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Retroactive Jealousy: how do I overcome it?

Tagged as: Dating, Sex, Troubled relationships, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (9 September 2008) 69 Answers - (Newest, 3 January 2013)
A male United States age 30-35, anonymous writes:

Right, so I am not even really sure how to start this. Basically, I suffer from what many other men (and few women) seem to suffer from as well. Retroactive Jealousy, or "her past"... Its horrible, its utterly disturbing and self destructive. I have done so much to try to rectify this issue, its ridiculous. I have read every thread, post, and response here on dearcupid, loveshack, and so many other online forums. I have sought counseling, I have altered my religious beliefs, tried to change my perspective on sex, and tried so unbelievable hard to accept this one aspect of my lovers life.

I'm embarrassed of myself, and of what I have become. My jealousy consumes me, I obsess over it. It affects me in ways I would have never imagined. I look at myself in the mirror and I feel so unattractive. During sex I often have difficulties maintaining an erection because usually I end up focusing, again, on her past and the images once in my head stick, which makes performing immensely difficult. I look at my penis and it feels small, fragile, and deflated. Me ego has left me, but with it went my confidence.

I was not a virgin by any means, my sexual life prior to my current lover was pretty liberal, but nothing in comparison to her past. I am not a kid, though I am young (mid 20's) I am intelligent, educated, and open minded. I always thought of myself as a good lover, good looking, and well rounded and definitely not a jealous person. All of this though, has changed.

So many things trigger these emotions- a LOT of tv shows, movies, music, etc. Anything dealing with being promiscuous, one night stands, strippers, drugs, group sex, porn, anything it always triggers these negative emotions and makes me second guess my girlfriend and myself. We live in a big metropolitan city, where there is often a lot of drinking, sex, and drugs, and when we go out I always seem to find things that trigger it.

There was a point for a couple months where I thought I had overcome this issue, but I was merely fooling myself. I would come on here, and other forums, and preach to people that they were being ignorant to leave their women because of their past, try to help these people, and try to ignore my own hidden demons. I lied to my girlfriend, and told her that I had moved past that part of our relationship, but inevitably I seem to come back to it, over and over again.

I love my gf, I love her to the point where I feel as though ending this relationship would be better for her, so that she can find a man who does not judge her, or see her as tainted. Someone who respects her for her decisions, and her past. My gf has told me repeatedly that all she wants is me, that I am all she could ever want both sexually and emotionally, that she regrets a lot of her past, and wishes that she could have not done a lot of the things she did... But even still, the images burn inside me, and the jealousy it taunts me. Some of the things she has told me I can't seem to look past, or move on from...

I am a great bf though, no doubt in my mind. I do so much for her, I treat her remarkably. I try so hard to be the best bf, and lover she could have ever had. I try so hard to wipe this problem out of my life, I try ever so hard. I love her so much, and I know that she loves me. We are a perfect fit for each other, so much in common, so much alike. We share our lives together, we are so deeply wound with each other that sometimes it feels like an epic love story. But, those feelings are usually swept away with this burning feeling of agony and distress over her past.

I hate it, and I hate myself for it. The one person in my life that I truly love, the one person in my life I can truly depend on, relate to, share myself with, and be myself around - I am losing. All over something that really has nothing to do with me, something that does not change anything about her or myself. Its irrelevant to our relationship, but yet it is somehow the most prominent aspect of my emotions in this relationship. Its irrational and definitely not logical, yet none of that matters... I cant control this, I have tried and I have failed...

I fear that I will grow an old man with her, but all my life continue this depressive, ill emotion, horrible destructive cycle of retroactive jealousy. I don't think I will ever be comfortable with her past, I don't know how I could be. Yes, I know the benefits of her past, what it brings to our sex life. I know the positives, and so forth. But, none of that seems to matter. I would much rather her not have slept with so many people, so easily given herself up to such sleazy guys (truly sleazy guys), and taken the negatives of her not being so experienced in a heart beat. I don't think any positive aspect of her past can encompass the negative effects, ever...

Please, someone tell me I am wrong, and make me realize how ignorant I really am.

View related questions: confidence, drugs, erection, her past, jealous, move on, my penis, one night stand, porn, sex life, stripper

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A male reader, anon_e_mouse United Kingdom +, writes (3 January 2013):

anon_e_mouse agony auntI don't get it at all. How about putting the shoe on the other foot? I don't understand how these jealous types can get so jealous about something that pre-dates their their meeting/relationships.

You all have a past. Who's to judge? The one thing I will say is jealousy will eat you up and spit you out and you will drive the other person away.

That is guaranteed

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A reader, anonymous, writes (12 October 2012):

I have suffered with this since college--so a long time : ).

I have been divorced over it, seen many therapists, tried drugs--anti anxiety, anti depressant, anti seizure.... nothing has worked.

I don't mean to remove hope but I don't think it goes away--though it does come and go

I have noticed it's worse when i feel lacking in some way--insecure, doing a bad job, letting people down.

Or when I think of other women--a crush or, in my first marriage, outright cheating (if i can love and feel something for others, why can't she, and HEY, she did before, SHIT, she doesn't love me, She's still thinking of him... sound familiar?

So, I'd like to see if we can find some common ground--what do we all have in common that might be the cause

I'll go first

I had a tough Dad--really tough, so I'm sure I have security issues

My Dad came back from Viet Nam and , after having my mom all to myself for over a year, the "former man" came back--I was young--but Frued would love this one.

I was incredibly promiscuous in college--I think I fear my wife was one of the one nighters I had in college--women who, ultimately made me disrespect them by being "easy". BTW--anyone who has this who sleeps with a woman the first night or first date--don't make it long term--it wont work

I promise.

It is a form of OCD, I'm sure--I have to have "answers" have to ask "questions" and every time i think "this is the one--the question that will put it all to bed" it just opens other doors, other questions.

So he's what I try to do--not always successful--I think "Asking about a former lover is giving them power, putting them in my wife's mind in exactly the way I fear he already is. It makes me look weak--women want a strong prince not George Costanza. "

Enough from me--would love to hear from anyone who has anything to add or has found a long term solution.

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A female reader, Abella United States + , writes (12 September 2012):

Abella agony auntThis article is so good it deserves to feature as a Article to be re-read annually by anyone suffering from Retroactive Jealousy.

In fact I think I'd like to see Yos bring out a book written by Yos, on the whole subject (if that has not already happened.)

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A reader, anonymous, writes (22 February 2012):

I feel everyone's pain. We are all in this together, that's for sure.

I experienced RJ with my second girlfriend. I eventually overcame it, but also fell out of love with the girl. I knew that I should not ask my 3rd girlfriend any questions about her past. I knew she had one, but it never bothered me. I never loved her though. I had a couple of flings then another long termer. She had less experience than me and I wasn't really bothered by exes.. I did experience intrusive thoughts occasionally....I loved this girl. We broke up after 3.5 years.

3 months later I met the girl of my dreams. She's so cool, attractive, super sexy, high sex drive, ambitious, everything I ever dreamed of. Shes an actor and i knew she had lots of ex's past experiences etc. I knew not to ask, but she was very open about the past. No details, but enough to get my thoughts going. I suffered for months. I made up stories of 3 somes, groups, everything. I was going crazy, panic attacks, obsessions. I was making most of it up. She has had alot of boyfriends, and has had quite a few 1 night stands. I wouldn't know if she's slept with 25 or 95 men. I just know it's allot more than my number.

I totally agree the RJ has it's roots in low self esteem. I also know that in my case more experiences for me would soften the blow a little. But that's not going to happen if I want to keep the most amazing girl I ever met. It's also looking for happiness externally, when happiness and love comes from within ourselves.

Practice the Sedona Method. Don't suppress these thoughts and emotions, let the run. Experience them, welcome them and they will dissolve and lose their power. It takes time, but it definitively helps. You must practice daily and with all aspects of your life.

Let go of trying to control your partner. Let go of wanting approval from other women/men. Give yourself approval for no reason. Stop typing to figure it out. Just love yourself.

Envy is a bitch.

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A male reader, Pitman United States +, writes (2 July 2011):

I really feel for you, and I'm sorry that you have to experience this terrible emotion. I went through this for about 12 years with my wife, can't say that I'm ever going to get over it completely but it does get better. Over the years I tried stuff from therapy to drowning myself in work to cheating on my wife with hookers.

My own personal diagnosis is that RJ is caused by lack of self-esteem, which most of us suffer from. Go to the gym, work out, be the best you can be and that will help lessen the blow from this.

Lastly, in this day and age everyone has a past. You may be able to find a virgin in Saudi Arabia but it's not going to happen in the US of A.

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A male reader, anton260 Canada +, writes (8 April 2011):

I have no answers, but I can relate from long experience. I didn't have a serious girlfriend till I was 18, then I ran across a girl who was interested in me as much as I was interested in her. We dated for only 4-5 months, as people do at that age.

The trouble: She had gone to bed with a previous (high-school) boyfriend. She told me about this; she also told me she didn't feel good about it. Obviously she had no intention of doing likewise with me. This hurt, because I was totally inexperienced.

The real trouble: I couldn't put this out of my mind. I knew the rules, and I never spoke with her about how much this bothered me. But it ate away at me.

Forward: I didn't date anyone for 5 more years, about halfway through which I lost my virginity to a younger girl who was hungry for experience. We never got into any kind of relationship.

Then I met a girl (she was 18, I 24) who chased me until I got the hint. We had a good time together till we parted for a few weeks. During this time she fell into bed with a guy who'd picked her up hitch-hiking. I found out about this by breaking a rule. She left her diary sitting on a table and I couldn't resist reading it.

I didn't want to leave her. I confronted her about this (bad mistake, it didn't clear up anything). We continued our relationship, even got married. In a troubled time we parted for a couple of months, during which she had sex with two or three other men, all of whom I knew.

What she did troubled me beyond belief. I asked for advice from an older friend, who told me I should either leave her or shut up about the whole thing. Good advice, but hard to follow. Of course the marriage didn't last. She was much too young.

After a passage of 22 years and a second (misguided) marriage I met someone else who interested me seriously and vice-versa. She was 13 years younger than I.

Trouble: Soon after we first had sex, she felt this compulsion to "come clean" (in her words) and told me about her last lover of only a few months before, with whom the sex was "great." Mistake: Of course I asked her if he was a better lover than I, to which she reluctantly replied that he was.

Not good, but we kept on seeing each other. Of course, again, this was eating at me. What man wants to hear this? I did my best, with not-so-great success, to keep from bringing this up again.

We had a daughter, who is now 13. After about a year of living as a family she dumped me, not because of anything I said or did, but because she had a deadly fear of living with anyone. (Her parents' bad marriage.)

In all the years since then (we split up when our daughter was only 2) we've had a good platonic relationship. She is one of my best friends, and we go out together with our daughter. People who don't know better think we're a married couple.

In the meantime, I haven't gotten seriously involved with anyone. Not good, but that's the way it happens sometimes.

But -- for some reason, don't know what -- lately that old hurt I felt about hearing there had been a past lover better than I has returned with tremendous force. Absolute nonsense, and I don't know why this is happening.

So, after more than 40 years experience with sex and love, I have no answers but only advice. Don't ask, don't tell, especially if you're a woman. Men are infinitely more touchy about this, and we all know about the evolutionary biological reasons. Ignorance is bliss.

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A female reader, Bella970 United States +, writes (27 February 2011):

Bella970 agony auntI am on the other side of the fence

I caused this in my lover. I love him more than life itself but he does not understand that.

I went through a very "slutty" time in my life while married, a stage that made me feel pretty dang bad about myself. I had old photos on my computer and a old video. I know never keep that stuff but believe it or not I had forgotten about most of it.

My lover went through my house and my computer and found the photos. He already knew about it but he told me it was even worse seeing it. I understand it hurt him and I have told him how sorry I am and how bad I feel about the things I did in my past.

I have tried to help with the rages, I have answered every question and if I do not he pushes and says I am hiding things. I am not hiding some times it hurts me to talk about them and I feel like I am on the witness stand.

What happens if I get a thought wrong? I try to not lie I do not ever want to lie to him that would just make it worse. I have offered to pay for therapy and he said he wanted to go but then said he did not believe in therapy. I can not believe how angry he gets..

we finally got to a great point we were close, he had given me a key to his home and asked me to marry him.

I was on cloud nine!

I refused to have a quick sexual moment with him I was tired, sick and honestly I did not want to feel like I am just around for sex (I have my own demons about that). I have had enough of that in my life so I turned him down.

When I did he said it brought everything back, that he is not good enough for me to drop everything for though I have driven hours just to see him and be with him. He said he loves me but he can never trust me and broke things off with me again and told me never to call, him or email him again.

Now he says he is going to have to go to therapy because I have messed him up so bad sadly not to have a life with me but to get over me. My lover gave up on me and us.

I have no cure but I think with all my heart if you love someone enough you will be able to control or manage it but you have to want to. I wish you all the best but it is to late for me I can never trust my lover again. I wanted to help, understood, researched but in the end he did not choose to fight for us and moved in with another woman who he feels is sweeter than I am.

I think that RJ is one of the worst things in the world because it undermines a relationship to the point that nothing is left if you let it. I used to read these post and had hope when I saw so many of you choosing love!

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A male reader, Yos Netherlands +, writes (5 August 2010):

Yos agony auntI'm writing this as someone who has experienced crippling retroactive jealousy at one stage of my life, and over time overcome it. Noting that having done so, it's not a permanent guarantee of being free of it, but rather a place where some ongoing effort is required not to fall back. But I am thankfully free of the obsession, the jealousy, and the agony.

It was the most painful experience of my life, and coming through it changed my personality and identity deeply.

I also post frequently here about it, and have read countless accounts, as well as had direct correspondence with numerous men who are suffering from this.

I'll state my overall feelings on this surprisingly common and often horribly crippling and painful condition. In other words, this post is a statement of opinion only, without focussing much on the justification:

- This is different for men and women. Mostly due to the different nature of male and female jealousy, but also for other reasons. This makes empathy about it, and communication about it particularly difficult between the sexes. Neither is 'right', but we are different, and that creates misunderstanding. This misunderstanding can quickly destroy relationships, as well as leading to nasty arguments between men and women on the subject in places such as this site. It also means the majority of women "don't get it" when it comes to understanding why men get so extremely tortured by this. No ones fault, that's just how it is. Men also suffer from this much more than women.

- It's not about how many past partners someone had, or what they did. I've seen this caused by a single kiss. And frequently men in their thirties are in agony over their wives having had perhaps one or two partners before them, which by almost any standard is very few.

- I believe this condition is essentially a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. The victim becomes compulsively obsessed with visualising their partners past sexual activities. These visualised images trigger jealousy and all the standard attendant jealous behaviours: intrusive questioning, distrust, paranoia, imagining things that didn't happen, and discounting positive information whilst over-weighting negative information. As well as mental anguish. The OCD keeps the condition continuous, triggering the jealous emotions and behaviour over and over in a vicious circle. It can also make it very hard to communicate to someone about, as when they are in their obsessive jealous state they are not generally open to much meaningful input; instead being caught up in their own inner turmoil.

