Do You Have A Retroactive Jealousy Disorder? And If So, How Do You Overcome It?

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by Jeff Billings in Retroactive Jealousy Blog
April 5, 2017

Firstly, what is a retroactive jealousy disorder? You may be aware that you’re suffering from retroactive jealousy: obsessive thoughts and negative emotions about your partner’s former romance(s) or sexual history. But can it be classified as a disorder?

And if so, the most important question you need to know the answer to is:

How do I get over a retroactive jealousy disorder?

In this post I am going to break down the following:

  • what is a retroactive jealousy?
  • why overcoming a retroactive jealousy disorder is so hard
  • what’s going on behind the scenes of your retroactive jealousy?
  • how to get over a retroactive jealousy disorder

So let’s get to it.

What Is A Retroactive Jealousy Disorder?

retroactive jealousy disorder

The answer to this question can be found in a short test.

Imagine that you’ve recently started dating someone new. After a couple of weeks, the inevitable subject of their dating and sexual history comes up.

He or she tells you that their last relationship was ten months ago and it lasted for two years. They were very much in love at first, but it didn’t work out.

In between that relationship and meeting you, they enjoyed the single life, which involved going out a lot and generally “letting loose”.

In this time period, they slept with nine people. Three of them were sex-buddies and the other six one-night-stands.

They may also have had a threesome but “can’t remember exactly what happened”.

What’s your reaction to hearing these stories?

Reaction A

You feel a slight twinge of retrospective jealousy as your partner tells you about how great their ex was, or about sleeping with whoever they wanted when they wanted, but don’t dwell on it.

The conversation moves on to other topics and you have a great night together.

In the morning, last night’s conversation doesn’t enter your head — you kiss him or her goodbye and get on with your day.

Over the coming weeks and months, your partner occasionally brings up their past in conversation and you take it in your stride.

All you care about is the fact that you’re with a great guy/girl — you’re excited about this relationship.

While you don’t want to hear intimate romantic or sexual details about their past, you can handle whatever happened because you know they want to be with you now.

Reaction B

You feel a great surge of jealousy and anger as your partner tells you about how great their ex was, or about sleeping with whoever they wanted when they wanted in the past.

The conversation moves on to other topics but you’re unable to move on from the bombshell that’s just been exploded in your consciousness. You manage to keep it hidden, but from your perspective, the night is ruined.

In the morning, last night’s conversation slams into your head as soon as you wake up.

You kiss him or her goodbye but now they seem like a different person, and you step out into the sunshine feeling uneasy.

Over the coming weeks and months, your anxiety grows as you begin to dwell more and more on your partner’s past.

You even start looking for “evidence” of their past, online and off.

Rather than wait for them to bring it up in conversation, you ask them dozens of questions — always wanting to know more and more.

All you care about is the fact that they once loved someone else or “slept around a lot” before you met.

You want to be with them, but now your head is full of an endless stream of consciousness about their past:

That time she slept with a guy half an hour after meeting him — He must have really loved her to buy her a car — I wonder if she had anal sex with him? — Do I really want to be with someone who once loved someone like her? — Was his penis bigger than mine? I bet it was. Yes, the sex must’ve been better with him.

His or her past begins eating you alive from the inside out and the more you try to make the voices and images stop, the stronger they become.

This test is a good example of how it’s not events themselves that cause us harm or pain, but our reaction to them.

The healthy response to hearing about a boyfriend’s romantic or girlfriend’s sexual past is, of course, Reaction A.

It’s perfectly normal twinge of jealousy upon learning about a partner’s past, and this is a reaction shared by many people.

Reaction B, on the other hand, is symptomatic of a retroactive jealousy disorder.

The twinge of jealousy balloons out of all proportion to become an obsession and a form of retroactive jealousy OCD.

A partner’s past is often the first thing someone with a retroactive jealousy disorder thinks about when they wake up, and last thing before going to sleep.

