Tuesday, 2 August 2011

How To Overcome Retroactive Jealousy

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. 


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. 


  1. What do you do though if your partner and his ex are parents together and see each other and consider themselves best friends. Also, signs point to him still having feelings for her over and over again. I am trying to not fall prey to this disorder through exactly the ideas you presented but, with the facts right in front of me, now I am letting those destructive thoughts in more and more often. I don't know, I guess I am confused and scared of having to make a choice of ultimately leaving.

  2. My situation was made worse because my wife's ex was the best man at her brother's wedding. Incredibly, her brother didn't even tell my wife that he would be there, and he was there as a member of the wedding party! My wife was ambushed by this guy at the wedding, and he gave her a very strong hug and embrace (even though he dumped her years previously because he "didn't have feelings for her anymore", very strange considering how he greeted her). Then my wife of 4 months (at the time) proceeded to introduce me to this man. Based on how warmly he embraced her, I knew he was an ex, but I did the polite thing and shook his hand and said "very nice to meet you" even though I wanted to punch him in the face. Now this vision of him hugging her and shaking my hand haunts me 24 hours a day. When watching them hug, all I could picture was the two of them having sex....and what makes it worse is I knew where he lived and every time I drive by that house, I look up into the bedroom window picturing what happened, picturing what he did to my wife. I understand it was before I knew her, but that does not help. I can't sleep or eat, I'm always irritable, suffer from crying spells, and can't focus on what I need to in order to live my life. I have been to various therapists but nothing helps. I desperatley need to find a way to overcome this problem before I kill myself.

    1. If your wife had to choose between you and him, she would choose you every time. You're the one that's married to her and the one who's having sex with her. This other guy doesn't even compare. Just remember that. Their relationship ending was destined to happen, whether it was him ending it or her.

    2. Hey have you ever wondered that your wife's ex did exactly want he wanted to achieve with you??? He probably knew who you were and wanted to make you feel jealous and insecure as he was feeling that way on the day... remember they split for a reason, she moved on and met you and married and started to have a wonderful life with you and not him. He has probably harboured so many regrets so therefore he wanted to spoil everyone's day by being a total tool. Your wife was probably taken aback as he probably never showed her that affection ever so he thought that he'd turn it up on the day and make a spectical out of himself and the situation. You were more of a man and not only that, don't you think that other people would have admired you and detested him for being so "hands on". Your wife would have been totally embarrassed by the embrace and thought his actions were inappropriate and tried to laugh it off. Exes do strange things to attract attention to themselves when they are so unhappy about the way their lives have turned out, he is so envy of you.. I'm surprised that you can't see that. My partners ex has posted crap on the internet about claims of domestic violence and had some articles published we ended up getting legsls onto this, which she couldn't substantiate, as she was just hurt that he had moved on and found a better and a happy life. She was the violent one, who lied and cheated but wanted the control over him, which she had lost after all the emotional blackmail. All exes want is you to be as miserable as they are when things don't go their way, it's taken me years to get my head around his ex but I thought she did what she did because it was the only thing she knew at the time to do, so that's what your wife's ex has done he did what he thought was best at the time to make someone hurt because he was or has been hurting about his life not turning out the way he wanted it to be. He didn't want her as he thought that he could have met someone better but instead she has moved on and found blissful happiness and he is some sad sack still trying to get his life together. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personality so don't give this man any more credit as he doesn't deserve any for hurting your wife or yourself, she'd never have him back and you don't know what happened between them who knows they may have lived a life of celibancy for all you know. Don't question it any longer, you have a great marriage and a future ahead of you, stop yourself from looking for something that isn't even there, he doesn't want your wife he made that loud and clear to her years ago! Enjoy your life with your wife!

  3. Thank you so much for this post. This actually made me happy as I have been trapped with these "independent films" for so long.

    I really feel this will help me change my thought patterns.

  4. thank you so much for this blog,i realised that i do suffer from RJ due to my husband being married previously,atleast now i know what the root of the problem is and ways i can work on it.thank you

  5. I too suffer from RJ. I have never once asked my husband for details about his past sexual relationships. He freely told me sexual stories about he and his exes. I was too stupid and embarrassed to stop him. I hope I am strong enough to stop this.

  6. I have suffered from intrusive thoughts and images of my boyfriend and his ex for the last couple of months. She constantly posted on his facebook page, even after he had broken up with her. Their whole relationship was visible on the Facebook timeline, as well as multiple pictures (which my ex has since deleted). I want this to go away so badly and enjoy my relationship with my boyfriend.

