Welcome to Jealousy Junkie!
Feb. 28, 2023

26: Retroactive Jealousy w/ Zachary Stockill

26: Retroactive Jealousy w/ Zachary Stockill

Have you ever been more curious than you should be about your partner’s past lovers? Where one question about their past turned into five, which turned into ten, then felt that very uncomfortable pang of jealousy? This type of jealousy is called retroactive jealousy. One of the more insidious types of jealousy because it is referring to the past, which no one can undo.

Retroactive jealousy can not only ruin an otherwise healthy relationship, it can also be detrimental to your mental health going forward. So on today’s episode, we have invited retroactive jealousy expert Zachary Stockill to fill us in on everything we need to know about this type of jealousy.

Zachary Stockill is the author of
Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy, The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook and The Breakup Recovery Workbook. He is also a podcaster and educator creating programs around raising awareness and educating people about retroactive jealousy, and has founded www.retroactivejealousy.com. Needless to say, he is the ultimate expert in this field and he wants to share his knowledge with all of you.

In this episode you will learn about what retroactive jealousy is, how to identify if you are suffering from retroactive jealousy, actionable tips on how to remedy retroactive jealousy, and practical tools to help create a healthy dynamic in your relationship when feeling retroactive jealousy, and much more!

This episode is packed with juicy knowledge and advice, so you don’t want to miss this one!


Topics discussed in this episode:


  • What is retroactive jealousy?
  • How Zachary discovered retroactive jealousy
  • Why retroactive jealousy isn’t reserved for straight white men
  • The shame around retroactive jealousy
  • How retroactive jealousy can come off as normal
  • The myth around jealousy
  • When is walking away the right choice?
  • Honoring your higher self vs. your ego
  • Advice for those who are aroused by a partner’s sexual past
  • The Madonna-Whore Complex in Freudian psychology
  • What to expect from Zachary’s program Get Over Your Partner's Past Fast
  • Actionable tips for anyone suffering from retroactive jealousy
  • Tools on how to trust your partner’s desire for you
  • How to learn about your partner’s past in a safe and healthy way

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[00:00:00] Zachary Stockill: The thing that I think about all the time that makes me cringe to this day is I remember in my first serious relationship when I was a young man, I said to my then girlfriend with a straight face, If you are even attracted to anyone else, at any time that we're together, I don't think we should be together.

[Intro with Music] Shanenn Bryant: back to another episode of Jealousy Junkie. I have with me today author. coach, podcast host and founder of retroactivejealousy.com. Welcome, Zachary Stockhill 

[00:00:31] Zachary Stockill: Thanks very much. Thanks for having me. 

[00:00:33] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah, I've been looking forward to this. You know, when I was really trying to sort out some of my mess as a child of an alcoholic and growing up in that environment and trying to figure out, you know, why am I the way that I am?

[00:00:50] Shanenn Bryant: I visited a couple different therapists and one of the therapists gave me what's called the ACA Laundry List. It's the like 14 characteristics of a child who grew up in that environment. And when I saw that list, it was, like oh my gosh, there's actually a list, which means I'm not the only person that struggles with this.

[00:01:14] Shanenn Bryant: And it means that there's probably a solution or a way, to not feel these things anymore. And I would imagine that somebody who hears retroactive jealousy and hears what it is for the first time, it's probably a similar experience. Oh my gosh, I didn't know that there was a name for it. So, can you start by talking about what is retroactive jealousy? 

[00:01:38] Zachary Stockill: It's a tough, issue to define because it's so complicated and so varied among individuals. But in a nutshell, I define kind of standard run of the mill jealousy or retroactive jealousy rather as unwanted, intrusive thoughts, often obsessive curiosity and what I call mental movies Uh, involving your partner's past relationships and or dating slash sexual history. And if I can break that down a little further, my own kind of working definition for retroactive jealousy, I kind of divide it into three distinct categories. 

[00:02:08] Zachary Stockill: So, type one retroactive jealousy would be.... I would imagine most people in relationships can kind of relate, like, you know, you hear something about your partner's past or you imagine them with their ex, and you feel this kind of pang in your chest. It isn't the most pleasant thing for anyone to think about. That's what I call type one. 

[00:02:24] Zachary Stockill: Type two is what I define as more values-based retroactive jealousy, where you find out some detail about your partner's past or you learn a little more about something that suggests that maybe it's kind of a red flag that there could be some moral incompatibility between you and your partner.

[00:02:40] Zachary Stockill: There could be some, uh, lack of sharing of values there. Certainly, it comes up quite often and type three is what I struggled with, very intensely in my personal life many years ago where it's almost more akin to O C D where not only do you not like the details of your partner's past, but you can't stop thinking about them.

[00:02:59] Zachary Stockill: I mean, I often say when I was struggling with this at the extreme end of things, my then girlfriend's past was the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought of when I went to bed at night .And I would be, you know, harassing her with all kinds endless questions about the details of her, past. You know, and I'd have this feeling that if I just get one or two more details, if I can just solve this riddle in my head, and if I can get all the, you know, full disclosure, that's gonna solve this problem for me. And of course, it only made it worse. And that is, yeah, I mean, the, the loose term is retro jealousy O.C.D. 

