Retroactive jealousy actually stems from a couple of deep-seated, unhealed traumatic issues and wounds from childhood, or just generally a very difficult childhood without much nurturing or with a dysfunctional environment.
There are six keychildhood wounds that I’ve observed clients having, which play some part in leading to RJ. So let’s talk a little bit about them all.
#1 Abandonment Wound
When we were younger, someone of us had caregivers that were not very nurturing or affectionate and did not emotionally support us as we needed. So we find ourselves feeling like we are an afterthought – feeling forgotten and abandoned.
Many children have a deep sense of wanting to connect with our caregiver, to seek out love, affection, attention and care; someone to depend on, like all kids do. So when you are younger and did not get that – there’s a feeling of loneliness, of feeling unwanted, of not being loved.
This then spills over into adolescence and adulthood, where it manifests as codependence emotional dependence on other people and an extreme fear of being left alone. So how it plays out is they may tolerate a lot of behaviors from the person, or exhibit people-pleasing behaviours to make the person stay with us.
Another way that this wound manifests is that people with the abandonment wound actually cut off relationships and people very quickly. It’s like a defense mechanism.
They abandon people first, fearing that people may abandon them later – and preventing that – so they don’t have to suffer the emotional consequences which is too painful for them.
Do you struggle with retroactive jealousy? Find out in the quiz below!
How this actually comes about in retroactive jealousy is when we hear about our partner’s past, and we think about their behaviours and feel as if well, they have all these experiences with someone else, they may think we are no good in comparison and leave us at some point. We don’t feel secure with our partners and feel that their history may play a part in their decision.
#2 – Rejection Wound
In the rejection wound, the child may constantly get their need for affection stonewalled or blocked by the parent/caregiver. And this then makes the child kind of wonder why they are being rejected in this way is there something wrong with them?
And the child internalizes this and starts to dislike themselves or think there’s something wrong with them and start to feel like they are not worthy of being loved or not worthy of love. This manifets as a need for constant approval and external validation from others later on in life – constantly looking for approval and acceptance.
In retroactive jealousy, the partner’s past makes them feel rejected – that by being with other people in some ways in the past makes them feel as if lied about and is rejecting them. It may not sound very rational but for people experiencing retroactive jealousy, they feel like their partner’s way of conducting relationships or by being in relationship previously is like a rejection of their current relationship.
#3 Guilt or Humiliation Wound
This actually stems from a culture or an intimate environment that is very critical, very authoritarian, very disapproving, and whatever we did, it was not approved of. And we feel guilty about everything because when something or someone is constantly chipping away at what you’re doing, your personality, how you’re behaving, every single day, everywhere you go, whether it’s your home, your school, your church or wherever you are, it can slowly eat away at your self esteem.
Do you struggle with your self-esteem? Take the quiz below to find out if you do!
And when you are told not to do this or that – without really understanding why – you can feel guilty for wanting something, for having certain desires or feelings. For example, perhaps as a kid, you were just being yourself and running around, but you were punished severely for doing so. You may start to feel guilty the next time you have this desire.
There’s a lot of people pleasing behaviour that comes up as well and this can manifest in low self-esteem issues when we have grown up. Low self-esteem is a big issue when it comes to RJ. When you go into a relationship and you have certain dynamics or hear about certain things about your partner’s past, you can make you feel like you are not worthy and that you are not important.
Low self-esteem can also manifest as comparison-itis, where you are constantly comparing yourself with your partner’s past partners and feeling like you can never match up. That if your partner had certain experiences with other people, it means they like you less.
Much of it has to do with your self-confidence and security in yourself and the relationship.
#4 Trust or Betrayal Wound
As children we look forward to trust in psychological safety and security from their parents but we can grow up feeling very betrayed by people around us because of certain circumstances not happening. This can lead to lack of security and trust in the people and our surroundings.
And can generate not-so-great feelings, like resentment, anger, envy, disappointment – you may be perpetually disappointed or expect the worst of people. This also can then manifest into a complete lack of trust of people.
You may also be over-controlling in some situations, where you try to control the situation or the reactions of other people in the environment so that, they wouldn’t let you down again. You may over-value things like fidelity, commitment and loyalty in a relationship, although it comes from a traumatic source.
One of the biggest ways to healing from retroactive jealousy is self-compassion and self-love. Find out how you fare in loving yourself in the quiz below!
In retroactive jealousy, you may view your partner’s past relationship experiences as not loyal to you. Yes, this doesn’t make much sense, but alot about RJ isn’t rational. People with this particular wound can have a huge difficulty truly understanding that their partner had a life before they met and can perceive certain situations as a betrayal.
You may be in a state of constant distrust of your partner and make them constantly prove their loyalty to you. This may manifest as constantly checking up on their phones, emails, sneaking around their things, suspecting everything they say and questioning/interrogating them about various details in their life.
#5 Injustice Wound
This wound manifests when we grew up in a very authoritarian environment where our caregivers may have passed down some rather rigid beliefs and ideas to us. This may be expressed as moral judgments and that can influence your worldview and value systems as you grow up.
This can be expressed as RJ in a relationship where you may judge your partner a certain way if they had certain relationships before or behaved a certain way. Sometimes this can manifest in other ways where the person is also rigid about other people’s behaviours in other areas of life.
But sometimes, this is worth examining – how compatible are you both in terms of your values? Whilst values can sometimes change, some things from childhood can be quite hard to undo if they form the core of our personality and lives.
Do you think your childhood wounds contribute to your retroactive jealousy?