How To Overcome Jealousy Of An Ex: What You’re Doing Wrong

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by Jeff Billings in Retroactive Jealousy Blog
August 28, 2016
retroactive jealousy book

How long have you been trying to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex who once dated or slept with your partner? Six weeks? Six months? Six years?

Part of the reason why you’re maybe not getting very far is because you don’t fully understand what you’re feeling. Or why.

As you probably know, retroactive jealousy feeds off confusion. (Check this post for a retroactive jealousy definition.)

For a start if you landed on this post after Googling “How to overcome jealousy of an ex”… that right there is your first mistake.

You’re probably not actually jealous of this ex lover in your partner’s life at all.

Yes, you may be jealous of them in a sense, but it’s purely symbolic because in all likelihood this ex is long gone.

So if you want to learn “how to overcome jealousy of an ex” it’s important to first understand that what you’re feeling toward them is not really jealousy, but envy.

In this post, I’m going to tackle the following:

  • jealousy vs. envy: a definition of terms and of envy within retroactive jealousy
  • help you figure out if you’re envious of your partner’s ex
  • show you why you might be feeling envious toward them
  • show you how to stop being envious and help beat retroactive jealousy

Let’s kick things off with some definitions.

1. How To Overcome Jealousy Of An Ex: Define Jealousy vs. Envy

There’s a great deal of confusion among retroactive jealousy sufferers over the difference between jealousy and envy.

A woman who has retroactive jealousy might say “I just feel so jealous of her and the time she spent with my boyfriend”.

A guy might complain “Whenever I think about him having sex with her I can’t help but feel jealous”.

The problem here is that both these statements can lead to the false assumption that jealousy is the only player in town when it comes to retrospective jealousy.

In fact, envy also plays a major part in the condition when it comes to a partner’s ex-lover who’s no longer on the scene.

So, what exactly is the difference between jealousy and envy?

Ask ten different retroactive jealousy sufferers and you’ll probably get ten different answers.

However, there is a fairly straightforward distinction between the two emotions.


This occurs when we perceive a threat from a third person who might take away something we own, or someone we’re romantically involved with.


This occurs when we desire an attribute enjoyed by another, mainly because we don’t possess it ourself.

Envy, in other words, is a negative emotional reaction to lacking something.

Jealousy is a negative emotional reaction to the possible threat of losing something.

In the case of retroactive jealousy OCD, it’s fair to say that jealousy plays a part in the condition because there’s a fear of losing your partner.

However, it’s not a real fear of losing them to this ex in the past because they’re (probably) no longer a part of your partner’s life.

The jealousy you’re feeling toward people in the past, therefore, is symbolic.

You’re actually fearful of losing your partner to someone else in the present.

So, when this ex keeps popping in your head you’re actually envious of them, not jealous.

And this is an important distinction to make.

2. How To Overcome Jealousy Of An Ex: Figure Out If You Envy Them


how to overcome jealousy of an ex

As apt a name as “retroactive jealousy” is, it could also be called “retroactive envy”.

Most sufferers assume they’re simply jealous of their partner’s past, but without realizing they could also be envious of these specific people in that past.

Very often, both men and women feel envious of their partner’s ex in some way, and this helps fuel their retroactive jealousy disorder.

In fact, envy is the hidden emotion within sufferers of retroactive jealousy, but it it’s important to work out if it’s playing a part in your overall retroactive jealousy.

Here’s how: take a moment to ask yourself if you feel envious at all about any aspect of this ex who’s occupying so much of your mind space.

Ask yourself:

  • could I be envious of this ex’s looks, material possessions, lifestyle, success with the opposite sex, and so on?
  • do I wish my life had been more like theirs? Especially when it comes to the time they spent with your partner?
  • do I think of this ex as somehow “better” than me?
  • do I presume that there must have have been something “special” about them in order to keep my partner hooked for so long?
  • do I envy the way they were able to get my partner into bed so easily, and the fact their relationship was just sex with no strings attached?

Do any of the above questions ring true with you? If so, then it’s time to stop wanting to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex, and start overcoming envy of an ex.

The first thing you need to do in order to achieve this, is understand just what’s causing you to be envious of these people in the past.

3. How To Overcome Jealousy Of An Ex: Understand Why You’re Envious

how to overcome jealousy of an ex

If you’re struggling to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex who your partner once dated or slept with there are three main reasons why:

  • you’re confusing jealousy with envy
  • you’re envious because you’re putting them on a pedestal
  • and all this is happening because you lack self-confidence

I’ve covered the first part already, but let’s take a look at the next two.


You’re putting your partner’s ex on a pedestal

Whatever the details surrounding your partner’s ex-lover(s), chances are your retroactive jealousy is being fueled by elevating them above yourself.