[00:03:32] Shanenn Bryant: We definitely know that questions typically breed more questions, especially in this scenario, right?

Talk to me a little bit about the first time you heard of retroactive jealousy. How you discovered it, what specifically was going on in your life at that time, and how did you stumble on it? 

[00:03:38] Zachary Stockill: It's a long, complicated story. The short version is, I, started struggling with it intensely in my first serious relationship. So I'd been in high school relationships, but the first time I fell absolutely madly head over heels in love, I was actually in university, or I guess in the states, you guys call it college.

[00:04:07] Zachary Stockill: I was around 18, 19 and it would come and go. I'd have these intense waves of anxiety and I didn't know what I was feeling and I just, I thought that her past meant that there was some kind of moral incompatibility, which in hindsight was totally ridiculous. I mean, my past was more colorful for example, shall we say. I had more of a past than my partner, but nothing seemed to matter.

[00:04:28] Zachary Stockill: I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'd have, uh, many sleepless nights. And I'm not proud of some of the things I did. I mean, like I say, I would ask her endless questions and I would guilt her, and all these things that are just totally ridiculous in hindsight. But I felt like I couldn't help myself basically.

[00:04:43] Zachary Stockill: And in short, I think, I mean, I can't actually remember the first time I encountered the term retroactive jealousy, but I can almost guarantee it was on, you know, one of my late-night Google Binges, just googling endlessly trying to get to the bottom of it. You know, girlfriends past. Can't stop thinking about my girlfriend's past.

[00:05:00] Zachary Stockill: I can't remember exactly what I was looking for, but at one point that search led to some kind of open internet forum, I'm sure, cuz I used to spend a lot of time on these kind of dodgy open internet forums where it's kind of a free for all of people giving advice. Some of the advice was helpful, most of it was not.

[00:05:16] Zachary Stockill: Because most people simply, they just can't understand. They can't even fathom this issue. I mean, 99.9% of the general population has never heard the term retroactive of jealousy, and they assume that anyone who struggles with this is, you know, usually misogynist. They assume that it's only straight men that suffer from this, which is absolutely wrong.

[00:05:35] Zachary Stockill: I've worked with lesbians. I've worked with trans people; I've worked with gay men. This is not a problem that is simply confined to straight men. And a lot of the, the backlash, you know, that retroactive jealousy sufferers receive is really painful because for many of them it's like, I don't wanna feel this way.

[00:05:49] Zachary Stockill: I don't hate women, I love women, but I don't know what I'm feeling and it's really confusing and frustrating and stifling. So yeah, I would imagine I encountered the term in one of those open forms many years ago.

 How did you come then to wanna share your findings with other people and help them as well? 

[00:06:07] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, I think I had the inkling fairly early on in my recovery. Once I started finding techniques that worked. Once I started putting my own perspectives together on this problem. I had an inkling early on that if I ever had the chance, I would like to do something to help people because. many retroactive jealousy sufferers just feel totally isolated, totally misunderstood, totally alone.

[00:06:28] Zachary Stockill: It's a pretty lonely road for most people, and like I say, there's not a lot of public understanding of this issue, certainly. So pretty early on in my recovery, I remember I started working on a blog and I was actually using a fake name at that time because I was in graduate school pursuing another line of research, and I was still embarrassed.

[00:06:46] Zachary Stockill: Frankly, I was embarrassed to have acted this way. I was embarrassed to have been a retroactive jealousy sufferer. It was really just out of a deep feeling that someone needs to put a face on this issue. Someone needs to start talking about this publicly. Yeah, and it wasn't easy, but eventually I decided that, you know, someone's gotta do it, so it may as well be me.

[00:07:05] Zachary Stockill: And I started counseling people privately just giving advice and responding to endless emails and stuff on my blog. And I realized that there really is a need for greater public knowledge of this problem, and there's a need for solutions. And so that's what I've tried to offer over the past 10 years. I can't believe it's been that long, but yeah. 10 years. 

[00:07:22] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah, definitely, you've been at it for a very long time. 

[00:07:25] Zachary Stockill: Yeah. 

[00:07:26] Shanenn Bryant: Kind of the king f retroactive jealousy.

[00:07:28] Zachary Stockill: Oh my, what a weird title. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

[00:07:31] Shanenn Bryant: It so is, right. Yeah. I don't know if you want that Zach, but...

[00:07:37] Shanenn Bryant: yeah.

[00:07:38] Shanenn Bryant: Um, but I know that people are really so appreciative of you openly talking about it.

[00:07:45] Shanenn Bryant: And I know, we both share in that of, sort of one of those things where I have to be very vulnerable myself, and willing to put myself out there and talk about it in order to help other people to understand, like we don't need to continue to feel embarrassed by it and that, you can talk to people. I know that you have heard, and I certainly have heard from people that they have tried therapy, or talking to their friends and they just don't feel like they're getting any resolution because most people have not experienced this. Certainly not in this severe degree that this can get to. And it's hard for people to, to be able to help someone else that's suffering from this. 

