Updated: Apr 19
Everyone has felt jealous at some point, and it's usually related to something that happens at the moment. Retroactive jealousy, on the other hand, is when someone feels jealous about something that happened in the past, like anything related to their present lover's ex-partners. When someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) struggles with retroactive jealousy of their partner's past, it can end up in a serious BPD episode.
In this article, we'll discuss what retroactive jealousy is, how it affects someone with BPD, and how to overcome it.
What is Retroactive jealousy?
Retroactive jealousy is a pattern of jealousy that relates exclusively to a partner’s intimate and romantic past. People that struggle with this have obsessive thoughts and create images or vivid movies in their minds of their partner being intimate with their exes. These thoughts often lead to unhealthy and negative actions that affect the relationship badly.
It’s normal to feel jealous from time to time, and you might struggle a little bit with feeling jealous of your partner’s past relationships. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you have retroactive jealousy issues. The symptoms of retroactive jealousy are very severe and result in a loop of destructive behaviors that harm your relationship.
For example, if you find it unbearable to see a picture of your partner with their ex, if you dwell on their history all the time, and if you go through your partner's phone, social media, e-mails, etc. to find out about their past, then you may be suffering from retroactive jealousy. Besides that, other common behaviors are frequently questioning your partner and giving inappropriate, sarcastic, or pointed remarks to their partner regarding their previous relationships. And because the partner feels they haven't done anything wrong to deserve being interrogated, conflicts may occur as a result.
Individuals who suffer from retroactive jealousy find it difficult to accept that their partner had a past and had an intimate relationship with someone else before them. They believe that being intimate is something that should have only happened between them. Retroactive jealousy stems from a low sense of self-worth. They compare themselves to their partner's exes, even when they know nothing about them. They may worry if their partner's exes were more desirable to them romantically or if their partner preferred doing certain things with their exes more.
BPD retroactive jealousy
Retroactive jealousy of a partner's past can be a living nightmare for those with BPD because it is frequently accompanied by paranoid ideation, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, and trust issues. Additionally, people with BPD have a tendency to dwell on their thoughts, which perpetuates the problem and worsens the cycle that they are already trapped in. The intense emotions that people with BPD feel, especially when it comes to their interpersonal relationships, make the experience of retroactive jealousy way harder to deal with than someone who does not have BPD.
The sufferer might get upset if they find an object and believe it to belong to their partner's ex or that they bought it together. Or when their partner says, "Oh yes, I've been to that restaurant, it's good." they may feel chest pain because their partner has memories of being with someone else. They might even experience a blackout or the need to puke when seeing a (normal) picture of an ex on their partner's phone. To the average person, it all seems like an overreaction, but for someone with BPD, this is as important as survival.
A relationship is often heavily affected by retroactive jealousy. Someone with BPD will commonly internalize everything until they eventually explode. And after exploding, they might cool off for a few weeks before it all builds up again. The strong emotions that are present will only become more intense because BPD sufferers have a strong fear of being abandoned, and tragically, this behavior will only make it more likely that their partner will leave them. It's a vicious cycle.
''If you let your feelings of jealousy govern your heart, you can't have a long-lasting relationship.''
How to overcome retroactive jealousy BPD
It's time to stop experiencing retroactive jealousy in your relationship if you are currently doing so. This kind of jealousy only serves to harm you and your partner, and it will ultimately lead to the breakdown of your relationship. Retroactive jealousy is very challenging to overcome, particularly if you have BPD, but it is not impossible.
1. Recognize the problem Recognizing the problem is the first step in conquering this type of jealousy. By accepting the fact that your thoughts and behaviors are unhealthy, you are putting yourself in a position to get the support you need.
2. Partner's perspective Once you're able to acknowledge that you're dealing with a serious problem, you should try to imagine yourself from your partner's perspective. You can break unhealthy patterns by understanding how you are affecting your relationship negatively. Your partner won't be able to put up with your retroactive jealousy forever, so you might have enough motivation to improve yourself once you realize this.
3. Fight the urge The next step is likely the most difficult one, but it's crucial for breaking the patterns that are established within you. You must be ready to fundamentally accept that your emotions and thoughts do not match the reality of the situation. Once you have recognized this, you must let those thoughts go as soon as they arise and resist allowing them to dominate your thinking. You'll have to fight the urge to interrogate, argue, and spy on your partner's past. It could be tough at first, but restraining yourself from these temptations is what puts an end to the negative behavioral patterns that are developed.
Don't be ashamed. Everyone has weaknesses, and you need to understand that you will always be sensitive to feeling jealous. Talking to your partner is crucial in helping you get over this type of jealousy. Hopefully, your partner understands your struggles and can steer away from certain topics that trigger you. Additionally, when you talk openly with your partner, you can better understand how your behaviors are affecting the relationship.
5. Identify your own worth Reminding yourself of your own worth is one more method for overcoming feelings of retroactive jealousy. You may put jealousy behind you and concentrate on what you provide to the relationship by being kind to yourself, recognizing what you're good at, learning to be assertive, and repeating positive affirmations for yourself. Accept that, just like you, your partner has a past.
6. Find treatment Trauma-focused therapies like psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EMDR therapy can help you identify the origin of your problems and resolve them. Additionally, couples therapy might be beneficial for both you and your partner. A therapist might be able to help you through the relationship's problems and help you in correcting them.
''Being stuck in the past means that you have no future.''