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Retroactive Jealousy: What It Is And How To Deal With It (5+ Wise Ways)

by Sonya Schwartz

Retroactive jealousy is something that many of us suffer from when we are in a relationship with someone who has had past significant others. It can be hard not to be overwhelmed by the prospect of someone who has been so important to your partner previously. Many of us do not want to feel jealous of our partner’s exes, but overcoming retroactive jealousy is easier said than done.

Here, in this relationship, we look at what causes retroactive jealousy as this can help us understand the emotion more fully and why we are acting in this way. Then, we highlight ways that you can get over retroactive jealousy and stay happy and content with the one you love for a long time yet. 

What Causes Retroactive Jealousy?

There are a number of reasons that we start to feel retrospective jealousy regarding our partner’s exes. Understanding those reasons is one of the key ways we can move on from our partner’s past with someone else so that they do not become a huge issue that gets in the way of us remaining in love.

1. Insecurity

One of the biggest reasons that anyone ever suffers from retroactive jealousy is insecurity or a lack of self-confidence. We don’t have enough confidence in ourselves, our abilities, and our attractiveness to our partner to recognize that our relationship could well be a much healthier and happier one than your partner had with his or her ex. 

Our automatic reaction, because of that insecurity, is to assume that they were happier with their ex and that their ex was a better partner. That insecurity can lead to jealousy of what your partner had with his ex as a consequence. 

2. Anxiety

anxiety

Often, anxiety and insecurity go hand in hand. Anxiety comes from not being confident in your abilities again, with respect to a relationship with your partner, you can feel as if they will break up with you at any moment to get back with their ex. 

That anxiety is what can make jealousy start to rear its ugly head and also make being confident in the stability of your relationship difficult. This can make matters worse so that anxiety and retroactive jealousy becomes a vicious cycle. 

3. Lack Of Control

Anxiety often comes from being out of control. Sadly, not having all the information on what happened between your partner and their ex can give reason to feel out of control and thus encourage anxiety again. Trying to accept and realize that you can never know fully what happened between two people in a relationship may help you move on from whenever jealousy may be a big issue for you. 

Being out of control of the past is common, but it is also something that you have to tackle head-on. You can’t change the past so you need to accept what did occur and make peace with it. If your partner was with someone else, you won’t be able to change that, you can only amend your actions in the present or future. 

4. Misconceptions

Another one of the issues that arise from not knowing the ins and outs of a partner’s relationship history is that you can often misconstrue or misunderstand what happened between them. This gives rise to misconceptions that can help fuel your jealousy as you didn’t really know what occurred throughout the lifespan of any of your partner’s relationships with his or her exes. 

You can therefore start to imagine things that didn’t happen which can make your jealousy even worse. The worst thing about your imagination going wild is that it has no limits on where it can go. You can start to make your partner’s romantic history into something it wasn’t and as a result, something that you can never live up to. 

How To Overcome Retroactive Jealousy

Once you have highlighted why you are feeling jealous of your partner’s past, you can start to look at ways to overcome those feelings of jealousy towards his past relationships. This is critical to do as soon as possible to help give you and your partner a fighting chance of surviving well into the future and staying in love.

1. Talk To Your Partner

Without a doubt, one of the best things you can do is talk to your partner about how you are feeling with regard to his romantic history. It can be really intimidating trying to match what ex was like in this past and the feelings of insecurity that transpire from this can be overwhelming. 

The best way to work through those emotions is to let your partner know how you are feeling. He or she will be the person best placed to put you at ease and make you feel more confident about the start of your relationship as a whole. 

2. Focus On Your Strengths

focus on your strengths

Another way to build on your confidence is to focus on your strengths too. Look internally and think of things you have done that you are proud of and the traits of your character that you think are good qualities. Do not compare them to your partner’s past, but remember that they are reasons why your boyfriend or girlfriend is in love with you. 

That will then make you feel better about the chances your relationship has for a long-lasting future. Plus focussing on your strengths also gives you the confidence for what will happen if your relationship doesn’t go the distance. Knowing that you can be outside of your relationship is actually key to having a happy relationship at all. It means that you are in a couple because you want to be, not because you feel the need to be in relationships as a form of validation.