In-between are obsessive, repetitive thoughts which lead negative emotions, which lead to compulsive behaviors in an effort to quell the obsessive thoughts and negative emotions.

Thus, a vicious cycle is born that the retroactive jealousy disorder sufferer finds extremely hard to break.

Why Getting Over A Retroactive Jealousy Disorder Is So Hard

If you have a retroactive jealousy disorder, you’re probably feeling confused and also making the condition worse by doing all the wrong things to try and cure it.

Looking for advice on how to overcome a retroactive jealousy disorder, has probably thrown up a few problems…

Firstly, there’s a major dearth of useful information out there.

The problem with having a retroactive jealousy disorder is that no one knows what it is. And those that do usually offer up vague, unhelpful advice that doesn’t help at all.

Secondly, opening up about your retroactive jealousy disorder to family, friends or your partner can be very difficult.

This results in a retrospective jealousy sufferer feeling more and more alienated, confused and alone.

If you go to Google and type in something like “how to get over retroactive jealousy disorder” you’ll find articles and forums with advice that generally falls into one of two camps:


Clichés and vague advice that doesn’t mean anything

People with a retroactive jealousy disorder are routinely told that retrograde jealousy can be overcome by simply reading or hearing a few soundbites.

These are typically nuggets like: “Why worry about the past when it’s been and gone?” “The past has made them who they are.” And the classic “Just get over it”.

Fuzzy advice like this also often recommends “talking it out” with someone — usually their partner, a friend, pastor, or psychologist.

There are a few problems associated with this, however:

Firstly, talking about your retroactive jealousy disorder with someone who has no idea what it is or what advice to give won’t get you anywhere.

Talking about the past with your partner is dangerous territory because it can lead to learning more information, arguments, and/or your partner thinking of you as unconfident and unsexy.

Not only that but more than likely you feel ashamed and embarrassed and so the last thing you feel like doing is off-loading your retroactive jealousy disorder on to a friend or relative.

Paying for retroactive jealousy therapy is also tricky as they probably won’t have any experience of dealing with the condition or with helping others who have it.

They also offer no guarantee of seeing any results, apart from a large hole in your bank account.

And, of course, pastors are of little use whether you happen to be religious or not.

Humorous mocking

Some blogs engage unsuspecting retroactive jealousy sufferers with headlines like: “Overcome Your Retroactive Jealousy Disorder: The Ultimate 30-Point Guide”.

Rather than offer any clear advice, though, the author spends the whole post attempting to be funny.

All at the expense of someone who may actually be suffering from a terrible retroactive jealousy disorder.

The problem with blog posts like these is that they trivialize retrograde jealousy and play into stereotypes of people who should “grow up” and “just get over it”.

What’s Going On Behind The Scenes Of Your Retroactive Jealousy Disorder?

retroactive jealousy disorder

There are many ways that will help you get over a retroactive jealousy disorder, but one is to realize it’s a disorder of the mind.

Your obsessive thoughts, negative emotions, and compulsive actions are all a result of faulty wiring in the brain that’s become trapped on the wrong circuit.

Your retroactive jealousy disorder, therefore, is being fueled purely by negative thoughts and emotions, but you can learn how to overcome it by learning about what’s going on.

In short, it’s no wonder overcoming your retroactive jealousy disorder is so hard when your mind is currently so mixed up.


Consider the following:

Your retroactive jealousy disorder is causing you to have an emotional reaction to a past event(s) in your partner’s life.

Events at which you were not even present and before you even knew them.

Negative emotions about your boy or girlfriend’s sexual past are the ground zero of your retroactive jealousy disorder.

If you reflected on their romantic or sexual past positively, you would not have negative emotions and, consequently, wouldn’t suffer from repetitive thoughts or compulsive actions.

Sean Webb, founder of the website “I Am Spirituality”, has developed an easily understood equation which explains how emotions work within each and every one of us.

It goes like this:

(EP – RP = ER)

Expectation or Preference – Reality as Perceived = Emotional Response

Okay, so what does this mean?

