Retroactive Jealousy: Is your past making your boyfriend or girlfriend jealous?

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Have you heard of this one?  When you become jealous of the things your new girlfriend or boyfriend used to do, his or her established relationships with the opposite sex or the people they used to date before you entered the picture, it’s called retroactive jealousy.

Sounds petty, doesn’t it?  Well, do not dismiss retroactive jealousy that quickly. Some actions you take or are being taken against you, are a result of retroactive jealousy. You may be a retroactive jealous lover yourself and not even know it.

Retroactive jealousy can be easily manifested if you start feeling like your current boyfriend or girlfriend dated someone you know was better than you in one way or the other. Maybe he or she dated a very popular person or the exes are better looking than you.

Sometimes retroactive jealousy sets in just by going through your new flame’s social media and realizing that they had a fun-filled past life which you have not experienced yet or cannot afford to.

If you are a man and your woman has a bunch of pictures from Dubai or London from a trip she took with an ex-lover, you may experience a spontaneous bout of retroactive jealousy.

You become jealous simply because you feel incapable of placing the same smile on her face from pictures of her shopping on Oxford Street in the UK.  Perhaps your trips to Accra mall or the movies to chill will not measure up to her past fun activities.

Retroactive jealousy can rear its head when your new lover already has strong established relationships with friends. The issue can become dire when the close and well-established relationship is with the opposite sex.

Picture this scenario. You are chilling with your man or woman and his or her good looking ex-lover pops up by accident and they chat briefly.  Do you find yourself scrutinizing every move and every gesture he or she makes like a CIA agent?

How do you feel after the person leaves?  Does a nervous smile creep across your face?  Does your mood change to gloomy suddenly?  Do you picture the ex-lover in an intimate setting with your partner and become upset at the thought?  Retroactive jealousy, anyone?

A friend of mine told me that she recently broke up with her boyfriend after a bitter argument about a group of male friends she had been hanging out with since college. She and her male friends hang out every Thursday night at a lounge in Accra and over time, it became a routine.  Most of the guys brought their girlfriends along but she could not convince him to come with her.

Her new boyfriend complained of her friendship with the guys and his mood turned nasty every time one of them called.  Her attempts to defend her past relationships with these guys led to an argument which, unfortunately, ended the relationship.

I can’t say I’ve never felt or experienced retroactive jealousy because I have. Heck, I am probably reacting to certain situations with retroactive jealousy now.

I had an ex-girlfriend ask me once if she can put up a birthday post of her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. The post was to include his picture. “You want to do what?” I asked in disbelief. I became instantly jealous because it dawned on me that she probably still liked this guy.  My retroactive jealousy was spontaneous and sudden.

Sometimes retroactive jealousy is forced upon you if your new lover cannot get over an ex-lover.  If he or she blows a gasket over petty things like a Facebook post, you sit back and wonder if he or she is really over this person. If the ex-lover has a constant, lingering and negative presence in your relationship, you may unintentionally enter a retroactive jealousy zone.

If you have a jealous lover to start with, it can be difficult to calm their fears. If you don’t, you are going to end up having a bunch of unnecessary arguments over and over again.

A jealous boyfriend or girlfriend can keep you feeling guilty and on edge all the time and that situation is not healthy for anyone in the relationship.

If you are a man, for example, do not always assume that your new girlfriend’s past life was as glorious as it appears to you. Perhaps behind those lovely smiles from the pictures she took in Dubai with an ex-lover, is abuse, pain, and mistreatment that she has not shared with you yet.

Retroactive jealousy occurs mostly in a spontaneous manner and it is okay to feel jealous sometimes. The key is to recognize why you are jealous and not allow your perceived shortcomings to make you lose control or impact the relationship negatively.

Being overly or extremely jealous retroactively can also be a sign of low self-esteem and insecurity.  Insecurity, as we all know, is a major turn off for anyone.

You are the chosen one.

Your partner chose you despite his or her past, in spite of a better-looking ex-lover or any other perceived past insecurities you may have.

Should your partner exhibit retroactive jealousy behavior, do not be dismissive. Address the problem head on and make adjustments or compromises where necessary. Do not, however, mutate for anyone. It is never advisable to give up your total happiness for another.

So ask yourself, are you a retroactive jealous lover?


By Kwadjo Panyin

Picture Credit:

Model: Edy Coffie


Author: Kwadjo Panyin

Kwadjo Panyin is a Ghanaian born relationship and lifestyle blogger located in Los Angeles, California. He holds three degrees; a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MBA from Franklin University in Ohio and a Masters of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky. Kwadjo is a business professional who blogs for fun. His articles are about the challenges of dating and relationship anomalies. Writing, blogging, world travel, and photography are his favorite hobbies.


