.
A specific goal can be something like “I want to learn a new language,” or “I’m going to have a certain amount invested by the time I’m X number of years old.” Or “I’m going to do the first draft of a book that I’ve been putting off, you know, for 10 years.” Maybe “I’m going to learn jujitsu and I’m scheduling classes, I’m going to get this figured out.” Or it could be an income goal, you want to hit a certain income by a certain time in your life. Maybe you do want to get a specific promotion at work. It’s all valid. And it doesn’t really matter what your goals are. The point is:
Goals have to be personally meaningful, and personally fulfilling to you. My goals cannot be your goals, and vice versa.
So this is easier said than done. But it’s very important, I think, for married men to carve out time to be selfish, as I said earlier, and get as clear as possible about their goals for their life, their interests, passions, hobbies, and pursuits. Things that have nothing to do with a woman, nothing to do with their wife, nothing to do with their kids. Pursuits that are purely about themselves.
Quite often on coaching calls with married men, I’ll ask them about this stuff. I’ll ask them about goals and things they want to accomplish and what their life is like…
Frequently, a lot of these guys can’t seem to say a lot or have any ideas beyond their wives and kids. And when your wife and kids become your entire universe, you start to lose yourself as a man, and you start to lose some perspective, purpose, and focus. And thus, I think it’s crucial that every man has at least some goal that he’s working towards at all times. You goals should be specific, measurable, and achievable.
I think for every man, but married men, in particular, to start thinking more seriously about their mission as men. Now, a mission is different from a goal. A mission is a little broader.
This is not something that you’re going to accomplish in five years, or 10 years, or even 15 years.
It is something that’s looking far into the future. A mission is a big aspiration, a big vision for your life that you’re working towards, as a kind of vista on the horizon that you can look to at all times to regain focus. This is a huge topic, really. And this has taken me a long time to crystallize for myself: my mission as a man.
But to give you some examples, my mission as a man involves the work that I’m doing right now, working with men, helping men and women overcome jealousy, having incredible relationships. What I’m doing right now is part of my mission as a man. It’s motivating. It’s clarifying and fulfilling to me. It also has nothing to do with the incredible woman in my life. It’s just about me; it gives me a sense of purpose and fire and focus and perspective that no woman can. It comes from within; it’s my mission.
And coming back to my general theme in this video of married men avoiding becoming consumed by the demands of their wife and their family. Your mission needs to be internally generated, and it can’t be dependent on someone else. In other words, my mission can’t be “I need to marry my wife and be married to her for 50 years.” That can be a beautiful aspiration for a man’s life. But it’s dependent on someone else. You need someone else to play ball for you to feel fulfilled and your mission. Again, your mission is about you. It’s not about anyone else.
Be sure to have your goals and your mission and your vision for your life written down at all times.
Another very important point relating to purpose and mission and goals and all this stuff. Write this stuff down. You need to have your goals and your mission and your vision for your life written down. This is something that a business mentor of mine, Caleb Jones, talks about a lot. You may have seen Caleb on my podcast, Humans in Love, I’ve interviewed him a couple of times. Fascinating guy. And this is a piece of advice that has served me very well.
So whenever I’m losing focus, and I’m feeling a bit disoriented in the world… I can read my mission statement. It’s clear, it’s actionable, it’s inspiring, it’s motivating. Gives me the perspective I needed about what’s really important. Not this silly fight with my girlfriend, or maybe for you, not the fact that “my wife’s past bothering me…”
Perspective is the key word here. It’s crucial to keep perspective on what’s important, what really matters.
And even though you feel like “wife’s past bothering me,” your mission as a man should feel much more important.
A great way to get perspective is to have your goals and your mission written down and available to you at all times. Personally, I have daily goals, weekly goals, and quarterly goals on my phone at all times. I can always pull it up and look at it whenever I want to. It’s also on my laptop computer in front of me. My mission statement, same thing. I usually flip to it a couple of times a week. I know when I read it I’ll feel good. I’ll feel grounded. And centered. I’ll be reminded of what I want to accomplish as a man that has nothing to do with any woman. Nothing to do with anyone else. Except for me.
Some people might be watching this video thinking I just Googled “wife’s past bothering me;” “I’m struggling with my wife’s past, and it is really bothering me. Why is this guy going on about goals and mission and purpose and all this stuff?”
There’s a quote that I think about all the time: you can tell the size of a man by the size of his problems. And if as a man, your biggest problem in life is “my wife’s past bothering me,” or your girlfriend’s past is bothering you, then I think you should start thinking about some better problems as you heal from retroactive jealousy.
By the way, I don’t mean to, you know, belittle anyone because, as you probably know, I once struggled with this issue myself. I was obsessed with my then-girlfriend’s past. And sometimes it took asking myself some pretty difficult questions, to get out of this victim mentality, to get out of this victim mindset. And remind myself about what’s actually important in life.
If my biggest problem as a man was some guy that my girlfriend was once with years ago… I think I need bigger and better problems.
And when I say problems, I’m talking about things like accomplishing your goal, living true to your mission, and becoming the best man that you can be. Those seem to me to be better problems than simply struggling with your wife or your girlfriend’s past.
Now, of course, overcoming retroactive jealousy requires a multifaceted multipronged approach.
I’ve also released two audio series dealing specifically with this issue of retroactive jealousy. And I’m sure you’d find all those resources as well as other resources on this blog and my on YouTube channel helpful.
But at the same time, also start thinking about things like mission and life goals and purpose. Because it’s counterintuitive as it seems, as non-obvious as it seems, I think this is crucial for any man struggling with his wife’s past.