If you’ve been single most of your life and haven’t dated around much and went from there to being in a serious relationship? Woah, I think that’s tough – IF you’ve not got healthy beliefs about love and relationships.
My story started when I was 20, I hadn’t dated around much before that and it wasn’t really in my culture to do so either. So when I had my first serious relationship then, I was thrilled but really nervous and felt like a fish out of water as well. I had no idea what I was doing.
But oh boy, did I bring my toxic love beliefs into the relationship and my anxious, easily jealous nature also reared its not-too-pretty head. Frequently. And it was frankly, terrible. Absolutely horrible.
Why? Because instead of focusing on whether the perosn was a good fit for me relationship-wise (he wasn’t), I was obsessed instead about his past relationships and what he did/didn’t do with his exes. That was all I could spend my time and energy on.
Looking back now, gawd, I think my behaviour was really cringe. I’d be thinking of random things to accuse him of, comments about random things would set me off, I’d be obsessing over something he said about his ex in the day and would text him/call him to demand an explanation, I’d have meltdowns over something that would escalate in my head and I’d demand a breakup.
I always felt incredibly anxious, hypervigilant of him and not 100% trusting him or his feelings, felt incredibly insecure and sad in the relationship and always felt like the emotional volatility/roller coaster was exhausting. But I couldn’t stop. And I always felt unhinged and crazy, and would be embarrassed after one of my outbursts.
Any of those behaviours and feelings sound familiar?
How I started healing
It was in another situation where I was getting to know someone but as I got to know him more, I could feel the intense jealousy bubble up again. It had been years since the first retroactive jealousy episode I spoke about above and I thought I had already healed..but. No. Those intense feelings were coming up again.
Do you struggle with retroactive jealousy? Find out in the quiz below!
He was/is a musician, and I was over-analysing every single thing he did. Why he wrote songs a certain way, why he talked about love in this way, did something happen in his past, was it about another girl.. I was also incredibly insecure (a common occurence together with retroactive jealous) but what I actually meant to him. I couldn’t really believe he liked me, the thought was just ridiculous but ironically loyalty was something I valued (a lack of trust is also a sign of retroactive jealousy) in a relationship.
As with all things for me, it’s only when I reach a point where I feel so very tired of my own behaviour and how it’s holding up my happiness that I decided I really needed to do something about it.
The steps I took
#1 Examining my relationship with trust and security in life
Through that relationship and reflecting on my friendships early in life (which were always dramatic and intense), I always struggled with an abandonment wound. Much of it had to do with my volatile childhood where alot of stuff was going on in my parents’ marriage and as a result I didn’t feel like I got the nurturing and affection that I needed.
My mum also confided way too much in me (no boundaries) about what she thought about my dad and I think it did take a toll on how I feel about romantic relationships, men and trust. And because there was alot of unpredictability, volatility and abuse in their relationship, I was always hypervigilant when I was at home.
All that made me into the super intuitive, empath that I am today and I can read people pretty easily, so I’m really thankful. BUT it did a number on my sense of trust and stability in a relationship and I had no idea what healthy love really looked like. It took the relationship to bring up all these from the past.
I had to examine what building trust and security looked like – for myself first. From within. And it started with trusting my own intuition and my decisions and feelings in various parts of life. It meant giving myself the stability I seeked in others by committing to promises that I made to myself, by making time for things I wanted to do and putting in structures to ensure these things are done.
#2 Getting crystal-clear on my relationship values
I had to dig deep and get clear on what I valued in a partner and in love. And I am clearer now – loyalty, commitment, stability, fun, growth and affection – amongst others. And my partner will value the same things and want the same from me too. If a person does not exhibit behaviours that are indicative of those values, they aren’t for me.
In the past I’d still hang on to people or relationships who were clearly not for me – not any longer.
Another thing to talk about here is that retroactive jealousy sometimes is a sign that your sexual/relationship values are different. Many people who suffer from retroactive jealousy are very bothered about the number of exes their partner had, what they did with their exes, the number of sexual partners etc.
And sometimes, this is for good reason. For example, I’m someone that values loyalty in all forms and people who wait to have sex – meaning people who cheat, have frequent hook-ups, one night stands, were/are promiscuous, had alot of sexual partners etc are not for me. They don’t have the same sexual values as me.
Do people change from their past? Of course! And it’s something you need to figure out how much they’ve changed and how okay you are with that. After all, it’s their sexual/relationship values now that matter more than what they valued 10 years ago.
#3 Being clear around what were fears and what was my intuition
Whenever I had certain blocks about my partner, when my old walls and guardedness came up, I had to learn to ask myself – is this stemming from fear or intuition? Is this from a place of wisdom or just my amygdala doing its job?
Fear feels anxiety-fueled, something that is coming from a wise, intuitive place feels calm and soothing. Whenever you start to wonder about your partner or relationship, and start to question certain things, ask yourself, is this from fear or is it your inner wisdom telling you something?
Once you develop this trust and wisdom from within, you will get alot of answers about your relationship – and about life pretty smoothly.
#4 Examining my beliefs about love and where it stemmed from
As I’ve mentioned above, I had really toxic relationship beliefs that unravelled in the relationship. It took a good number of years, but I had to really examine how I approached love and how I fell for people. And I had to make bad love patterns unfamiliar (i.e. all men suck or falling for people because of their looks) and made the good patterns familiar.
It took awhile too but the patterns were really obvious to me after awhile of doing the exercises.
Interested in examining your own patterns too? Then grab the workbook below!
#5 Shifting my perception around the past vs loving someone in the present
Everyone has a past. Yes. I used to find this really hard to accept. But if you are into things like past lives (I am), you will know that your “past” can literally go beyond your current existence.
Also a piece of advice that worked for me – the age where your partner was with other people, be it 2 years ago, 12 years ago, when they were 18 like 10 years ago… they’ve probably have changed since then. And if you had met them then, chances are, you probably wouldn’t have been into them, they may have been super short, skinny, fugly, annoying, sulky, rude, etc.
We change all the time. If you are someone who values growth like me, you probably make a lot of changes and transformations every year and you’d value someone who also changed for the better. If your partner has experienced growth in the years before they met you, such that you guys are aligned now? I think that’s all that matters.
Life is.. so short and so long at the same time and relationships can be so unpredictable and have ups and downs of all sorts.. that.. a person’s past in the broader sense of it, doesn’t really matter beyond a certain point. There is so much more to consider when dating someone and so much more to live for.
Fall in love with who they are now and not worry about the past – something you or them can’t change. The effort spent doing that can be expended on making the love stronger between you two.
How I felt throughout the healing journey
I will say that, retroactive jealousy can take awhile to heal. I won’t lie, it was pretty painful and required an overhaul of my entire thinking and approach towards relationships. The shifts that I made did not seem huge at that time, because whenever I was on dates or trying to get to know someone, the anxiety and jealousy would surface again.
It took several reminders and consciously soothing my thoughts and deciphering if something was a fear or my intuition speaking to me about the relationship.
Healing also requires alot of conscious changes to alot of the bigger concepts in your life, as you can tell from what I did above. Sometimes, you will be requestioning the set of values you’ve always lived by, requestioning your beliefs and thoughts.
But if it’s for a happier relationship and a happier you, why not? And if I can do it, you can too. All the best on your healing journey!