Retrospective Jealousy: 4 Ways to Overcome It

Being obsessed with your partner's former relationships is a syndrome called retrospective jealousy. It generally arises because of insecurity or fear of losing the person you love.
Retrospective Jealousy: 4 Ways to Overcome It

Last update: 19 July, 2019

Suffering from jealousy is very common, it’s a negative emotional response. This happens when you believe your partner isn’t giving you all of their attention. In the case of retrospective jealousy, you’re suspicious of your partner’s infidelity, especially with people who they formerly had romantic or sexual relationships with.

This kind of disorder can lead a person to think their partner is completely disloyal and cheating on them. It implies, as we mentioned, manifesting extreme or pathological levels of jealousy towards the former lovers of your current partner.

If this is what you’re feeling and this is how you react to your partner’s past, how can you overcome it?

What is retrospective jealousy?

This conduct consists of obsessing over exclusivity with the person you love and a fear of losing control. This type of jealousy borders between normal and alarming; like many other obsessions, there is a tendency to lose control of your thoughts and behaviors. Moreover, this can affect the quality of the couple’s relationship.

In some circumstances and cultures, this level of jealousy is almost accepted by society. Nonetheless, when it gets out of control and it takes over as the center of the couple’s relationship, it becomes pathological.

The suffering and the instability this kind of jealousy causes can destroy intimate relationships. In short, retrospective jealousy is usually all in the imagination of the affected person, with only some basis in events from the partner’s past.

Similarly, the affected person experiences obsessive thoughts and painful emotions after meeting the previous partner of the current partner – romantic partners and sexual partners.

Overly jealous people only focus on the past relationships of their partner. This situation causes suffering and emotional instability and it can also cause a lack of trust and the need to control the other person.

Together with all of this is an irrational fear of the other person that is taken out of proportion. The result: the relationship experience is not unique or special or supportive, it’s complex and conflictive.

Retrospective Jealousy: 4 Ways to Overcome It

The consequences of being jealous

If you frequently feel jealous about your partner’s past it will likely affect the relationship in a negative way. Some of the potential consequences are the following:

Insecurity: reproaches and complaints about hiding things and being secretive increase for different reasons. As a result, this makes it so the person who’s a victim of the jealousy starts to reject the person who’s being jealous.

Emotional suffering: The tension starts to negatively interfere in daily life and it affects the family environment, as well as work-life, and the social lives of both people.

Arguments and fights: Excessive and pathological levels of jealousy can give way to conflicts that ultimately lead to the end of the relationship.

Physical violence: An increase in pathological jealousy can cause the person who’s jealous to become violent.

Psychological problems: Either person, aggressor or victim, can experience psychological problems because of the anguish and the sadness that the situation generates.

“Retrospective jealousy leads a person to think their partner is completely untrustworthy and they’re cheating on them. It involves feeling a pathological level of jealousy for the former romantic partners of your current partner.”

Characteristics of the jealous person

People who feel this kind of jealousy have a very low level of self-esteem. They don’t live in the present, they go through periods where they’re very melancholic and they only felt envy about the past.

Likewise, they look with fear to the future. They’re captive and dependent on their jealous thoughts and for that reason, they believe that to be happy and secure they need to be possessive and distrustful of their partner.

For this reason, a possessively jealous person asks many questions about who and what their partner was doing. They don’t have any tolerance for frustration.

In addition, when it comes to romantic love and relationships, they have false expectations. They think that love is wanting to be together all the time. They misinterpret the healthy behaviors of their partner.

Suggestions for overcoming retrospective jealousy

To eliminate such negative feelings, whether the jealousy is manifested on the part of your partner or yourself, think about the following:

Recognize that your jealousy is out of proportion and irrational: You should realize that your partner, like yourself, had an emotional life before you met. Consequently, you don’t have to react or make any demands of them. Try to analyze the situation objectively and figure out where the jealous feelings are coming from.

Use empathy: Imagine yourself in their situation. Consider how you would feel if they asked you for explanations about your previous relationships. Imagine how you would react if they accused you unjustly. This will help you focus on your partner and how upset they are to experience this situation.

Retrospective Jealousy: 4 Ways to Overcome It

Other areas of your reactions to consider

Focus on the present: Your suffering is a product of your own thoughts about the past. The situations you’re feeling anxious and angry about actually never involved you. Realize that you didn’t know your partner at that time. So, when your thoughts start to fixate on past events bring them into the present.

Try to focus on the moment instead, in what’s happening now. Something else that will help you is to practice meditation, to gain the ability to anchor your mind in the moment.

Communicate: Tell your partner how you feel, but not by complaining. Express what drives you to the jealous reactions and tell your partner how you want to eliminate them. That way, you will keep the lines of communication open.

Definitively, retrospective jealousy affects the life of the couple, damaging their relationship and it can often spiral out of control and destroy the relationship completely.

Finally, if you don’t achieve what you want by following this advice, seek out professional help. Certainly, by seeking therapeutic treatment and adopting a will to improve, you can overcome this.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.