    1. I too had that problem.
      My girlfriend had pictures of people of former relationships on her facebook because they were friends now but I kindly ask her to take the photos because it was stopping me from getting better since when I was going to her facebook I had to see her ex-relationships. She agreed and it helped a bit because it's also a sign that the person on the other side understands thats you need his/her help!

  7. Hi, I have a bad dose of this retroactive jealousy thing, I met a girl when I was 21 we instantly fell in love, she had not long left her x boyfriend who introduced her to drugs [crystal meth]between him and me she had quite a premiscuis stage [if that's spelt right]she had slept with 6 people in a short period and also done drugs with them, these people were my friends at the time and a couple of them were my enemies to, she instantly stopped drugs when she met me, im known for being against drugs because I lost 2 older brothers to heroin when I was younger,i occasionaaly smoke a bit of weed though while fishing or working on the bikes in the shed [anyway] we moved to a mining town brought a house together and had a three and a half year relationship before my jealousy and name calling broke the relationship down to nothing, she left, she went back on drugs with some looser for a couple months before she moved away and got herself together she met a good guy and got married and had a beautiful daughter and became the person I always wanted, the whole time I just dweeled on the past and never let any girls get close to my heart at all, she would contact me every 6 months or so to say hi and she missed me, I never spoke to her for about a year and I contacted her and found she was very unhappy with life and her husband just due to him not being the right person for her [nothing against him he sounds like a good person and I always hoped she was happy]she left him we started seeing each other again but all the thoughts flooded back into my head plus more from when she left me and went back on drugs, im 30 now and still dwell about the things that happened before I met her at 21 and its pushed her away again before we got to close because she is thinking of her daughter wich is totally understandable, my old group of friends broke into 2 groups the normal good blokes who are quite successful and the drug addict looser in and out of jail [rape charges, home invasions and all sorts of low acts] so I have nothing to do with the people she slept with anymore and they fear me and walk the other way when weve crossed paths, without trying to sound like hero I have quite a repution around the area as a tough guy and not to be messed with and have had multiple fights with 4 of these guys from me causing it [never lost though], I know were all the hook ups happened and when and who with, from me asking so many questions over the years and replay the images over and over its killing me, shes always told me to get counselling but iv brushed it of and called it week but I know shes right and iv also thought I could do better but simply loved her to much and she made me happy, if I change I have a chance to make this work still, this is the first time iv spoken about it and id just like a outside opinion before I do get counselling, is there to much there to fix? iv thought about killing myself just because its been in my head for so long and its the only problem iv come across that I cant fix but I know that would kill my parents who I run a family trucking business with not to mention all my mates who no nothing about my problem, its easy to put on a brave face but its a big mess inside

    1. It does mess you up so go get some counseling. Its better to be rid of this problem than to have it affect your present and future relationships. The more you let it affect you the more poisonous it becomes. I wanted to kill myself because of rj too...

    2. I wanted to add a few words if for nothing else just to express my sympathy and understanding to rj sufferers .
      I have endured this in four loving relationships over a period of approx 25 years . There were long spells between I should say .
      I've learnt that it really is a state of mind more than anything else .So I have to agree wholeheartedly with the OCD angle of this website .
      You think everything will be peaceful if your partner says this or does that or you find a new partner with a more acceptable past .
      My current girlfriend ( love no.4 ) spent the first few months telling me far more than I wanted to hear . I would be happy knowing almost nothing . She became defensive and argumentative if I said I didn't want to hear it . Odd thing is her past is actually not too bad , she is not local , I would nt have been exposed to exes . However her endless details have created a rj that could have been so avoidable . I haven't been able to forgive her for what I feel is an unneccessary torment for me .

  8. Thanks for this blog! It has been helping a lot. My gf (which I love a lot) has a strange past with a relationship (sex buddy) with a best friend (man) and after that a long relationship with a girl (which was the only one that she had - she's not lesbian). I am struggling about for 1 year to cast away those information that I gattered about it all and to delete the movies of her with them that strike me almost everyday! But now that Im getting better I have another problem. She is friends with them. The guy and the girl. I don't think that I can stand for this also because I think that everytime that she is going to be with them and me (at the same time) I'll be forced to confront myself against the memories of her past! What should I do when she wants to be with them? I already told her a hundred times my limitations and fears but she still wants to be friends with them! I wish that she just deleted them of her life and consenquently of my life! Please advise! Thank you so much!

  9. Thanks for the post. One of the few out there that actually talks sense about this subject. I found great relief in reading this book also: http://www.retroactivejealousycrusher.com/