- It happens mostly in loving relationships. Jealousy is shadow of love: the more we love, the more powerful the jealousy. It is often triggered at a point when a relationship becomes more committed. This makes the condition particularly tragic: since it is usually damaging what are loving and intimate relationships. ie, the good ones.

- It's not rational. The most common mistake is to blame the person experiencing this. We must understand it's not a choice on the part of the victim, and that the OCD and jealousy lead the rationalising of the situation. The person experiencing this is not choosing to have these feelings and thoughts, no more than the schizophrenic is choosing to become insane, or the narcissist is choosing their delusions. Blame is often flung at the retroactively jealous person, which is the wrong thing to do.

Because it's not rational, 'thinking your way out of it' is not possible. All the thinking does is feed the OCD, it is counter-productive. Each thought just triggers more obsessive visualisation, and more jealousy. This makes talking about it dangerous, since conversation requires thought, and those thoughts can trigger another attack.

- It's nothing to do with morality. As part of an attempt to grapple with their emotions, men frequently resort to 'moral judgements' and labels. Whore, slut, impure, etc. These are an attempt to make sense of their feelings, and to justify the illusions their jealousy is creating. Clutching at straws. But morality is essentially a complex set of rational rules, and as I have said, retroactive jealousy has nothing to do with rationality.

Personally I try to be highly sympathetic when helping men with this condition, but when it comes to moral judgements I will be very direct and intolerant of this specific part of their behaviour. Why? Because at the core of all morality, no matter it's particular flavour, lies empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and a letting go of judgment. Truly seeing the others point of view. Walking in their shoes. It's essential that anyone suffering from this condition understands this, and does not use morality as a weapon to judge, belittle and hurt, which is sadly usually the case.

- As a fusion of OCD and jealousy, this condition is biological in it's root causes, not cultural. Discussions about this often get caught up in cultural trends, double standards, modern society, feminism, etc. These are all dead ends.

In terms of practical advice, I generally believe these things:

- It's best not to go there. Don't ask questions, don't dig into the past. The more that is known, the more mental material there is to obsess over. Each additional piece of information is another log on the fire of the obsessive jealousy. However there are some exceptions: I do believe understanding someones emotional history is valuable in overcoming this, but this precludes the type of factual interrogation that retroactive jealousy seems to almost always lead to.

- Breaking up generally doesn't help. It may stop the immediate pain, but the condition is an inner one, and will return in future relationships, unless that person finds someone they consider 'pure'. Which admittedly does happen sometimes. For this reason I usually try to coach the victim to try to overcome it: it's a life condition and they may as well deal with it right away. On top of that, they're usually in love with the person they're jealous of, and love is precious, rare and worth saving.

- As for the solution, most helpful is activity that teaches us to let go of obsessive thoughts and free our minds. Personally I found tai chi extremely valuable, but similar things like meditation and yoga etc are also very worth considering. There are many other tips and tricks that can help in this vein, such as mantras, visualisations and personal rituals. The aim is to refocus the mind away from the obsessive loop it is trapped in, and onto another path.

Since this is essentially a form of OCD, the standard treatments for OCD are also worth considering. This can include use of anti-depressants. The problem with the standard treatments for OCD is that, like regular treating OCD, they are often not particularly effective. OCD is a powerful disability, and required deep therapy to really beat. It takes time, a great therapist, and great determination. Unfortunately a relationship can often be irreversibly damaged in the mean time.

This is why I believe approaches in the category of meditation and tai chi are better: they can have a more immediate effect which can be felt relatively quickly and bring optimism and hope instead of the state of despair sufferers are usually in. But also this kind of approach is good for another reason:

I believe that in the end, to beat retroactive jealousy, it is necessary to change oneself a deep level. To let go of the embedded beliefs that are fuelling the obsession and jealousy. The (usually childhood-based) baggage that gives us the insecurities and patterns that make us vulnerable to retroactive jealousy. But to literally change who we are is possibly the most scary thing any of us ever have to undertake in our lives. We cling to our identity as the one true constant in our lives. When we realise that we must change, our lives become a sea of confusion and disorientation. We pull back from that cliff and retreat to our comfortable pattern: in this case retroactive jealousy.

This is something therapists often talk about: that the true barrier to being 'cured' is our own desire not to change. We cling to ourselves.

This is why meditation, tai chi, yoga, and the like can be effective. Because at their core they focus on the realisation that there is no 'I'. That our identities are an illusion and that by letting go of that illusion we can set ourselves free. We can free ourselves from the painful cycles of life, from 'samsara' as the Buddhists call it, and become at peace with ourselves. This is the prime objective of meditation.

The way out of retroactive jealousy requires a conscious choice: to choose to become someone who does not care about our partners past. But to make that choice means that we must become a different person: namely the person we would be if we did not care. It's that fear of change that is the true barrier.

(I re-posted this from an article on this site)

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A male reader, Mr Clark United States +, writes (23 July 2010):

I've experienced various levels of retroactive jealousy, so I can relate. Take the following with a grain of salt as I am not in a way a trained psychologist.

This may or may not help, but I tend to think that RJ is your subconscious mind's way of reacting to the images you create using your conscious mind. In other words, jealousy is hard wired into our subconscious mind by evolution (or the creator), and the emotions you experience are a natural result of the mental images your conscious mind creates. I suspect that the jealousy response is a primative response to a perceived threat of sorts -the threat that your partner will leave you (if you're a woman), or that your partner will become impregnated by another male. Your subconscious mind cannot distinguish between a real image and an image that is a result of your imagination.

I don't think it's possible to reprogram your subconscious mind. It will continue to generate intensly negative emotions every time you present it with an image or thought that triggers the jealousy response.

Thus, the only "solution" is to try to control your conscious mind and stop overloading your subconscious mind with images that trigger the negative emotions. Easier said than done, of course, but it seems to be the only way.

I've had some success in learning to recognize the initial thoughts that trigger the cascade of images, and simply forcing myself to think about something else immediatly. Once the cascade of images gets started, the negative emotions themselves seem to feed into my subconscious mind's belief that the images are real. At some point I lose control of my own thought processes, at least to some extent.

Another thing that has helped somewhat is to engage in an intense (typically physical) activity that forces me to concentrate on what I am doing. This seem to help break my mind free of the downward spiral.

Having said all that, I still struggle with it. I think there's a tendancy to want to "solve" the problem by thinking about it, but that only makes it worse.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (19 June 2010):

If you leave a relationship because of retroactive jealousy you will empower these feelings which will return in your next relationship far worse. If you suffer from this type of jealousy you will always find something to obsess over.

My belief is we create this type of obsessive jealousy to suit our life stories which may consist of abandonment, betrayal etc.

It enables us to have a get out clause in our relationships and avoid being truly loving which includes the practice of acceptance and forgiveness. It also enables us to be stuck in the past which is clearly no way to live your life. Remember the past is an illusion and does not exist anymore.

Retroactive jealousy also breathes life into the very people and events you wished your partner had never had.

I used to think I suffered with retroactive jealousy but now

I accept it as a gift which enables me to confront my darkest most unpleasant feelings. When I stop being afraid of these feelings I tend to find it is not my partners sexual history that hurts me so much but my unresolved feelings about my own past. It is just easier to blame my partner as human nature is such that whenever we experience a bad feeling we want to associate it with something and a lovers past is an obvious thing for some of us to feel bad over. I find it easy to understand this intellectually but far more difficult to deal with emotionally. My advice to anyone experiencing this horrible depression inducing type of jealousy is to hang in there, do not leave your relationship, love the person you see before you and always remember the past does not exist anymore in reality but only in our deluded minds. If you can master jealousy which invariably is never based on a real threat to your relationship you will gain the experience and tools to cope when and if a real problem arises. I wish everyone success in their battle

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A reader, anonymous, writes (9 June 2010):

Some things I've learned from this painful condition that may help others.

1) Once you're already in the state of anxious depression with obsessive thoughts, caffeine is absolute murder, avoid it at all costs. Also excessive alcohol, a hangover is bad enough but a hangover with anxious depression is an utter nightmare. Get exercise. Eat well.

2) If you're with a woman who likes to babble (ie talks very fast, thinks through talking as opposed to before talking, etc)and don't want to hear about her sexual past, let her know right away, because otherwise she will eventually babble about that too.

3) Once it starts, it's better to get it out on the open and talk about it, If she's a woman worth keeping, she'll listen and be empathetic. If she says "I don't wanna talk about it", dump her. If she says, "I won't do those things that I did with other guys with you", dump her. You don't wanna be with a person who's not capable of making sacrifices to help your emotional state.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (8 June 2010):

I share the same distress, however,with slightly different circumstances.

I had dated my wife through school, however, we ended up breaking up as I was going through my own issues then.

Within one week of our break up she was courted by a guy that I absolutely hated.

This hate stemmed from a time before I met my wife. He was a guy that was extremely jealous of my achievements in school and sport... and took every opportunity to try to bring me down.

Well four years passed, and I met her for the second time while I was on campus.

I was a very social person but I had been brought up in a cultured environment where one would only have sex after marriage.

I had stressed this point to her and asked her candidly whether she had the same beliefs. Her answer then was a straight forward "Yes".

Till this point, I had not been engaged in a serious relationship and admittedly suffered from low self esteem.

Our relationship became very serious and I could not envisage life without her.

Then came the point when my entire life and beliefs got shaken to the very core.

She admitted to me that she had slept with this guy. I know to many people this would seem a minor issue as she had slept with only one person but to the individual on the receiving this not merely a numbers game. This was my life.

I know that current society does not frown on marriage before sex but does that mean that mean that it is ok.

I still loved her though but my view of her and my beliefs was seriously dented.

It hurts even more that I am continuosly running into her ex boyfriend and he plays mind games to mess with me.

I tried to put this out of my mind and must admit that it was working for a while.

She admitted that it was a mistake but my retroactive jealousy demanded all the details. I couldnt understand that if it was a mistake then why would you carry on sleeping with him.

I eventually married her and we have a 1 year old daughter together. There have been more great times than bad ones.

Things have come to a head in recent times as I had bumped into her ex and he embarassed me in front of my current circle of friends. I acted in a mature way and didnt retaliate (as I would have in the past) because I knew that to do so would mean victory to him.

But this mature behaviour didnt make me feel any better.

My wife understandibly and correctly has put him in her past but fails to understand that her past is in close proximity to me as her ex stays in our neighborhood.

I have tried all methods of overcoming these feelings (except for therapy) but it is difficult to do so when I am constantly being mocked at by this individual.

I love her but cannot ultimately forgive her transgression.

Please help as I am now a mere shadow of the man that I could be

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A male reader, Odds United States +, writes (1 June 2010):

Odds agony auntRetroactive jealousy is an entireley justified feeling born of your evolutionary past. Basically, it's your caveman brain's way of avoiding paternity uncertainty - that is, your way of avoiding women who might cuckold you, preventing your genes from being passed on. It is normal, rational, and a sign that you are healthy.

Incidentally, this is why female promiscuity is generally more frowned upon than male promiscuity.

You don't "cure" it. You can, however, learn to live with it. Most people have to, because of our modern, promiscuous culture. I've dated a few women with... well, we'll describe their pasts as "sordid" and move on.

Here's a few tips from my own experience. If nothing else, follow one rule: NO couples counselling. Either the therapist will take your side and make her feel ashamed, or the therapist will take her side, and make you feel ashamed. Shaming each other is NOT the key to a happy relationship.

The first step to living with it is understanding that your feelings are normal, and it is *her* life choices that led to them. She was a slut, embrace that fact. If she truly has reformed, and cares about you, she will be understanding and helpful about it. She will understand that you are not attacking her, you are defending yourself.

Second, after the paternity certainty instinct, the greatest issue most guys have with this is the lingering thought that she may have been willing to do more exciting (read: fun or degrading, at your option) with other guys than with *you*. I can't tell you how mad I was when I found out that one of my exes, who had never given me a blowjob, had given her fair share of them to plenty of one-night stands. The problem was swiftly corrected, but it bothered me. I got hung up on it, so rather than taking charge like a man and enjoying the sex, I saw it almost as a due to be paid. Avoid that. Take charge. If this is causing you problems in bed, arrange a night where it's all aobut you. You can be the judge of whether this should be planned or impromptu.

By now, you should be somewhat reassured that she is committed to you, so step three is to continue to treat her with the same respect you always have. Most guys hear this and think that means to respect her more, but don't. She will notice that you are treating her differently, and she will know why. She is a person, and treating her like an idol will cheapen her just as surely as treating her like some ruined thing.

Lastly, accept that you will never be completely fine with this. Instinct, rational thought, and irrational emotion will not be in harmony over her past. If you love her, learn to live with it; love is rare, sluts are ubiquitous.

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A male reader, cartmancakes United States +, writes (12 May 2010):

Ok, after suffering from this for 11 years, I have to ask the question. Has anyone gotten relief by leaving? I am faced with that decision where I don't know if I can live with her anymore. The resentment is too large. So, I just want to know... Does the pain go away if you leave?

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (7 May 2010):

It took me a long time to start writing, as I feared it would stir my emotions even more. But I decided to go ahead hoping it will give other sufferers some new insights. My wife is older than me but still with good libido and appealing personality. She’s a great lover, wife and friend, I have no doubt that she has always loved me and is devoted to me from the moment when we met 17 yrs ago. RJ was not an issue for a long time despite that I knew that she had a husband of 20 years and a lover and she told me some details of her sexual experiences with them and yet it never bothered me. She also had a second marriage immediately before me but she said it was only one of convenience and there was no sex in it because she loathed him and he was infected with a VD, and so I was only her 3rd sex partner. I did not care too much about whether it was true probably because my feelings for her were not so intense. For myself, I was previously married for 10 years, had two kids and I screwed around when separated from that wife.

So, during some 15 years she made me believe that: she did not know what love meant until she met me, she did not know what the true orgasm was and since divorcing her 1st husband she lived in celibacy for some 6 years until she met me. The Pandora’s box was open when I found a lot of photos of her and my predecessor, the 2nd husband, which showed very close relationship. Then I came across her letters to him before they got married, where she promised to give him all of herself, body and soul. He came to her country and stayed in her house for a month, they travelled in a car and stayed in hotels overnight. I found red skirt and red leggings, seducing lingerie and expensive perfume, which was hidden from me – all from the time of her 18 months of the relationship with my predecessor. There was also a video in which they danced and kissed. I was simply shocked, I could not believe it. I had nothing better to do, so I began to investigate for more clues. Now I know it was a big mistake. I met with him, he told me that she was the hottest woman he’d ever had. I also spoke with his previous wife, she said that he had a huge sex drive and was an excellent lover. Well, I thought, what a fiery couple he must have been with my wife! Despite all of this she wanted me to believe that they never had any sexual relations…When I told her what I know, she still insisted that there was nothing between them. Initially, I felt a lot of anger for being treated like a naïve fool, then I was affected by something worse: the RJ. I sought counselling, they told me that I have a big problem as my mind wants to maintain the false illusion despite all the facts pointing in another direction which results in continuous, obsessive preoccupation with one subject. On top of RJ caused by real images which I saw are the ones that my mind is conjuring. The psychologists advised me to get involved in some activities that would suppress those thoughts, but that was of little help. The triggers are everywhere, even though she burned the photos and letters. I became physically and mentally sick. If that was not enough, 6 months ago I was told that when she was a fresh divorcee a 30 y.o. guy who was 14 years younger stayed in her house for 3 months, they went on a holiday and attended drinking parties together. This was 25 years ago, but to this day he boasts of the fantastic romance that he had with her. However, my wife denies any erotic component there, she says she only kept him because he paid her good boarding fee. This time it was hard for me to believe, especially that she once admitted to me she had made sure there has always been someone available to satisfy her erotic needs.

