In the last post, I described ways in which a man suffering with RJ can come to terms with his partners past. The first step to overcoming any problem is to understand it; facing an array of conflicting emotions such as bitterness, anger, jealousy and sadness over events that you have not experienced as in the case of RJ, can be very overwhelming and confusing to most of us dealing with RJ. Understanding why RJ occurs will enable the sufferer to accept that its not their fault, and that this is merely a distorted way of processing information.
Why Does His Past Bother You So Much?
In the last post, I explained why the sexual past of a woman might induce feelings of RJ in her current male partner (read that here). In this article, I will look at why women suffer from RJ and how certain methods can be employed in order to deal with the consequences.
Women suffer from RJ in a completely different way to men. That isn't to say that its not as important or not as difficult to deal with, but simply that the techniques used for male RJ may not always work for female RJ. When a woman suffers from RJ, she almost always focuses on one or maybe two of her partners exes. Most of the time, the quantity of the sexual partners of her bf/husband does not matter, yet the quality of one relationship will be the crux of the RJ problem. So why does this fundamental difference exist?
I explained in my last post about the cost of childrearing; women invest heavily in rearing offspring in that they are responsible for carrying a pregnancy to term and in raising the child until it is old enough to take care of itself. This process can last well over ten years for humans (longer now in the modern times) and is costly to the mother in terms of her health (pregnancy being a dangerous endeavour) and time (she can only gestate one man's offspring at a time, preventing her from reproducing with other males and propagating her genes further).
Conversely, men donate their DNA via sperm and may provide food and other resources to the mother and child, but do little else leaving them with the time and energy to produce more offspring and carry ont their bloodline with other females. Although this may sound like the 'better deal', it has it downfall in that the paternity of a child is never a guarantee. A man can never be sure that the child he is rearing is his own, unlike a mother can.
Because of the different levels of investment for males and females, their are wired to perceive different traits as being important in a relationship. Men are hardwired to want a less promiscuous female, as that is an indicator that a woman is less likely to end up carrying another man's child, which he would then have to provide for. Women will value the level of commitment in a man, as it shows that he will be the best provider to her and their offspring. These two fundamental differences is the cause of the varying ways in which the two genders experience RJ.
Women And RJ
So now we have the background to what men, and women are hardwired to look for in potential mates, we can go onto the consider why women feel threatened by women in their boyfriend's past who had a significant role.
As discussed above, its all about the man and his ability to provide. The fact that he has 'provided' for an ex, suggests that he is willing to give out his resources. However, although this is a good sign of a provider, it also translates into him potentially sharing his resources with other females. If by chance your boyfriend showered his ex with gifts, but didn't so much as give you a card for your birthday, then this will translate as him being more of a provider to her, than he is to you.
Women Are More Complex
However, its not as simple as that, especially not in this day and age where we have evolved well past the point of running on our base instincts. The biggest change, for both sexes, is the development of an emotional response. Women, more so than men, are very emotional creatures (yes, this is a very generalised view point, but hold true to an extent). The very fact that their boyfriend has shared a deep emotional bond with another woman, can be quite upsetting to some women. For me at least, this was the biggest driving force of my own RJ. The thought that my partner, the man I shared a deep connection, bond and for whom I had a lot of feelings, once shared a similar bond with another woman made me feel physically ill. It seemed as if that him having had such a connection with another somehow lessened the one I had with him. Add to this the made up events that I pictured in my mind, and the number of times the movie of said events played in my head per day, and I can tell you that my life was a living hell.
A Diet of Fairytales
What is your favourite fairytale? Mine was, and still is, Snow White. Regardless of which of the classics you picked, there is always one theme that flows through the all; the idea of a happily ever after with Prince Charming. Never in the fairytales are there ex's; women who have taken Prince Charming's heart before the princess, or the female lead. She is the 'first' the one that truly captures his heart. Is it any wonder then, that growing up on such stories, it feels just a little disappointing that in the real world, you don't get your fairytale ending?
