Strategies to help a partner suffering from Retroactive Jealousy cope with their anxiety

In my last few blog posts, I wrote about the concept of Retroactive Jealousy, a type of romantic jealousy that involves feeling obsessively uneasy about your partner’s past. If you’re not familiar with the concept, you can read more about what it is here.

If you do know what it is and struggle with it yourself, go back and read my post on coping strategies.

Today, I’m going to be addressing the partner’s of people dealing with Retroactive Jealousy. Or, honestly, the partner’s of anyone dealing with some form of relational anxiety. (If this describes you, share this post with your bae so they can be a better bae to you.)

Anxiety sucks – plain and simple.

And if you have a partner that struggles with anxiety, it can be really hard to deal with. Especially if they’re dealing with anxiety in the form of Retroactive Jealousy. But there ARE ways that you can help them.

So, here are 5 ways that you can help a partner with Retroactive Jealousy:

1. Control your Frustration

When you have a partner with Retroactive Jealousy, chances are, they ask you a MILLION questions about certain things. And it’s frustrating and upsetting for you to answer them so many times, I get it. But try and recognize how your partner is feeling right now.

Imagine, too, that however many times your partner has asked you about your past, they’ve probably thought about it 5x MORE themselves. If you’re stressed by talking about something uncomfortable for an hour, imagine how stressed your partner feels thinking about it nonstop for five hours! ?

As difficult as it might be to understand why they’re torturing themselves with these jealous and irrational thoughts, that’s their reality. So, rather than getting irritated with them, try and empathize instead.

2. Don’t Point out How Irrational it is

Dear god, don’t tell your partner to calm down. ?‍♀️

Don’t point out that they’re being illogical or that their fears or irrational. They already know that and it doesn’t make them feel any better. In fact, it probably makes them feel worse.

Not only are they feeling anxious and insecure about your past, now they’re feeling anxious and insecure about the fact that they’re fixated on something so irrelevant! That’s only making them feel worse about themselves, driving the anxiety and insecurity further.

So don’t point out that they’re being irrational. Instead, you can recognize and point out that they’re experiencing a bout of Retroactive Jealousy.

Try saying something like: “I know this feels really upsetting to you, and I want to be supportive of you. I think you’re having some Retroactive Jealousy.”

As long as you’re NOT saying it in a patronizing tone, it’ll likely help diffuse the situation.

3. Don’t Answer their Questions

This one is hard to do – they’ll probably get mad and ask you over and over again. And not getting an answer will lead to more anger and frustration.

They might even say things like, “Well obviously you really did like her more because you’re not willing to tell me about it.” ?

I know! I’ve been the one saying such ridiculousness before! Because in the moment, when you’re feeling overwhelming anxiety, you’re not able to think rationally.

So, calmly tell them that you understand how frustrated they are and gently point out to them that they’re having some Retroactive Jealousy. And point out that the reason you’re NOT answering their questions is because of that, and not because the answers would be upsetting.

You can say something like, “I’m not trying to hide anything from you, but I know you’re experiencing some retroactive jealousy right now and I don’t want to feed into it by answering your questions. I’m sorry if that’s stressful for you.”

4. Find out what they’re Really upset about

It’s likely that what your partner is really afraid of is abandonment. Deep down, they’re worried about whether or not you really care about them.

They might feel insecure about a variety of things – maybe you did something sexually with an ex that they’re not willing to engage in. If you had a threesome, for example, they might feel angry at you and jealous about it, they might make you feel like you did something wrong by doing it.

And that is probably how they’re feeling! At least on the surface. ?

But the underlying insecurity is that they’re not willing to have a threesome, so they’re afraid of not being good enough for you.

They might not even be aware of this thought process, but in the back of their mind, they might be thinking “Eventually, he’ll leave to find someone who is willing to do that.”

5. Provide Reassurance the Right Way

In the moment, your partner thinks that they need a specific type of reassurance. The type they’re asking you for.

They don’t want to hear you say that you love them, they want to hear you answer their questions so that their thoughts can stop for a while.

But you know that doing that will only make things worse. Again, feeding into the obsessive thoughts will only perpetuate the cycle.

So instead, give them the right kind of reassurance. ?

Ask what it is that’s really bothering them. You don’t have to answer questions about the threesome you had, you don’t need to provide reassurance by telling them that it wasn’t even very good (even though that’s really what they want to hear), you just need to tell them that you’re happy with them and that they don’t need to worry about your commitment.

It could look something like: “I’m not going to answer those questions because I know it’s just your retroactive jealousy popping up again. But I want you to know that I love you, that I love our sex life, and that I’m not looking for anything else.”

Find out whats driving the insecurity and give reassurance for that.

☆ ☆ ☆


Do you have a partner who struggles with Retroactive Jealousy or anxiety? Or maybe you have your own personal experience with this type of anxiety.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other helpful tips.

Be sure to share this article with your nearest and dearest – or anyone else who you think might benefit from reading.And follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more insight into relationship issues – @deardatingb.

As always, loves, thanks for reading!

Dating Bitch

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  1. avatar

    Thanks for this! I think controlling your frustration is really helpful.

    1. avatar

      Yes, exactly! It can be so hard but you have to remember that they’re not doing it to frustrate you. They’re just anxious and not sure how to handle it.

  2. avatar

    It’s an impactful post, Katie! I think this Retroactive Jealousy is not only present in between the partners but have noticed this within friends and family too! All the five possible solutions which you’ve listed down are very much impactful who’s going through such anxiety! The most significant I noticed here is 4th and 5th one, since it’s always good to know the reason behind such feelings so that things can be work out and if after knowing the reason, if we feel that it may take some time them we can definitely provide the reassurance with a open heart! I think, it can help the partner or person to cope up with such anxiety bit better! It’s a great post, I really enjoyed it! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    1. avatar

      Thank you so much! I’m always happy to hear when someone finds my advice meaningful so thank you for your feedback and, of course, for reading!

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30ish Lifestyle blogger, relationship "expert," and modern-day agony aunt.
Sometimes humorous, always honest.

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