  1. Cool Joeza says:

    Just discovered this post, which is very informative. My experience: I met this lady long ago and fell in love with her but the love was unrequited / rejected. Then she suggested we become friends, which I accepted as I was raised on principles of respect and acceptance of others’ views. However, she met another guy and fell in love with them whilst I moved on in life. She kept telling me how great the guy was as he was he first. Things started going bad for her and the guy and she kept me informed until one day she confessed that the guy was a douche and she was regretting not giving me the chance then as she discovered over the years that I was a loving and honest person. Years passed and she propose we go out (on a date and not as just friends). We ended together and got married for over 1o years now (I thought I would just let everything go. However, the guy kept popping up at places that I frequented, even hanging around my place of work, which annoyed me and brought the early memories, those of unrequited love and I started feeling crappy about being second best. Shrugging these feelings helped only for a few days as the douche would keep appearing in places I value highly! Once more the feelings and experiences of their past would creep back…..

  2. NanaAbyna Kwakyewa Boatey

  3. I beg to différ, I do not think it is right to keep memories of your exs… obvious ones such as their pictures etc when you are in à new relationship, let alone post about them and even attach their pictures. Nah. Thé truth is actions speak louder than words, it may really not mean anything but I am not à witch to see your heart. .. so its à NO no for me.

    • My dear u worded it perfectly……

    • Thanks for your comment and I appreciate the insight. I agree with you on not keeping pics and memories of exes. That said, most people do not keep pictures of exes since we have to get rid of them to move on. However, you have to understand that people get to see such pictures during the courtship phase. The cases of retroactive jealousy I’ve dealt with involved friends who knew each other years before they dated so knowing about exes was not avoidable. Also, it’s normal to run into exes or for exes to interrupt a new relationship. In my case, the person still had pics of her and her ex on social media but since we had just began the relationship, I was not in a position to ask her to take them off nor was it my role in the early stages. In this particular case, the person went back to her ex after we broke up so the ex factor is not alway avoidable. As I stated, low self esteem and insecurity leads people down this path and not everyone is as equipped to ignore retroactive jealousy when it spontaneously creeps up. Thanks again! 🙏🏾 Morine Julius

    • Hmmm. Wow. I understand. Well, I am very expressive, even if we are not dating and you are just toasting me… you cant have thé pic of another woman up. I just feel sometimes we take à lot in à bid to be proper and civil. My brother next time, just hit the nail on thé head. Thé signs are always there that this person isnt ready to move on for example you just Saïd she went back.

    • Morine Julius I agree, my sister. Relationships are complex and humans are complicated . My writings are about my failures because I am still a student of this thing called love and my search is still ongoing. Like you said, you are very expressive and that is your personality and you have your expectations. The person you meet may be different and not be expressive or have the same expectations. It does not make them misguided, just different. Not everyone will delete pics immediately even though you will. It takes work and it works a day at at time. Anyway, any day is a new day 🙂. Again, I really appreciate your thoughtful responses and your input

  4. Joy Molokwu says:

    thanks really practical.

  5. Jealousy is part of the game whether retroactive or proactive it is a human nature

  6. If you’ll sit down for your past relationship which didn’t go well to ruin your new relationship, then I don’t know which kind of dumb human you are.
    In my world, I’m convinced in myself that I’m the most handsome man so the other person’s looks doesn’t intimidate me. It’s just not right to be glued to someone who has seen your nakedness before and made love to you probably over and over and over lol and you’ll claim we’re just friends! Hell no.
    I wouldn’t care if I’m not in love with you..

    • Afterthought 1; We don’t have to give chances to things that will(I wouldn’t even use the word can) ruin our cherished relationships only to later say; it was a mistake, I don’t know how it happened, or it happened so quickly.
      The excuse that; what if my ex can help me in getting that contract, business deal, admission into college, etc…. is completely bullocks because no one’s destiny is tied to only one individual and also there’ll always be another option to attain those *things*.
      How can a gentleman like myself be just another option when I’m in a relationship???? It ain’t happening! If you’re still hooked to your ex then you don’t deserve me in the first place.
      An occasional hi and how’re you is not even encouraged. I’m the type that if I date you and we breakup, I can easily warm myself into your heart again, and I know there’re lot of *me* in the system….lmao
      The dead should remain in their grave…. Simple as that!

  7. Ben T says:

    Another great one. Keep it coming Kwadwo

  8. Cizoe Poetry says:

    Oh okay. This is an eye opener. Thanks. Let me ask; is it retroactive jealousy when a guy asks you to be his boyfriend and you refuse and then he says that the only reason you are refusing is because you are still hung up on your ex? Is it the same thing?

  9. This is Amazing….. Its an eye opener… Glad I read this piece… Well done Kwadjo Panyin

  10. Sam Izzi says:

    Mr Kwadjo Panyin i have inboxed you and have received no reply whatsoever. Pls look it up

  11. This ruined my relationship. We both tried to help him but he was too far gone.
    My advice is once you’re able to ascertain your partner is being affected by this, break things off.
    The sad truth is it is something you will continue to deal with, it really doesn’t just stop. Anything will and can trigger it.
    So just end things.

  12. Great piece indeed thanks for educating me…

  13. Nana Pomaah says:

    Thank you sooo much for this post Kwadjo Panyin. Its so true!!!

  14. What if the reason why you’re being retroactive is true? How do you deal with it? Because some people can’t just get over their past or even ready to make amends to accommodate the present despite choosing you.

  15. I love this piece.
    It’s so real and honest.

  16. So it has a name…i thought I was just weird

  17. Kwadjo Panyin are you a retroactive lover or you experienced it just once?

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