“Jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretence of keeping it alive.”
~ Havelock Ellis
We’ve all been there. That uncomfortable question that is thinly veiled as benign interest or curiosity from our partners about our past relationship. That interest and curiosity can easily turn into anger and jealousy if not appropriately addressed.
Here are some tips on how best to handle jealousy from a past relationship that may pop up in your current one:
1. Be up front
No beating around the bush when it comes to answering questions from your partner. Be clear and concise and answer questions honestly to the extent that feels appropriate and comfortable for you.
Leaving answers vague may have your partner imagining the worst case scenarios in their mind.
2. Show that you have clear boundaries when it comes to communicating with your ex
Are you still on friendly terms and chat on the phone once in a while or is your ex calling you up to be the shoulder to cry on because you’re their primary support person (a definite no-no).
3. Validate your partner’s feelings
Use active listening and reflections to hear your partner’s concerns and try to empathize with their feelings, even if you don’t agree with their stance on the issue.
Use phrases that show you are listening such as “I hear you saying that you feel angry when I talk with xyz. Did I get that right?”
4. Be honest with yourself
Are you keeping a relationship going with your ex because it helps you feel safe if things don’t work out in your current relationship?
Be truthful with yourself as to what is actually going on and deal with that issue.
5. Allow your partner to influence you.
If your being in a close relationship with your ex is a deal breaker for your current relationship and causing stress in the present, it might be time for you to do some soul searching around what you really want.
Is that relationship from the past important enough for you to jeopardize what you have going on right now?
If not, maybe you can respect your partner’s desire and choose not to continue a past relationship even if it’s only a friendship currently.
6. It’s not an easy situation to deal with jealousy in a relationship, and if needed get support.
You may need professional help via a therapist to help you process, problem-solve and manage what comes up for you or what comes up between your partner and you.
Marriam Vartolomei, LMFT – www.marriamvarcounseling.com
In some cases, letting the past stay in the past can be a difficult thing.
I think an important question to ask yourself when dating and entering into a new relationship is how much is “too much” when it comes to the information you’re deciding to share.
Jealousy in a relationship regarding your past relationships can be a “normal” thing if your new partner struggles with personal insecurities or isn’t feeling generally secure in the relationship.
If you’re struggling with your partner being jealous of past relationships here are some tips to help you handle it:
1. It’s time to get honest
Ask yourself how you may have contributed to his jealousy.
- Have you provided too much information or too many unnecessary details of your past relationships?
- Are you bringing up those old relationships frequently?
- Do you have unfinished business in the past that you may not have handled?
If most of the answers to this are Yes, it’s time to take a look at what’s going on for you in this relationship.
2. It’s time to check-in
Every relationship needs check-ins from time to time, sometimes more often than others. Open communication is key to any partnership. It’s important to ask your partner what they are struggling with and what needs may not be being met that’s creating insecurity in the relationship.
While it’s not entirely your responsibility to soothe his anxiety or jealousy you can create some safety. More often than not quality outweighs quantity.
- What do your quality time with each other look like?
- Are you making time to connect and be with each other or are you distracted and just there?
Essentially, the biggest things to create in the relationship are open communication, safety, an environment that promotes honesty and validation and security.
Stephanie Savo, LMHC – www.caringtherapistsofbroward.com
If you find yourself in a situation where your partner is jealous of your past—know that you are not alone.
In fact, this is a common issue for many couples and taking steps to address this retrospective jealousy is key to moving forward in your relationship in a proactive, positive and healthy way.
Discussing past relationships may trigger your partner and, if this is the case, you may find your partner feeling threatened about your past experiences and how they compare.
Take the following steps to find grounding, validate your boundaries and establish healthy foundations for moving forward:
- Validate your feelings
It is normal to have a past and important that you don’t invalidate your own feelings because of your significant other’s jealousy. This type of jealousy is common and it is key to normalize both of your feelings and also, to validate that dealing with this type of pain can bring up feelings of sadness, anger or anxiousness as well.
Practice compassion so it doesn’t feel as if you’re both putting your relationship on trial. Thank your partner for being vulnerable enough to share their feelings and affirm your feelings and needs in a way that is sensitive to you both.
- Live in the Present
Try to stay focused on the present when addressing your partners’ jealousy of your past. Set firm boundaries around not interrogating each other or withdrawing from these difficult conversations.
Instead, make quality time to talk about the jealousy, and also acknowledge that you don’t need to revisit all details of the past in order to validate your commitment to each other in the present.
- Establish Ground Rules
Setting firm boundaries around communication about past relationships can help keep you focused on what really matters. What is the essence of what needs to be shared?
