Have you ever asked a new boyfriend or girlfriend about their former love life, discovered information about their romantic or sexual past, and then wished you hadn’t asked?
Unfortunately, many of us fall into this trap when we meet someone new. Even if we don’t ask, new partners can often volunteer information about their past lovers. Either way, certain images and thoughts can get implanted in the mind which can be extremely hard to remove. Founder of Retroactive Jealousy Crusher, Jeff Billings shares his tips on how to stop obsessing over your partner’s past.
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This is exactly what happened to me a few years ago. Even discovering that my anxiety had a name — “retroactive jealousy” — and researching it for hours didn’t help. Images of my girlfriend having sex with multiple “friends-with-benefits” right before we met played over and over in my head, much like a form of OCD.
Below are two main emotions behind retroactive jealousy and tips on how you can suppress each and finally stop obsessing over your partner’s past.
Retroactive jealousy, like “regular” jealousy, is a fear based emotion. It’s a manifestation of a deep-rooted anxiety that we may lose our partner, and is usually caused by a lack of self-worth. It’s very hard to become overcome by retroactive jealousy OCD without also suffering from a lack of confidence in some respects.
In this sense, the repetitive images of your partner with an ex-lover don’t have anything to do with the past, but with the future. In some sense you may be worrying that, although you may be with them now in the present, there’s a chance you may lose them in the future. And the repetitive images are simply a manifestation of this fear — your brain’s way of saying: “Wait, are you sure this person isn’t going to hurt you?”
What to do about fear: work on your self-confidence
Is there something specific you can pinpoint as a cause of your insecurity? Write down all the ways you feel inadequate somehow and ways you don’t respect yourself. Maybe you don’t think you earn enough money? Or you think you’re overweight? Or underweight? Have a good hard think about what it is about yourself that you’re not so confident about — something that you fear your partner may find in someone else. Then get to work tackling it. Anything you write down is what needs to be tackled head on, through action. Once you do, you’ll find your retroactive jealousy begin to feel more insignificant the more confident you become.
To a large extent becoming afflicted by retroactive jealousy also means being judgmental of a partner’s choices, actions and behaviours. This usually entails feeling that they shouldn’t have done certain things in the past, and shouldn’t behave in a certain way in the present. Consequently, previous sexual behaviours and relationships in the past — as well as behaviours in the present, such as keeping in contact with an ex-lover — are all looked down on.
What to do about judgment: learn to trust your partner
Much of the cause of being judgmental can be found in harbouring a lack of trust toward your partner. The reason why you might look down your nose in judgment at their past actions is because deep down you don’t 100 percent trust them. You’re obsessed with their past because you feel like it’s somehow still who they are, in the present.
Here’s a great way to help lessen any trust issues you may have: observe your partner talking to someone they may find attractive, while also observing how you feel about it. Go to a bar, house party, or any kind of social function and, rather than sticking to them like glue, observe them engaging with other people. As you do this, notice any negative thoughts and emotions arising within you. But the trick is to not act on these emotions but to just observe them, and this will lessen their intensity.
You might find that the first time you try this you’ll be filled with negative emotions, but by the fifth time you’ll hardly care at all. In other words, the more you practice simply observing your emotions in these situations, the easier it is to learn to trust your partner and consequently stop being so judgmental about their past.
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