I know all the theory behind the RJ and that it’s one of the species of the OCD. I believe that there is no permanent cure for it, the thoughts and images are too powerful to control because they are embedded in the subconscious mind. Unless the relevant part of the memory can be erased – which is impossible. I wake up at 3 or 4 am and the “movie” switches on, there is nothing I can do about it except the sleeping pill, which causes additional damage. If I experience a remission in relation to one of her partners, it quickly becomes replaced with thoughts about another one. I often feel that the RJ would not have happened if she had told me the truth about her past, like she did with respect to her 1st husband and the lover about whom I do not obsess at all. The problem starts when she tells me half truths or lies about other men in her life, it is then that my mind goes berserk. Although the letters and pictures are destroyed, I will always remember the details – we tend to remember v. well that which connects to a strong emotion. The RJ has been a serious assault on my mind and body, the stress and depression resulted in physical ailments unknown to me before. I was suicidal too often, I lost my ability to pray unable to concentrate, I can’t enjoy music any more and I lost interest in cinema, probably because there are too many triggers in them. Moreover, at the time when I suffer from this terrible disease, the RJ, she became too friendly with other men – which adds the classical present-time jealousy, fear and low self esteem - to the horrible thing the RJ is.

I sometimes think that there must be many more sufferers, those who write and post about it are only a tip of an iceberg, because RJ is a common psycho-physical reaction. It tends to occur only when you love and care for your partner, who happens to be an attractive, generous and experienced woman. My life was turned upside down when I discovered the details of my wife’s past, it’s like being diagnosed with a terminal illness! The jealousy in my case is not limited to sex matters, it extends to everything that was, or could have been between them. Thus, I know now that IGNORANCE IS BLISS. And the only remedy, although a rather transient one, is keeping yourself preoccupied with some activity, preferably involving mental effort (as walking, gardening etc. leave too much time for thinking). Perhaps also a new partner might solve the problem, but I haven’t tried that one yet, and I don’t want to…

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A reader, anonymous, writes (30 March 2010):

As I mentioned on my post on March 17th, be very careful as to how you approach this with your wife or girlfriend. My wife will not talk about it and does not want to talk about it. She feels cheap and like I don't love her when I talk about it. I have not brought it up. I really want to ask her why she kept the pictures and the diary of her past love affairs for so long after we got together. It was so hard to find these things. I was doing fine dealing with the very little that I knew until this sudden revelation of information catapulted me in to a personal hell. It is very hard especially if you know you had a lame past compared to your significant other. I mentioned that I have some days when I cope and some very bad days. Last night was a bad one because I remembered that those pictures are still where I threw them when I found them. I need to tell her to throw them away but she gets so upset about even talking about this issue that she would probably pack her things and take my 4 kids away to her aunts house as a way to warn me or something.

Bad deal for me. I still wonder if I slept with someone else if I would be cured of this. Or do I need to sleep with more than she did? I am afraid that it won't help because it's too late and the damage has been done. Also, I can't hurt her and my kids. They need me. So there is no way out but to fight the pain and hope that I get a stroke some day that kills me and I go to heaven if there is one for never hurting my wife and giving her a chance. I am not better than her and I know I will get ridicule for what I said here and that is fine. If only I was stronger than I am to not have these issues. If only I had more of a past myself to not have these issues. I don't know how long of this I can take.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (17 March 2010):

I too have gone through the same thing Levinas. I brought the subject up with my wife. It was a bad idea. She felt lke she wasn't good enough for me and everything backfired on me which I deserved anyways. I can't help that I found pictures of her and her ex. I can't get those images out, but over time they have become easier to suppress.

The images that my mind makes up on it's own have also become less painful. But I still have days when I fall into a dark period that can become crippling to me. My heart will ache, my bloodpressure is high now, it never used to be. I am an athletic man and I have never had problems with my health. Now I have stress issues, and the bloodpressure issue which I feel that stem from this RJ. At least once a month, it hits me so hard that I want to die. I want god to end my life, I can't commit suicide because I don't want my family to have that kind of burden on their mind.

I just can't find a way out of this feeling. I am going to need to go to a psychiatrist and probably several sessions and combined with medications. It is my only hope. The feelings are so variable. Some days I feel sorry for myself. Other days I feel resentment and hatred towards myself or my wife. I always love her, but my latest feelings include wondering if I cheated on her if it would fix me. It is too risky for me. I can't risk losing her, I love her too much to hurt her if I did cheat on her. I would not want her to find out. On top of that, what if it didn't fix me? What if I just felt guilt for being unfaithful to add to the jealousy? Too many complications, no way out. But right now I feel like I either live my life with these horrible feelings and hope that the medications numb me enough so that it doesn't hurt. Or I create more pain by leaving her and breakind up my family, my kids would then suffer for a while. I love them too much to do this. I guess I have to take fight it with help. It is the worst feeling I have ever had. I wish I never knew so much about her past. I would have been fine understanding that she had a past, but I didn't want to have details and concrete images of her past. I hope meds, time and therapy will help me to heal before I lose my wife because of this depression and RJ. I try to use that to outweigh the feelings of jealousy. It doesn't take them away but it jusr reminds me that I could hurt in a worse way.

Keep posting because out of everything I have tried, this does help. Even if you don't know who will listen to you. There are others reading these posts and soon enough they will also find some solace in your situations. Eventually they may even post about theirs and we can see that many of us are going through such a similiar situation. Some worse than others.

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A male reader, Levinas Germany +, writes (13 March 2010):

Hi fellows.

I too have posted here a while ago. Not much has changed until then. I'm still retroactive jealous.

There are only two things that helped me a bit. First of all i try to keep busy and not to think about her past. The second thing is that you shouldnt talk about this to your girlfriend. She will get fed up at one point about all this. She will lose her appetite for sex, your sexlife will be reduced to zero, and you will be bothered more because you can't deal with the fact that she had sex with other guys and is unwilling to have sex with you.

At least thats what happens in my case. I have noticed that alot of retroactive jealousy patients have quite similar worry's.

At last i hope that retroactive jealousy will be included in the DSM soon (classification of mental diseases) within the category of jealousy.

I appoligise for my english (im german).

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A reader, anonymous, writes (4 March 2010):

I am the same person who posted on Feb 17th of 2010. I know this thread is old, but I just wanted to encourage anyone who is sufferning from this same problem to post about it. It has been helpful to me to post. Since for many of us it's hard to talk to anyone for fear of ridicule or offending others. I just wanted to know of some of the more recent posters are still out there with this problem or if they have found a way to cope or get past it. I have better days and even weeks where I am distracted by work or activities and only at night does it bother me. I have been on sleeping pills to help me sleep through the night. I am considering stopping them now since I can somehow disconnect the emotions with the images that my mind conjures up. Take care all of you. I hope to see others post here because it really did help and you find out that you may not have it as bad as others do, and it may be worse than some, but we all can support each other.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (17 February 2010):

It is so hard to deal with. I am still trying to deal with it myself. I have a beatiful wife who is a bit older than I am but I met her in college. I was not sexually active in High school unfortunately so I did not have the experience that she did. She told me of her experience when we first met but downplayed any details. I did not ask which was a good idea but the thoughts were back in my mind yet somehow since it was a new relationship I did not care at the time. I did not know we were going to eventually fall in love and get married and have 3 wonderful kids. So 15 years went by and all of a sudden I find an old box in the attic that we had always just taken from home to home and I thought it was just old junk like when your parents kept school pics of you. Boy was I wrong. My little boy opened up the box when I was not looking, there were a bunch of boxes on the floor because we had just moved in to this house we are in now. He dropped it and it rattled so fearing that something was broken inside I opened it up and to my dismay was a bunch of old love letters and a diary which I for some stupid reason was possessed to read. I did not realize the degree of explicitness and details that I would find about my wife's sex life before she met me. I might as well have stuck a knife in my heart then and twisted it because everything suddenly fell apart for me. If it weren't for my children I would have probably considered walking out but I also felt it wasn't fair to her. She had every right to have a life before me. So why did it bother me so much? I felt inadequate, and not special anymore. Even all the good memories of my life with her and our children were not enough to outweigh the retroactive jeolousy that consumed me. It was so bad that I couldn't even do my job, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat and couldn't find any joy in my life. I even lost my faith in god but I reconsidered that since god is my only hope to overcome this. I have recently gone to see a counselor and it helped a bit. Now I am considering medication because I think it's an obsession and if that doesn't work. I don't know what else will. I don't want to lose my wife over this, and I can't even think about cheating on her to try to cure myself. I don't even know if I can love anyone else like I love her and I am afraid of loneliness so I guess I am damned for my life unless I find a way to get over this. It is ridiculuous and I know it is. I am embarrassed by it too. I can't talk to anyone about it. Even my wife who when I brought it up she was hurt and angered that I did not love her enough to accept her. It was not even any of my business she said but she trusted me to tell me and wanted to be honest to me.

I would have preferred not knowing anything at all, but she told me because she knew that we would run in to one of these guys eventually. (I have met 3 of them) unwillingly and one if even married to her cousin. That really sucks because I am constantly reminded of her past even when I try to forget it finds a way to show up again. I wish I had a past myself, it's too late now. God have mercy on our souls and may all of us who suffer with this knowing that it is not fair to treat our wives negatively due to this uncontrollable obsession find a way to live a positive and happy life.

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A male reader, DsM) United States +, writes (24 October 2009):

Wow. So many posts here.

I've been suffering from this affliction -on/off - for nearly four years. I still don't have a break-through and like many of the men who have posted here, I am a sensitive, former male slut, who has been utterly baffled by my reaction to my gf's past. It's hypocrisy to the fullest to feel the way that I have felt with my past. You can never "overcome" it, because it's not something to be overcome, it's something to be digested.

Many little men would simply leave a slut, but you and I are not little men, nor are we "nice guys", like so many people would like to label us. We love sluts like cavemen love fire. I'm not speaking for the virgins, but those experienced men over twenty-five who are feeling these feelings for the first time. We've run into sluts before, but we fucked them and forgot them like the rest. But not THIS ONE, SHE IS THE ONE! And that's where we run into problems.

You're not thinking of the past, my friends, you're thinking of THE FUTURE. We don't want to feel this way, trapped, afraid, sad all the goddamn time. "Why did she tell us? Was she bragging?" Yes. Yes she was. And by doing so, she crossed a serious boundary - she fucked with your SEX! You have every reason to feel violated, it feels like mental rape and you are traumatized.

The normal obsessive images that form around "the beloved"at the height of adoration get super-imposed with her past as well as yours. Yes, she may have been a slut, may still be a slut, and should you leave, she'll be a slut again. That's not your concern. You're actually worried about falling for another slut sometime in future and having to go through all this bullshit again.

Congratulations, you found a place where you are small and YOU WANT to be a bigger person in THE FUTURE. So you pick apart this relationship trying to find the root and fix it, but really, there is nothing to fix.

You're totally normal in wanting to feel special, vulnerable, and safe with your partner. You're absolutely right in NOT revealing the times you have been a cold-dicked bastard to the sluts in your past. We're all sluts, that's human nature. But what do you do about all of the negativity you feel around it?

First, forgive yourself. You thought she was SPECIAL. It was how we are raised. There are two types of girls: special and not. Guess what? She's not SPECIAL, she's human, just like you. And brother, we can all be UGLY. Especially when it comes to sex. Would you take EVERY woman you've ever been attracted to to meet your people? Did she have choice in you finding out? Would it have made a difference if she'd told you or her freinds? Yours?

Second, forgive her. She spoke too soon, or out of turn. She was thoughtless, stupid, sick; whatever label you have to put on it, but forgive her dumb-ass for SHOWING you how pitifully HUMAN both she and you are. For reminding you that love and lust are fleeting. For reminding you that sex is NOT ALL THAT SIGNIFICANT in the grand scheme of things. And most importantly, for bursting the BIG BUBBLE and reminding you that YOU ARE DYING. You both must have been on cloud nine to forget it in the first place. To think you had reached a DESTINATION and LIFE would simply disappear.

Lastly, GET TO WORK. Go the gym, learn to play the guitar, laugh at yourself. For Chrissake, GET A LIFE and BUILD something. This FEAR we feel is the fear of dying unfulfilled. THIS, my brothers, is call to START LIVING. Let's build more intimate relationships with ALL women, continue to approach our scary-ass innards un-afraid (be proud, you did not RUN AWAY or PUNK OUT when the shit hit the fan), and begin to treat our beloveds as the true synthesis of virgin/whore we have sought. We are already half-way there, let us stop the obsessing and crank that sucker up to WORSHIPPING. Let us worship our sluts! We love our sluts for BEING sluts, or we would not be with them...

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (22 October 2009):

Oh wow!! I had no idea so many people felt the same way as me! My girlfriend and I have been together for six months and she has been in 2 long term relationships before me which bothers me soooo much..I think because she still talks to her ex gf and I can see that the relationship isnt sexual but she cares more for her than her other friends. Also I've never been in a serious relationship..I've dated many people and have had sex before but nothing was ever serious which is why i get so jealous.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (14 October 2009):

I am at the receiving end of an RJ of my husband...I have not seen any posts on what those at the receiving ends should do???? because we suffer a lot and dont know how to deal with it cos we dont understand wat is going on in the insides of our partners.

My husband has tried separation it has not changed him, now he wants a divorce.......i told him it wont change anything that he should try and get help of which he completely refuses to do and prefers to deal with it on his own...I am afraid for him because even if we are not together it will still come up in other relationships....

My case i feel was not fair as i asked him before we got married wether he could deal with the fact that i had a relationship with someone he knew when we were not together and he said he could.but a few weeks to the weddding someone told him things of which he beleived and confronted me as to asking wether the relationship we earlier discussed about was sexual...I did not respond as i was surprised he would ask me that kind of question??and beleive wat people say over me.Since then he has deliberately made the marriage a living hell for me after 3 yeras we have not consummated the marriage as he refuses to touch me ...i am lost for words We have a son as i was pregnant before the marriage.

Now he has to continually see me for a long time due to our son how will he see me or him and feel inside?

I love him very much and feel pity that he is throwing a good thing away that he may never find in life again.

Some one please tell me what to do?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (14 October 2009):

I am at the receiving end of an RJ of my husband...I have not seen any posts on what those at the receiving ends should do???? because we suffer a lot and dont know how to deal with it cos we dont understand wat is going on in the insides of our partners.

