Retroactive Jealousy

Written by
Michael Wells

Retroactive Jealousy

What is it?

Written by
Michael Wells

Retroactive Jealousy

What is it?

Written by
Michael Wells

This article is part of the series 

Retroactive Jealousy


This series is under development and further articles will be added soon.

“I keep having thoughts of my girlfriend’s sexual past, and they create huge anxiety for me. It’s killing my relationship. How do I overcome this?”
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Retroactive Jealousy is an intensely difficult experience for many people.

If you’re not familiar with the term, it describes a situation in which a person is in a romantic relationship, and feels intense jealousy about their partner’s sexual past - certain sexual encounters and relationships that occurred before they even met.

You might think this is an unusual and rare problem - but it has become so increasingly common that it now has its own acronym- “RJ.”

What do I mean by increasingly common?  Well... in the past 10 years, searches for the term “retroactive jealousy” on Google have increased by about 800%.

This is important to see, because if you or someone you care about is suffering from RJ, it's important to see that you're not broken, and you're not alone.

How does Retroactive Jealousy cause Suffering?

RJ creates a surprisingly wide range of problems for the person suffering.

  • Constant anxiety, which is attached directly to their partner, the person they love most. That means love, combined with fear and anxiety- or in the most extreme situations, a love-hate relationship.
  • Sexual anxiety, a feeling that maybe, they’re not “good enough” in the sack. Of course this makes sex less fun, but it also can create sexual disfunction. For men, erectile dysfunction is not uncommon, and for women, an inability to relax, enjoy sex, and to experience orgasm.
  • Often, vividly imagined mental videos of all kinds of crazy pornographic experiences that they imagine their partner must have had.
  • Fear, that the partner might be unsatisfied with them, and leave them.
  • Resentment towards your partner, that they somehow did something wrong, and that they've hurt you- even though they didn't even know you at that point in their lives.
  • Constant stress, frustration, a feeling of being "trapped," unable to stay, or go, in the relationship. Sleepless. Agitation, anger... and much more.

More than one victim

But when someone is suffering from RJ, they’re not the only one in pain. It creates just as serious problems for their partner...

  • Having a moody partner, who is sullen and touchy, and perhaps even depressed at times
  • Feeling resentment and anger from their partner at times
  • Difficulties connecting emotionally with their partner
  • General lack of trust, and unwarranted suspicion, in the relationship
  • New intimacy challenges in the bedroom, including erectile dysfunction (ED) for men, and female sexual arousal disorders (FASD) for women.
  • Feelings of shame about their past
  • Feeling shamed by their partner, about their past

If you are suffering from RJ, then your partner is too - because Retroactive Jealousy hits right at the center of the relationship.

Suffering, everywhere

When your partner is the source of your anxiety, and intimacy only amplifies that anxiety... where do you go from there?

Sufferers of Retroactive Jealousy feel absolutely trapped. 

They cannot leave the relationship, without feeling huge pain and heartbreak. They cannot go deeper into intimacy, without feeling more jealousy.

There’s no enemy to fight, or to run.

And you can’t solve it by setting boundaries- because there is no behavior your partner can change to make things better.

If you’re experiencing these things right now, I feel for you.

Read on.

How does Retroactive Jealousy harm Relationships?

With these intense emotions existing between the partners in a relationship, RJ tends to destroy relationships from within.

The emotional pressure is so intense that these warped perceptions and unresolved emotions end up warping the behavior of both partners.

It builds resentment

Over time, people who suffer from RJ tend to feel resentment towards their partner. Any time we feel pain, our brain immediately looks outside of us for the cause of that pain, first

With RJ, your brain says “she/he is causing my pain.”

The result of this is that you’ll feel anger towards your partner for their past choices, even though they couldn’t have known they would ever meet you.

The result of this thinking is that people suffering from RJ often shame their partners. 

“You having sex in your past relationship was wrong.”

Shaming your partner might make you feel better momentarily, as though you’ve taken some sort of revenge for the pain you’ve been caused... but your partner did not intend to cause you pain- and what can they do about their past?

Nothing at all.

It's confusing... and intellectually dishonest

If you're honest, you'll notice there's a bit of hypocrisy here too. You are making the same choices they did, and asking them to make the same choices again- because the full statement you are making is likely...

“You having sex in your past relationship was wrong... even though of course I want you to have sex with me."

According to the Daily Mail, the average relationship lasts 2 years and 9 months. That means, there's a pretty big chance that this will not be your last relationship, or your partner's last relationship. There will probably be some else in your future, and someone else in theirs.

The is all quite possible, because... we're human. We change, we grow, we want different things. Or we get bored, and we want new experiences. Welcome to being human.

So how would those future people feel, looking back at your sexual relationship together? Might they feel some retroactive jealousy towards you, and towards your partner- just like you are feeling that towards your partner and their ex-partner?

Sure seems like a possibility- and seeing that might help you see why RJ thinking is a bit warped from the ground up.

It adds sexual shame to your relationship

But wait, there’s more.

And you’d better sit down for this one, because it's a doozy.

When you shame your partner about sex, you shame them about all sex...
Including sex with you.

If you want an intimate, special relationship with your partner, full of love and connection, this is pretty much the worst possible thing you can do.

Are you banging your head against your monitor right now?

I’m fully aware that some of you experiencing RJ haven’t considered these realities - which is exactly why I’ve pointed them out.

I know it hurts, but it's important to see the truth clearly.

Retroactive Jealousy is not something you can ignore, or pretend that it will go away.

So let’s kill it.

Read more articles about...

This article is part of the series 

Retroactive Jealousy


This series is under development and further articles will be added soon.

First published on 
August 12, 2020
. Last updated on 
August 12, 2020

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