Retroactive jealousy occurs when we develop feelings of jealousy toward our romantic partner’s previous romantic or sexual relationships. Even though you’re in an exciting, new (or loving, committed) relationship, you can’t stop thinking about your partner’s previous relationships, and what those partners have that you might lack. You may find yourself negatively comparing yourself against what you imagine they are like, spending time on social media looking at their posts, and struggling to trust your partner. You know this is an exercise in futility, but you can’t seem to find a way out of it.
The good news? You can. There are ways to overcome retroactive jealousy to free yourself from these painful ruminations and enjoy the present with your partner, unencumbered by fruitless jealousy.
If you find yourself stuck in this uncomfortable pattern, try these strategies:
1) Take some much needed time to self-reflect. Usually, retroactive jealousy is about you, not about your partner’s previous relationships. Insecurity and fears around relationships often drive these uncomfortable feelings, so get honest with yourself by asking the following:
– What am I feeling insecure about in this relationship?
– Where am I lacking self-worth or confidence?
– Do I have any fears around abandonment or vulnerability?
Once you have a sense of what’s driving your retroactive jealousy, you’re better equipped to deal with the issue proactively. Instead of continuing to focus on your partner’s past relationships, begin to think about how you can heal your own wounds. That process can take place with your partner’s support, friends’ support, or professional support (i.e. psychotherapy).
2) No more social media stalking! It’s tempting to stalk your partner’s exes on social media, but this can quickly turn into an all-consuming obsession. Try taking a clean break (block them cough cough!). The more time you spend looking at their social media accounts, the more likely you are to fill in the blanks about their lives with unfavorable comparisons to yours, and the worse you’re going to feel about yourself.
3) Talk to your partner. Vulnerability in relationships enhances feelings of trust and intimacy. Let your partner know what you’ve been thinking about. Give them a chance to remind you why they’re no longer with their ex-partners and why they’ve chosen amazing YOU!