If you’re hung up on someone your partner used to date, or was engaged or married to, is part of the reason because you feel they had something you lack?

And the same goes if you can’t get over a particular person your partner used to casually sleep with.

When you put people from the past up on a pedestal, it means you think they possessed a dazzling appearance, lifestyle or personality, that you currently lack.

The thinking goes something like this:

“He was able to sleep with my girlfriend whenever he wanted and she didn’t want anything in return. He must’ve been the man.”


“Everyone loved her not just my boyfriend. And she was way prettier than I am.”

This is happening because you lack self-confidence.

If you’re struggling to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex, have a think about if you’re giving undue credit to the people in your partner’s past.

Because the reality may be very different.

The reality is he or she probably didn’t possess any particularly amazing sexual skills or stunningly charismatic personality.

However, the reason you feel they did is because you currently lack confidence in yourself.

If you were truly self-confident, you wouldn’t be looking back all the time and comparing yourself to people in your partner’s past.

You wouldn’t be imagining that they’re somehow “better” than you.

You wouldn’t be envious of them because you’d believe whatever characteristics they possess, you have too.

4. How To Overcome Jealousy Of An Ex: Learn How To Beat Envy

Emotions like envy tend to plague women more than men, but guys are also very prone to it if they suffer from retrograde jealousy.

This is known as male-on-male envy, or “menvy” for short.

Owen Cook from Real Social Dynamics has made a great video about menvy in which he discusses how it fosters a “learned helplessness” in some guys, and self-pitying attitude.

Neither of which of course are very helpful if you’re trying to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex.

In the video, he talks mainly about jealousy of other guys as described above, but much of what he says also applies to woman-on-woman envy and to retrospective jealousy in general.

Take a look at the video in order to see what Owen recommends, but in a nutshell it is this:

If you’re struggling to learn how to get over jealousy of an ex, it’s basically because you’re not focusing on your true purpose and expending all your energy in pursuit of it.

If you’re conquering all your fears, rising to challenges, working toward being the best man or woman you can be, you won’t have time to wallow in self-pity.

Petty emotions like jealousy and envy over people from your partner’s past will start to lift once you eliminate negative emotions like envy.

Male and female insecurities that make them envious of ex-lovers, often play out in very different yet strikingly similar ways.

Many women get hung up on not being pretty enough or body shapes. Men often get psyched out by penis size or a lack of sexual experience.

Concerns like these over body parts, personality, or material wealth, are born directly out of a lack of confidence.


Here’s a quick test for you:

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths…

  • now, imagine you’re fully comfortable with public speaking and love giving speeches in front of hundreds of people.
  • imagine you’re super witty, charming and have a ton of friends, all of whom want to hang with you every chance they get.
  • imagine you’re filthy rich with properties all over the world in New York, Paris and Sydney.
  • imagine your body’s amazing. If you’re male, you’re fantastically toned, trim, and healthy.

Now, while picturing yourself as this person, try to imagine struggling to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex.

Is it possible to remain in this super confident mode and simultaneously be jealous and and envious of someone your partner used to date or have sex with?

I’m not saying that you don’t have all or some of the qualities above.

I’m saying it’s pretty hard to be preoccupied with “that girl with the amazing body” or “that guy with a big penis” if you’re 100% confident.

If you were fully confident, would you still feel jealous when you think about these ex-lovers?

Do you think someone like Owen Cook cares who his girlfriend once slept with?

I’m guessing probably not.

Self-confidence is one the keys to learning how to finding a retroactive jealousy cure.


Hopefully this post has helped clarify some issues for you. So now you know you no longer have to learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex, but how to overcome envy of an ex.

A big part of the reason why you’re upset by your partner’s past could be because you’re envious of who they once dated or slept with.

And the reason why you’re envious is because you’re currently lacking some self-confidence.

However, just reading a blog post or watching a video is unlikely to cure your retroactive jealousy overnight.

In order to do that you need to take decisive action every single day.

I would make improving your self-esteem your number one goal, alongside making sure you fully expend all your energy in other pursuits.

In my course “Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy 101” I lay out exactly what actions you should be taking so you can finally learn how to overcome jealousy of an ex. As well as envy, fear, judgment and a whole host of other negative emotions.

I also have a retroactive jealousy book, which you can find out about by clicking the link below.



— Jeff

  1. Vivek says:

    I do believe all the ideas on jealousy you’ve presented on your post are correct. Thank you sir.

  2. Brian says:

    This is all correct! It is ENVY! I have a belief that she had BETTER sex or the guy is BETTER at it than me, and I will never be as good!

    1. Spot on, Brian. Thanks for the feedback.

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