My husband has tried separation it has not changed him, now he wants a divorce.......i told him it wont change anything that he should try and get help of which he completely refuses to do and prefers to deal with it on his own...I am afraid for him because even if we are not together it will still come up in other relationships....

My case i feel was not fair as i asked him before we got married wether he could deal with the fact that i had a relationship with someone he knew when we were not together and he said he could.but a few weeks to the weddding someone told him things of which he beleived and confronted me as to asking wether the relationship we earlier discussed about was sexual...I did not respond as i was surprised he would ask me that kind of question??and beleive wat people say over me.Since then he has deliberately made the marriage a living hell for me after 3 yeras we have not consummated the marriage as he refuses to touch me ...i am lost for words We have a son as i was pregnant before the marriage.

Now he has to continually see me for a long time due to our son how will he see me or him and feel inside?

I love him very much and feel pity that he is throwing a good thing away that he may never find in life again.

Some one please tell me what to do?

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (21 July 2009):

I deal with this on a daily basis, and it is horrible. Similar situation, but I was a virgin before I married my wife who is 8 years older than me, and has had 16 partners before me (she thinks). I love her to death, and so I deal with it with her help.

One of the worse things that I deal with is the horrible images come up regularly, and the associated anger that wells up because of them. One thing that I have found helps is to focus on these negative images when I work out. All that anger builds up and I am able to direct it towards something positive, whereas when I am just sitting around thinking about it, it just builds and builds, and I usually let it out on my wife (not physically, but through hurtful statements and such, bless my wife for letting me vent).

Another thing that helps is just thinking that I am not the only one dealing with this, so coming on here and reading also works for me.

Hope this helps!

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A male reader, Levinas Germany +, writes (16 July 2009):

Im glad im not the only one with this problem. Im an actractive guy and i had the opportunity to have sex with other women before i met my current girlfriend. I considered my virginity as very important and i didnt want anyone 'not caring' to take it away from me. Somehow i thought the love of my life would feel the same way. So in december i met the women i consider as being the love of my life. Before we had sex we talked about her previous parnters. She lied to me and she said she only had 2. It quite bothered me and when we had sex for the first time this thing played in my mind. Afterwards we talked about it and she told me she actualy had 5 sexpartners before me. This whole thing set me up big time. Nevertheless we kept being toghether until today (we're toghether for 4 years now). I've always looked things up about her ex boyfriends like pictures and information on the internet. It has always bothered me that these guys were sleazy and ugly and i cannot understand she had sex with them. Her first time was in a car (can you imagine?). Somehow i love my girlfriend but i cannot get it out of my mind that she was a slut and i do not respect her today. My RJ has messed up my relationship but i do not feel that it is my fault. Afterall, if she hadnt acted like a slut there wouldnt be any problem, right? I get angry when she doesnt give me attention or when she doesnt feel like having intercourse with me because all i can think of is that she did give attention to her other bf and she did have intercourse with them so why not with me? Afterall, i'm a better guy then her ex bf.

This RJ is consuming me and i do feel like i am psychopathic or crazy or anything else. I wish i could get it out of my mind. The only cure for me is building a time machine and send her to the past to undo all her actions. Since time machines are impossible to build, i'll have to wear this cross for the rest of my life.

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A male reader, Wavywavylonggrass United Kingdom +, writes (24 May 2009):

Wavywavylonggrass agony auntWow, reading this has really opened my eyes. I've made myself ill through RJ, although I've never known it by that name before today.

My jealousy is based purely around casual sex, as opposed to relationships. So I'll feel worse about someone a girlfriend slept with once than someone they were in a long term loving relationship with (even though the sex would likely be much better). Go figure!

I think this may be due to that fact that sex for me has always been in a relationship. I don't necessarily disagree with casual sex on principle, but due to various issues I've never had the confidence to try. I feel very intimidated by other people having casual sex. I'm currently using EFT to work through the issues and hopefully find the 'core'.

Anyway I have 2 suggestions I'm 100% convinced will help (they have me):

1. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

This is a form of self therapy where you tap on meridian energy points (similar to accupuncture/pressure) whilst focussing on the negative feelings.

Check out tapping.com and emofree.com for more details, this really has worked miracles for so many people and has worked for me, specifically with RJ.

2. Eckhart Tolle.

This German author writes about mindfulness and the power of being in the moment. His most prominent book seems to be 'The Power of Now'. In particular the 'pain body' concept makes so much sense in relation to RJ. Check him out.

I really hope this can help someone.

x

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (31 March 2009):

I have had this problem for years and thought i was alone. My wife is the only woman I have ever slept with I lost my virginity to her at 19. I knew I was not her first and that always bothered me however it got worse once we were married and I became more persistent with getting answers to questions she used to be vague in responding too. She had never included oral sex in her responses previously and was not even sure of the exact number. To make it worse we frequently run into some of these men, one is even married into her family.

I keep wondering how this woman so special to me could have been such a slut to give these sleazy guys oral sex with no commitment. I have these images in my head of their cocks in her mouth. I imagine them bragging to friends about getting her to suck them, how nothing can take it back they can always say they used her mouth. Just getting over it and the past is the past doesn't cut it for me. There is no cure for this.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (25 March 2009):

I hear you. Thanks for the appreciative comment.

I would recommend looking into medication: 5-HTP or SAM-e as I said in the previous post, because RJ is an OCD or OCDesque thing, and it is chemical based. I would avoid the SSRI's a doctor will prescribe you because they will kill your sex drive, and who needs that! especially on top of RJ. Might as well kill yourself now.

I have noticed, for instance, that when I am in a really nasty RJ peak (i.e angry as only RJ can make you)I cannot feel any effect, or any side effect, from drinking alcohol. I am not endorsing drinking or binge drinking. I find that extremely bizarre, but obviously whatever is going on in the brain is sufficiently strong enough to counteract alcohol. In which case, obviously any personal effort to counteract the RJ is not going to go so well. If you were calmer and had more moments free from RJ then you'd have more space to deal with it. I don't know about anybody else, but I've noticed a wide variety in RJ strength.

There have been times where it is minimal: two triggers on a bad, and they affect you for 5-15 minutes and then you can kill it. Medium: Thinking about it for a whole day, once in a while OR getting very affected by triggers (distance, anger, hurt, confusion). Heavy: Thinking about it all the time, 24/7, waking up at night with it, finding it very hard to not ruminate. Obviously if you are in the medium or heavy range get help before you ruin your relationship or yourself.

Meditation works because it increases blood-flow and synchronizes the hemispheres, and whatever other chemical aspect is involved. And its also self-time, and your not obsessing while your in it. Or you are fighting it, which is better than going along with it. But you can't meditate forever. Look into Mindfulness, or Awareness, as some people call it. It has Buddhist origins, but I strip the technique from the religion. It is being aware of the present moment, and everything in the present. This can be summarised as 1. Your Body (including all senses, i.e sight) 2. Your emotions 3. Your Thoughts 4) Your awareness itself (i.e are you aware or unaware?). It can take up to two-four weeks of continuous practice to get it right, but when you do its worth it. RJ affects concentration, obviously, and your stuck in the past.

Confidence wise, I suggest Testosterone supplements to aid any exercise done: but of course, that may have possible side effects of anger, so balance that out with meditating.

Finally, therapy. Some people have partner's who have had 10, 15, 20, 25+ sexual partners previously. It doesn't really seem to matter the number that your partner had, because any number seems like shit at the time, even a comparatively small number. Like you, some have had none personally before meeting that person, or a few. In my opinion that is the crux of the issue, is the lack of balance or comparable experiences. Its about specialness on the one hand (how can they be special when they did) and inadequacy on the other (how can I be normal when I didn't).

If one felt secure in themselves, and understood that people are processes, and not static objects, and that specialness and normality (or confidence, or esteem) are in the present, then everything would be good.

There are some people here who have RJ who have had many sexual partner's personally . Which just goes to show that the whole thing is irrational but that doesn't help. So it is an emotional self-esteem thing, but maybe a therapist can help. I find that the emotional arguments of "She's with you now", or "only human", or "you have no right to judge" or "the past is the past" all are true, and make sense, but unfortunately you just don't feel it in your gut. It doesn't make up for the fact that you may not have had comparable experiences, or that they did those things in the first place.

2 and 2 only Cures:

A) Break up with your partner and go have all of the same experiences. It would cure you, but of course you lose your partner. Some people can accept it. Others of course end up doing that and still have RJ. What a rip!

B) Realize that you love your partner even if you don't love their past. Get to the point where you can understand it, and not be affected by it through: medication, therapy, self-work (exercise, meditation, esteem building, socializing, fun): and intimate quality time with your partner including raunchy wild sex.

You have to decide what you want, and what you can do.

Ultimately, one CAN be free from those concerns, and not care. As someone said on another forum what does it matter what they did with anyone else as long as you are enjoying what they do with you? If you were more self-concerned (and selfish in a good way), then you'd be less concerned with your partner (and therefore a better partner anyway). These are my thoughts on the subject. Good Luck buddy.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 March 2009):

I thought I was the only one dealing with this issue! I couldn't have said things better myself. I was a virgin before my wife. At first I didn't have a problem with her past, but recently it has consumed me. I know there are triggers that set off the RJ in my case. I've tried meditation, sometimes it helps. Please continue to post, it really is a blessing.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (18 March 2009):

I also deal with RJ. I only recently found out there was a term for it, I always thought it was a subset of pure o ocd. I have had other topics that I have obsessed about in the past, but this is by far the worse. I consider it to be psychological and physiological. I think it is caused by unresolved emotional issues and sexual beliefs. I think it is driven by illogical ideas (such as the past affects the present) and negative emotions ('I am a loser because,... or she is unworthy because...). I believe it can be resolved, but I think the main point is to reach a stage where it is manageable. After that one can consider extinction (to use the CBT term).

Here are some angles you may not have thought of.

1. Management vs. Cure

We all want to be cured straight away, but RJ is a complex thing, it has many factors, not just one. So there is no one shot cure, because you have to address all the factors. This may take several different approaches to achieve.

So start out just aiming for management. If triggers didn't affect you so much, if you could have the thoughts and feelings without reacting or identifying with them, then you know things would be much better. RJ takes away your self-control and your power because A) it makes you feel like you can't control your own mind B) it makes you feel like your happiness and confidence is dependent upon your partner C) because it depends upon your partner's past it is not able to be fixed. The past cannot be changed. Don't fight your partner, fight your mind!

Techniques for management: CBT, EFT, Meditation. Anything that decreases stress and increases self-esteem: diet, exercise, social events (even though they may be triggers). Also check out seratonin and its role in helping OCD: check out SAM-e or 5-HTP (illegal in some areas).

2. Therapy and Self-Help

I've tried therapy and it hasn't worked for me, but you do have an emotional problem that needs to be worked on. Maybe Self-Help will work better than therapy. I am looking into CBT though, as it looks really viable. The thing is RJ is an obsessive disorder. The causes behind it: your unresolved issues surrounding sexuality, self-esteem, jealousy, posession, confidence, individuation, are not. They are real issues, that should be worked on, discussed, and resolved. There is nothing wrong or abnormal about having these feelings. Very likely that's why we all have RJ because we repressed these feelings. You can't repress something without it kicking your ass later on.

In my case, I found out about my partner's sexual history early on. At the time it didn't bother me or affect my self-esteem or confidence. I knew that my values were non-judgemental, liberal, that I was grounded in my self. I idealistically decided that it wasn't an issue! The mind doesn't like that, and so I got RJ instead, also with paranoia that my partner was cheating on me.

Some people here are saying that you have to leave your partner or find a virgin. Well, maybe. I think you have to consider whether you can in theory accept your partner, and whether the relationship can work out. Maybe it can't. But don't just assume that RJ is unfixable and that the problem is with your partner. Do you like them? Are you attracted to them? Do you love them? Is the only problem your RJ? If so then I would recommend working it out. Sex comes and goes, but love is hard to find.

As for virgins, well you would probably still feel insecure in some way, and they really can be boring as someone said. Two-dimensional. The other thing is though, how long have you known about your partner's past? Has it always been a problem? I've seen several posts here where it wasn't an issue for people, and then it became one months or years later. It was like that for me. Theoretically then we can consider that at one stage it was not an issue. If that is the case then the problem is not with your partner, but with your mind (and that would technically be the case with any RJ as it is not healthy).

I think then that there are three things that need to be worked on:

A) Self-Esteem. All of the time you have RJ you are becoming a person you don't want to be (not attractive to yourself or your partner), you are miserable, and you are spending so MUCH time thinking about someone else that you lose yourself. A question: Why does your confidence and happiness depend upon someone else? That is insane! You can feel good about yourself, and about your partner, even though they did whatever: when the past is not the present.

Take some positive time out. Be in present time. The more you think about your partner's past the less capable you are of being in the present. Think about something else, even if you don't want to, or don't believe you can. Get some other interests and hobbies. Go out by yourself and do positive things, take up sport or something. Join some groups and socialize. When you feel better about yourself, your partner will feel better about you (keep in mind your judging them 24/7! not very fun) and you will feel better about them.

In my case, in the worst phases I can't even watch TV or read books because I'm so messed up. But you have to or it gets worse.

BIG TIP: Do Weight-Lifting, Yoga and Kickboxing. Maybe her previous partners weren't bodybuilders, but you can be! If you know for a fact that you are, or are on your way, to becoming the best you can be there will be no reason for you to feel jealous, envious, or threatened by anyone else. I believe RJ is related to self-esteem issues. Maybe sexually you are good, I am and always was, but RJ can affect your sex drive and make you feel like your not. Weight-lifting will boost your testosterone and your confidence, and therefore your libido.

Mentally, decide that you are the master of your mind. Is it a fact of life and reality that you have to feel bad about yourself and your partner because they had sex before you, or is it a consideration of thought? Could you change that? Could you change yourself. I know you can.

B) Intimacy. It seems like maybe now the honeymoon period of the relationship has ended. Maybe your having a mid-life or near-enough mid-life crisis. As someone said in a post, affection is not intimacy. If you can talk the matter through with your partner, it won't solve your RJ but it will bring you closer together. And by talking I don't mean interrogation but "I have a problem here". Also, if all your time with your partner is spent on their past, that is shit! Take time out to do fun things with them and rediscover why you are together in the first place.

C) Sexual Healing. You need it. They need it. Sex has become a bad thing due to jealousy. Maybe you have mental images during sex. Maybe it reminds you of his/her past. They probably don't feel like it. Turn the table around. Read any good book on tantra and sex techniques: like anything by Margot Anand (The art of sexual ecstasy for example). Really great sex is therapeutic and come resolve these issues. Let their past go, and yours, and focus on the present to have a great future (or a future at all).

Sexual Experience. My feeling is, a lot of people here, feel like they're missing out. You want romantic sex, sure: but you don't want to be a loser by missing out on raunchy wild sex. For some people it is the location that matters or the context.

Discuss this with them. I have a problem,... I do not want to judge you, but I feel like I am missing out. Maybe I am projecting here and I understand it wasn't a great experience for you. Do you think we could possibly get to the point where we could have similar experiences, but make them great?

