A young woman is working on how to get over retroactive jealousy with her partner.

How to Get Over Retroactive Jealousy

Tips for moving forward and overcoming retroactive jealousy for a healthier relationship.


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Retroactive jealousy refers to the distressing feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or discomfort that someone experiences regarding their partner’s past romantic or sexual relationships. This type of jealousy is not about the partner’s current actions but rather about their history before the current relationship began. It can manifest in various ways, including obsessive thoughts, intrusive questions, and comparisons to the partner’s exes. Read on to learn tips for how to get over retroactive jealousy.

How to manage retroactive jealousy

Addressing retroactive jealousy involves understanding its root causes and implementing strategies to manage and reduce these feelings. This often includes the following strategies.

Understand your jealous feelings

Start by identifying triggers. Reflect on what specific aspects of your partner’s past relationships trigger your jealousy. This can help you understand the root of your feelings. It’s also important to recognize irrational thoughts. Acknowledge that your partner’s past is just that – the past. Their previous relationships do not define your current relationship.

Educate yourself

There are many books available that address retroactive jealousy and provide practical advice on overcoming it. Educating yourself about the nature of jealousy and understanding it as a common human emotion can normalize your feelings and reduce their intensity.

Improve communication

Have open and honest conversations with your partner about your feelings. Make sure to approach the topic with sensitivity and avoid accusatory language. Discuss and set boundaries regarding what you are comfortable with in terms of sharing details about past relationships.

Develop self-compassion

Work on boosting your self-confidence and self-worth. Engage in activities that make you feel good about yourself. Take care of your mental and physical health. Exercise, eat well, and take time for hobbies and relaxation. Practice mindfulness and meditation to stay focused on the present moment and reduce anxiety about the past. 

Seek help

Retroactive jealousy can have an impact on your mental health. Consider seeing a therapist, especially one specializing in relationship issues. Therapy can provide coping strategies to manage jealousy. Joining a support group can help you connect with others experiencing similar feelings and learn from their experiences.

In therapy, individuals are taught to confront and challenge their negative thoughts regarding their partner’s past. Through therapy, people can develop healthier coping strategies, which may involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to alter patterns of negative thoughts or mindfulness techniques meant to diminish emotional reactions.

Signs you may be dealing with retroactive jealousy  

Are your feelings of envy actually retroactive jealousy? Here are some common signs that you may be dealing with retroactive jealousy. 

  • Obsessive thoughts: Repeated, intrusive thoughts about the partner’s past lover experiences.
  • Social comparison: Constantly comparing oneself to the partner’s exes, often feeling inferior or inadequate.
  • Questioning: Frequently asking the partner about their past, seeking detailed information about previous relationships.
  • Insecurity: Feeling threatened by the partner’s past, worrying that they may still have feelings for an ex.
  • Resentment: Harboring resentment towards the partner for their past experiences, even though these occurred before the current relationship.

Causes of retroactive jealousy

So what causes retroactive jealousy? Here are some common reasons you may deal with these feelings. 

  • Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may feel threatened by their partner’s past, fearing they cannot measure up.
  • Insecurity: General feelings of insecurity or inadequacy can amplify concerns about a partner’s previous relationships.
  • Past traumas: Previous experiences of betrayal or infidelity can make someone more susceptible to retroactive jealousy.
  • Perfectionism: Expecting perfection in a partner or relationship can lead to dissatisfaction with any aspect of the partner’s past.
  • Lack of trust: If there is an underlying lack of trust in the relationship, it can exacerbate feelings of jealousy about the past.

How Charlie Health can help

If you or a loved one are struggling with retroactive jealousy, Charlie Health is here to help. Charlie Health’s virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides more than once-weekly mental health treatment for dealing with serious mental health conditions, including retroactive jealousy. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based therapies into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With treatment, managing retroactive jealousy is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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