3. Look To The Future

Looking to the future is key to ensuring that you can get over your jealousy. The reason being is that it gives you hope and will stop you from focusing on the past so much. The past can start to become something that is too big for you to overcome if you make it into something that didn’t really happen. The future is, however, something that you can help control to make you and your partner happy

4. Don’t Use Social Media

Social media is something that can fuel our imagination and our insecurities. If you are trawling through your partner’s past social media posts, you may well come across images of him with his ex or you may simply be looking at pictures of his ex. Remember that in the main, people only ever post good things on social media. 

It is in our nature to post things about things we are proud of or make us happy. So, if you are stalking your partner's ex online, remember you are likely only to see the good bits of his or her life, not the bad. The same can be said about historical posts from your partner’s relationship with them. 

5. Don’t Listen To Other People

In addition to steering clear of looking back at past posts about your partner’s relationships in the past, don’t listen to what other people say about your partner and how things were with him and his ex

While they may tell you bad things, they may also tell you good, but either way, you may not get the full picture of what did happen between them. That again goes on to fuel your imagination and as a result, can make your jealousy hit sky-high levels. Plus, people can remember things incorrectly or have their own agenda. It can materially color their dialogue to you. 

6. Concentrate On Your Relationship

concentrate on your relationship

In addition to not listening to other people, a key thing to bear in mind when trying to overcome jealousy from your partner’s romantic history is to concentrate on your relationship. It really is the only thing that you have real influence over and its outcomes. You cannot change what your partner did in the past. 

You can only make an impact on how you both interact together and the chance you have therefore of lasting the test of time. So look at the good things in your relationship and take confidence in them. Look at what you have in common or the differences that conversely make you stronger. Also, remember that if your partner didn’t want to be with you, he wouldn’t be - and vice versa. 

FAQs

Is retroactive jealousy normal?

Retroactive jealousy is perfectly normal and should not be dismissed as a lesser emotion. Many people suffer from it and it can seriously impact the happiness of your relationship. This is even more so the case when previous relationships of your partners have been such an important part of their life. 

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

Will retroactive jealousy go away?

Retroactive jealousy can absolutely go away. It will either simply lessen as your confidence grows in your relationship to diminish how you feel about your partner’s past relationships or you can do some work with your partner to help you overcome your jealousy entirely. 

What causes retroactive jealousy?

Retroactive jealousy is caused by envy and anxiety over a partner’s past relationships and how that can make us feel like our current relationship is not as happy or successful as previous ones. 

Is retroactive jealousy a mental illness?

Retroactive jealousy is not an illness but it does stem from insecurity and anxiety which is something that can materially impact your overall mental health. Jealousy may sound like an emotion we shouldn’t have, but everyone suffers from it at some point in their life. 

Why do I feel jealous of my girlfriend’s past?

Jealousy over a girlfriend’s past is a common feeling and it comes from being out of control. When someone else has managed to seduce and win over a partner in the past, it can make us feel jealous of what they had together and the impact that could have on our own relationships. 

Retroactive Jealousy - Key Takeaways

Being jealous of a partner’s past is extremely common. It is the fear of the unknown that helps fuel it into something that can often cause issues in a relationship. Because, when you allow the fear of the unknown to take hold, your insecurity will start imagining things that didn’t happen so that your partner cannot say anything that comforts you. 

Be wary therefore of not addressing your jealousy head-on when you realize you are struggling to come to terms with your partner’s history. If you don’t address it soon enough, it can get too big to work through quickly so it becomes a much bigger problem for you and your partner to resolve together. 

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

Sonya Schwartz
A hopeless romantic that struggled for many years to find her Mr "Right" and made all the mistakes you could think of while dating. Known for always choosing the wrong guys or messing up relationships, Sonya was finally able to change her approach and mindset when it came to dating which helped her eventually find the man of her dreams and become happily married. You can read more about me here...

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