The idea here is to reach a point where you are so comfortable with your sexuality and your partners, and you enjoy their company so much that you both just want to have sex anywhere. Don't think that it is a solution though to have a list of where and how your partner had sex with other people and try and duplicate it. They would probably be highly adverse to it, and it most likely will make your triggers worse.

Nevertheless, if you can say well I have great sex, in public, at home, and I have done all this stuff with my partner: then chances are their past will affect you a lot less.

3. Factors

Obsessive thoughts are caused by a neuronal misfire in your brain. Stress makes it worse. Your brain assumes that your partners sexual past is a survival topic, giving you a fight/flight response. It is a dilemma that must be solved. What has happened here is the topic is posted in a reptilian pre-rational part of your brain. You can experience this when intellectually you can accept your partner's past, but emotionally it makes no difference.

Fighting Back:

A) you can try things that balance the hemispheres of the brain: try Holosync, or Dr. Jeffrey Hopkins brainwave cds, or search the net for Sbagen for binaural beats that synchronise the hemispheres. Look up a freeware mind map program, and draw a diagram of your RJ, and your partners sexual experiences and your experiences, and your reactions to both, and how that makes you feel. The mind map balances the hemispheres and you'll be able to see things more clearly, and less emotionally. This can help to put things into perspective, but don't do it obsessively. I think the trick to managing and hopefully curing RJ is to harmonise the intellect with the emotions. If you can do this for every topic: so not just your partner's past, but your past, your feelings of inadequacy that make her past a problem, threatened feelings, judgemental thoughts, etc then you would be well.

B) Understand your pivotal life experiences where you decided that you were a certain way, or that your beliefs were a certain way. If you were a virgin till a certain age, analyze why that is such a big deal, and work on techniques to resolve the emotionality behind it.

C) Find anything that relaxes stress so you can minimise the impacts on triggers.

D) Realize the Illogical Rules that underpin your RJ. For instance I have figured out the following: 1. The past is in the present. 2. Sexual experiences change a person, and make them worthy/unworthy 3. People and Events are objects that are always present. 4. People do not change. All of these are actually just considerations, they are not inherently true. You probably have something similar. Then work on resolving these ideas and they emotions they create.

Good Luck. If anyone has tried anything of these things, or have alternate techniques I'd be interested to hear. Unfortunately on the web there are a lot of posts but no supposed experts telling us what to do!

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A male reader, Mr wolf50 United States +, writes (8 March 2009):

I had the same problem with my wife. I forgave her and I did a lot of prayer, for I am a god-fearing man. I did not forget, but I remembered, and when I did I went on walks by myself and prayed. It is not easy and if you dwell on it, it will consume you. I was 22 and still a virgin, my wife was 18 and she was not a virgin. We did not have sex till we got married. That night she told me she was not a virgin. At thirteen she had sex with her 25 year brother-in-law and continued for 7 months. When she moved away, she met other guys and again had sex with them.

At 16 she met me and fell in love. We were married two years later. I was madly in love, probably blind and did not care. Until about 6-7 years into the marriage. I became obsessed and wanted to know all the details. She would tell me. So after many fights and problems, I started to pray and it took about 2 years to over come what happen. It was very hard,sad, lonely as I fought my inner self, but I over came it.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 January 2009):

Hello. I am having a similar problem as many of the guys on this board. Let me just say that I feel for all of you. RJ is terrible. It's even physically painful for me. I am in my mid 20's but have not had very much sexual experience at all. I have not really done anything much with guys. I do not like to put myself "out there" and risk emotional pain and feel regret. I come from a religious background but have not been one of those hardcore abstainence-until-marriage people, it is just something I think is nice to aspire to but I don't think people should beat themselves up or feel too much guilt for not being able to achieve that.

I have been engaged once before. It seemed wonderful at the time. I had been with him since high school. We broke up for a bit in college because we both went to different schools. During the time we got back together, he was closer so we thought we could start something up again. He had changed during the time we spent apart. He started partying a lot but I just saw him as the same nice, fairly innocent guy that I had always known. A lot of red flags went up but I was too hypnotized to see them.

To make a long story short, he cheated on me. And I found out he did in a very unpleasant and heartbreaking way,....which required many expensive doctor visits to fix and has destroyed my the concept I used to have of myself as a good person. I don't know why I feel this way, it's just the stigma our society places on sexually transmitted infections.

After this happened, I made a vow to be 1.) 100% honest with every guy that I'm interested in right from the start regardless of how it affects their desire to be with me. This seems to be the only right thing to do in this situation. 2.) I wanted to make sure I only dated guys with very limited sexual experience who did not place disproportionate importance on sex in their lives. I ended up meeting the absolute love of my life about a year and a half later. Things were/ are great. I told him every last detail about everything and after thinking it over, he decided that he was okay with it. At this point, the illness so-to-speak was no longer present in my body. It's one of those things that your body can usually fight and kill off in two years or so, thankfully, but it still scared the hell out of me.

To make a long story as short as I can,...... things were going swimmingly, so it seemed. I thought he had had about as much sexual experience as me,...which was next to nothing,....and the truth is, he HASN't had sex except only once with the girl he was with right before me.

Here's the problem:

The girl has had sex with over 30 people.

Every person, (guys and girls) she had been with, she had sex with them with no form of protection,.... including my current boyfriend.

I live and work in very close proximity to her.

I have to see her on a weekly basis, sometimes more.

She makes rude and cruel comments to the people that have the power to fire me to slander me in their eyes.

I did not find out the gritty details until recently. She told my boyfriend NOTHING about her past and lied about what she did tell him. She was sleeping with 4 other people during the time they were dating and he had no idea. A lot of these people were heavy drug users. Her method in dealing with my boyfriend was almost a very predatory one. She was super-controlling, physically abusive, verbally abusive, and flirted with other men in front of him. He had never been in a "serious" relationship except for a few minor experiences in high school. Consequently, he was also a virgin before he met her. Basically, the process of how his virginity was taken was a simple, "Hey, wanna fuck?" I don't know. I know I'm old-fashioned and probably more suited to my grandparents' generation, but I know my boyfriend well enough to know that for him, he will always regret that experience terribly because he wanted that experience to be with someone meaningful,....someone who actually cared.

I'm struggling with such intense hatred for this girl that I can't even put it into words. We have gotten in numerous confrontations and even a physical one. I have initiated none of it. She also has extremely bad psychological problems so she takes a swipe at me whenever she gets the chance. I suppose I am jealous that by boyfriend's first sexual experience wasn't with me,.....and I'm angry that during this relationship, I made it known that I was interested in him but I would never try to persuade a person to cheat. I'm just so upset because I was right there and he chose her instead.

The other huge concern: Oh my god, how many terrible diseases did this girl have and what has she given to us.

I love by boyfriend and I will not let this get in the way of OUR sucess together but this is not to say that I wouldn't like to knock her teeth out. I am actually considering moving out of town or getting a job at a school on the opposite end of town just so I won't run the risk of meeting her or seeing her because it just brings back crazy feelings of jealousy and rage.

I feel so crazy right now and it seems like there is no one to turn to. A lot of my friends don't really understand why I have a problem with this at all. I have had to distance myself from them because of it.

I was just wondering if anyone had any advice.

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A male reader, jOHN2145 United States +, writes (13 January 2009):

To the anonymous female reader who posted on December 24th.

Please, please explain more. I am suffering terribly and your post is the first thing I'ver read in months that makes sense. I would like your insight as to how best to establish or better emotional intimacy so I can stop this madness. Any information is appreciated. Thank you.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (3 January 2009):

I feel your pain & I have been there. BUT this is going to hurt - u have 2 choices a) leave her b) stop your mind games screwing up your life. if you're not going to leave her then you have to STOP obsessing, get off of this board, stop thinking about it, stop the self pity stop obsessing. you suffer from a combination of post traumatic stress syndrome & OCD - here your brain is your enemy, defeat it or you will live in hell for the rest of your life. sorry this is harsh, good luck though.

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A male reader, Yos Netherlands +, writes (3 January 2009):

Yos agony auntI've just found this question. There are some great responses here. I was wondering if the OP is still around, and if anything here has helped at all?

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (29 December 2008):

I am 40 year old and still struggle with visions of my wife having sex with partners back when she was in high school. Heck she was 15-19 and the guys were about the same age. We have three kids and been married 14 years, together 18. It is just an ugly thing...I know it hurts her and I try to hide it, but she can see it. I let my mind run with it and then I start trying to direct the movie in my mind, of course my mind plays it out in a way that hurts the most. Been through conseling and psych visits...really did not help me.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (24 December 2008):

I have been there and I have some advice that may comfort you.

I strongly agree that retroactive jealousy is tied to low self-esteem and also beliefs about sex. In my experience I have found that the degree of jealousy is directly proportionate to the level of insecurity in the relationship on my part.

To let it go, you must understand that while there is not a quick cure all, it is manageable. You must recognize that your jealousy is completely irrational - and I do not mean dismiss it when it happens, not only is that impossible but it will have an opposite effect. I mean to recognize it WHEN IT HAPPENS as completely irrational, compare it to having as much credibility as a ninja penguin from space flying through your window. It is very similar to OCD in this regard, it is not rational whether you recognize that it is or not, though if you recognize that it is NOT rational, and that YOU DO HAVE CONTROL, then it is significantly more manageable. Also, recognizing this may free you from the seemingly unending cycle of rage and calm. Inherently you do know that it's irrational, but since you can not define exactly what it is or your own perspective of your behavior leads you to thinking you have something wrong with you, you feel trapped, that there is no solution and you must live with the torture. Not so.

The false reality of retroactive jealousy is that you believe that more knowledge about the other's past will relieve you, when it actually will only give you more to preoccupy and obsess yourself with. You have an incessant compulsion to ask for every stitch of detail you can wrap your little green-eyed brain cells around. While it may seem nearly impossible to conceive, I implore you to do everything in your power to not do this. It is possible and you'll find once you start the habit of "the less I know the better" and your partner understands this it will come very easily. You must recognize your compulsion to ask when it happens though, if you don't, and you allow it to happen, it will sabotage you. Also, make sure your partner understands to not offer up any information about their romantic past, this is very important.

Now, what happens if you're knee deep in it already? Yes, it is still possible to salvage the relationship.

This goes back to the level of insecurity. I have found in my own experience and also reading through these posts that a common theme in RJ is "feeling special". Every RJ sufferer wants to feel like king god everything in comparison to their partner's past. The catch is, we want this reassurance before there is even anything established on an emotionally intimate level, we RJ folks want to know we are the best straight out of the gate and we want all threats to this perspective annhilated immediately - enter compulsive interrogation. The RJ is caused by a lack of an emotionally intimate foundation in the relationship. You may be thinking, 'but my partner and I are very intimate emotionally!' it is extremely easy to mistake emotional intimacy or equate it for physical. Affection is easy, words are easy. An RJ sufferer does not trust their partner emotionally because they are afraid of being hurt, but we go through the motions to get the reassurance we feel is absolutely necessary to be able to be emotionally intimate. It's a nasty catch-22, and our minds can be horrible mental terrorists when evaluating our lover's words. Trust me, if you focus on establishing the emotional intimacy, you will see the RJ fade over time. It will not be overnight and you must be patient and actively involve yourself and your partner in managing your compulsions when they arise. You may need a therapist's help in breaking the cycle and maintaining control for yourself, as that is the hardest part.

Also, as much as I hate to say this, if your partner is also a severe RJ sufferer, all of your efforts may be futile. Nothing is impossible, but some things can be damned near.

This is beatable, but it is an ongoing effor, don;t forget that you DO have control to do this.

:)

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A male reader, jettenazas Philippines +, writes (22 December 2008):

It happened to me about 4 times and in each case I could not sleep for days and eventually suffered severe depression and anxiety, it was really horrible! Now the best thing to do which actually I found out during the 3rd time is to consult a psychiatrist. You are in a disoriented mental condition and needs special medicines to correct it. In my case the doctor gave me Rivotril, Zoloft and Xyprexa which was very very effective. The problem with these stuffs is you can't buy them over the counter, you need doctors prescription.

So, for anybody out there who suffer the same, go and seek psychiatrist's advice right away!!!

Thanks!

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (11 December 2008):

Here's my rant!

I've been with a girl for a few months now and I like her a lot. I actually suffered a breakdown this year and am still not totally over it. RJ was never a problem before but now I seem to be experiencing it and am happy to know that I'm not alone. I believe I can think my way out of it by simply not allowing the obsessional thoughts to remain in my mind. When they enter or I feel the pull toward them from those triggers (I thought I was going nuts that sex on the TV was making me feel weird) I will simply cast them from my mind and replace them with how beautiful and loving she is and.....the FUTURE! If you go through life with your eyes on the road behind you will stumble and bump into things. The future is where we need to be focussed on. RJ is something that is perfectly natural to feel but not so that it becomes a problem. Noone likes to think of their partner with someone else but you get over it by knowing that it's in the past. When it blows up to something that is painful and destructive it is to do with obsessional negative thinking and/or a self esteem problem. I have had significantly fewer partners than my girlfriend, and in honesty significantly less than I would have liked, I just always had a problem with shyness and a general lack of confidence. But that's tough shit! It's quality not quantity, I think of all the guys out there getting nothing or the virgins in their 30s who worry about dying never ever having experienced sex or the people in hospitals fighting illnesses who don't know if they'll ever take a walk in a park again let alone have sex with a beautiful woman. My girlfriend is one such woman and I'll be dammed if I'm gonna let some irrational obsession mess this up.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (3 December 2008):

"It actually gives you a perverse pleasure to be upset about her past."

There are loads of reasons, attempts to rationalize, and I'll tell you brother... it's painful. I've gone through this once, and she left. I find myself going through it again and recognize RJ is a pattern I will repeat... with any woman. So, thankfully, the current g/f is willing to help and support me in therapy, CBT, medication... and prayer.

CBT and therapy helped before, but it obviously is something I may have to deal with forever. I may try meds this time, and more CBT.

Back to the quote... very interesting, and insightful. There is a good deal of martyrdom in this syndrome. Whoa is me! I can't find the perfect girl!!!! I think, there are often underlying issues of trust, insecurity, and simple biological ones like anxiety and obssesive behavior.

My advice, if I have any, is realize this may not ever end comletely, that you have an addiction to this pain - otherwise you wouldn't keep bringing it on!!! try the 12 step process, that can help too. But really, it is in many ways like an addiction, you can't win that battle. Don't make the expectation to *LIKE* her past. Don't make the expectation to never *THINK ABOUT* her past. Make the expectation to manage it, retrain your thought process to not obsess, to not hurt her with it, etc.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (2 December 2008):

I don't know whether being a slut still gets you unfairly judged like it once did, but you will sure as hell get unfairly judged if you try to avoid them these days.

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A male reader, vroom United Kingdom +, writes (28 November 2008):

Hi, I have also been and am going thruogh just the same thing as you.

