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Retroactive Jealousy

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So my boyfriend has been with a number of different girls before me while I chose to save myself for him. When I met him I knew he was the one for me and so I decided it was time and as our relationship has progressed he’s talked about marrying me but since we’re only 20, I say that we’re too young. But the point is that he really loves me, but I only think this is because he’s been around the park with others and finally has met who he thinks is right. For me, this is my first relationship and everything is new, but my morals have always been that I should save myself for the one who truly makes me happy and my boyfriend does that for me. I was also raised in a society where arranged marriages are common, so being a virgin is important for that. But the issue is, it’s been more than a year and I’m still hung up on his past and as much as I want to get over this it’s hard for me to come to the realization that obviously I can’t do anything about it and even then that thought is not helping me move on. I’m angry and upset that he basically disrespected my morals and said that he couldn’t believe in the same thing when he chose to engage in such activities, part of me wants to take a break with our relationship and explore around myself and see if that will help me get over the past but then I know consequences will follow. But I can’t help it, I can’t help but think that if he was allowed to sleep around why couldn’t I? I know that isn’t the right mindset but it just feels as though I was betrayed. I really do want to get over the past, more than ever because I can see a future with him where we are both happy but this past stands in my way of being happy. I know I have to accept it but I’m not even sure where to begin. I’m scared I’m pushing him away more by dwelling on the past a lot because I just yell at him daily about it because it hurts me so much being able to paint the image of him with someone else that isn’t me. (From the USA)

Retroactive Jealousy

Answered by on -


The issue seems to be on your side of the fence in determining if you: want an arranged marriage, are ready for marriage, and if you can cope with your unforgiveness of him.

Let’s take each one of these in order. If you are saving your virginity for an arranged marriage and in the next sentence start to talk about “sleeping around,” then you’ll continue to bounce back and forth between these conflicting motives. You might first want to sort through what is important to you, what is a priority personally and culturally. Often this type of inner contemplation can be facilitated by individual therapy. The Find Help tab at the top of the page can help you locate someone in your area.

Secondly, the question of readiness for marriage at this point in your life is reasonable and important. As you begin the journey of self-examination in therapy you may find that this readiness question is fueling the saving yourself versus experimenting options.

Finally, it is interesting that you were drawn to your boyfriend knowing his history, thought it was okay (or that you could cope with it) only to find out you are not. My best guess is that this concern about his history, as well as the saving yourself and experimenting, are conflicts emerging because you are questioning yourself about readiness. Of course, this is only a guess and some individual therapy should help sort it through.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Retroactive Jealousy

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Retroactive Jealousy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Jun 2020 (Originally: 15 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 Jun 2020
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