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.