This could include romantic preferences, sexual health concerns, past trauma or anything else that you both feel is relevant to deepening your relationship. See your partner’s jealousy as an invitation to have conversations around what really matters.
Having feelings around past relationships is not inherently dangerous, but dwelling in the past can be.
Seeking professional guidance can help with establishing these practices in your relationship so that you can both feel validated in establishing the foundations for healthy long term communication.
Delia Berinde, MS, LPCC, Counselor & Life Coach – www.lookingforwardcounseling.com
He is jealous of your past. This could mean a variety of things.
First things first, jealousy is his emotion.
It is not your job to change his emotions or make them go away.
Is he telling you he’s jealous? If he is, a good place to start would be asking him what he needs from you.
Neither of you can change your past. His emotions are his own. He can have them due to his reaction to your behavior but you are not in control of them. He may just be wanting you to understand him and his emotions.
Maybe try being empathic, and understanding him.
He may need you to reassure him that he is as exciting, loving, caring, fun, etc. as your past relationships. If it can come from a place of truth, then go ahead and reassure him of this.
Is he acting it out and are you assuming he is jealous?
If he is acting in ways that lead you to believe he is jealous, ask him. You could be right and it could lead to a deeper conversation or you could be completely off. The best thing to do is communicate.
Lastly, your past is part of you.
It cannot be changed and doesn’t need to be. If he can’t move forward in the relationship past his jealousy, the relationship may not be a good fit.
- Can he love you although he is jealous?
- Can you love him although he is jealous?
If the answer is yes then it is something to be aware of and move forward. If the answer is no, maybe consider looking for someone who can accept you and your past.
Most importantly, don’t try to fix his emotions about something that cannot be changed, be open, and talk about it.
Elizabeth Rice, LPCC – www.merakicounselingdenver.com
If you are involved with someone who is jealous of your past, ask yourself what this may be telling you.
- Does your new partner have an insecurity issue?
- What is it about your past that bothers him?
- What can possibly be done to change the past? How does this impact your future?
The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about your partner and your relationship.
If you are with someone who has a problem with insecurity, your past will not be the only thing that bothers him.
This will just be the beginning, with much more to come. This issue could very well impact your future as well. Jealous and insecure people can be very toxic and cause you to shrink or erase yourself and abandon your own life and accomplishments.
If your partner is jealous that you even had other relationships, there is nothing you can do about it.
You are who you are, and we all have a story. It is our stories that make up the richness of our lives and who we are, and we need not regret them. You would not be the person that you are today if you had not had every single experience of your life up to this moment.
If your partner feels that you loved your past boyfriends more than him, then the best thing you can do is to strengthen your current relationship and make it the best one you have ever had.
Perhaps his insecurity will fade over time. There is always a period of trust building in the beginning of a relationship, but in a healthy partnership, the trust continues to build and there is more and more harmony as the couple works through conflicts.
If your new partner is unable to settle down and feel less jealous, you may need to re-evaluate your compatibility.
A truly compatible partner will love you for who you are, where you have been, and what you have done, because he knows that all of this makes you the person that he is attracted to.
If he cannot accept you, it will be very difficult for him to truly love you unconditionally. Go where it is warm. Go where you are celebrated, and not just tolerated.
Anita Gadhia-Smith, PsyD, LCSW-C, LICSW – www.drgadhiasmith.com
There are many behaviors you can experience in a relationship that can make you feel uncomfortable and insecure — and one of the most insidious behaviors is when your partner is expressing jealousy in the name of “love.”
He’ll say, “Because I love you, tell me all about your past boyfriends, what you did with them, what they were like, what you liked about them and why you dated them. Tell me, so we don’t keep secrets.”
There is nothing wrong with talking about past lovers, but if it starts feeling too invasive and he behaves obsessively, it is not good.
Be careful. This is not healthy.
This is a manipulative ploy that is common in men who want to control your life, according to their rules.
Throughout the relationship, you need to share everything about your life and everything has to be accounted for.
Using jealousy as their excuse, they enjoy interrogating you, limiting your freedom and even preventing you from living your life independently.
Jealousy is never a good sign in a relationship, especially jealousy about things that happened in the past.
Since things can’t be changed and “it is what it is”, why be made to rehash details that are no longer relevant?
As you know, your relationship is a partnership, so any time you are made to feel “less than” or unequal to him, it is not right.
This imbalance is harmful to your confidence and self-esteem and should be a red flag signal for your future.
Do not tolerate that behavior and plan your strategy for ending the relationship.
There are plenty of respectful, caring, trustworthy men out there, who are searching for an empowered, confident woman just like you — so never settle for less!
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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