  • In a nutshell, our Expectation or Preference is how we would like, or expect, something we’re emotionally attached to, to be or turn out.
  • Our Reality as Perceived is then how something actually is, or what actually happens.
  • And finally, our Emotional Response is conditioned by this Reality as Perceived.

In other words, if our Reality as Perceived meets our Expectation or Preference, we experience a positive emotion.

If it falls below our Expectation or Preference, we experience a negative emotion.

Sean Webb tackles many emotions on his site, but doesn’t really go into jealousy of any kind, and so here’s a brief analysis of how your emotions are working when applied to your retroactive jealousy disorder.

Your Emotional Preference is that, for example, your girlfriend’s sexual past involves her only sleeping with three guys, never having had a one-night stand, threesome or sex buddy and only ever enjoying sex within a secure monogamous relationship.

The Reality as Perceived is when you then find out she has actually had what you consider to be “a promiscuous past” and she’s actually had threesomes, foursomes, sex buddies and so on.

Therefore, you experience a negative Emotional Response.

But, in order for you to have an Emotional Response of any kind, you must have an emotional attachment to the thing you’re reacting to.

In the case of a retroactive jealousy disorder, the reason why you have such a strong emotional reaction is because you have formed a strong emotional attachment to your partner.

The more you care for someone, the more susceptible you are to being attacked by retroactive jealousy OCD. And the harder you’ll find overcoming retroactive jealousy.

One of my exes, who was twenty at the time, had slept with thirty guys, including four in one weekend, and yet I didn’t care. Why?

Because I didn’t care enough about her.

Okay, so I didn’t like the fact she’d done all that stuff particularly, but it wasn’t something I obsessed over.

I just forgot about it.

My current girlfriend’s sexual history, on the other hand, is much less colorful than this particular ex’s, and yet I became consumed by these irrational jealous thoughts because my emotional attachment to her is that much greater.

How To Overcome A Retroactive Jealousy Disorder

retroactive jealousy disorder

What you need to do is begin to recognize your thoughts and emotions for what they are: fleeting states of mind and body that come and go.

Here’s the three-step process you should follow to help quell the vicious cycle of thoughts and emotions associated with your retroactive jealousy disorder:

  • Become aware of the thoughts and emotions. You can’t always prevent negative thoughts and emotions from popping up in your brain and body, but you can control how you choose to react to them. When they arise, learn to simply notice them.
  • Take a step back. Disassociate yourself from your own thoughts and emotions by recognizing them as merely neurons and sensations, and without judgment or resistance. Doing this removes you from your anxious state and grounds you once again in the present moment. It creates a gap in which your mind is able to recognize the difference between what’s real — the right here and now — and what’s not — the stories your mind is making up.
  • Focus on something else. Get on with your day as you were about to before the negative thoughts and emotions took over. Do whatever it takes to prevent yourself from slipping down into a wormhole of overthinking. Read a book. Call a friend. Dance around the room naked to your favorite song. Whatever it is, stop dwelling and start doing. Break the cycle enough times like this and your mind will begin to find it easier to do by itself.

I’m not saying any of this is easy, but it’s not impossible either. The more you do it the better you’ll become.

And once you’ve mastered it, you’ll feel like nothing can touch you.

Over time you should begin to feel less and less of an emotional reaction every time you have a negative thought, and finally they’ll just pop in and out of your mind like any other inconsequential thought.

This is the key to getting over a retroactive jealousy disorder.


— Jeff 


This is by no means a definitive retroactive jealousy cure  but I hope this post has helped clarify a little how your emotions are actually working in regard to your retroactive jealousy disorder.

Please feel free to comment in the section below on how your emotions are triggered by thoughts of your partner’s past.

How do you feel? Does Sean Webb’s analysis make sense regarding your extreme jealousy disorder? Are you learning how to deal with an obsessive jealousy disorder — retroactive jealousy?