[00:08:32] Zachary Stockill: Certainly. Yeah. I mean, I wanna be absolutely clear. I mean, therapy can be an absolutely incredible tool if you find a good therapist, you know, hold onto them, keep pursuing that if it's helpful. But one of the most common complaints I hear from people is I tried talking about this with often several different therapists and I just kept getting these blank stares or this kind of really judgmental. slightly, uh, snotty attitude, like, oh, you're just a misogynist or something. So, it's a very difficult thing to talk about. 

[00:09:02] Zachary Stockill: I mean, public knowledge, again, as I say, is in its infancy. I've been fortunate enough to start working with some researchers, from different universities about this issue and collaborating on some different surveys and some different research projects so I'm pleased to say that that is changing. 

[00:09:16] Zachary Stockill: But if you don't mind, I'll speak to the whole embarrassment part a little bit, because I think that this is important. Two stories. I mean, number one, you know, I remember when I came out in air quotes, I put my real name on my book. I started, making YouTube videos of my real name and face and all the rest. And I was actually having lunch with a woman that I used to date, and she'd just become a friend and we were talking very frankly, you know, I wonder about the impact this is gonna have on my dating life because, you know, I go out on a date with a woman, she Googles me and it's like, wow.

[00:09:49] Zachary Stockill: And my friend looked at me with a straight face and she said, Zach, the book is called Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy. And it sounds cheesy, but that moment really meant a lot to me because I realized that, suffering with this problem is not necessarily embarrassing. It's really what you do with it is what really matters. And I'm pleased to say that over the past 10 years that it hasn't been an issue whatsoever, for my dating life. 

[00:10:11] Zachary Stockill: And the second thing I would say to anyone out there who's feeling embarrassed or a sense of shame around this issue. Obviously I can't and won't disclose names, but I've worked with many clients at the absolute peaks of their professions. even, some people you would know if I said their names, celebrities of various stature, you know, just people at the absolute peaks and on the outside looking in, it would be insane to think that this person is struggling with retroactive jealousy. But those people can struggle with this as well.

[00:10:38] Zachary Stockill: This is not an issue that is merely confined to, people with absolutely zero confidence or zero success or whatever. And there's nothing inherently shameful about suffering from this problem. I think that what's important is that you do something about it 

 Well thank you so much for going back and talking about that because it is important. We never want someone to suffer in silence because they don't wanna reach out and talk to someone about it or attempt to, get help for it. So thank you for that. 

[00:11:09] Shanenn Bryant: I did wanna talk a little bit about, you mentioned some of the things that you did in the past and not necessarily being proud of them. I'm right there with you. Some of the things that I have done in my relationship, even with my husband kind of make me cringe a little bit looking back.

[00:11:26] Shanenn Bryant: And I think that sometimes people also see someone who is suffering from jealousy as someone who is very controlling, maybe narcissistic. I mean, we get a lot of those things. Can you talk a little bit about that and the things that people, may do when they're suffering from this? 

[00:11:46] Zachary Stockill: Yeah,one thing I'll note to start off is one of the really interesting things about this particular form of jealousy, if you can call it that, retroactive jealousy is I guess I would probably say a majority of sufferers actually don't exhibit the more normal jealous behaviors in their relationship.

[00:12:03] Zachary Stockill: They're not super controlling. They don't have those constant mate guarding instincts in the present as it relates to the present. Um, but they have them in extreme with regards to their partner's past. Kind of interesting there. And I think that it's fair to say I fit into that category as well, I'd had some vaguely jealous pangs with regards to my partner's present. You know, I'm at a bar and some sexy guy walks by and he comes to chat at my girl. Something like that. But never in extreme at all, actually. Retroactive jealousy for most people involves symptoms like the intrusive thoughts, I have to mention once again.

 Often constant, really graphic sexual imagery in the head. A constant curiosity. There's this feeling that if I just get the answer to one or two and then it turns into 10, and then it turns into 50 more questions and on and on. If I just get the answer to these questions, often about very granular details about their partner's past.

[00:12:56] Zachary Stockill: I mean, what were you wearing? What was he wearing? Where did you do it? Where did this happen? What did you say to her? You know, all of these things, very granular details. And so that can involve things like these interrogation sessions essentially with one's partner where you're just constantly grilling them about all the details of their past. 

[00:13:14] Zachary Stockhill: There's often a lot of shaming involved even if the person's past is 100% normal because I think the retroactive jealousy suffer... they're trying to rationalize their feelings, so they tell themselves, I only feel this way because there's actually some problem. There's actually some moral incompatibility and like I say, that can be involved in certain cases of retro jealousy, 100%.

[00:13:34] Zachary Stockill: Sometimes walking away is absolutely the right decision for everyone involved, but in my experience, in the majority of cases, that's actually not accurate. And once the person starts getting a handle on their problem, they realize at a fundamental level, there's no incompatibility between me and my wife, or me and my husband, or me and my boyfriend or girlfriend.

[00:13:52] Zachary Stockill: This is simply about my own fears, my own insecurities. So the endless questioning sessions is a big one, or at least the impulse to ask a million questions is a big one among retroactive jealousy sufferers. There's often a lot of, um, social media stalking too. I mean, Facebook and Instagram are a great tool for anyone who wants to sift through the details of their partner's past, as we all know, so often retroactive jealousy sufferers will go on these, mad Facebook binges and they'll go all through the person's timeline and who's this person tagged in that photo and what does this comment mean? 

