When you’re in a relationship, it’s natural to want to find out about their previous partners. In most instances, it’s to find out how well your partner manages conflicts. You can also find out a lot about them when you learn about why and how things ended. The more civil or amicable your partner was, the better the security of your relationship. But sometimes, the relationship that was sounds a little too good and it increases anxiety in yours. You begin to question how secure things are and think that your partner’s past relationships are a threat to yours. This is known as retroactive jealousy.
Jealousy is common in relationships. It’s ok to feel like you may lose your partner’s attraction to someone else. When you compare their past relationships, however, it can feel a little irrational. Becoming obsessed with your partner’s past can damage your current relationship. If your partner is still close with their ex and you’re worried that they’ll leave you for them, it may be best to communicate with them.
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What causes retroactive jealousy?
It can happen suddenly or over a long period. Retroactive jealousy can be triggered by feeling like your partner did more for their ex than they did for you. It can also be caused by low self-esteem, past cheating by your partner, hormonal fluctuations, brain injury, chronic medical conditions, or insecure attachment styles. You can also find yourself feeling retroactive jealousy if your partner claims they’re no longer close with their ex but keeps mementos from their past. Attachment Styles And How They Affect Relationships
Sometimes it can also be a symptom of existing mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis, and anxiety. However, only a licenced and trained physician can make this diagnosis.
Signs of retroactive jealousy
When you find yourself being more intrusive than curious about your partner’s past relationships, you may be showing signs of retroactive jealousy. This also includes cyberstalking the ex, going through your partner’s belongings, denigrating your partner’s exes, or putting yourself down when compared to your partner’s exes.
In addition, you may start accusing your partner of wishing that you were their ex. It may not be a rational feeling, but it’s serious. It can cause a rift between you and your partner. Retroactive jealousy can also lead to snooping, distrust, and sabotage.
How to overcome retroactive jealousy
When you feel overwhelmed by these irrational feelings towards your partner’s ex, you don’t want them to take over your life or your mental health. You can overcome any type of jealousy through some work on yourself or even with your partner’s help.
1. Take a step back
If you find yourself consumed with feelings of jealousy towards your partner’s exes, try to take a step back. Grounding yourself helps you take stock of what you have and your emotional needs. Using a journal or meditating can help you figure out what’s making you insecure. If your relationship is still new, it could be that you’re still unsure of where you stand. If the relationship is a bit older, you or your partner may have done something to trigger your insecurities. You also need to understand what it is you want. Do you need reassurance? Are you trying to test your partner to see how much they can withstand? You also need to remember your value.
Communicating with your partner can also help you navigate such emotions. If you’re honest with them, they may assuage your feelings and say or do something that calms your fears and doubts. In addition, communicating helps them understand that you’re undergoing something emotional. This gives more room for grace and patience. If you don’t share how you feel with your partner and they think you’re simply being irrational, they may be unintentionally dismissive or hurtful.
3. Avoid social media
Social media can increase your feelings of jealousy. If you keep looking at couples posting their happy times, it can make you feel irrationally angry. If your partner’s ex is successful, glamourous and they had images with your partner still up, it can make you feel jealous. Comparing yourself with your partner’s ex will only make you feel worse and punish your partner for something out of their control.
4. Get help
If you have underlying mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, it can make retroactive jealousy a lot worse. If you have co-dependency, separation anxiety, dependent personality disorder, and trauma, your jealousy becomes a lot worse. A therapist can help you navigate these conditions and manage your jealousy.
What to do if your partner is experiencing retroactive jealousy
If you see your partner exhibiting signs of retroactive jealousy, confronting them may make them hostile. Gently bringing up why they may be concerned about your ex can help them overcome their jealousy. In addition, you may also get a chance to reassure them they have nothing to be insecure about. Giving them a safe space to be vulnerable, or encouraging them to talk with someone else they’re close with can help.
Sometimes your partner can feel jealous because they feel you do less for them and did more for your ex. This may be the case depending on the quality of life you have. However, your current partner can feel like you don’t do enough for them. Try to create new memories with them to help. You can also monitor your actions to see what you could have done to trigger their jealousies. Things You Should Never Say To Your Partner No Matter How Angry You Are
In the worst-case scenario, your partner may be unwilling to let go of their obsessive feelings. In this instance, you may need to examine your relationship and decide if it’s better to go on a break.
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