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Ex Marks the Spot: How to Cope with Jealousy about Your Partner’s Past

With Valentine’s Day only just past, you may find your mind, now more than ever, lingering over thoughts of that certain special someone. Such thoughts can be immensely powerful in our lives and one happy memory made with a partner can bring joy for years to come. But not all thoughts have such positive influence, and it is all too easy for the mind to wander too far – to other times, other places, other Valentines.  


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Social Media and Jealousy

If you’ve found your own thoughts invaded by the ghosts of your partner’s past, you certainly shouldn’t be criticising yourself for any jealousy that may arise. We exist in a world that encourages constant comparison; a culture in which those once treasured, private memories are now immortalised as public property. Pictures, videos, comments – if other partners have come before you, it can be hard to avoid their presence. Not only this, the evidence of others which we do find is a ‘highlights’ reel of a now non-existent relationship. The fact that the relationship is over becomes of secondary importance when we observe the smiling faces that look back at us.

How many of us have lost all reason and control over a single Instagram? We obsess over ideas that our partner has been happier before us, that they miss those times. It’s bad enough that this obsession can lead to jealousy, but what if it leads to intense self-scrutiny? Are we at fault for caring? I’ve seen so many of my friends terrified of being labelled the ‘crazy’ girlfriend, the ‘stalker’: the hysterical female figure whose existence is constantly reaffirmed through films and television. In this internet world, a partner’s past is an ever present threat.

But it is not our fault if we feel this way. Sadly, social media conditions such feelings of jealousy and, so long as they aren’t negatively impacting our partners, we shouldn’t shame ourselves for having them for someone we care about. If we could instead meet our feelings with compassion, we could alleviate the strain of the negative emotions and replace them with ones of trust – trust in ourselves and, consequently, trust in our significant other.

Choose the present moment

But this year might actually offer up a rare opportunity. Just as in 2020, we are entering a world which forces us to live each day as it comes. Mid-pandemic, even the oldest traditions can feel like brand new experiences – just two short years ago, a socially distanced Valentines would have been unimaginable. Coronavirus has surely taught us how important it is to value those around us and, with our ability to socialise being restricted, the time our partners choose to spend with us shows their care for us in a way it never did before. In those precious walks we do get to spend with our partners, the need to put down our phones has never been more prevalent. Perhaps it’s time to approach the past with this same attitude. By setting aside our fascination with for the past, all its ghosts will go with it, and we will truly be able to appreciate our relationships in the present.


Lgbtq couple
Photo by Anna Selle from Unsplash

Co-social media manager, currently studying English literature at Bristol University.
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