Jealousy can come up from time to time in any relationship however there is a difference between a healthy jealous passing thought and out right obsession, fear and control from jealousy.
Nick and Ali came to me for help because Ali was consistently worried that she did not have enough information on Nick’s past relationship history. The answers Nick gave were not enough and didn’t make sense to her so she wanted to learn everything she could about Nick’s past relationships. She went through his Instagram, facebook, photo albums to find out more. Nick was angry and found it intrusive. He could not understand why Ali wanted to know so much about his past, after all it was the past and before they got together. Ali was constantly finding out new information to accuse him of lying with or to dig deeper.
Nick wanted to never talk about the topic again. Nick tried to calm Ali’s fears and reassure her but soon got tired and was more distant snappy and pulled away from her. This then heightened Ali’s insecurities, she wondered if he was being so defensive because their was more to know and her research led to more questions and they were stuck in a negative cycle. They loved each other so much, most of the time had fun, great passion and wanted the same things but the jealousy was ripping through their connection more and more each passing week.
As a relationship counsellor Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as online I have couples who often approach me to support them through jealousy that is negatively affecting their relationship a third of these times it is “retroactive jealousy”.
Retroactive jealousy is where one partner finds it hard to let go of all the obsessive thoughts of their partner’s history, including but not limited to his/her relationships with previous ex’s, how many sexual partners their partner has had in the past and things that their partner has done in previous relationships.
This means a person struggles to accept the fact that their partner has had different kinds of intimate relationships or connections with others previously. They may be happy in their relationship but then a partner get’s a trigger and wants to know what their sex life was like, who they dated just before them etc.
Of course when a couple has children together or share a pet the ex will still be in the picture more. As they will need to continue some form of communication. This can deeply affect someone who experiences retroactive jealousy because not only are they consumed with thoughts of their partners past, they are also having to deal with the ex’s presence in the present. So they experience both types of jealousy.
The difference between general jealousy and retroactive jealousy is retroactive jealousy is worry about whether their partner still loves their ex, if they had a better sex life, relationship.
It’s painful for the sufferer as they are constantly comparing themselves never feeling quite good enough. Often obsessively thinking about their partner and their history. In certain cultures I work with dating before marriage is a big no no, so some will get jealous about their partner even thinking about another man or woman to marry.
Retroactive jealousy can impact a relationship in many ways. A person may constantly question their partner and find it difficult to accept their partner’s past, resulting in negative times together, angry outbursts and silences. The person who has the jealous thoughts often feels out of control and may accuse their partner of cheating or not telling the truth because they cannot let the thoughts go. Of course this can happen with any type of jealousy so it is important to understand what is healthy jealousy and what is toxic jealousy.
Healthy jealously is a passing thought or pang that you feel or think for a second and let it go. It’s a natural sign you love your partner and want to stay happily in love together. Toxic jealousy is something that consumes a person’s mind to the point where they can’t think about anything else unless they are busy.
It’s different to a natural concern in a relationship following a particular incident. Incidents that can trigger this I see time and time again as a relationship counsellor are seeing their partner flirt and being overly friendly with a colleague, friend or random stranger, finding inappropriate messages, collecting a phone number when out, constant praise of someone – they can all create a level of jealousy which is fairly natural response to the events. Of course how it is handled also needs to be in a calm, constructive way that moves a couple together.
When I work with people dealing with retroactive jealousy, their mind is filled with negative thoughts towards their partner; mainly worrying that they can’t live up to their partner’s sexual past, feeling anxious about looking good enough to keep their partner’s interest, have fears their partner will leave them. Sometimes it damages the relationship because people end up making critical judgements too, asking to know all the details and then putting them down for their choices. For example, why did they stay with them so long if they were not happy, how and why did it end etc.
Many I have helped to break free from retroactive jealousy also want to know how much their ex-partner was liked by family, friends and colleagues. And ask questions like did they hang out? “Are they close?” “Are they in touch?” etc. Even thought patterns can be easily changed quickly when doing certain therapy techniques many can feel like their negative thoughts our out of control. Their mind goes into overdrive, they don’t want to be constantly comparing themselves but will feel like they cannot help it. The thoughts go around and around in their mind – affecting their quality of life and relationship enjoyment. It is so important to get support to release these thoughts as they harm the body, mind and soul.
If children are involved it can impact them too. They will sense the tension in words and body language as carrying retroactive jealousy is hard to hide. When you add into the mix an ex who is controlling, not let go of your partner or is using the children as a weapon against your partner it causes a lot of conflict.
In addition to these negative thoughts, someone who is experiencing retroactive jealousy may start to behave in a way that compromises the trust and love between a couple. For example, snooping through their partner’s phone to check what they are up to and who they are speaking to, scrolling through their partner’s old photos and analysing things – looking for things to ensure they are safe and secure but it rarely helps them move any further forward. It often spills out as hurtful remarks, critical judgements all of which creates a low vibe energy.
Due to the cycle of obsessive thoughts and rituals, many mental health professionals place retroactive jealousy under the umbrella of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Retroactive jealousy pushes an individual to become so consumed by their negative thoughts that they become insecure – affecting the way they behave. This is exactly what happens when someone suffers from OCD. They are not able to control the negative thoughts, so they begin to behave in an obsessive way as a means of controlling something in their life.
For example, continuously browsing your partner’s ex’s social media profiles or having to check in on your partner several times a day to see what they are doing. The fact that these negative thoughts are about events in the past, make it even harder to move on from as you can’t change the past.
As with any problems that arise in relationships, there are a number of reasons why a person may find themselves consumed with retroactive jealousy, and more often than not they are as a result of things a person has gone through themselves, rather than a reflection of what their partner has done in the past, for example –
I mentioned Nick and Ali earlier Ali reached out to me and booked a free 20 minute personal breakthrough call on my website, it was evident that Ali was suffering not because Nick didn’t love her but because since childhood she had been comparing herself to others negatively. She had read many self-help books, was exercising and writing a gratitude journal but nothing was working. She had tried traditional counseling and talked it over but nothing made a difference. Yes she understood her problems better but thinking and talking about the thoughts did not make them go away, in fact it was worse after because she felt more guilt and hopeless after exploding.
So she ended up booking my 3 day intensive breakthrough package (3 hours a day for 3 days) which creates fast change by working with the subconscious mind responsible for all our behaviour, emotions, state and perceptions. In this process day 1 we discovered that at 11 years old when attending public school for the first time Ali made a decision that she will never be good enough and that she is easily replaceable. She carried that through into her adult life. Fearing that she would be easily replaced in relationships and easily replaced in the workplace.
As result Ali became a high achiever by fear and self-criticism this made her successful but also miserable. She worried all the time if men really loved her and if her bosses and colleagues really valued her work. Even when they praised her she couldn’t believe or feel it. When we got rid of this old limiting belief and changed this perception for good, she felt instantly lighter and free. She had opened her heart to love and seen her worth and that she was not replaceable. When we switched that belief on a deeper level from I am easily replaceable to I’m irreplaceable her confidence snapped right back in. She felt elevated, happy and free. She stopped comparing herself and body to other women, she began to see and own her beauty. She felt alive as a result of it. Why?
Because the mind can understand wholeness conceptually but only the heart can feel wholeness.
In fact one of the biggest reasons people book my intensive online 3-day personal breakthrough packages for one is because they feel everything they do is never good enough and often recognize that they project this on to their partner also. Meaning everything their partner does is also never good enough. They cannot feel love fully as they have often built a wall around their heart. If that resonates with you and you would like to know more about that do visit my website and book a free 20-minute personal breakthrough session to discuss about it more.