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Is Retroactive Jealousy Ruining Your Life?

This sneaky kind of jealousy can end your relationships in a snap.

Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on July 9, 2023

Couple In Bed Playing With Phones And Experiencing Retroactive Jealousy

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Retrograde, retrospective, or retroactive jealousy means an unhealthy curiosity about your partner’s romantic or sexual past.

Now, feeling jealous at some specific point in your partner’s past is known as passing jealousy, which is usually a normal human response.

But, if it gets out of hand and becomes an obsession, a source of negative thoughts, actions, and emotions, it’s commonly referred to as retroactive jealousy.

This unpleasant feeling might cause limitless distress and damage the relationship.

In some cases, retroactive jealousy can even end it.

Is retroactive jealousy controlling you and your life?

To answer these questions, there are several things you need to understand.

Let’s take a look at how retroactive jealousy affects us emotionally and how it manifests.


Negative Emotions Associated with Retroactive Jealousy


The following are some of the negative thoughts and emotions that come with retroactive jealousy.


  • Judgment usually concerns a partner’s sexual or romantic history and involves thinking about how they behaved (morally or immorally) in the past.


  • Fear is a knowledge in which the sufferer feels insecure that the partner might leave because of their promiscuous past.


  • Envy is a form of negative emotion in which sufferers might have had less romantic or sexual experience than their partner, or dated fewer people in the past.


  • Anger is also a form of negative emotion in which the sufferer feels angry while thinking about their partner’s past.

    They may also try to find the answers to the wrong questions, which adds more fuel to the retroactive jealousy fire.


  • Anxiety is a feeling in which the sufferer is overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions about their partner’s past.

    Sometimes, it leads to anxiety attacks.


  • Doubt is a form of negative thoughts, induced by a partner’s romantic or sexual past.

    The sufferers start doubting themselves with questions like “Why this person is with me?” or “Do I really want a relationship with a person who did this or that in the past?”.


Signs Of Retroactive Jealousy


Retroactive jealousy can manifest in several ways.


  • Obsessing.

    One of the psychological signs that someone constantly has negative thoughts involving their partner.

    Obsessing involves the inability to relax and let go, loss of self-care, and constant focus on their partner.


  • Irrational assumptions. Usually, they’re based on negative thoughts in which a person thinks about different situations.

    For example, “If my partner wasn’t so promiscuous in the past, we wouldn’t have trouble with fertility.”


  • Depression. Negativity, negative thoughts, and a feeling of loss of control in a relationship.


  • Anxiety includes the inability to relax and enjoy a relationship and your partner’s presence.


  • Fear and avoidance.

    The suffering partner avoids certain situations and topics of conversation like past sexual or romantic relationships.


  • Insomnia.

    Retroactive jealousy sufferers tend to stay awake at night because of negative thoughts about their partner’s past.



Is retroactive jealousy bad for a relationship?


Retroactive jealousy is not bad, and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

However, it can lead to a lot of unwanted emotions like obsessing, dwelling, worrying, and fear.

You might feel anxious, depressed about the future, or confused around your partner.

Some people tend to violate the personal space of their partner out of jealousy.

And some may even harm them in any way or try to listen to their conversations or invade their privacy in other ways.


How to deal with retroactive jealousy?


There are a lot of ways to deal with retroactive jealousy and most of them involve working with your thoughts and feelings.


1. Accept it


Acceptance is the first step in resolving anything.

Accept the fact that you feel jealous, and if you are having a hard time accepting it, ask yourself – what does this jealousy mean to you?

Why do you feel so irritated about your partner’s past?

Is their past affecting your values, beliefs, or abilities?

Do you feel that it’s affecting you personally (like making you feel unconfident or insecure)?


2. Swap places


Think about your partner and swap yourself with your partner.

Think about all the good times you had in your past relations and how you feel about your relationship now.

You might have had sexual or romantic relationships too – just like your partner.


3. Don’t snoop


Do not violate your partner’s privacy by snooping into their personal space.

It will only destroy all the good things you and your partner have built.

Invading someone’s privacy includes checking emails, cell phones, laptops, social media profiles, and voice messages.

Also – stalking.


4. Talk it out


Talk to your partner instead of keeping all this jealousy to yourself.

Tell them how you feel, and what they mean to you.

Talk in an honest, polite way, share your fear of losing, and express your discomfort.

It’s very possible that your partner will understand how you feel and support you.


5. Redirect your energy


Instead of fueling fear and obsession, you can put all the negative energy into developing a stronger relationship with your partner.

After all, dwelling on the past in relationships won’t help you.

What will help you is the effort you put in to become a better partner.

Strengthen your bond, work on your own self-worth, and don’t let your jealousy consume you.


When you share your life with a person, it is a natural response to feel possessive about them.

Jealousy is not always a negative emotion.

In fact, it can showcase your deep love and affection for the person you’re in a relationship with.

The problem arises when you get so hung up on your partner’s past that you forsake the relationship and spend all your time digging through the dirt.

If you can relate to one or more of the negative emotions associated with retroactive jealousy, you may be on the wrong track in your relationship.

However, you can try to fix this problem by being more open and accepting that you can’t change the past.

Once you start communicating and focusing your energy on the present, your relationship will only get stronger.

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