Retroactive jealousy, what it is and when it happens

There retroactive jealousy it is a form of jealousy that it manifests itself towards the past of one’s partner and it can contribute to problems and anxieties in even the most stable relationships. In simpler words: Have you ever felt worried or distressed about the emotional relationships that your partner has had in the past? So much so that you become obsessed with the need to know every detail of past relationships? If so, you may have experienced retroactive jealousy.

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Retroactive jealousy, what it is and how it manifests itself

Jealousy it’s a manifestation of fear which arises from the possibility of being replaced or losing a relationship that is meaningful to us. It is at that moment that one is activated perception of threat with which we feel and believe that what we want and appreciate can be lost.

While it is true that we have experienced jealousy in several significant relationships throughout our lives, retroactive jealousy occurs in the context of a relationship and is directed at our partner’s emotional past. Suddenly we can see ourselves wondering about the number of partners he had before the relationship, we can start making comparisons with the previous partner in terms of tastes, activities, preferences, etc.

There retroactive jealousy it can manifest itself through different attitudes and behaviors which include constant suspicions, questions that can turn into real interrogations about past relationships. Sometimes the couple’s privacy can be violatedfor example by checking messages, intercepting calls, checking social networks (even secretly), leading the jealous person to exercise excessive control on life as a couple.

The person suffering from retroactive jealousy experiences a high level of discomfort, characterized by high levels of distressfeelings of insecurity and distrust and sometimes excessive fear of losing a loved one.

A few examples? You can get hooked on thoughts or images in which you recreate the relationships your partner may have had with other people; or thoughts that project possible infidelity with previous partners. These can turn into brooding that becomes obsessive and the further you go the harder it becomes to manage. On a rational level, we are aware that in a relationship what matters is the present and the future and not the past, and that retroactive jealousy often has no real basisyet it is often a feeling that cannot be avoided.

Retrospective jealousy can become one real emotional suffering for those who suffer from it, and it can also affect the different areas of the person’s life (family, work, social relationships, etc.). And, of course, it can seriously affect the couple’s relationship with discussions and quarrels that increase with great intensity, making it increasingly difficult to resolve conflicts.

Why do you suffer from retroactive jealousy

Jealousy, is a feeling that, if dosed with attention and moderation, is a factor that has a positive effect on the couple’s relationship. Basically, even St. Augustine said “whoever is not jealous does not love”. But like so many things, if taken to the extreme, it can lead to unhealthy and deleterious behavior, for themselves and for the couple. But why are we so jealous of the past?

Each person is unique and there may be different reasons for whom one is jealous of the partner’s past, but, generally speaking, a person suffering from retroactive jealousy experiences a strong feeling of self-doubt and needs an intense need for validation and confirmationwhich must be provided by the partner.

An example? Maybe our partner has had a particularly bright and outgoing ex, or with whom he had a great love affair, or it was about a happy moment in her life (perhaps in the light-hearted period of high school or university). And now the usual obsessive questions spring up: was she more beautiful than me? Did they have more fun together? Will he ever be as happy with me as he was with her? And, the thousand-point question: Will she love me more than she ever loved her?

All these questions, if repeated until they become obsessive, are one strong sign of insecuritybut not towards our partner, but towards ourselves.

Another reason you experience this type of jealousy can be related to fear of being aloneor being abandoned or betrayed, which leads us to establish some sort of emotional dependence towards the partner. The need of the other is transformed into the need to be indispensable, unique: if I cannot live without him, not even he can live without me.

How to overcome retroactive jealousy?

A good starting point for manage retrospective jealousy is to become aware of it: if we begin to notice that the jealousy we experience is disproportionately intense, and leads to emotional suffering that significantly interferes with daily life and as a couple, the first step is always talk to your partner about it, and eventually, start a therapeutic path.

In addition to becoming aware of it, it is essential understand what triggers this jealousy of ours, which does not arise from reality or evidence, but from our fears. The fact that something is feared does not mean that this can really happen, but it is alone the result of negative thoughts that compete to give life to our most hidden fears.

Another exercise that works is that of identity exchange, that is put ourselves in the other’s shoes. How would we feel to feel recriminated for our past, continuously exposed to behaviors and attitudes of suspicion and control? Let’s stop for a second and think what it would be like if the situation were reversed.

At the same time, focus on the present of life as a couple it is fundamental, as connecting with pleasant moments, of complicity, of intimacy, will allow to feed positive feelings and increase the sense of security and trust in the couple relationship.

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