So, in this article I have looked at RJ from the point of view of women. Due to the differences between men and women (and there IS a diference, don't let anyone tell you otherwise!), each gender deals with the same issue, and experiences RJ in slightly different ways. Here, I have highlighted the possible reasons as to what causes these feelings, from an evolutionary prospective as well as that of cultural influences.
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Retrograde Jealousy is of course, another term for retroactive jealousy (RJ). Now, in previous posts, I have already explained that RJ is
1. A form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
2. A distorted way of thinking.
3. Not the fault of you, the victim of a mental disruption.
By knowing these three, fundamental and important points, you can now begin to look at how to control the effects of RJ.
There are no Quick Fixes
Despite my post title there are no quick fixes to RJ. As explained above, it is a form of distorted thinking and as a result, you need to change the fundamental way in which you process information in order to truly overcome RJ. This usually takes weeks, even months (or in my case, years) of 'retraining' your brain to be able to use the information you have about your partner and their ex, and to look at it in a different light, preferably in one that does not cause feelings of jealousy and resentment.
However, I am fully aware that these feelings can suddenly occur without warning and at random. During these moments, getting through this confusing mix of emotions can be very difficult and its quick fixes to these moments that I will discuss in the post.
First identify the triggers. These are basically sounds, smells, or even sights that cause you to react in a retroactively jealous way. For many people, triggers are usually a bit of information such as a past memory about their partner's ex. Or it could be a special film or song, that their parter shared with their ex. Unfortunately for me, it was certain inanimate objects that roused my own complex feelings of resentment and considering I had to encounter these items everyday, I had to quickly develop ways in which to cope. However, I could only implement my coping techniques after I had identified the various stimuli that peaked my RJ. Also, when you find the triggers, you can always avoid them. For me, a certain shop was a trigger, so I just made sure I never went there. There was nothing in that shop that I needed to get, or mattered enough that I would go through the feelings of RJ.
As soon as a trigger is encountered, the feelings of retroactive jealously will begin. Usually, for most people that I have spoken to, the 'mind film' of their partner's ex and their parter together will begin usually with the trigger as the focus point of the film.
For example, in one girl that I spoke to who had suffered with RJ for many years, any stimuli about pregnancy and babies would aggravate her RJ. Now, as you can imagine, this was very difficult for her as babies, baby shops and baby adverts are everywhere! Any form of baby memorabilia would remind her that her partner had got his ex pregnant, the baby was then miscarried and her partner had mourned the loss of the baby along with the baby's mother. Now, for most of you the series of events in her partner's life might seem very logical. However, to the RJ sufferer, this bit of information caused her a great deal of upset. She didn't deal well with the thought of her partner getting another woman pregnant; this aroused in her feeling of resentment and bitterness stemming from the fact that her current partner had once created a life with another woman. That another woman was once worthy of carrying his child, something that she herself one day hoped she would be able to do. Secondly, the fact that her partner and his ex shared a traumatic experience made her feel threatened. To her, this was something that bonded them in a way that her and her partner could never bond.
Let me add that this girl, when not gripped by RJ, was rational enough to recognise that her way of thinking was not appropriate; to feel jealous over a pregnancy is one thing, but to feel resentment over the loss of baby and any bond that she felt was forged over this event, is clearly an indication of her distorted way of thinking. She didn't want to think or feel this way, but she could not help it.
So clearly, anything can trigger an RJ attack and when this happens, try to do the following;
1. Take a deep breath and focus on the way you inhale the air.
2. Feel the air going in, expanding your lungs and lifting your torso.
3. Hold the breath to the count of five.
4. Exhale as fast as you can and exhale as fully as you can.
Concentrate on the four steps as you are doing it and you will see that you no longer have cerebral resources to both think of your 'mind film' and to conduct the breathing exercise.
