We’ve all dealt with jealousy in relationships. But you haven’t seen hell if you haven’t experienced retroactive jealousy.
What is it? How do you recognize it? And most importantly, how do you treat it?
There’s only one way to get all the answers: by reading on!
What Is Retroactive Jealousy?
Simply put, retroactive jealousy is jealousy of your significant other’s romantic history. You obsess over their ex-partners, sexual history, and past romantic relationships and interests.
However, there is a difference between retroactive jealousy and retroactive jealousy OCD. In the first case, you’re just interested in their previous romances.
But if this turns into an obsessive-compulsive disorder, these thoughts turn into compulsions you can’t control.
Signs Of Retroactive Jealousy
If you experience most or all of these signs, you’re guilty of retroactive jealousy.
1. Obsessive thoughts about your partner’s previous relationships
The first sign of retroactive jealousy OCD is connected with intrusive thoughts about your significant other’s past love life. Even though you’re perfectly aware that they’ve had their share of previous relationships before you – their past starts to influence your mood.
Of course, there is a difference between retroactive jealousy OCD and just being jealous of your partner’s ex. When you suffer from this obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can’t control your thoughts.
At the end of the day, you become obsessed with your partner’s past relationships, and it is the only thing you can think of.
2. Digging through your partner’s sexual past
One would think that these unwanted thoughts are only concerned with your SO’s romantic past, in the way that you experience jealous feelings not just towards the people they were in serious relationships with but including those you know they cared for.
However, that is not the case here. In fact, you obsess over their sexual past as well. You ask them questions, demanding detailed responses.
What is their body count? How many people have they slept with without being in romantic relationships?
You’re snooping through their sexual history and want to know literally everything about their sexual experiences.
Of course, once you get all the details, your negative thoughts start to bother you even more. But at the same time, it’s like there is a force pushing you to find out more and more. Before you know it, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle without seeing a way out.
3. Comparing yourself to your partner’s exes
Consequently, you start to compare yourself to your partner’s exes.
Is there someone they loved more than they love you? Are they over their ex? Did someone from their past give them greater sexual pleasure than you could ever provide?
What do your partner’s exes look like? Are they more attractive than you? Are they more interesting? More successful? More educated? Funnier?
Were your partner’s past relationships more serious than your current relationship? What can you do to be better than their previous partners?
What can you do to make them forget about their romantic history?
You keep on playing different mental movies in your head with your SO and their ex playing the leading roles. And you keep on comparing them to you two as a couple.
4. Stalking your significant other’s activities
Another sign of retroactive jealousy OCD is snooping through your SO’s social media, text messages, phone records, and even stalking them – as in following them around. Of course, this is not something you willingly do – your jealous thoughts make you do it.
You’re basically trying to find some clues about their past romantic life. You want to see if they’re in touch with some of their exes or if you could find any info about them.
Your final goal is to find out if they’ll get back together with their ex.
Is Retroactive Jealousy Normal?
As long as you’re only curious about your partner’s romantic history, you feel like most people; they just refuse to admit it. You get a bad feeling every time someone mentions their name, and sometimes, you even compare yourself to them. This is an issue we all face from time to time.
However, if you can’t control these jealous feelings, if you obsess over your partner’s exes, and if their previous relationships become the center of your life, you’re probably suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder and should visit a psychiatrist.
What Causes Retroactive Jealousy?
Retrospective jealousy doesn’t appear just like that. It’s a serious problem caused by some deeply rooted issues connected to your mental health.
1. Past trauma
First of all, you’re definitely dealing with something from your past. To be exact, you haven’t dealt with something from your past – at least, not in a healthy way.
These feelings of retroactive jealousy might be caused by a painful breakup from the past.
Did one of your previous relationships end with your ex returning to their ex?
Were you betrayed by someone from your past? This doesn’t have to only be a romantic partner – it can be a best friend or primary caregiver. The bottom line is that we’re talking about someone who left you when you needed them the most.
All of this is reappearing on the surface and is causing problems in your current romantic relationship.
2. Trust issues
You have trouble trusting people. You’re an overthinker who keeps on looking for signs that someone is trying to fool you and that something is going on behind your back.
Why is that so? You must find the primary cause of your deeply rooted trust issues.
First and foremost, you have to ask yourself if you have a reason not to trust your partner or if you’re dealing with trust issues in general.
If your partner has done something to violate your trust, it’s clearly still bothering you, even though you’ve allegedly forgiven them.
3. Personal insecurities
Another common cause of retrospective jealousy is hidden in your insecurities. You clearly think that you’re not good enough; otherwise, you wouldn’t be comparing yourself to your partner’s exes.
What prevents you from seeing your own self-worth? Does your partner make you feel like you’re not enough? Or are these insecurities connected with something or someone outside of your relationship?