I have read all of these posts and more,I went to thereapy(didnt work)I went for hypno(worked a bit), so in the end I was desperate for help and made an appointment to see my doctor.I told her every thing about my troubles and she decided I was showing OCD behaviour and gave me anti depressants that work well against OCD, the change was fantastic after one week, I need to be on them for 6 months then maybe come off slowly. I am not saying that you should do this but it is well worth a try as you seem as desperate as me.The medication in the UK is called paroxetine.

These have helped me not to focus on the thoughts of my wifes past and allowed me to get on with life,I still know its all there but it doesn't bother me half as much. just a thought for you, good luck you are not alone.

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A male reader, oldfool Australia +, writes (25 November 2008):

oldfool agony auntWhile I very much sympathise with the people who are posting with such pain, I must say I do get a very strong whiff of self pity in all this. People seem to feel very hardly done by. They are making themselves totally inconsolable, like a child who can't have what he/she wants.

The sexual pain is there, the retro-jealousy. No one is disputing this. But life is not supposed to be spent crying about what you don't have. So you haven't had the perfect start in life. So you've found the ideal lover in every respect, except one.... And you want to keep getting upset about it... forever...

I don't think this "perfect soulmate" isn't a perfect soulmate at all. It actually gives you a perverse pleasure to be upset about her past. It's almost like she's your perfect soulmate BECAUSE she has this unforgiveable imperfection. If she didn't have this past you might even get bored with her. It's this hopeless, hopeless regret, this inconsolable grief, this unfixable wrong that has hijacked your relationship and is, by the same token, keeping it alive.

You think you never, ever want to leave her? I know, if only she wasn't like this....! If only... if only... This is nonsense. This hurting passion is what is making her so attractive to you, making you so reluctant to let her go.

Get out of the relationship. You owe it to yourself and to her. There's no sense living a life like this. Any kind of wishy-washy existence would be better than this mixture of spoilt heaven and unconsolable hell. Stop torturing yourself and her, and find someone who doesn't get you hooked on this self-pitying love.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (24 November 2008):

Hello again, I am the same female who posted on Nov. 4.

I'm really sorry to the poster of this question and to insanity...I feel I can relate to you guys in many ways.

For me, its this constant rollercoaster of feeling ok, then crappy, then ok then crappy.

I love my boyfriend so much, but, like insanity, I don't feel special, I feel like he has already had a love like mine before, and in a way, like he is used.

Insanity you spoke of feeling like you haven't had an 'innocent first'.

I feel the same. I was sexually assualted as a little girl...and when I was 16

I lost my virginity to my first boyfriend. I trusted him more than I should have. I was so naive...so innocent. I did all of my firsts with him, even my first kiss. I thought I would marry him LOL...

He cheated on me with my best friend. The best friend whom I had known since first grade, who I played Barbies with, and discovered boys with and who taught me how to put on make up.

After he broke up with me, I ran to her house, crying only to find out he had been there the night before....

It was bitter, and it stills hurts although I have moved on. I am now 22, and he still tries to contact me on myspace, saying that he hasn't and will never meet anyone like me.

In a way, I feel like my chance at an "innocent first" was taken from me. This affects me in that my current boyfriend, lost his virginity when he was 21, but had sexual experiences before.

Like I said, I have had more sexual experiences then he has, although, I am not at all a slut....

He was with this girl before me for like 3 years and although he says he didn't do it with her often, I still feel insecure. She was his foreign college sweet heart and he even asked her to marry him.

She lost her virginity to him and my boyfriend even told me he had sex with her in a field at night before.

It sounds so romantic to me, and I kills me that he did that with her, I always think, she must have meant so much to him, I could never be that.

I will not lie, I am attractive, yet, looks aren't everything. I feel so hopeless on the inside. So unspecial. I just want to be everything to him, but I feel because of his past, no matter how in-experienced it was, I can never be....

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A male reader, insanity United States +, writes (15 November 2008):

Hey. I read this topic a few monthes ago, trying to find people I could relate my jealousy with. It was very comforting to read the replies, especially the one coming from a female who had had MORE of a sexual past then her partner... because I often feel and read that a common element in RJ is not having much experience. Although I can't fight the idea completely, as it is probably true mostly anyways.

I wanted to throw in my specific situation, to outlet

I was sitting here brooding about it (I basically brood all day ever day, and have for years) and saying to myself "this is horrible, I'm stuck, I'm in a hole". I was all ready to watch a movie and enjoy myself but instead I sit here for a couple hours staring into space brooding. This is very normal for me

I dated one girl for a month by the time I was at the end of 21, and we didn't do anything sexual. Then I dated a transexual for a couple monthes.. she had had sex with a few people, and got a girl pregnant who she was in a really long relationship with. after her I was 22 and felt like I was never gonna have sex really, and I didn't want to be a complete virgin forever, which I felt would happen if I got any older.. so I made myself lose it with this slutty girl who I dated for a month. These are horrible memories for me. All these girls dumped me.. the first one because she started doing drugs, the second because she was insecure about her body and would rather be friends, and the third because I told her that I couldn't fall in love with her.

Then I had my first long term at 22.. 9 months. The girl did nothing at all by the time she was about 18 and then had two long terms and one shorter one, sex in two of them, sexual activity in the shorter one. I spent the whole relationship brooding about these past partners and wishing I could've had her when she was as inexperienced as me. her first boyfriend was a virgin and all I could and still do think about is how much it hurt to know that, that they had that togethor. Why couldn't I? I had hoped for so long that a girl like that would come along, but it never happened. Why did she deserve that and not me? I can't face that she got to experience that and I didn't. She said it was special and that she was in love. I feel such a rage for her over that. I wanted to have that, instead my first long term is this struggle to have feelings because I can't convince myself of the specialness of it.

all I did was question her about all the specifics. I remember thinking all the same things like "did she have showers with these guys?" "did she feel strong feelings?" "what was the sex like" etc. I would cry and brood and towards the end I started to get a little cold towards her. Never that mean but the whole relationship I wanted to die. it didn't feel special, I felt cheated after waiting so long. We broke up mutually, although for two months after she kept coming to my house begging me back, but the rage I felt was too much, and I realized it could never work because of it.

It was actually somewhat relieving when it ended, which is also pretty depressing, knowing that my one long term never felt better than being alone. I feel like the one thing I got out of it was a little bit more on my side to combat jealousy with as far as future partners goes.

after her I dated a girl for a month and then dumped her because she was slutty, among other things.

now I'm sitting here, 23, beginning to date another girl who is 26 and was married once before, has a kid, not a slutty girl, but still has that experience, and all I can think about is how I feel like I never got the proper start with relationships that I needed, and feeling horrible.

My ex describes herself as having to fight feelings, while I feel my feelings are nonexistent because of all the rage I feel. How could I possibly be in love when I've waited so long, and the other person has been in love before and felt all those magical things that I never did? I feel like maybe if I had had that before myself, I could relate to someone who has. But seeing as how I haven't.. I feel hopeless. How could I ever find someone to make it work with? I ask this and I feel such a strong anxiety I wonder if I should kill myself.

All my girlfriends thought I was amazing, hot, extremely smart, etc. Almost all were extremely in love like they never had been before me.

I even have a very big penis, bigger then every single one of all my GFs past partners. (I wanted to mention that as it seems people are associating RJ and small size.) In addition, with the girl I dated for 9 monthes, I made her orgasm from the very first time, and no other guy had ever made her orgasm through sex. With the slutty girl who I knew I couldn't love, I was almost the only one to make her orgasm, the only other being a guy she had dated for 4 years.

I have this feeling like everyone else got to have their innocent first relationships. Many people who never had a long term before, having it with each other. I desire that someone comes along who has had it pretty much the same as me, or very little experience, but over the past few years I have to come to grips with the reality that THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. especially not more and more as I get older. So I force myself to date, as I have been, and this feeling inside.. is terrible

and I wonder if other people don't have RJ because they're just stupid, and convince themselves of the specialness of their relationships by denying anything else their partner had, while people with RJ are just honest and realize that they are human like everyone else, and that any feeling or thing they can have with someone is something that that person could've had before, and likely did no matter what they say, and that it isn't really special. I wish I could live in that denial.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (4 November 2008):

WOW....thats all I can say.

You are almost exactly like me..I too have read almost anything I can find on "retroactive jealousy". Read every post on this site and others. I've posted on this site under anonymous I don't know how many times. Went to a therapist.

And yet, even some stupid song on the radio or a movie or even a commercial can make me feel like crap. Then I will obsess until I bring it up to him and we argue. It never goes away...even when I think it has, that I can be normal like everyone else. Others whoses lovers past doesn't even cross their minds. I too feel like crying during and after sex...even by myself...when I think about it...

And I have. I even threatened to kill myself, my boyfriend wrestled my "weapon" out of my hand.

Like you, I love my boyfriend more than I could ever promise him.

More than words. More than life. I have had more of a sexual past than him. Actually, I am the most attractive girl he has ever been with (friends and photos confirm this)

He says he has never felt so much attraction and love for another human being. That I am like magic to him. Does this help?

No.

I obsess...and I don't know what to do. I too ask questions like,

I wonder if he ever kissed them like that

or

I wonder if he liked when they went down on him

or

I wonder if her remembers how they felt

Very explicit, vivid images....

I have asked him about so much in his past....It often hurts me more than helps me...

Asked him, did he hold them like that..take showers with them, met their families, spent the night with them....blah blah blah...endless

And yet no one has answers. My therapist helped me a little bit...she says it has something to do with my beliefs on sex. I've been working with her for a year and made a little progress, but then I have days like this one when it feels like square one.

He and I have been together for 2 years...and he says he will never give up on me. But...often I feel like giving up on myself...............

I don't how this will help, I just had to say something when all your posts hit me hard.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (20 October 2008):

I wish I could tell you it will get better. I've been struggling with this same exact thing for years. The problem is this: It's like the more I care about a girl, the more I feel the retro jealousy, and the more easily everything becomes a trigger. Even with a girl with a little past, would it be better for you? My answer is no, because there's not that much there with my current girl. BUT, there is an ex-husband that will never be out of the picture because of kids, and there is an ex that she was very serious with that still wants her back. So, my hauntings are not only of the past itself and all of the triggers like yours, but they are also made worse because of these guys being around a little bit in a way.

I am on here right now because I just hung up the phone and was having a retro jealousy panic attack that I didn't want to let her know about.

I believe there's got to be a way to get through this and learn to cope and eventually get better. Not perfect, but better. Don't give her up if you think you've got a good thing and a good future.

Does anybody know where to find some literature about this? I am finding this topic on message boards everywhere, but I can't find anything scientific about it. Even my psychologist had never heard of the term before I told him.

I understand your pain, my friend, because it's killing me too...really feels like it's killing me.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (15 October 2008):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Hello all,

I thought I would stop in for an update. Since my post here I have been trying to reconcile my feelings regarding her past but it still seems to be bothering me. I have spent most every day in agony over this situation. Everything can be going great, but as soon as anything happens to trigger it, Im back at square one. Last night I about had a melt down.

I love her so much, but I cant let go of her past... How can I feel special to this woman who has such sordid past? Nothing I can think of releases my tension, and nothing she has done has given me any kind of boost to get over the situation. It really hurts me, that something I thought would have never been an issue, is the one thing that will inevitable destroy our almost seemingly perfect relationship.

Its completely irrational and should be a non-issue, but everything we are together, hanging out, being intimate or anything, I remember that she has screwed countless guys and gave her body away to people in a way which I judge as easy. It twists my stomach and fills me with jealousy. My mood is like an instant change, and I know she knows what is going on.

I so desperately do not want to leave her, or end our relationship... But I don't know how to come to terms with this. Its destroying me, both her and I. I wish I could take all this away, or some drug to make me forget the things she has told me. I cant cope with these thoughts, and I cant seem to hide them either.

This morning we were laying in bed, I woke up rolled over and wrapped my leg around her and felt her sexy smooth legs running over mine, it felt great... But, within a couple of seconds I was reminded that there have been many many other men and even women before me who have felt her body, her touch, her love before me and it suddenly made me feel less special, less important, and like our moment together was lessened by her past and my thoughts... That is just one of the many, many examples...

Am I wrong to try and continue to make this relationship work? I have some inkling that I can surpass this, and turn out ok in the end and manage our relationship, but I am worried that I will spend my life with that feeling that maybe I can turn it around, and in the middle of it all have wasted many years of my life depressed over such a stupid, irrational thing...

Please, I beg for your help...

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A male reader, craigm United States +, writes (12 October 2008):

Hey Man,

As some do, I know exactly what you are going through. I will offer some advice you may have never heard before. Many will not agree, maybe you won't either. In order to try to help I am going to say it anyway.

Here it is. Let her go and find someone without a history. It's the only way if you are as bad as you say you are. I was that way too, still am. But now I don't have to worry about it because I found someone without a history. Yes, they are out there.

Letting her go will sting for awhile. But staying hurts more. Do you really think, and be honest here, that after everything you said and are feeling that you will someday be fine with her? That your relationship will be great? Not saying it's not possible, just saying it's unlikely. In my opinion, from someone who has been there to the extreme way you are now, it won't happen. You won't ever be fine with this. That really leaves one option. You must leave. You then must only seek out people without a history, or with one you can handle. Let me repeat this again, yes, they exist. Don't let people tell you otherwise. When you find one you will be very happy.

There you have it. Controversial? Yes. Reality? Yes.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (23 September 2008):

I know exactly what you are going through. Unless someone suffers from this condition -- they cannot give you advice. I have wrestled with this for over 15 years. Almost left my girlfriend (now wife) over it, cheated on her several times over it (to get even), broke up with her (made me feel worse) nothing worked. I loved her but could not accept her past. I thought it would go away on its own, and it does for a while, but it always comes back. Like you, many things trigger the automatic jealousy response. I pushed forward anyway knowing how illogical it was. I recently decided to do something about it and I have been seeing a therapist and it has helped me. Just talking about it and learning more about obsessive negative thoughts will help you settle down a little bit. I had never really had a long term relationship before meeting my wife, she had several. So probably the root of it is a general insecurity in loving/emotional relationships on my part. I probably had sex 5 times, she was more like 500. Well, who wouldn't be insecure? Especially as a man who is supposed to be the sex expert. I loved everything else about her and still do. I have actually had moments where I imagine she was a virgin, I'll really go into detail with it, I know what virgins are like, personality and otherwise, and you know what, that is not my wife --- that person would be too boring, my wife took risks in her life trying to figure everything out. I could not imagine that I would be the only one that someone had sex with in their life, it would be like marrying a high school girl, that would bother me more. Also, sometimes i have moments where i truly accept her past, and then I feel empty and bored. So basically for me, i have found this is a thought pattern my brain uses to give me adrenaline. I can deal with it a little better that way. It's not my fault, I didn't choose this, I am not a bad or weak person --- this is just my weakness, everybody has them. These thoughts don't really mean anything if our relationship is solid ---- they are merely random thoughts that stir up my emotions and adrenaline like a panic attack. Anyway, a good therapist and maybe some medication will help you uncouple the thoughts from the feelings and the resulting panic. For me, whenever our marriage gets a little boring, i can always recall these thoughts and feelings and I feel 100% of the adrenaline rush i felt when i first met her along with the jealousy etc. The brain is funny, the more you try not to have a thought, the more obsessive it becomes. So how do you stop having obsessive thoughts? Need a therapist. You can't reason your way out of this turmoil, you can't change her past, and that's what your brain keeps trying to do. You can apply reason to other areas of your life -- school, jobs, grocery shopping etc. --- but when your brain tries to apply reason to emotions, you become a mess. Most people are better at just letting things like this go, but not you an me. They have other weaknesses, everyone has them. Not sure if this helps at all, but these are my experiences. I know this will always bother me on some level until the day I die. It would bother anyone to think about others having sex with your loved one (if you really love her). The problem with us is, we get the thoughts all the time and can't dismiss them before we get worked up --- therapy will help. It's much easier to dismiss these thoughts with girls you don't love.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (19 September 2008):

This is a song I wrote exactly about the topic you are describing in your initial post about this retro-jealousy that is haunting you. I have no RECORDED music to this, but I hope somehow the lyrics can bring you peace and help you focus on love now. This can be overcome.

