The 2 Key Emotions Behind Why You’re Hung Up On Your Partner’s Sexual Past

Several years ago I used to suffer from what is known as retroactive jealousy — an irrational obsession with a partner’s sexual or romantic past. It all started with me when my new girlfriend and I were woken up at 2 am by one of her former hook-up buddies calling to see if she was “around” that night. She politely declined the offer but from that moment on my mind became increasingly occupied by repetitive thoughts about her sexual past. How many hook-up buddies had she had right before we met? Who were they? Why did she keep sleeping with them? Why did she have to keep in contact with them after we got together? and on and on.

​Retroactive Jealousy - Why You’re Hung Up On Your Partner’s Sexual Past

Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy

Fortunately after months of research, soul searching and following a rigid self-improvement program, I managed to learn how to overcome retroactive jealousy. As the condition is so confusing for sufferers — “Why am I upset about something that’s in the past?” — the first step to overcoming it lay in figuring out just what I was emotionally so upset about.

Below I detail two of the core emotions that are fueling your retroactive jealousy. Figuring out what’s going on in your mind is half the battle, but after reading this post you’ll know some of what’s causing it and so be better equipped to fight it.


Take a moment to have a think about your partner’s past… Does your heart race a little? Do you feel a tightening in the chest or forehead? Much of this reaction is due to judgment at how your partner behaved in the past. It may also, though, be down to how they’re behaving in the present as well.

You’re judgmental regarding their sexual exploits in the past because they’re not consistent with the behavior of someone you’d like to be with. In an ideal world you hoped to be with someone who “would never have a one-night-stand”, “respects their body”, “only has sex with people they’re in a relationship with” and so on. But knowledge of their past promiscuousness contradicts this idealized version of your perfect partner, and this is what’s making you judgmental.

Maybe you’re also being judgmental about how they’re behaving in the present. If your partner tends to bring up their past on a consistent basis, talk about how the year they spent sleeping around was the best of their lives, stay in contact with hook-up buddies, keep hold of pictures of them, etc. then this can all add fuel to the fire. The key, though, to overcoming judgment of your partner’s actions in both the past and present, is to learn how to stop being so judgmental about sex in general.


I began to understand that envy played a part in my retroactive jealousy after comprehending that I wasn’t judgmental about my girlfriend’s sexual past in general. I didn’t particularly like the fact that she’d had five overlapping hook-up buddies in six months, but this wasn’t what kept me awake at night. What really bugged me was one guy in particular — the one who’d woken us up at 2am in the morning and had continued to pester her for months afterwards.

I slowly began to realize that I was mainly envious of just this guy’s past “relationship” with my girlfriend, and didn’t really care about the others. This was brought on by the way she seemed to treat him differently from all the other guys. While she was happy to delete everyone else from her phone and social media accounts, this one guy remained. And she continued to bring him up in conversation which obviously didn’t help either.

Envy plays a big part in retroactive jealousy because it makes you feel like your partner has experienced things with past lovers that they won’t with you. You want these days you’re sharing together to be the best of your partner’s life, but when you find out they once had an orgasm so intense they passed out, or had sex in a hot air balloon, it can be a kick in the gut.

In my case, my girlfriend’s refusal to remove this one hook-up buddy from her life and generally favorable view of him, made me feel envious of their past and present relationship, and this was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to work out what was going on in my head.

Focusing on these two areas of judgment and envy should be your first point of call in learning how to overcome retroactive jealousy. Try techniques such as improving your self-confidence, meditation, adding value to the world in some small way and you should find your jealous emotions begin to lift.

– Jeff Billings

Jeff Billings is the author of “How To Stop Being Jealous Of Your Partner’s Past In 12 Steps” and creator of the video course “Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy 101”. His website is devoted to helping people to get over retroactive jealousy.

Retroactive Jealousy - Why You’re Hung Up On Your Partner’s Sexual Past


  1. Sorry, but this doesn’t seem like a disorder. If she deleted all her past hookup buddies and kept one, that’s NOW problem, it a retroactive one.

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