[00:14:25] Zachary Stockill: And as you know, it's very easy to misread, misinterpret that stuff on social media, but obviously that adds a lot of fuel to the speculative fire that is retroactive jealousy. Often people, spend a lot of time again, Googling and just, spending hours and hours and hours on internet, internet forms looking for relief. 

[00:14:42] Zachary Stockill: So those are some of the kind of the ways that retroactive jealousy plays out in terms of actions. 

 Being upset about the partner's past, is, the fundamental piece of this. But it can even be that the person who is suffering from retroactive jealousy has, as you said, a more colorful past than their partner, who they are questioning right?

[00:15:05] Zachary Stockill: Extremely common. I mean, a lot of the time people write to me, and they assume that, well, my partner's past is slightly more colorful than mine. So, if our past were somehow equal in air quotes, you know, if I'd had the same number of sexual partners, if I'd had the same number of relationships, then I wouldn't be struggling with retroactive jealousy.

[00:15:23] Zachary Stockill: And I can only point to myself as an example that that's not true, not necessarily true. And a small army of other people who I've heard from, where they have the exact same story. Sometimes their past is, you know, 2, 3, 4, 10 times more colorful, shall we say, than their partners. And they're still struggling at the extreme end of things.

[00:15:43] Zachary Stockill: Another myth that I really want to start to take apart, in terms of the public discourse around this issue, is somehow the idea that just because you're having a certain reaction to your partner's past, that automatically means there's some moral incompatibility in the relationship. 

[00:15:57] Zachary Stockill: I'm sure you're familiar with the so-called manosphere and red pill communities, and a lot of these guys find these online communities and a lot of the advice they get basically tells them to anytime you have any kind of reaction to any woman's past, you know, that's, you know, onto the next one kind of thing. Uh, which I think is totally senseless.

[00:16:17] Zachary Stockill: I mean, again, sometimes there are glaring red flags. Sometimes there are incompatibility and walking away is the right. But the point is you should spend the time to get a handle on your brain, to get a handle on the intrusive thoughts before you can see clearly enough to make such a momentous life decision, if that makes sense.

 A hundred percent. That's horrible advice actually of stepping out, and, ending a relationship without, first really determining what's going on. 

[00:16:44] Zachary Stockill: Well, if I could just very briefly, I wanna say to these guys, giving that advice. Many of my clients, they're married to absolutely () (j) just to use the male example, they're married to absolutely incredible women. They've got children. She's been an absolutely fantastic wife.

[00:16:58] Zachary Stockill: Her past is by no means out of the ordinary whatsoever. And I wanna say to these guys, so what are you suggesting? Are you suggesting that guy blow up his entire life? You know, put his children's futures in jeopardy? is, is that your solution really? Like, it doesn't make sense to me. And by the way, the men in those scenarios, almost always realize that their feelings are completely irrational, right? So, you know, sometimes walking away is the right choice, but it certainly isn't always. 

[00:17:27] Shanenn Bryant: I'm glad that you brought that up because I think even in the, jealousy that I speak on a lot, which is what you were talking about earlier, you know, someone attractive in a bar, my boyfriend or my husband or my wife is looking at that person and I get upset and jealous or they're talking to them.

 but I think in both scenarios, most of the time we do have an idea that we are being potentially irrational, right? Like we're kind of maybe already aware that yes, as strong as these feel and as strong as my conviction is that maybe this is wrong. We also have that ting of ugh, but I'm maybe being irrational, so we can already kind of feel that.


[00:18:14] Zachary Stockill: Certainly. Yeah, I mean, the way I frame it is listening to your higher self despite the protestations of your ego. So I see jealousy as being largely about insecurity and fear, and that's the ego. That's the part of us that wants to keep us small. That's the part of us that yearns for external validation.

[00:18:32] Zachary Stockill: That's kind of our smaller self or the way I frame it. And you're right, when we're in these situations, there's often kind of a battle between the two opposing sides of our psyche where there's what I call our higher self, the version of ourselves that knows what we should do, that knows this isn't a big deal, that knows that another fight with our partner won't do us any good kind of our highest wisdom.

[00:18:51] Zachary Stockill: And then our insecure ego that's kind of poking and prodding and also wants that attention, wants us to listen. So you're right, there's often these kind of two sides of our psyche battling. But the good news is the more you listen to what I call your higher self, the more you give that voice it's due, the more you trust the wisdom, the deep wisdom of your highest self, the easier it becomes and the more you build up that muscle, shall we say, of even though it's difficult in the moment, the more I listen to my highest self, the better things get, you know, over the long run.

 You were talking, earlier about mental movies, and that is what some retroactive jealousy sufferers do. They've asked several questions and they're trying to get all the details and then they create this movie that they play in their head.

I reached out to a group of retroactive jealousy sufferers to let them know that I would be speaking with you and having the opportunity to ask you some questions. And one of the questions came up several times. In a twist to being upset about these mental movies that they're playing in their head, some mentioned they were sexually aroused by the mental movies. Do you see that often with retroactive jealousy suffers? 

