I got a text the other day from Bean: ‘This. This. This.’ With a link. It was to an article about retroactive jealousy. 

Some guy had written a book about being a jealous jerk when it came to his wife’s sexual and relationship history and was using the phrase ‘retroactive jealousy’ or ‘retrospective jealousy’ to explain his behaviour. 

He sounded just like Bean’s very recent ex, a woman who appeared to get off on making Bean’s life hell by nit-picking and obsessing over every details of his past relationships. 

I rolled my eyes. Hard. ‘Retroactive jealousy?’ Give me a break. 

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In an era of making every little human expression that isn’t overtly ‘AWESOME YAY’ a big psychological problem I’ve become increasingly hesitant to support labels. 

Being judgemental about past lovers shouldn’t get you sympathy card for your suffering, right? Sometimes you just need to get over yourself, right?

Well. Wrong. 

Turns out, there’s a particular modus operandi to retroactive jealousy that taps into the OCD spectrum. 

It’s like obsessional or morbid jealousy (the term they use when ‘normal jealousy’ runs amok), only it sets its sights on relationships that are over.

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Instead of freaking out about connections your loved one is making in the present, you’re freaking out about every intimate interaction they’ve had in the past. 

And that ‘freaking out’ looks like an obsessive compulsive spin: anxiety, fear, obsessive thoughts, compulsive online tracking, questioning and thinking, even imagining and ‘remembering’ scenarios you were never there to be part of – all with a good side-order of judgement and anger. 

For those caught up in this compulsive complex the experience is overwhelming; for those on the receiving end of it, it’s jarring and abusive. 

(For the rest of us it just looks like someone getting super hyped watching a re-rerun of Brooke’s marriages on Bold and the Beautiful.)  

Most often it spells the end of the relationship. Or at least should in my opinion.

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People who suffer from retroactive jealousy – or any form of intense jealousy – need some time out to reel in their issues and deal with their anger, fear of abandonment and insecurities, instead of making it someone else’s problem. 

Although no form of jealously is listed as a ‘dysfunction’ or ‘disorder’ (yet, I’m sure), the word is that if morbid or retroactive jealously is whipping your love life into an obsessive mess it’s best you take yourself to a therapist and preferably one familiar with OCD. 

Until then, here’s that article I was talking about. The guy’s name is Zachary Stockill and his book is called Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy

Follow Dorothy on her blog and on Twitter. 

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