In today’s video, I’m going to share 6 tips on moving on from the feeling “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.”

Read or watch below to learn more about healing from feeling “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.”

Zachary Stockill: At one time or another, most retroactive jealousy sufferers have the feeling that they wish their girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s past was somehow different.

They wish their girlfriend hadn’t dated some idiot. Or perhaps they wish their wife hadn’t done X. They wish their husband had never been in love with Y. You get the idea.

At some point, you feel like you wish certain details of your partner’s past were very different. I can certainly relate to this. I felt the same back when I was struggling with retroactive jealousy many years ago. And the good news is there is a way through this feeling. 

In today’s video, I’m going to share six tips for how to get unstuck from the feeling “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.

So please note that a lot of these tips aren’t action based. But it’s really about changing your perspective, different things to keep in mind.

And above all, this is about choosing different perspectives and focusing on what you can control rather than what you can’t. 

On that note, my first tip is to remember that you cannot control the past, but you have absolute control over your perspective on the past. Over the story you’re telling yourself about what the past actually means

Remember that the past has no inherent meaning.

We are the ones who make meaning out of the past in the present. 

wish my girlfriend's past was different

And thus we can tell ourselves whatever story we want to about the past, and our role in the past, or our partners in the past. We can tell ourselves whatever stories we want; we can choose whichever perspectives we want.

The most miserable people in the world are those who spend the majority of their time trying to control things that they can’t control. Worrying about things they have no power or influence over rather than focusing on what’s actually within their sphere of influence.

The events of the past, the events of two minutes ago, or anything from the past, is 100% outside your sphere of influence. But what is always 100% within your sphere of influence is your perspective on the past. 

So, my second tip is to identify the story that you’ve been telling yourself about your partner’s past.

What is the narrative in your head as it relates to your partner’s past? And is that serving you?

Is that really what you want to be carrying around with you?

What are the adjectives you’re using to describe the past?

What is the feeling in your body when you think of your partner’s past?

And what is the baggage that you have associated with your partner’s past? 

Remember that the events of the past and the meaning you make of the past are two separate things.

And you can change this whenever you want. 

So once you’ve identified the story that you’re telling yourself about your girlfriend’s past, your wife’s past, or your husband’s past, or your boyfriend’s past, you can start coming up with a new one. 

And by the way, when I say story, I’m not saying you should go around deluding yourself. I’m not suggesting you should lie to yourself. Of course not.

But there’s a very good chance you’re telling yourself a story about the past that isn’t necessarily helping you get where you want to go. You’re probably focused on certain people or events or details that are holding you back. 

And there’s another avenue that you could be focusing on; a different story that you could be telling yourself about your partner’s past that is going to get you where you want to go. And that is a lot healthier for you to be focusing on. 

My third tip is a bit strange, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

Think about the benefits that you’re getting out of your current story. Think about the benefits you’re receiving out of staying stuck with retroactive jealousy. Or, think about any potential benefits of feeling like “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.”

If you’re absolutely perplexed by this question, I’ll take a minute to clarify. Human beings respond to incentives. And whatever position you’re in in life, you’re receiving some kind of benefit out of staying in that position. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in it. 

To give a classic example: many retroactive jealousy sufferers stay stuck with retroactive jealousy because it acts as a barrier. This “problem” is acting as a barrier between them and their partner. 

Many retroactive jealousy sufferers are scared of truly loving and being vulnerable with someone. Truly opening their hearts to someone. 

And thus, an issue like retroactive jealousy acts as a pretty good excuse to keep their partner at arm’s length. Almost always, there’s some experience of fear underlying retroactive jealousy. And sometimes this fear serves to create intimate distance between the sufferer and their partner. 

A benefit of retroactive jealousy could be that it acts as a good excuse to keep your partner at a distance. This is just one example. But try to be honest with yourself and think hard about any potential benefits that you’re experiencing as a result of your circumstances. Or maybe as a result of the story that you’re telling yourself about your partner’s past. 

My fourth tip is to think about “the butterfly effect.” If you don’t know what the butterfly effect is, it’s an idea that I believe comes from chaos theory. 

If any single tiny, tiny little event in the past was different, it affects everything that follows. So, in a very real sense:

If any aspect of your partner’s past was different, there’s a good chance that you would have never ended up with you. 

wish my girlfriend's past was different

Now I realize you’ve probably heard this from other people; well-meaning parents or well-meaning friends saying “Oh yeah, but if they hadn’t met that idiot, then they wouldn’t know how amazing you are.” You’ve probably heard some version of the story before. 

But it can be a good thing to sit down and think hard about, realizing that every event in our past has an impact on us moving forward.

If I hadn’t had some of my past relationships, there’s no way that I would have been ready for my current relationship. And that’s just a fact. Your partner is likely no different. 

So think about the butterfly effect. And realize that if you value your partner, if you value who they are now, if you appreciate them, if any aspect of their past was different, there’s a very good chance that they would have never come into your life to begin with. 

My fifth piece of advice is to remember that you don’t necessarily have to ever love your partner’s past.

I think sometimes retroactive jealousy sufferers make a mistake in being a little over-ambitious with this idea that they want to eventually love their partner’s past. You don’t have to love your partner’s past, even if you feel like “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.” I think that’s okay. 

Obviously, if you go up to a random person on the street, who’s never heard of me who’s never heard of retroactive jealousy, and you ask them: “Do you love thinking about your wife’s past?” He’s probably going to either punch you in the face, or give you a really confused look. 

Because, obviously, no one likes thinking about the woman they love, or the man they love with someone else. That’s okay. I’m not saying you have to come to a place of loving your partner’s past.

But I do think your life will get a lot easier if you can at least come to some place of acceptance. 

The road to that place of acceptance involves, in part, what I mentioned a moment ago regarding the butterfly effect. Remembering that you don’t have to love the events of your partner’s past, but you need to remember that, in a very real sense, they led your partner to you. 

My final tip is going to annoy some of you, but I don’t care because it’s true: The past doesn’t exist.

This moment right here, of you watching this video or reading this post, this moment that’s passing by so quickly, this moment that is entirely ungraspable, is always fleeting.

This is all that exists. 

wish my girlfriend's past was different

This moment of me talking into this camera with these two lights shining on me is all that exists. You watching this video is all that exists. 

Now, I know you know this, but retroactive jealousy likes to kind of confuse you and tell you otherwise. Retroactive jealousy likes to make you feel like the past is present. And likes to make you feel like the events of the past are actually happening now. And they have some impact on you now

So naturally, cultivating your ability to stay present and to ground yourself in the present moment is going to go a long way toward overcoming this feeling of “I wish my girlfriend’s past was different.

And it’s going to go a long way toward helping you overcome retroactive jealousy. 

So try to incorporate at least some basic meditation or mindfulness practices into your life. I guarantee it’s going to make a big difference.

I put out hours of guided meditations designed specifically for retroactive jealousy sufferers. So if you’re having any difficulty staying grounded in the present moment, I think you’re going to find my two guided meditation series very helpful.

So if you want a really easy and simple way to get started, you check out my guided meditation series Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy: The Guided Meditations.

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.