Ghosts of Other Lovers

Verse 1

All that we've done to ourselves

weapons against one another

The circles of love made in vain

Swallow our tracks like a runaway train

And we're tied down to it.....

If we could just strip the past away

jaded skin that chokes the soul

See light shine through jealous shades

trusting love that is so whole

Chorus

But we're clothed...

In the ghosts of other lovers

Haunting the innocence frayed

Yesterday tortures tomorrow

in our theatres of betrayal

Should we throw it all away

As I throw it in your face

Like history's here to stay

The pain of yesterday

Kills a love so great

....and the ghosts of other lovers

dance on forgiveness once again

Verse 2

All that we waste of our bodies

Innocence ripped from the future

Excuses of pressure so endless

Scraping the knees for unwed forgiveness

And I'm begging for it....

If we could just strip the sin away

A bleeding soul lay naked

Listen to mercy trumpet down from Heaven's gate

Cleansed so love can make it

Chorus repeats...............

Lead

If I would've known you exist

If I could've been much stronger than this

the past wouldn't be such a kiss

.....a kiss of death

If God forgives our weakened ways

Can't we just try to do the same

Love will live in Heaven's name

And you can love me for today

Love me for today

Guitar solo

Lead 2

Black lipstick has decayed

Ghosts go to your grave

Sweep the past away

Ghosts go to your grave

Let love be here to stay

Chorus 2x/Chorus out

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A male reader, kinkydude United Kingdom +, writes (12 September 2008):

I'm sorry but i have a little criticism for you. I don't believe you love this woman.

Love is about being free, caring, independence, and not jealousy. Sounds to me that Lust has permeated your thoughts. You are not thinking clearly and, from the sound of it you're going through an obsessive fit.

My woman also has somewhat of a past...so do I for that matter. And what? this woman who you are with, loves you. She's with you for who you are. The problem is that you see her as some object. I'm sure she's extremely beautiful right? She's some kind of lust object that your obsessed with.

Open your heart, my man. And realize that you don't love this women...cuz if you did you wouldn't be thinking this way. Her life has been a difficult voyage in discovery. Pain. Realization. She's obviously changed, and her evolved self, has chosen you. She's chosen to bless you with her person, her beauty. Women have infinite love in their hearts, if only you could tap in to it.

Being a great lover means knowing how to love. I'm not going to pretend I don't comprehend your jealousy. All I'm saying is, ask yourself if it has, truly has, anything to do with love.

Think of yourself as a healer, a lover. When you make love to her, do so tenderly...more in the Tantric or Taoist sense, rather than some biker with an 8 inch penis. I've heard that when a woman is abused by the penis, she can only be healed by the penis. Heal her with yours and get over the head trip.

Love her as the women she is today.....

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (11 September 2008):

My friends & co-workers are always trying to fix me up with people. What if I told them that I only wanted an inexperienced girl the next time i get asked about what I like?

See how far we are from dealing with any of this?

People are not even accepted for having ANY OPINION AT ALL about past partners yet.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

Quote from anonymous: "there is a point when you stop being young and carefree and your actions will hurt you and perhaps your future partner. I have said my views on this before on here and been condemned saying I am old fashioned etc."

I agree with you. You may be old fashioned by today's standards, but you are correct by my thinking. My wife slept around for a couple of years and she agrees with you too. She wishes she hadn't done that, at least not to the extent that she did. And yes, it hurt both her and me. Perhaps it hurt her even more and for a longer period of time. It was the opposite of what she had always believed, but she did those things for whatever reasons. OK, I know the reasons, but there is no point in discussing it here.

I have also said in my answers a couple of times that there are consequences for past behavior. That is for both men and women and for things besides promiscuous sex. I hate statements like "It made me what I am today." or "The past is the past." or "It is none of your business what she did before she met you." BS, it matters. If it matters that a man might have verbally or physically abused a former partner then it also matters if a woman has had one night stands or cheated on a previous boyfriend. All of these things tell something about a person and whether they are what we want for a long time partner. It doesn't mean that they can't change and become a wonderful person, but it does indicate what they might act like in the future if they have not addressed their bad behavior.

I think that some people use the lame excuses that I have given above to cover up their own insecurities. They can't address something that bothers them and have to have an excuse to cover it up. Yes, it is difficult to face the things that we have done wrong. My wife and I have both been there, but we faced them and changed for the better. It wasn't easy. It is very hurtful when you finally realize the things that you have done wrong and face them.

If nothing else, sleeping around or verbally abusing a partner is a symptom of a deeper problem. Until that deeper problem is addressed and corrected the person is likely to repeat those mistakes.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

First I just want to say thank you, to everyone who has provided advice, insight, or even disclosed their own problems.

Troubled, your comments regarding birth control could be the issue. She does seem to more "distant" since she started using the pill. It could very well be that the pill that is causing her sexual problems right now, but there were a lot of these problems prior to her getting on bc. Your comment that expression of being a good sexual partner is not all verbal helps me a bit. And, finally your comment regarding how your wife said she feels "fake" when she compliments people is the exact thing my girlfriend told me. Unfortunately I still desire it form her.

Tisha, your post was not nutty or anything like that, in fact it was very insightful. I really hate to disclose my gf's secret to the public, but she did tell me that she was date-raped 4 times... However, I kind of doubt she was actually date raped like she explains, I think she was more intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and regrets her decisions because of it.

And, to the anon female... I wish that more women (and men) valued themselves like yourself. I really dont have a problem with my girlfriend having past sexual experiences. Of all the women I have been with, none of them were ever virgins, and it never bothered me otherwise. However, as most of them explained to me they usually formed sexual relationships with people they were in committed relationships with. Even my gf prior told me shad a one night stand... But that didnt bother me. She explained to me what happened, that she got nothing out of it, and learned it was not what she wanted... After that discussion with her I never thought about it again.

My gf however, she does not even know how many people she has slept with, she does not even know how many one nighters she had, how many fwb's or anything. The number to her is a mystery. That sickens me to my core. She knows its over 20, but how many is anyone guess. Of all of them though, she does know that 5 of them where committed relationships -but 5 out of over 20 does not make me feel any better, only worse.

It also bothers me that a lot of this happened while she was using hard drugs... Eventually it led her to stripping so that she could make money to support her habbit. Eventually the casual sex ended up getting her pregnant, and then she had an abortion. But, that didnt stop her... I think about that frequently, and I am not really sure how exactly I feel about the whole situation.

Im so utterly confused in this relationship... I want out so badly, but at the same time I love her so much I dont want to ever end out relationship... I wish that I could accept her past... But how? How can I accept that my gf was a slut, and that she gave her body out so easily to other men. How can I value sex with her, how can I value her love? She has given the most intimate part of her body to so many people it lessens our bond now. The things she has told me about her past and how I dont measure up(literally) has destroyed my confidence and sexual prowess. I know that only I can give myself confidence, but its unbelievably hard to be sexually confident in myself when the only person I am sexual with does not make me feel confident and tells me that other guys have out done me...

Im just mediocre? Thats fine, i really give two shits if I am not the best lover in the world, or if my dick is small, or whatever... The rest of the world can poke and point at me and tell me I am second best really who fucking cares about them... What I care about is my girl friend, the person I love, and the person I want to be most special to, best lover, biggest dick, whatever. Realistically I know that I cant be these things, but I dont know if I can be with someone for the rest of my life, always knowing that some other guys fucked my wife, my lover, my friend better than me... It would be like marrying a woman who was divorced and she told you her previous husband was a better husband than you, but that you are good and she is settling for you... I mean wtf who would want that???

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

This post actually makes me feel very sad, and I really do feel for you! I have only ever been with the same guy and he has only been with me. I have never had any intention or desire of being with anyone else, and even if I were to be single I would never ever sleep with someone randomly or have a one night stand. The reason being is that I have a great deal of respect for myself and my body. I do not do drugs, smoke, eat unhealthy foods etc. To me my body is the only one I have, my temple and I will only want to share it with someone who has the same amt of respect for it as I do. Most ppl I know this it is strange I am this way - most of my girl-friends go out and sleep with lots and lots of men. I mean alot of them dont even know how many men they have slept with. It makes me feel sad that we live in a world where yes, there is freedom and liberation. But in a world where things like sex isnt as special or intimate.

I was brought up believing sex to be something special and intimate between two people, yet we live in a soceity where it is lost that special-ness. I mean dont get me wrong - I am not judging anyone for how they choose to live their lives at all ! Do what makes you happy as long as you arent hurting anyone,,,,but I find in the end of all these sleeping around - someone does get hurt. Whether it is the person sleeping around feeling used eventually, or their potential future spouse, or both.

Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were each others first loves, and were married for over 50yrs - and I suppose thats always the sort of relationship I have wanted. Someone to love me and grow old with, something special. But it saddens me when so many girls today (and guys) seem to have so much emphasis on the here and now and little thought for the future. Most of my girlfriends who sleep around alot - sure they say they are happy now and it liberates them whatever....but for how long? There comes a point when it hits them. Today for instance one of my friends called me saying she has already slept with over 30 men for this year and now it is starting to bother her and upset her....she same girl who one year ago was saying it made her feel happy and she was playing men and being a modern woman, havnig all the fun in the world...but I think ultimately that will be the case of most girls who do sleep around - there is a point when you stop being young and carefree and your actions will hurt you and perhaps your future partner. I have said my views on this before on here and been condemned saying I am old fashioned etc. And maybe I am, but I am happy, my relationship is great and there is complete trust and no jealousies.

But my heart really goes out to you, when you say yourself imagining all those awful thoughts, or seeing things on TV etc - I can truly vividly understand and see your pain. I do feel sad at times the way people can put so little value and respect on themselves and something that should be regarded as special and sacred.

I dont think this is something you can simply "get over" I think it will be a case of seeing if you can accept it. There is nothing you can do about the past - only the future. And you need to ask yourself if you see yourself settling with someone like this - is she the sort of person you want to be the mother of your children? Is she the one you want to grow old with? I think you need to really talk to her - I mean REALLY and importantly hear what her views are on everything and ask her where she wants to go from here. I am not sure if she is understanding or approachable; but I got the feeling she is a bit cold from one of your posts by some of her actions or things she has said. But it is important to hear her view on evverything.Good luck !!!

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

Maybe in another 50 years, people will stop trying to deny the blatant reality of the problems with our loose casual sex habits.

It won't happen any time soon in this culture though. Most women don't wrestle with retroactive jealousy in any big way, so it's not considered a "real" issue.

Our culture won't even recognize this problem as anything NORMAL yet, let alone trying to deal with it.

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A female reader, Tisha-1 United States + , writes (10 September 2008):

Tisha-1 agony auntHi, I've been following this thread and now I want to chime in with something that may be totally off-the-wall, amateur psychology, but I hear your desperation and I figure there's no harm in throwing it into the discussion.

So here goes.

In your follow up, you revealed that you've never gotten her off. She has never orgasmed with you, despite all the effort and different ways you've been trying, she doesn't even get wet! She also doesn't encourage you or show that she's enjoying the sex in any way. Now, that to me is something to focus on.

What I'm getting from this is a woman who is very controlling, one who is determined not to let herself enjoy the moment or lose control in any way, shape or form. She's very good in bed because she's figured out what to do, but she doesn't really enjoy it. She's maintaining the control of the love-making by not truly participating in it. Her body shows up, but her mind and her desire don't come with it. So there's something else going on in her head, she has some inner dialogue that you're not privy to.

Again, totally amateur psychology, but were all her sexual encounters in the past fully consensual? Is there a chance that she was forced to do things she didn't want to do, is there any possibility that she experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse? I bring this up as a possibility, just because she seems determined to control the sexual encounters you two have by not letting herself enjoy them. Sex isn't a joyous and fun-filled experience for you two, it's a field of land-mines and frustration.

So maybe something in her past has caused her to withdraw her innermost self from the bedroom. Again, her body shows up but her mind and desire do not.

I'm not making any value judgements about the number of her sexual partners, but I think that some women who have been sexually abused in childhood do go through a promiscuous phase because they've been subconsciously taught that their only value is when they give up sex to the man.

I think part of your very obvious frustration and discomfort is this mental withdrawal on her part, not just the partners she's had in the past. You want her to be present, with you, enjoying you in bed, and she simply is not doing that. So you're looking for the reason why, and you've latched onto the previous sex partners and are beating yourself with that particular stick.

I'd stop having this one-sided sex with her until you explore this as a possibility. I know, it's off-the-wall, but maybe SHE needs counseling as well. All I know is that you obviously aren't going to be able to go as you have been and remain in a solid, mutually satisfying relationship.

I'd be curious to hear what you think of this nutty idea of mine.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

You say that you have never been able to give her an orgasm with either oral or penetrative sex. Do you know if she has ever had an orgasm with other guys, or perhaps only a few times. There are a lot of women who can’t orgasm and some can only orgasm with oral sex. One of my girlfriends had great oral orgasms, but nothing after that. She told me that she was always like that. I have been able to give every woman an orgasm except my 1 night stand. I tried everything – lots of foreplay, lots of oral in a couple of positions, kissing, you name it. I couldn’t even get her wet, not the slightest bit. My other partners were almost dripping our first times in bed. Of course, the first time with a new partner can be very exciting.

Some women lose their sex drive and ability to orgasm with some birth control medications. There are many stories about this on healthboards.com. Sometimes a change to another pill solves it. Different women react differently to the various BC pills. If she has ever taken anti-depressants then that can affect sexual performance. Women say that it takes 6 to 12 months to get their sex drive back. There are probably other meds than can screw up a women’s sex drive.

My wife is a person who seldom complements about sexual things. Another girlfriend was really good at saying the right things. My wife is one who prefers to show that she enjoys something, like our sex. Sometimes I used to ask her if it was OK. It used to bother me at times, but I now understand how she is and am used to it. She shows how much she liked it by the way that she wants to cuddle and hold me after sex. She just doesn’t want to let go. The girlfriend who said the right things didn’t show it nearly as much as my wife used to and still does. In the long run, showing means more than saying it. She thinks that saying things like that seem fake. She didn’t say things after we first started dating because she was afraid that it would make her sound even more experienced and slutty than she already sounded by the way that she told me about her past. She only told me how good I was a couple of times in our first 2 years.