[00:20:04] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, it certainly happens. I wouldn't necessarily say it's the majority of cases, but I have seen that frequently. Yeah, where someone's, eroticizing or sexualizing their partners past to such an extent, it almost becomes a turn on. A couple things I would say to that. Number one, I think it's pretty likely that person is probably a consumer of video pornography, I've noticed a correlation there. Not necessarily causation, but correlation. If you're struggling with mental movies, adding more violent graphic sexual imagery to the cocktail in your head is probably not gonna help matters.

 I often encourage retroactive jealousy suffers to go 100% cold turkey on pornography as quickly as possible. And by the way, this is not a moralistic argument. I'm not suggesting that pornography is evil. I'm saying if you wanna solve this problem, porn isn't helping. It's probably making the situation worse.

[00:20:57] Zachary Stockill: The second thing I would say is you can almost compare this to some certain, um, survivors of sexual assault where they've been through something traumatic and then they start having rape fantasies or something like that. Now, obviously I'm not comparing the two situations saying they're the exact same thing, but sometimes when something in life is so painful and so disorienting, on some level, we feel like maybe even subconsciously, the only way through it is to somehow make it like we like it or something. You know what I mean? To try to solve it through sexualizing it or through eroticizing it. That's kind of my working theory on why people do that.

[00:21:32] Shanenn Bryant: Interesting. Yeah. That makes sense. 

[00:21:34] Zachary Stockill: And I would also say one more thing. Have you ever heard of the, the Madonna-Whore Complex in Freudian psychology?

[00:21:41] Zachary Stockill: No

[00:21:42] Zachary Stockill: So it's, it's a very old idea, but in essence, some mostly men, unwittingly go around on some level dividing women into two categories. So on the one hand, there's the virginal, pure maternal, you know, matriarchal, angelic figure that's pure as snow white, and you know, sex is totally desexualized.

[00:22:03] Zachary Stockill: And on the other hand, there's the whore. The woman who is just ravenous sexual appetite, porn, star, whatever. And many men, uh, when they fall in love and when they create a relationship, and often when they get married and start having children with a woman, they desexualize her to such an extent because on some level they're playing that out in their head. But they're pent up sexual feelings still need some kind of an outlet. 

[00:22:25] Zachary Stockill: So maybe some of these people on some level, they've desexualized their wife to such an extent, but they've sexualized her past before she was a mother, before she had kids, that kind of thing. I also think that can happen sometimes too. You know, where, where men are kind of s slotting their women into these two categories or completely desexualizing their partner in the present so they have to sexualize their past

[00:22:47] Shanenn Bryant: Oh, very interesting. Thank you for sharing. 

[00:22:50] Zachary Stockill: Just a theory. 

[00:22:51] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah. Well, I know that you have a program that you offer people to go through. One of them is Get Over Your Partner's Past Fast. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and what someone would expect from that program? 

[00:23:08] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, it's, um, at the risk of sounding and modest, I'm really proud of it because it's helped thousands of people at this point. It's basically a very structured program people can follow at their own pace to start getting a handle on the intrusive thoughts. To start getting a handle on the mental movies to start getting a handle on the question of values.

[00:23:26] Zachary Stockhill: There's a series of lengthy guided meditations throughout the course, designed specifically for this issue of retroactive jealousy. I do some Q &A's in there as well, but in essence, it's the most comprehensive program that I know of designed specifically for people struggling with the intrusive thoughts, the mental movies, the obsessive curiosity around their partner's past.

 And again, I, I like it because it's completely go at your own pace. Many people have found it very helpful It's been updated quite a bit, but some version of the course has been going since around 2014 and we've had thousands of graduates, so I'm very proud of it. 

 That's amazing. I wondered if you could give just a few tips for someone if they're suffering from retroactive jealousy. Some real actionable things that they could start to do until either they go through your course or, um, as they're looking at different options. What are some things that they can start with?

[00:24:24] Zachary Stockill: In terms of just basic ground level advice for retroactive jealousy sufferers. Number one, stop talking to your partner about their past. Sounds simple. Obviously, this alone is not gonna solve your problem. But if you're in a sinking ship, you know you should start plugging the biggest hole first. And to my mind, that's kind of one of the biggest causes of retroactive jealousy is just excess information about your partner's past that isn't actually important, that isn't related to a serious conflict in values, that isn't related to a deal breaker.

[00:24:53] Zachary Stockill: And by the way, if you're asking your partner endless questions about their past, that's putting tremendous strain in their relationship. That's probably dampening their attraction to you. It's bad for all kinds of reasons. Stop asking your partner questions about their past. And related to that, I would say don't put this problem on your partner or anyone else to solve your partner.

[00:25:12] Zachary Stockill: No matter how incredible they are, no matter how much they love you, no matter how much perhaps they want to solve this problem for you, retroactive jealousy doesn't work that way. Otherwise, I would have a program for the partners of retroactive jealousy suffers, but it doesn't work. It's not effective.