Your brain has the ability to have one thought at a time. If a trigger starts to make you feel emotions related to RJ, then switch the thought with something else. I personally, used this technique and I would have to hand things I could think about instead that helped me not start my own 'ind film'. As I was a student at the time, I had plenty of information to memorise and each time a stimulus triggered my RJ, I would recite my notes. You can do this with anything. I know someone who used a small poem, and would chant that each time they felt RJ surfacing.
Today, I highlighted three ways in which you can quickly prevent the beginnings of RJ; identify and avoid trigger stimuli, breathing techniques and thought control. As you can see, these are quick methods that can be employed to immediately prevent the feelings of RJ cropping up. However, these are not enough to deal with your RJ, as it is a much deeper seated problem, involving thought processes. There are more permanent solutions that can be used to keep RJ at bay, and these will be discussed in a following post.
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
Part One: Deal with Her Past- Guide for Men.
In the first of a two part post, I will be looking retrograde jealousy from the two gender perspectives, as each of the sexes will experience RJ in different ways to one another. Also, the thoughts and triggers of RJ in males and females are different, and by knowing how they come into play we can gain a better understanding of RJ and find ways to deal with it.
What Is It About Her Past?
Although RJ affects both males and females, I have found that men to be the most affected by it. I don't mean to trivialise the effects of RJ in women, far from it. I, personally suffered a lot during my battle with RJ but, from speaking to many RJ suffers it seems that most are male, and they almost exclusively focus on the sexual aspect of their gf/wives past whereas the female suffers tend to focus more on high-commitment relationships that their partners have had with other women. So why does each gender focus on different aspects of their partners past relationships?
Since the dawn of time, there has been an imbalance of sexual power. Men had to attract the attention of females, and females tended to have the pick of many males. This has always been the general rule; men show off and attract, females then pick the best man to mate with. The reason for this is simple, women get to choose as they bear the full responsibility of pregnancy and most of the burden of child rearing. As they invest so heavily in their offspring (whereas men only offer their genetic material and provide food) women have to make sure they don't waste their time, resources and health by mating with the wrong man. He has to have good genetics, that he is able to pass on to her offspring and be a consistent and committed provider of food and other resources.
On the flip side, although men do not have to invest as much in the pregnancy and childrearing, they have no way of knowing for sure that the woman he has mated with is carrying his offspring. She could just as easily have mated with another male, and be carrying his genetic material. If this is the case, the first man would waste his time and resources providing for a child that is not his own. Remember, only the maternity of a child is guaranteed as there is physical proof of the mother's identity during the pregnancy. Paternity is a lot more flexible.
And its for this very reason that RJ hits men from a sexual standpoint.
Too Many Sexual Partners for a Woman = RJ in Men.
As explained above, men can easily end up providing for offspring that is not his, and its this evolutionary hard-wiring that causes modern day anxiety in men in the form of RJ. Men focus on the number of sexual partners, and tend to feel more threatened by casual sex, more so than if their partners had sex with one man within a loving, committed relationship. This is because it suggests to the man that if his gf/wife is able to indiscriminately have sex with random men, then there is a chance that any offspring that she produces have a chance of being some other man's.
You may be thinking that you have no intention of having children anytime soon wit your gf, but that does not matter, we are wired to use past behaviour to predict future behaviour. You may not actively want to have children with your partner but that stress and anxiety about their past will still play out. Couple this to the fact that RJ is a form of OCD (as discussed here) and you a lot of negative feelings that affect your day to day life.
So What Can be Done?
First of all, accept that your gf/wife lives in 2011. This is not the same as living in caves before language and basic tools. We have evolved so much since then; we are able to speak and comunicate, empathise and understand. Our brains have increased in size and complexity. We have developed various cultures, customs and norms. In the Western World, one of these norms is sexual freedom. People can express themselves sexually however they please, both men and women have the right to enjoy sexual relationships with one another without these unions resulting in offspring. To aid this, we have even invented contraception. Sex is no longer for reproductive purposes alone, it can now be for pleasure and to express love in a physical way.
