Jealousy in a romantic relationship can sometimes be helpful, especially when the individual responds to the emotion with a mature frame of mind. For example, jealousy can help an individual become more aware of his or her true feelings for the other person. He or she can mend erring ways to become a more attentive or affectionate partner.
Jealousy is toxic if it causes the partner to treat the other person in the relationship disrespectfully. Jealousy can cause the person to resort to manipulative behaviors and controlling tendencies, which can be damaging to the relationship.
Raising the toxicity level of the relationship is the form of jealousy where an individual feels angry, upset, or disturbed about the partner’s past romantic relationships. This obsession with one’s partner’s romantic past is called Retroactive Jealousy.
When Does Retroactive Jealousy Become an Issue?
An occasional occurrence of jealousy is normal. But continuous and obsessive thoughts about a partner’s past relationships are indicative of retroactive jealousy. Sometimes, sufferers imagine their partner’s previous relationships and play them over and over in their minds.
Such obsessive mental patterns lead to damaging behaviors, which keep repeating over time. The sufferer and the affected partner become entangled in a toxic cycle of obsessive behaviors. Relationships take a worse turn, eventually coming to an end.
Signs of Retroactive Jealousy
It is important to understand the symptoms of retroactive jealousy. This knowledge enables you to differentiate between normal feelings of jealousy and obsessive tendencies.
Retroactive jealousy is marked by emotional and behavioral changes. The sufferer undergoes emotional disturbances, which give rise to negative behaviors.
- A constant and irrational fear of losing the partner to his/ her ex-partners.
- Fear engenders feelings of insecurity, which plants seeds of doubt in the sufferer’s mind. The sufferer constantly suspects if the partner loves him/ her.
- The sufferer feels envy for the partner. He/ she starts feeling that the relationship is unfair as the partner has had more sexual experience than him/ her.
Toxic behaviors that indicate retroactive jealousy include:
- Abnormal internet browsing. The sufferer peeks into his/ her partner’s emails and social media profiles to know more about the partner’s past.
- Feelings of insecurity drive the sufferer to constantly question the partner about their past relationships.
- These negative feelings cause the sufferer to indulge in behaviors such as degrading the partner’s values for having had past relationships.
- Sufferer makes sarcastic and cruel remarks at partner’s romantic past.
- Sufferers become incapable of understanding their emotions. They browse the internet incessantly to understand their mental state. Worse, they search for information that validates such mental state.
- Sufferers keep brooding and replaying their thoughts, which makes the situation worse. They find themselves trapped in their own thoughts.
How to Handle and Overcome Retroactive Jealousy?
Experiencing retroactive jealousy is hard. Living with it is harder both for you and your partner. But it is possible to overcome the toxic feelings and behaviors associated with retroactive jealousy.
Accept You Have a Problem
Understand that having retroactive jealousy does not mean you are a horrible person. Shed the stigma and accept your current mental state as an issue that can be addressed.
Accept to yourself that your feelings, behavior, and your mental state, are a problem. Denying the problem prevents you from taking a positive step toward recovery. Acceptance gives you power over the situation. It becomes easier to plan the next action toward handling your toxic emotions and behavior.
Name your Feelings
Do you feel fear, frustration, sadness, anger or any other emotion when thinking about your partner’s past? If so, why? Does the emotion you are feeling reflect an issue in your current relationship?
Naming your feelings and questioning them will enable you to understand the emotion that is driving them. Once you understand the emotion, you can handle it more efficiently.
For example, if it is fear that is driving your toxic behavior, question the need for the fear? Is it because you are unable to trust your partner? Or is it because you feel left out in the relationship?
Once you understand the fear, you can start facing them logically.
Think from your Partner’s Perspective
Once you get to understand your mental state, it is time to understand your partner’s situation. Know how your behavior is affecting your partner’s mental state and the relationship.
Start by accepting the fact that your partner has the right to make his/ her own relationship decisions, including those in the past. Ask yourself the relationships you have had in the past and your decision to quit them.
You may have ended some relationships because you may have felt that something was missing in them. If you are at peace with your decision, then understand that your partner also has the freedom to do so.
Regardless of his/ her past, your partner has chosen a relationship with you. Have faith in the decision and use it as a foundation to get over your jealousy.
Break Toxic Behaviors
Stop digging your partner’s past. If you find yourself browsing the internet to peek into his/ her social media profiles or emails, resist the urge and log out. It is alright to show interest in some recent photos or posts. If you are looking at posts or photos that are months or years old, then stop. Become aware of the action, reinforce that the action is unhealthy, and quit.
If you find yourself asking your partner questions about his/ her relationships, then stop and question your intention. If it is not constructive to your current relationship, then avoid asking such questions.
Breaking toxic behaviors can be difficult at first. But, with practice, it tends to become easier.
Be Open with your Partner about your Feelings
Talk to your partner about your feelings and emotions regarding their past relationships. Keep the communication respectful by telling them the reason for your feelings. This approach will enable your partner to understand your fears or frustration and respond accordingly.
Improve your quality of life and discover lasting fulfillment in relationships by accepting that neither you nor your partner is perfect. A strong belief in your own worth and trust in your partner can help you overcome retroactive jealousy. If you feel talking to a therapist can help, then do so before retroactive jealousy takes over your relationship.