[00:25:25] Zachary Stockill: So own this problem a hundred percent. Start taking steps to solve it. I mean, I can give a million more piece of advice, but one thing I would suggest is try to take up some kind of basic mindfulness practice. Nowadays, everyone and their dog is preaching the benefits of meditation. It's a very unoriginal thing to say, but there's a reason why meditation has survived for thousands of years. There's a reason why it's having such a moment in our culture right now. It's because it's an incredibly valuable tool. I'm not suggesting you should be like the Dalai Lama and you know, striving towards enlightenment, but some kind of a basic breathing routine.

[00:26:01] Zachary Stockill: Some kind of basic mindfulness practice will go a long way towards orienting yourself in the present more often, cuz really that's what we're interested in here. We're not interested in fretting about the future, which a lot of that's what is involved in a lot of normal relationship jealousy, right? What if my partner leaves? And we're also not interested in fretting about the past, which is retroactive jealousy? Let's stay grounded in the present moment. And mindfulness practice can go a long way towards that.

[00:26:27] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah. So, I want you to take it a little bit further because one of the questions that we had, was really around not necessarily so focused on their partner's past in terms of what they did, but the type of people that they did things with. And I think in a lot of cases it was the exes were wealthier than them or took them on exotic trips that they're not taking them on.

 Could the same techniques work in that situation when it's kind of about the who it was versus the activities?

[00:27:06] Zachary Stockill: Sure, The answer's the same. However, I would also say, if you're genuinely feeling a lack of investment or commitment or desire from your partner, that isn't necessarily irrational. Now, obviously everyone's gonna be a little different there, but there could be a case where perhaps, you know, your partner isn't as committed to you a as you are to them, or you're feeling some lack of love or desire or investment.

[00:27:31] Zachary Stockill: And in those cases, then I think getting an outside opinion can be very valuable. Um, confiding in friends and family members, therapist or a coach, something like that. but I don't mean to suggest again that this is always irrational because it isn't always irrational. However, I would also say, don’t sell yourself short, because I think a lot of jealousy sufferers in general, we tend to sell ourselves short.


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[00:28:19] Zachary Stockill: We don't trust our partner's words of affirmation. We don't trust their, uh, demonstrated desire for us. We don't trust the way they make us a priority in their lives. So we think that other people are sexier or wealthier or we think people from their past are better for them or whatever.

[00:28:36] Zachary Stockill: So, I would say trust your partner's desire for you, realizing that, I really think for the most part, human beings don't settle. I, I think that that certainly can happen in certain situations, but there's a lot of narratives out there that, you know, women just wanna settle down with the boring, nice guy or men, perform a similar kind of settling.

[00:28:56] Zachary Stockill: Sometimes that happens, but frankly, I think it's pretty rare because human beings are selfish human beings respond to incentives and figure out basically, what are you bringing to your partner's table, so to speak. Get very, very clear on why your partner is with you. And by the way, you can do this as a thought experiment with, without involving your partner.

[00:29:15] Zachary Stockill: But really try to look at the two of you as objective outside observers as much as you possibly can, and just kind of let your ego run wild. Like why is your partner with you? What are all the qualities you bring to their life? What are all the things you do for them? What have they told you? Like you can quote them directly, try to get a very, very clear picture on exactly why your partner is with you and I think that that will go some way, hopefully towards easing some of that kind of insecurity.

[00:29:40] Shanenn Bryant: I love that because, okay, yes, they could have had somebody who had more money than you or had a better house than you, but you can have so many other qualities that are absolutely amazing that overshadow that. I also love that you said people don't typically settle because we get in our heads a lot about that.

[00:30:04] Shanenn Bryant: I hear from a lot of people in that insecurity of maybe I'm not good enough, or I feel like I'm not good enough for him or her and I think that's just such a powerful thing to consider. That person picked you for a reason and we are selfish beings for the most part and so we're not gonna put ourselves through that in settling for someone. 

[00:30:29] Zachary Stockill: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. It's a pernicious myth that seems to be having a moment in our society of the idea of, of settling. And again, I'm thinking in my head of a lot of the red pill, manosphere, online communities that have a lot of, what I believe to be a lot of misleading narratives about women in general.

 Yes, it does happen, but it certainly doesn't happen nearly as much as what a lot of people seem to suggest.

[00:30:52] Shanenn Bryant: Another question that kept popping up was, and I think I know your answer to this, but I wanna hear your response. People were asking and saying, okay, I know that Zachary says we shouldn't keep questioning our partner, so we shouldn't, you know, run through question after question after question about their past.

[00:31:14] Shanenn Bryant: But then they wanted to know, well, if I don't ask the questions about their past, how will I know if me and my partner are experiencing something for the first time? Or we could in the future have a sexual experience that's just for us?

[00:31:29] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, one thing I would say, you know, just to broaden the question a little bit, is sometimes people say, well, Zach, if you say that I shouldn't ask my partner about their past, how am I gonna learn about them? How am I going to know about their past? And the answer to that is simply...everyone's favorite topic of conversation is themselves.

[00:31:45] Zachary Stockill: And if you simply sit quiet and pay attention over long periods of time, eventually that person will tell you about their past and who they are without a lot of whole, without much interrogation or deliberate questioning on your part whatsoever. The keyword there is time. The more we feel comfortable with someone, you know, the more time we spend with them, eventually we're gonna start sharing our stories and opening up and all this stuff.