2. Its Not Her, Its Your Reaction.
Your wife/gf had just as much right to engage in sexual activity (whilst she was single or with another bf) as anyone else and this should not be thought of as anything 'bad'. It should not affect you to the degree it does, and the only reason that it does is because RJ is a form of OCD. Even men who don't suffer from RJ may momentarily wish his gf/wife had not had many partners, but they are able to not dwell on this and focus on the relationship they have with their partner in the present. RJ suffers will take these thoughts and make them intrusive, or rather their mind does. This in turn causes the suffer to react in a specific way; with anger or bitterness, and this is when RJ starts to control their life.
Learning to react to these feelings in a different way is a good first step into combating RJ. Decide that your partner did not do anything wrong, then decide that when you start to feel intrusive thoughts you will stop and say 'she did nothing wrong, I will not feel negatively about her past actions'. Each time you start to feel the grips of RJ, repeat this to yourself.
3. Try to Keep Your Mind Occupied.
To much time on my hands resulted in my obsession with my partner's past. Make sure the same does not happen to you by occupying your mind. Read something new, learn a skill or a language, get stuck into work or try to meditate. All of this works in easing the affects of RJ, in the short term. Longer term fixes require months of work and self development and these will be looked at in a post in the near future.
In this post, I looked at ways in which RJ affects men specifically and considered some quick-fixes to the problem. In the next post, I will look at RJ from the female perspective and will identify the key differences between how RJ affects men and women.
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
This is perhaps one of the most asked questions regarding RJ and I for one have typed this into various search engines trying to find the answer to end my suffering. There is no one concrete answer, but there are methods and techniques that you can employ in order to control the intensity of RJ, which is in fact the first step to overcoming the problem.
Mental Images and Videos
Most, if not all RJ suffers I have spoken to, (both males and females) agree that the most painful and debilitating symptom of RJ are the metal images, or a 'mind video' that plays continuously in their heads of their partners with other people. Men tend to envision very sexually explicit videos of their partners; usually another man giving their gf/wives intense pleasure during sex. Females, and I incude myself in this, tend to focus more on the emotional aspects of their partner's previous relationship; imagining scenarios where the bf is telling another woman he loves her, thinking about them cuddling or even their bf's being generous and kind to their ex's. The gender differences as to why RJ is so different in men and women will be considered in another post, for now lets focus on getting rid of RJ.
What You Can Do To Lessen the Pain of RJ
So, we have these mental images and videos that play consistently and repeatedly in our minds. They are fabricated by details that we glean from our partners, the images are made up by our own minds and we play them over and over again, feeling anxious, stressed, angry, bitter, sad, jealous... and so on, each and every time that we play these videos in our heads. Now, lets break down this process into why its happening and what can be done about it.
1. Repeatedly Playing Mental Videos
The reason why the videos is played over and over is quite simple. RJ is a form of OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For those of you not aware of this disorder; it is a recognised mental ailment listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the main diagnostics used by psychiatrists and psychologists to determine mental disorders. OCD manifests itself in some people as repetitive behaviours that they feel compelled to carry out but for others, as intrusive obsessive thoughts, which continue to play in a loop with little or no respite. For many, these can be overtly sexual or violent thoughts and if this is you, please consider getting some professional help. However, for most of us the loop, you guessed it, is details of our partners past. RJ suffers are obsessed with thinking these thoughts, its almost out of their hands, they are compelled to think these repetitive thoughts.
Now that you are aware RJ is a part of OCD, it becomes easier accept why you suffer from it as you are now aware that its a real disorder. This does not mean you are weak, mad or crazy. It just means that for whatever reason, be it environmental or genetic you have developed a slightly distorted way of dealing with unpleasant thoughts. Whilst most people dismiss such thoughts, RJ suffers will continue to play it like a video in their heads. Don't blame yourself for being this way, you are if anything, a victim of a disorder. Its just as cruel to berate and punish yourself for this, as it is to hold a schizophrenic accountable for their actions.
