Retroactive Jealousy — The Number One Relationship Killer

Retroactive Jealousy — The Number One Relationship Killer retroactive jealousy — the number one relationship killer
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Dating and relationships are not that straightforward, especially in this day and age, where we have a lot of options at our disposal. We can’t compare them to the medieval times of arranged marriages that were aimed at strengthening family ties or bringing two families/communities together. You barely had an option but to stick to that marriage.

There was nothing like divorce as much because that would mean you’d either be banished from the society or even start a war. You just had to stick to it until the end. In our modern times, we’re now looking at things like compatibility and how someone treats you. You may have been searching for the ‘one’ for quite some time, and you’ve even hired the services of a matchmaker, or you’ve been doing online dating.

After all these efforts, you finally find someone who hits the right spots for you. You’re so excited about it, and you’re now thinking about the times you’ll spend together, the growth, and all those happily-ever-after kind of memories. You now want to settle and build a home together, but there’s just one problem that threatens that relationship in its entirety — not your partner’s present life but your obsession with your partner’s past.

What is Retroactive Jealousy?

Retroactive jealousy, mostly referred to as RJ, is that obsessive and unhealthy interest in your partner’s romantic and sexual past, which consumes you as you seek to know everything they did in the past. It’s the time before they even knew you or met you, but it still bothers you so much that it even threatens the present relationship.

Your partner is not engaging in any kind of behavior in their present life that should make you jealous, but you’re just bothered about what they did in the past. It is jealousy spiraled out of control, and it even makes you feel angry, sad, anxious, disgusted, and controlling, even though you still want to be with your partner.

RJ is when you’re in a relationship and you want to be committed to them, but their past is just so triggering to you. You can’t get over their past, which is eating away at you on the inside, even though you were not even part of it. It’s okay to be curious about your partner’s past, but with RJ, you become overly curious and upset over their involvement with other people before you.

You find yourself engaging in some weird information collection habits (like snooping on their exes or consistently asking their family about their past) as you try to dig up or uncover their history, even when your partner is clearly showing no signs of the past having a grip on the present relationship. It’s just you and your obsession.

Retroactive Jealousy vs. ‘Normal’ Jealousy in a Relationship

We all get jealous once in a while, but RJ is something much different from ‘normal jealousy,’ as it is mostly linked to a threat that is not even present and is very obsessive.

With normal jealousy, it is mostly triggered by current events and new people, while with retroactive jealousy, you’re envious of someone’s past romantic involvements.

When someone is still talking about their ex in the present moment, has mementos, or prioritizes their ex over you, then it’s okay to be jealous about that, and that’s not RJ. However, it can still lead to RJ, especially if they betrayed that trust in the past. If they’re still keeping in touch with their ex without any apparent reason (reasons like having kids together or working together are legitimate), then that’s something you need to address.

What are Some of the Signs of Retroactive Jealousy?

Constantly questioning their past relationships
Spying or stalking them and their exes on social media or in real life
Creating fake accounts just to investigate your partner and their past friends or exes
Mental images of your partner’s past sexual encounters
Ranting or calling out your partner for what they did in the past
Constant anxiety and panic attacks over your partner’s past
Comparing yourself with their exes consistently and wishing you were them
Feeling and thinking your partner will eventually go back to their exes, even when they’ve clearly cut off contact with them
Wishing that your partner had chosen and desired you right from the beginning (only you)
Wishing that your partner didn’t have a past with anyone else

How Do You Deal with Retroactive Jealousy?

There is definitely a cure for retroactive jealousy, as it’s not something that we’re born with. RJ is not much of a choice because the tape is being played inward, and there’s a lot of guilt and shame that someone doesn’t even want to talk about. Retroactive jealousy sufferers often struggle to find the root of why they are having intrusive thoughts about their partner’s past.

It’s not about logically or intellectually discussing it that will address it. We need to understand that retroactive jealousy has nothing to do with your partner’s past; it has everything to do with you. You won’t find the cure by just addressing the symptoms; you’ll deal with it by addressing the root cause.

The root of retroactive jealousy is your deep insecurity and fear, which mostly result from your past experiences. Your underlying subconscious beliefs are what make you feel that you’ll never be good enough for that kind of relationship and that your position is always under threat.

Your subconscious mind is running the show behind the scenes and is the one making most of your decisions or guiding most of your actions in your present life. When you dissolve those subconscious patterns, you’ll be able to see someone for who they are presently and not through the lens of your past painful experiences where you were betrayed or cheated on by someone you trusted.


Retroactive jealousy is the number one relationship killer because it makes it really hard for you to trust your partner. Even when you spend all your time together or have access to all their devices, you still can’t stop yourself from seeing them through the lens of their past instead of who they are presently. The severity of RJ varies from person to person, but the key thing is that it’s related to some level of deep insecurity.

Another thing to note is that extreme RJ can result in some form of abusive or toxic behavior in relationships (someone may become overly controlling or even project their unwanted emotions onto their partner).

Someone may also be afraid of seeking help because they might be labeled as a narcissist. However, there are two kinds of people with RJ: those who don’t want to change or don’t see a need to do anything about it, and those who recognize the consequences of their actions and want to address them.

RJ should not be an excuse to engage in abusive behaviors, and if you really feel that your partner’s past is consuming your thoughts and leading to undesirable behavior, then there’s help available. You can seek assistance to address your deep insecurity, which is the main cause of RJ. You still have a choice to confront it and let go of what’s holding you back from seeing your partner for who they are and enjoying a healthy relationship.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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