[00:32:08] Zachary Stockill: Um, and I think also if you wanna learn about your partner's past, asking them very pointed, heated, directed questions is not going to get you the truth. Because as soon as someone feels like they're in an interrogation room, or they're being judged or whatever, they clam up. If you really wanna know who someone is, make them feel as comfortable as possible, and as not judged as possible.

[00:32:28] Zachary Stockill: And eventually they will open up about the most intimate details of their life. It's just a question of when, if, if you're a decent listener. So that's what I'd say to that. In terms of, you know, I get this question a lot like the novelty of sexual experiences. It's like, well, I wanna do this for the first time and I wanna do that for the next time.

[00:32:44] Zachary Stockill: I mean, I, I guess I understand. I would say if you're from an extreme religious community and you know, for example, virginity is an absolute ironclad value for you, well then, yeah, you should figure that out. And if your partner doesn't share that, then you should, you should move on. No harm, no foul. Not judging that.

[00:33:02] Zachary Stockill: But in terms of the overall, you know, I want my partner to experience this for the first time, and I want them to experience that for the first time. The way I see that is every human being is a universe unto themselves. You can have related sexual experiences with multiple partners, but each of those experiences could be extremely, extremely different.

[00:33:20] Zachary Stockill: So if you're worried about the novelty of a sexual experience with your partner, if they're having that experience and they love you for the first time with you, that is going to be a new sexual experience for them. Maybe they've done certain acts in the past or whatever, and that troubles you or what have you but I don't know. 

[00:33:37] Zachary Stockill: I mean, the way I see sex and sexuality and it's just every, I mean, every woman is a universe unto herself. There's limitations in comparison there. And I think the same is true for, for men as well. You know, it's like every, every sexual experience with a new partner is new in a very real sense.

[00:33:54] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah. Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about where you think retroactive jealousy stems from because one of the questions that came in as well was.. They know that they've had past trauma. So they had trauma in their childhood and really questioning when something happens in the relationship or they hear something about their partner's past, they start questioning. Is this a moral difference between the two of us, or is this just fear-based because of the trauma that's happened in my past? So could you answer that and then talk about where you think retroactive jealousy stems from? 

[00:34:42] Zachary Stockill: Yeah. Well, the first thing I would say is that whole question of determining whether or not your retroactive jealousy is more or less rational or irrational. That's a really, really complicated question. It's tough to give blanket advice there because it depends so heavily on the individual, their goals, their vision for the future, their partner, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:35:04] Zachary Stockill: Just to be a shameless sales salesman, I created a program called The Path to Peace that's several hours long, just about that question, cuz I think it's really complicated. But in terms of where retroactive jealousy comes from, I think that it can involve many factors. I think there is, and I have no evidence for this, but I think there is a biological component to this, um, some kind of obsessive thinking.

[00:35:26] Zachary Stockill: I mean, they've done studies, for example, on people with just plain O C D, and there are parts of their brain that are functioning a little differently. So, I do think there is some kind of biological component to this. You'll find often that many retroactive jealousy sufferers are overthinkers in general.

[00:35:42] Zachary Stockill: And while that certainly doesn't indicate a mental disorder, I think it does indicate that, you know, our brains might function a little differently from a lot of people's. And I also think for many people, social, cultural, religious factors can be involved. I mean, I don't think it's an accent that I get a lot of emails and a lot of questions from people in more religious slash socially conservative countries.

[00:36:03] Zachary Stockill: Um, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, places like that. Certainly doesn't represent all of us, but that is a sizable chunk. I think those social and cultural religious factors can definitely play a role. And I also think, for anyone struggling with this, it's a good idea to go back to your childhood or your adolescence and start thinking about some of your earliest ideas about men, women, dating, sex and sexuality. Because as we all know, those early ideas about the world, they can form some of our background programming for decades later, even though we might not be entirely conscious of it. 

[00:36:38] Zachary Stockill: So it's good to think about that as well. You know, what are some of the earliest ideas that I was presented about good girls and bad girls or good men or sex.? Or sex is bad or sex is, you know, whatever. It's like really spend some time thinking about that stuff. Cuz I think that can often play a role as well. And certainly, past trauma can play a role for certain people. Maybe someone was betrayed terribly in a past relationship, or maybe one parent betrayed another in a relationship or something like that.

[00:37:09] Zachary Stockill: I've definitely heard that story more than once as well. Some kind of past trauma that could be spurring on retroactive jealousy.

[00:37:17] Shanenn Bryant: Because I know that you've done so much work, and this really started with work on yourself, where do you think yours came from? 

[00:37:25] Zachary Stockill: Oof. That's a good question. Um, well, now I'm getting really personal. To be honest. I think, uh, once I came out with this issue, I started hearing from certain family members. I won't say who, who struggled with very similar issues. And that's what another reason that leads me to think that there's probably at least some biological component to this. Because again, people only felt comfortable telling me about this after I became the retroactive jealousy guy. Um, so I think that's rather interesting. 