Being the best at every aspect of sex isn’t that important. It’s the whole experience that is important. Not just the sexual experience, but all of the relationship. My wife used to be bothered at knowing that one girlfriend was much better at giving a blow job. She just couldn’t do it as well. I didn’t care at all and she soon wasn’t bothered because I told her that I enjoyed it better with her. She also enjoyed sex better with me, even though other guys were better at screwing than I was. It’s the whole experience. I could go to a prostitute and I’ll bet that she would be much better than any women I have been with. I’ve never done that, so I’m just guessing. It would probably be very exciting, but I doubt it would be nearly as enjoyable as having sex with my wife or one of my other past girlfriends. There would be nothing except that brief sexual experience and then nothing.

You should feel lucky that your wife is the best lover you have ever had at all aspects of sex. Wow, I’m imagining that. If I could have my wife’s affection and love, girlfriend A’s kissing and hornyness and girlfriend B’s oral and screwing skills all wrapped up in one woman, I would be in heaven. Or maybe dead from exhaustion. You should be in heaven with that.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

I also have a serious problem with my gfs sexual history, she was at boarding school until 18, after which she went on a spree of sexual partners, including one older man who saw the naive 18 year old blonde and used her for dirty weekends for 6 months (although in her innocence she still believes that he loved her). when she and i started dating when she was 19 and a 1/2 she had had 11 partners, and when it was our first time together i was her second that fortnight (and her fourth in two months) when she was my second sexual partner ever. we are very much in love, and would like to take our relationship further but there is this problem which is always at the front of my mind and is blocking our chances and making me miserable, she says she loves me and that all the others were a blip on the radar compared to me, and although i love her and believe her i am far from being comfortable with her past. ive put up with this problem daily for a very long time and im at my wits end, my fear is that it will turn to resentment as the signs for that have already started. should i carry on with her and try for a happy future, and if so how do i do this, or do i pull the plug now and admit defeat after all my efforts? id love to hear from anyone who has been in my position as they will know how frustrating and uncomfortable it is, and may be able to offer advice.

Charlie

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

My god I feel EXACTLY the same way you do about my boyfriend's past. It's kind of nice, in a twisted way, to know that I'm not alone in my anger and misery. I'm sorry you feel the way you do. Obvioulsy I can't offer good advice, since I'm in the same boat, but I will say this: If all else has failed, try counseling. I've had counseling for some different problems in the past and I felt so much better afterward. If you truly love this woman it's worth a try, right?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (10 September 2008):

My god I feel EXACTLY the same way you do about my boyfriend's past. It's kind of nice, in a twisted way, to know that I'm not alone in my anger and misery. I'm sorry you feel the way you do. Obvioulsy I can't offer good advice, since I'm in the same boat, but I will say this: If all else has failed, try counseling. I've had counseling for some different problems in the past and I felt so much better afterward. If you truly love this woman it's worth a try, right?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (9 September 2008):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Troubled, thanks again for your response. It really does help a lot to share these feelings, and to know that other people are experiencing the same. Your a strong man mentally, much more than me. My gf told me that she too has been "screwed" better, but unlike you this has done my head in. I guess its not as strong a negative feeling as her having rougher sex, probably because the images of my girl friend engaging in such rough sex disturbs me.

Unlike your wife though, my gf has been the best all around lover I have ever had, orally and everything. Honestly, of all the women I have slept with none of them really compare. Yes some were good, really good, but until I met my gf I never knew how good it could really be. I wish though, that it was not like this, because it makes it much more difficult for me. Knowing that I am not her best anything, but she is my best everything really hurts. Its like a cruel cruel joke. Honestly, and sadly enough, I want to fuck her to the point where I "overcome" the other guy, even if I have to hurt her... I would do it, not to intentionally hurt her, but to rid myself of this... Thats so fucked up, and when I actually write it out, I see how belittled my mentality truly is. But its the truth, and it sucks. I suppose I am a jealous, competitive child.

And, my gf never compliments me, sexually or sexually physical. She gives me no assurance of my sexual prowess, my place in her sexual existence, or anything like that. All I know is that she has made me feel as though I fall behind other guys in her past. She tells me that I am all she wants in a lover, but never told me I was a good lover, or that I was a better lover than the guys she fucked with bigger dicks, or anything like that.

I have never had a problem sexually with any other women, getting women off orally, through foreplay, or penetration. But, in my entire relationship with my gf I have not once got her off. She can get herself off, but I cant... I ask her what she likes, she says she likes what I do, I try to communicate but she does not reciprocate. I try different things, different positions, but nothing. I cant even get her wet, I doubt that I even turn her on. And all the while all I can think about is how all these other men have pleased her while I cant even get her horny. I try being sensual, slow, with lots of foreplay, toys, lubes, going slow, and nothing. I try everything I can think of, trying to learn new sexual tips, new sexual things to bring to the bedroom, I try so hard, but I fail. Just like I fail to overcome this entire problem.

I cant handle being with someone that I cant even turn on, it makes me embarrassed of myself, and my manhood. It makes me feel so inadequate compared to her past. After sex I usually feel so embarrassed that it makes me want to cry, sometimes I do cry. Sometimes it makes me so sick that I literally feel as though I am going to be sick. I hate it. I hate it, I absolutely hate it.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (9 September 2008):

My wife actually had her last 1 night stand about 2 and 1/2 years after leaving her first husband and about 6 months before she and I started dating. She knew the guy and had no intention of going to bed with him, but they both got drunk and it happened. So by that definition, I guess she was still a slut just 6 months before she started dating me.

So your girlfriend admitted that she used to be a slut. I don’t know about you, but that admission helped me in my thinking of my wife. It meant a lot that she was not happy with how she had behaved and that she wished that she had been more discriminating about who she slept with. You have probably read some stories on DC where the guy says that his girlfriend said that she did nothing wrong, no matter how many guys she had slept with. Some seem proud of sleeping with 30 or more men and having 1 night stands, 3somes or whatever.

Your girlfriend was probably looking for something and didn’t know how to find it. When she met you, she found what she wanted and stopped being a slut. She probably realized that she had acted badly and felt guilty or ashamed of what she had done. She was strong enough to admit that to both herself and you. My wife had trouble admitting it for many years and that made it more difficult for both her and me. She felt bad about how she had acted, but she tried to tell herself that she needed to do what she did to not seem like some unworthy woman to herself. Both her and I had been brought up to think of a woman who acted like she did as unworthy, being called tramps or whores. That stuck in both her mind and mine. If she had admitted to herself that she had done wrong then she had to admit that is what she was. It was not until after she was proud of herself for being such a devoted girlfriend and wife that she was able to admit to herself what she had been. It not only made me feel better, but it actually made her feel better. At least your girlfriend has the courage and self-esteem to be honest with herself and you from the beginning. That really means a lot. You will have trouble finding many women who have the confidence to do that.

As to the rough sex thing. My wife had a boyfriend who liked to pound her. She liked it for a few minutes, but then it got tiring for her. When I tried it, it would hurt her, so I thought that I was just a bad lover. I’ll explain later why I hurt her. My wife also had a boyfriend for over one year that had an 8 inch or so penis. No, she never measured it, but it was big and she told me about him early in our relationship. I’m not nearly that big. It never really bothered me, as she was very satisfied with what I had and she told me that I was a better lover than he was. Once after we had been together for several months she told me that doggy was her favorite position. We had never done it before, so I tried it. Well, it hurt her and I was really depressed that I was too bad a lover to give her what was her favorite. We stopped trying it after a few failed attempts and it was not until many years later that we tried it again and it worked great. It was just recently that we discovered why. I was a little bigger than the guy who she used to like doggy with and I would hit her cervix and it would hurt. After I was older I was a little shorter and I didn’t hit her cervix. Neither one of us was that familiar with the female anatomy to realize what was happening. That’s also why I would hurt her when I tried to pound her. I was just the smallest bit longer than the guy who would pound her and just long enough to hit her cervix.

There is another thing that she told me and this is important. She told me that others were better than me at screwing. OK, I knew that I didn’t have much varied experience. However, she also told me that I was the best all around lover that she had ever had because I was very affectionate and would spend a lot of time on foreplay and oral. The feeling of love, affection and sensation that she got from that was far more important to her than whether or not I could successfully pound her or do doggy. I’ll bet your girlfriend thinks the same way and I think most women would think the same. I know that another girlfriend did too. The love and affection that you show might not be as exciting as what she might have experienced screwing in the past, but I’ll bet that she wouldn’t give the affection up for that excitement.

My wife wasn’t the best at everything either. One of my girlfriends was a better and more exciting kisser and another one was better at oral and at screwing. However, both of those things were more enjoyable with my wife because she was the one that I cared for the most. This was in our first couple of years together and before I really started to fall in love with her. I’ll bet that your girlfriend is not the best at everything compared to others who you have slept with either, but I’ll bet that you would rather be with her than with any of those who were better at something. I’m sure that she feels the same about you. I know my wife and I both did.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (9 September 2008):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Troubledtoomuch, thanks for your reply. I am very aware of who you are, what you have went through, etc. I have read, no joke, probably every post with this issue you have written... You and Yos.

You say, just accept that my girlfriend is a slut... I have. Unfortunately, sometimes I lose myself emotionally, especially when I have been drinking. One night, earlier into my relationship, my girlfriend and I had gotten into an argument and I had started drinking, heavily. About a bottle later, all I remember is accusing my gf of being a slut, and her reponse was something like "Yes, I used to be a slut, but I am not like that any more"... That is not something I wanted to hear, to hear my own girlfriend admit that she was a slut. Honestly, I dont think she used to be a slut, im pretty sure she still was when I met her. She had continued to have FWB, one nighters, etc up until our relationship, or close to it.

One night we were having sex and she started asking me to fuck her harder. I liked it, yea it was a turn on, so I did. Afterwards, I thought man how many other guys have fucked her that hard... Etc etc... A couple nights later, we had rough sex again. But this time I attempted to fuck her as hard as I possibly could. Im not a big buff guy, but I am pretty strong. I thrusted her to the point I thought my pelvic bone was going to crack, yet she just wanted more. Afterwards, I said wow I have never had such rough wild sex, she said nothing. I probably should have said nothing after that too, but instead I asked "have you?" and yea, she has. Now, I have this horrible picture of my girlfriend just getting fucked beyond belief by some other guy. How can I deal with this?

I know, I didnt expect to be the best lover, the biggest lover, the wildest lover, etc... But man it fucking sucks. It sucks knowing that anything and everything we do together she has already done, with someone else, in more intense ways.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (9 September 2008):

I totally agree with what Eyes has said, but I’m going to try to help you anyway. :)

Quote: “I don't think I will ever be comfortable with her past, I don't know how I could be.”

You will never be comfortable with her past. Trying to be comfortable with it and happy with it is a never-ending attempt in futility. An intelligent woman told me several months ago to stop trying to be happy with my wife’s past and just admit that she was a slut. Don’t try to make yourself think differently. Actually, my wife independently said the same thing to me. It went something like this, “Admit that I was a slut. I was.” That helped me a lot and was probably the key to me finally accepting what she had done. I no longer had to hate myself for thinking that of her. I could admit that that’s what she was for a relatively short time in her life and start to actually feel sorry for her for getting used by some of those guys.

She was willing to talk about it with me if I wasn’t unkind in the discussion. One time we were having a calm and non-judgmental discussion about the first year after she left her husband. She slept with more than half of her partners that year. She started crying and I asked her what I had said wrong. She told me nothing and that it was just because it was a terrible year for her and it hurt so much to remember it in detail. She did things that made her feel bad about herself. She was lonely after the sex was over, especially if it was a 1 night stand. She felt cheap, but had to continue to help her loneliness. She was unhappy most of the time. Yes, she liked the sex while it was happening and liked having someone to sleep with, but it was still an empty feeling.

One time a couple of weeks ago I was answering one of these questions and started to reflect on her past and our discussions of it. She was sitting across the table and asked me what I was so deep in thought about. I said to her, “If I had to marry a former slut to get a wife as loving, affectionate, understanding, faithful and sexual as you are then I’m so happy that I did.” She smiled, got up and hugged me and we just held each other for a few minutes. We both felt happy.

Quotes: “I would much rather her not have slept with so many people, so easily given herself up to such sleazy guys (truly sleazy guys), and taken the negatives of her not being so experienced in a heart beat.”

“My gf has told me repeatedly that all she wants is me, that I am all she could ever want both sexually and emotionally, that she regrets a lot of her past, and wishes that she could have not done a lot of the things she did.”

Of course you would rather that she had not done most of the things that she did. That is natural. She regrets much of what she did also. She is probably not happy with herself over how she acted. The fact that she can admit that says a lot about how she feels about you and your relationship. She is able to admit something very hurtful. The fact that she can admit it even makes it more hurtful for her. She is willing to go through the pain of feeling bad about what she did for the good of your relationship. Many women can’t admit it or won’t and just say something like, “It’s what made me what I am today.” Your girlfriend isn’t using that copout phrase. She is being truthful and realistic and is concerned about what is best for your relationship.

Men and women both do things for many reasons. A lot of women sleep with a lot of guys because they feel unattractive, are depressed, are hurting from a bad relationship or marriage or lack confidence. It is easier for an attractive woman to get laid than it is for a handsome man to get laid. It is amazing how many very attractive and even beautiful women feel unattractive and even ugly. That is sometimes the reason that they go to bed with just about anybody. It most likely is an unenjoyable experience for them. They feel good while the sex is going on and then feel used the next day. They keep doing it in the hopes of feeling good and meeting someone nice.

You don’t say what your girlfriend actually did, so I can’t relate to how hard it would be for me to get over it or at least be able to be somewhat comfortable with it. I have no idea what my limits would have been to allow me to stay with my girlfriend 29 years ago. I do know that I almost left her because of it at least a couple of times, but I am so happy that I didn’t. I may have found a woman with a less promiscuous history, but I doubt that I would have found one as good as my wife has been. At least not likely.

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A female reader, eyeswideopen United States +, writes (9 September 2008):

eyeswideopen agony auntIf you have read all the postings on this subject on this website then you have heard what the aunts have said and will only say again. You need a real pro here. This is no way to live, Dude. Find a qualified therapist (shouldn't be hard in a big city) who you can work with on this. Obssessions can be overcome but it takes a really good therapist. Luckily you know you need to fix this and that is most important.

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A male reader, Replacement Canada +, writes (9 September 2008):

Replacement agony auntHave you considered professional counseling? I really think you should. Since you have already read everything I and other aunts/uncles have said on the topic, I doubt there is much I can say to bring fresh insight to the issue. You already know that it's irrational and pointless to dwell on her past. You already know that even if you left her and found another woman, that the new woman would likely have a similarly messy past, since most women of your age have plenty of sexual experience. And you say you're in love, it doesn't seem like you're willing to end the relationship for either her or your benefit. So all you can do is come to terms with your feelings. Her past isn't going anywhere.

So... professional counseling, I honestly think it's the best thing you can do for yourself.

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