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Retroactive Jealousy: Is Your Past Rousing Your Lover’s Jealousy?

Retroactive Jealousy

Retroactive jealousy is being jealous of the things your mate does before you entered the picture. Although petty, is it being fostered by your actions?

Is there anything worse than your significant other being jealous? Perhaps only retroactive jealousy. What is retroactive jealousy? It is jealousy of a significant other that came before, a crush that continues to pop up, or someone in your partner’s past that neither they, nor you, can get past.

What is retroactive jealousy?

Retroactive jealousy means you are jealous of things that the person you are with did before you were even in the picture. Like living up to an older brother who was the varsity quarterback or valedictorian, retroactive jealousy leaves you feeling like you can’t ever live up to some ideal.

How to deal with a partner’s retroactive jealousy

If you have a jealous lover, it can be difficult to calm their fears. If you don’t, you are going to end up going round and round. Just like when a policeman pulls up behind you, and you automatically feel like you’d do something wrong *whether you are or not*, a jealous lover makes you anxious, guilty, and on edge all the time.

It might not be your problem to cure their angst, but if you don’t, theirs will become yours. There might or might not be things you do to foster their feelings. Either way, doing these things, or not doing them, helps create some peace for you both.

#1 Don’t keep secrets. Okay, now I am not talking about the big secrets like you used to be a girl or a guy, I mean the little ones. It is those things that you keep to yourself for fear you are going to set their jealousy off that sets them off the most.

When someone loves you, they know if you hold things back. By not having open communication or keeping things from them, you create an atmosphere of secrecy that might inadvertently drive their retroactive jealousy. [Read: 15 mature ways to grow up and behave like an adult]

#2 Don’t hide your social media. If your relationships are over and out, then don’t dip back into your pool or keep things on your social media private. You would be surprised at what people find out through social media sites, even if you don’t want them to.

If you don’t tell someone and they find out on their own, it only furthers their feelings that something is going on or that you haven’t gotten over your past love/loves.

#3 Don’t put a passcode on your phone unless necessary. If you want to have an honest and open relationship, then let them know you trust them by not putting your shit under lock and key.

Obviously, if you work for the government, then you should keep things under code. But, if it is just you and your friends, placing a block on all your stuff, just makes their jealousy churn more. [Read: How to build trust in a relationship and make it last]

#4 Fill in the blanks. Instead of saying “I’m going out” say “I’m going out with David.” Sometimes it is in the small details left unsaid where your lover fills in the blanks, and their version is full of maliciousness, not what you are probably up to.

Be as honest and open as you can. Sure, it might feel like they want to put a GPS on you, but once they find you can be trusted, it might calm their fears and get you off the hook so you can have a trusting and non-jealous relationship. [Read: How to deal with jealousy in a relationship]

#5 Stop talking to your exes. I totally get it. You were friends before you started dating. But, if you started dating and you moved on, then you can’t be besties anymore. In fact, you can’t be friends at all if it upsets your new relationship.

I can hear what you are saying right now. “I can be friends with anyone I want,” and you are totally right. But, if you don’t put your new partner first, then you are going to be left with a bestie and no significant other. Make a decision about who is more important or the retroactive jealousy isn’t going to stop. [Read: 10 signs your past relationship is holding you back from a better future]

#6 If you are cushioning, cut it out! The best way to make someone retro jealous is by cushioning. What is cushioning? It is when you keep people on the side just in case things don’t work out. If you have a barrage of other people in your life that you had or may have had feelings for, you can’t keep them hanging on waiting for you.

Cushioning doesn’t work all the way around, it just makes everyone anxious but you, and that is just selfish. [Read: Cushioning: Why using this dating tactic makes you a jerk]

#7 Tell them how you feel. Perhaps you aren’t telling them often enough or in the way that they hear best, how you feel about them. Imagine this: they knew you and your ex were all sunshine and flowers and couldn’t keep your hands off each other. But, when it comes to you guys, you barely hold hands.

That could leave them wondering what on earth is different between you two or if you had something much greater before and now only have what is left with them. See what I mean? Tell them how you feel so they aren’t left guessing if you feel for them at all or not.

#8 Quit telling stories. I know you can’t erase people, nor should you. If someone was a big part of your history, then you have to tell a story or two. But, if all you do is talk about the “good old days” when y’all were together, it probably drives their retroactive jealousy.

Your current relationship should have enough of its own stories to fill the time. Maybe, save the old ones for a time when they aren’t sitting next to you wishing they were in your inside experience. [Read: How to talk about past relationships with a current lover]

#9 Take down the pictures. Again, you don’t have to erase your ex, but you also don’t have to have a mausoleum resurrected to them sitting on your nightstand. You might want to wake up remembering the good times, but trust me, your new love doesn’t.

At some point, you put your pictures and your ex behind you, or you deal with retro jealousy in all of your proceeding relationships.

#10 Let go of the anger. If the mere sight or talk of your ex sets off a tirade or anger, then you have to stop. The reason your new lover might be feeling retroactive jealousy is that they know if you were completely over your ex, you would not have so much emotion, you would have let it go.

Hate is the closest feeling to love, so you have to let go of the hate, or they assume you still love your ex. [Read: Letting go of your ex: 15 ways to make it easier]

#11 Tell your family to quit it too. If your ex is “the one that got away” to your family or mother, that isn’t helping. People know how important a family’s opinion is. If they continue to talk about your ex and how much they liked them, that brings out the green-eyed monster in your lover and make them wonder why your exes were so awesome and they aren’t.

Tell your friends and family to be more thoughtful and keep their opinions to themselves.

Jealousy doesn’t come out of nowhere. Sure, there are definitely people who are more jealous than others. But, if you love the person you are with and can’t seem to get past the retro jealousy, you might be inadvertently driving it.

[Read: 15 revealing truths about feeling alone in a relationship]

Be more sensitive to the retroactive jealousy your partner feels, let go of the past, and tell them how much you love them, more sometimes than you want to.

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Julie Keating
Julie Keating

A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined...

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