[00:37:51] Zachary Stockill: Um, I don't think it's related to past trauma for me. I mean, I grew up in an extremely loving, supportive household. My parents were married 30 years until my mother's death. Extremely good marriage. I had no problems with women from an early age you know, high school and stuff. Uh, no issues there. So I think for me it was largely probably is some biological component if one were to study my brain, my strange brain.

[00:38:18] Zachary Stockill: Um, but I also think, you know, for me it was unrealistic ideas about life and love. And I think I was an extreme romantic in my early years. I mean, you know, I'd write poetry and I'm a songwriter and I'd go to Shakespeare plays and I had this kind of really romantic idea about the way the world works and that led me to say and do some really ridiculous things.

[00:38:39] Zachary Stockill: I mean, the thing that I think about all the time that makes me cringe to this day is I remember in my first serious relationship when I was a young man, I said to my then girlfriend with a straight face, "If you are even attracted to anyone else at any time that we're together, I don't think we should be together.'

[00:38:56] Zachary Stockill: Which like, that's insane because there's sexy people everywhere. I mean even if it's just a fleeting noticing of another good-looking person. For me that was too much. I mean, that's how extreme I was in some of these. Really conservative views about life and love. And it's weird cuz I didn't grow up in a house like that, but I think maybe, I don't know if it was what I was reading or you know, whatever, but at the end of the day, a lot of it was just plain about fear.

 I was desperately in love with an incredible woman, and I was scared to death of losing that. And it brought up all kinds of emotions in me. And yeah, it was a really confusing, you know, just how extreme my emotions were around that relationship.

 Well thanks for sharing that. What I hear often and what I experienced was, you know, I felt bad for some of the stuff that I said, and I did to my partners at the time, but I will say like, no one wanted to be different or to change more than me, and I was the one who had control over that. But it felt very out of control. Like there was no control. There was no way to change the way that I was, and sort of just felt doomed that this is the way I'm made and there's no answer for this. 

[00:40:12] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, if I can just speak to that. Yeah One thing I feel strongly though about mentioning is I think sometimes some people, when they find the term obsessive jealousy or they find the term retroactive jealousy, they kind of use it as an excuse to engage in a lot of counterproductive and some borderline abusive behavior in their relationship.

[00:40:34] Zachary Stockill: Because they use this diagnosis as like, I can't help myself. You know, I have this thing. It's like, I, what can I do? I'm a victim, right? And I wanna be clear that that is not what I'm about at all. I mean, we may not have control over our thoughts all the time. We may not have control over the fact that we're struggling with this issue, but we always have control over our actions, over the, the choices we make in the presence. 

[00:40:56] Zachary Stockill: So I just always wanna emphasize that point. Don't use a diagnosis of obsessive jealousy or retroactive jealousy as an excuse to treat your partner poorly. Um, it's just a lousy situation for everyone involved, and believe me, if you have any conscience at all, eventually you'll f feel real profound regret at some of the decisions you're making right now.

[00:41:16] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for coming back and saying that because I do think that is important to not fall on that for people to not think, oh, well that's just how I am. Oh, okay. There, great. There's a name for it. That's just how I am and like it or don't. That's how I'm gonna be. 

[00:41:34] Shanenn Bryant: We've now identified it, but that's just even more of, a reason to go, okay, I do know that this now has a name and that there are things that I can do to overcome this and to be better in my relationships and to be better in myself. 

[00:41:50] Zachary Stockill: Absolutely. Well said. 

 Any last final advice for retroactive jealousy sufferers before we let you go? 

[00:41:59] Zachary Stockill: Yeah, I would say, God, I won't go on for an hour, but I easily could, um, own this problem, take the steps, do whatever, research you need to do to find something that works, to start making progress. If that involves therapy, great. If that involves my work, great. If that involves someone else's work, great.

[00:42:16] Zachary Stockill: The point is you have to start taking steps to find the resources you need to start healing. Unfortunately, this problem does not go away in its own. Many people try that. They just think, if I just ignore it, it'll go away. It doesn't. You have to start taking proactive steps to start healing, and by all means, do not lose hope.

[00:42:34] Zachary Stockill: Because I always say, even if you don't believe me in my story, that's fine. You can go on my website and find dozens and dozens, I think we're over a hundred now of real testimonials from real people, who've taken the steps and they've worked through this problem. You are not destined to live with this for the rest of your life.

[00:42:49] Zachary Stockill: You're not destined to a life of singlehood because you can't handle an intimate relationship. There are things you can do, there are steps you can take that can truly put this problem behind you for good. Peace of mind is absolutely possible. It's simply about taking the steps. 

[00:43:03] Shanenn Bryant: Yeah, love it. If one thing doesn't work, try a different method and try a different technique. I think is very important. 

[00:43:11] Zachary Stockill: Yeah. Don't lose hope. That's my message. 

 Thank you Zachary Stockill. I appreciate you joining Jealousy Junkie. 

[00:43:18] Zachary Stockill: Thanks very much for having me. I enjoyed it.

Zachary StockillProfile Photo

Zachary Stockill

Author, Coach, Podcast Host

Zachary Stockill is the founder of retroactivejealousy.com and author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy. He has been helping men and women overcome retroactive jealousy since 2013. His work has been feature by BBC News, BBC Radio 4, HuffPost and more.