This post was partly taken from my book The Ultimate Retroactive Jealousy Cure: How To Stop Being Jealous Of Your Partner’s Past in 12 Steps — a comprehensive guide on how to overcome your retroactive jealousy disorder. 

Discover how to stop painful, jealous emotions by clicking the button below.


  1. Cory says:

    This puts everything into perspective. I feel better already. Thanks man.

  2. Pieter says:

    Yes and I’d like to no.

  3. Yale says:

    I would say my jealousy is definitely a “disorder”. I need help – this sh*t is driving me crazy!!!

  4. Merle says:

    This is a topic which is near to my heart… Many thanks! Exactly where
    are your contact details though?

  5. Jared R. says:

    Whoah, thanks Jeff! Your blog is wonderful I really like reading your advice. Stay up the great work! Many people like myself are suffering from retroactive jealousy and you can help us greatly.

  6. Stu says:

    This hits the nail on the head. Been looking for a post like this for some time.

  7. Zach says:

    The answer would be YES!

  8. Randy Bastard says:

    Men whining about girlfriends past catching stds when all you have to do is get with girl who hasn’t f**ked whole city.

  9. Rick says:

    Exactly what happen to me. Why did I have to ask her about her past when we met?? Worst mistake I ever made.

  10. Darth says:

    If you want to date stupid slut what do you expect??

  11. Gavin says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m in a 16 month long relationship and have been battling RJ for nearly a year. I’ve got a great woman, I know that, but god her past colorful.

    It makes me sick to think of losing her, but this is a battle that I’ve never fought before and sometimes I’m not sure i can win before losing her.

    I will definitely try this one technique bc I’m absolutely head of heels in love with her…….and I’m desperate to beat RJ.

  12. Gavin says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m in a 16 month long relationship and have been battling RJ for nearly a year. I’ve got a great woman, I know that, but god her past colorful.

    It makes me sick to think of losing her, but this is a battle that I’ve never fought before and sometimes I’m not sure i can win before losing her.

    I will definitely try this one technique bc I’m absolutely head of heels in love with her…….and I’m desperate to beat RJ.

    1. Thanks for the comment Gavin. Drop me a line if you have any questions.

    2. Ian says:

      You’re not alone Gavin. I’ve had to suffer with RJ for years. I never realised it was RJ, I just thought it was some sort of defensive thing in my head to prevent me from getting close to someone. I’m planning on doing Jeff’s course soon because I think enough is enough now. Good luck mate

  13. Art says:

    Thanks for this. Bookmarked for future reference.

  14. John says:

    This is true buddy. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Darien G says:

    I have really learned some great stuff about rj on this site. Keep up the good work Jeff.

  16. Dean G says:

    Great post, thanks Jeff.

  17. Samuel says:

    I am not able to view a woman’s past sleeping with every tom dick and harry as something “normal”. Is this what we’re meant to do??

  18. Geoff says:

    How do I stop the obsessive thoughts?

  19. Dean says:

    This describes my problem perfectly. May I get in contact with you directly Jeff? Need to talk about this.

  20. Shayne says:

    Makes no sense… if you’re not ok with the past just break-up. You will save yourself a ton of time and a ton of heart-ache. There’s a lot of women in the world who have not done the crap you despise.

  21. Jason says:

    Hello mate, .This is a great post for such a tough subject to talk about. I look forward to reading many more excellent posts like this one on RJ. Thanks

  22. Aimee says:

    This is very interesting, and I can tell you have spent some time studying this. Maybe my story is not new but I can’t get constant images of my husband’s affair with a younger woman while he was married out of my head. I wake u p and it’s there and never goes away. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  23. Simon says:

    I love my wife so much but just can’t move past the feeling that she’s betrayed me some how even though I know that’s silly as we hadn’t even met when she was screwing these guys. I’m driving myself mad. Seriously.

  24. Lena says:

    This has been really helpful. Love the part on emotions and things not being as we expected so we have a negative reaction.

  25. Zach says:

    This really has helped me in my relationship, thank you for helping me get past it.

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