At this point, you can either consider therapy or if thats not an option due to affordability, you can do the following for the time being:
Repeat this each time you feel the need to play that video: Its not me, its OCD. Its not me, its OCD.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really does help, simply because your mind is so busy focusing on that sentence, that it does not have time to start the video! Your mind can only deal with one thought at a time, and with RJ one thought is all that is required to start that video of your partner and his/her ex. STOP this thought in its tracks, by shouting ITS NOT ME, ITS OCD! Really THINK the sentence, picture the words in your head, shout it if you are alone, feel the words coming out of your mouth and by doing this you will stop the video playing. Say this until its all you can think of, then move on to another, unrelated thought.
Therapy is a very personal choice, and I have heard that it does wonders for RJ and if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, I highly suggest you get some professional guidance. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, hypnotherapy, etc are all different methods to dealing with various disorders.
2. The Contents of the Video
Above, I told you that the video and images are made up by us. I personally, did not know my partners ex nor did I know him at the time they were together. We met years after their break-up and he was, by his own admission, a completely different person. Years and experiences have a vast effect on a person and I didn't doubt this for a second. So how was I able to produce such a detailed mental video? I had to ask questions about his relationship.
STOP ASKING FOR DETAILS.
Seriously, whatever stage of RJ you are at, be it the initial stages where you only have the odd thought or even if you you are full-blown obsessed with his/her past relationships, stop quizzing your other half for more details. Its akin to throwing more wood into the fire, it will only cause it to burn more intensely and dangerously, spit crackle and destroy everything in its path. You do not need anymore information about their relationship, the job now is trying not to think about what you do know, adding more to the list just heightens the problem.
3. Is the Video True to Life.
More than likely, the answer to this question is a resounding No. Were you there when the relationship between your partner and his/her ex was in progress? No? Then you have no way of knowing what the relationship was like, you only have a fabricated representation of what you think the relationship was like. This is called confabulation, and in the subject of psychology this is the term given to a narrative or report of an event that never took place. We all have perceptions of how things are meant to be. If I asked you to describe what a perfect relationship is, chances are they will be very different to what I think a perfect relationship entails. We all have our own special mental representations for almost every event, senario and object. Our minds use these representations to order and sort things into neat and orderly concepts that are easily accessed when required (like when a blogger asks you to describe a perfect relationship, for example) and although they are useful, they cause havoc when it comes to RJ.
When imagining our partners with their ex's, we use details we know and mould them into what our mental representations instruct us about how a relationship 'is supposed to be'. Of course, this is entirely confabulated because the real relationship between your partner and their ex, was based on their mental representations of a relationship played out with huge influence from reality. You see, when our mental representations are put into play in real life, they don't always work out as they do in our minds simply because we are no longer the master of it, as day to day activities and the actions of others (which we have no control of) affect the relationship. So not only, are you fabricating a relationship in your own mind, you are also using details provided by your partner who perceives their past through their mental representations. Its like Chinese whispers, what the last person says is rarely ever an accurate mimic of what the first person whispered.
So, stop playing this useless video. Whenever you get the urge to do so or find yourself doing so, remind yourself its pure fiction much like a film or a book, and although you may feel emotions such as anger and resentment there is no point in holding on to these feelings. Its not like you come out of a romance film and feel sentimental for the following month!
Above, I have highlighted some of the reasons why we suffer from RJ and things you can do to put a stop to the intensity of the problem;
1. Accept that its not your fault, RJ is a form of OCD and should be treated as such.
2. Stop asking for more details about your partners previous relationship, it only fuels the thoughts and insecurities of RJ.
3. Realise that the mental images have no value or meaning. They are made up by you, based on your mental representations and do not depict the relationship of your partner and his/her ex as it actually was. Treat it like a film or a book and don't get attached to your video, its all just make believe.