Before going any further, you have to give yourself answers to these questions.
4. Attachment style
I’m sure you’re familiar with the different attachment styles. Well, if you can relate to the anxious attachment style, it is one of the reasons for your retroactive jealousy.
Your relationship and your SO are your only preoccupation. You’re obsessed with them, and your biggest fear is losing them.
It’s more than obvious that you’re emotionally dependent on this person, which is never good. In that case, you’re not only dealing with retroactive jealousy – your obsessive thoughts refer to your entire relationship.
5. Lack of healthy communication
If you don’t have healthy communication in your relationship, these feelings of retroactive jealousy shouldn’t surprise you.
Instead of talking to your partner about what’s bothering you both (yes, that includes your past lives as well), you direct different mental movies in your head.
Every time you asked your partner about their exes, they gave you vague responses, and it’s made you doubt the entire thing. Even when you try to share your intrusive thoughts with them, they don’t take you seriously and refuse to talk about it.
Consequently, you think that you’re right for feeling this way. You assume that you’re jealous for a reason and that they’re clearly hiding something from you!
What Does Retroactive Jealousy Feel Like?
Retroactive jealousy is a combination of intrusive thoughts you can’t control, insecurities, self-doubts, trust issues, irrational paralyzing fears, and low self-esteem.
How Do I Stop Retroactive Jealousy?
Overcoming retroactive jealousy is possible and here’s exactly how it can be done!
1. Identify the cause
It’s like this with everything in life: you can’t cure the symptoms without identifying the cause. So now that you know what causes retroactive jealousy, you have to see what the main root of your problem is.
Which of the causes can you relate to the most? Once you have that figured out, you’re good to go!
2. Don’t repress your feelings
At first, you might think that ignoring your jealous thoughts will make them go away. Well, guess what – it won’t.
These are unwanted thoughts, and all OCD sufferers know it’s impossible to just ignore them. Besides, repressing your emotions is never healthy.
Instead, you have to look them deep in the eye and ask yourself why you feel them.
What am I afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen?
Why am I so obsessed with my partner’s romantic history? Am I allowed to have a romantic past? If the answer is yes, why is my SO different?
Do I miss anything in my relationship that makes me feel this way?
3. Identify your toxic behavior patterns
The next step is to work on your behavior patterns. You can’t snap your finger and chase away your intrusive thoughts, but you can be in charge of your actions.
How many times a day do you check your SO’s ex’s social media profiles? How many times a day do you look at that one photo of them together you managed to find?
Well, it’s about time to reduce it and finally stop with this habit.
The same goes for snooping through your partner’s phone and reading their text messages. After all, if you can’t trust the person you’re with, maybe it’s better to break up right away!
4. Be honest with your significant other
Whether you like to admit it or not, your partner feels your retroactive jealousy. It’s time to be honest with them regarding this issue. Tell them how you feel and do your best to explain everything in detail.
Make sure you tell them that you don’t lay any responsibility on their shoulders. They’re not giving you any reason to feel retroactive jealousy, but you feel it nevertheless.
Of course, this can only be possible if you have healthy communication. If not, this is something you have to work on before anything else.
5. Working on your self-esteem
The bottom line is that you have to learn how to put yourself in first place in your life.
Having a healthy relationship with your partner is significant – nobody can argue against that. But you know what’s even more important? Building a healthy relationship with yourself.
If you work on your self-esteem and learn how to love yourself, you’ll realize that you don’t need this person. Actually, you don’t need anyone besides yourself.
Once you understand that, you’ll realize that even the worst-case scenario wouldn’t be the end of the world. So, what if they really did go back to their ex?
I can guarantee you one thing: you would survive!
6. Reframe your thought patterns
Your thought patterns have become a compulsion, and if you think about overcoming retroactive jealousy, it’s time to reframe them. What does that mean?
First of all, every time you focus on the past, redirect your thoughts onto something beautiful in your current relationship.
Every time you think about the qualities of your partner’s ex, name a few things that make you such a great girlfriend or boyfriend.
Every time you think about the love the two of them shared, redirect your thoughts towards the amazing relationship you two have.
7. Ask for professional help
Finally, if you suffer from a form of OCD, you’re unlikely to resolve it without psychotherapy.
CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) has proven to be successful for many OCD sufferers, and this is something you should consider with your mental health professional.
Either way, what’s important is to know that there is no shame in asking for help.
To Wrap Up:
I know this is easier said than done, but please, don’t allow the past to destroy your present and future. The worst part is that it’s not even your past to begin with.
Don’t let retroactive jealousy get the best of your current relationship. Remember: if your SO wanted to be with any of their exes, that’s exactly what they would have done. But they are with you, aren’t they?