Gransnet forums


Retroactive Jealousy

(64 Posts)
Coughdrop Mon 29-Jul-19 17:22:17

Hello everyone, I am reaching out for help please and also asking for understanding because this condition is so very painful. I retired at the end of last year and within a week of doing so this extreme form of anxiety/OCD started. I have been married for almost 44 years and have never felt the need to question my husband about relationships before he met me. Please forgive me as this will be long and quite upfront. He was 28 and I was 22 when we met. I know this will sound both ridiculous and unlikely, but it never occurred to me that he would have had previous sexual relationships. I was so naive and innocent and was a virgin and had very strong moral values for myself. My friends were the same and it never crossed my mind that people had sex just because they wanted to without necessarily being part of a loving relationship. As I said I was ridiculously naive and innocent.
Since this illness started I have asked my husband endless questions. Every question leads to another question. It feels like I have no control over the thoughts and questions my cruel mind comes up with. I now know how many women, none of whom meant a thing and the act was, apparently, purely in response to a biological urge and nothing more. None of the sexual relationships lasted and not one included more than two acts. They were all long before he met me and I believe him when he tells me that I was the 1st woman he had any feelings for. Because this illness scews time, it feels like these women are happening now instead of 50 years ago. - yes 50 years ago. I feel stupid telling you all that. The illness means I have constant images in my head of him having sex with other women. I am tortured by the imaginings and I feel heartbroken. It is as if I now see him differently. I thought he had the same values as me. I feel, as soon as I told him I was a virgin he should have told me about his sexual history.
I feel that would have given me a choice about what I wanted to do.
Please forgive me if I am coming across as horribly judgemental. I have never been a judgemental person with anyone else at all. I can be totally accepting of anyone else and have a really let live attitude. I cannot find that for my husband. It affects every area of my life, sleeping, eating etc. I am now having therapy and doing everything I can to get free of this dreadful condition.
I wondered if any of you have suffered from this particular form of OCD? It is, apparently, born out of extreme anxiety. Anxiety certainly triggers the thoughts and questions and the dreadful images. It feels as if he us having affairs with these women now. I am so sorry if this all sounds crazy. It feels crazy. I am also sorry for the length of this post. I hope no one will tell me to pull myself together and stop being so stupid. I have already told myself that. There is absolutely nothing logical or rational about this and it is devastating not only my life but my husband's too. I don't want to take medication as I am fearful that medication may numb everything but I would have to stop it at some point and I know there could then be a rebound of this condition. Thank you in advance for any advice or comments. I will take on board anything you have to offer.

fizzers Mon 29-Jul-19 17:34:51

well am pretty sure no one is going to tell you to pull yourself together or stop being stupid. You are not well Coughdrop and I feel sure that you would benefit from a visit to your GP, maybe there is some underlying condition which is causing or exacerbating your thought processes - he/she may arrange some different form of counselling for you if you existing therapy sessions are not helping - or even some medication.

I see that this started almost as soon as you retired, it's as though this obsession has replaced work, is there anything that interests you , that you could take up? perhaps some volunteering? local charity shop? something to fill your time?

DanniRae Mon 29-Jul-19 17:35:36

I am not an expert on OCD but feel my experience may help you. When you get the thoughts and images try somehow to make light of it. Make up a few silly words in your mind that you can say to yourself. For example when I suffered like this I used to say to myself "Oh it's my irrationals again" and then change the horrible images to silly ones like your husband and the other woman doing the conga!! I figured that for some reason I was trying to upset myself so if I made light of it and made it humerous it would enable me to defuse the situation. It was successful for me so if you think it will be something you can do give it a try.
I send you my best wishes,
Love Danni x

Sussexborn Mon 29-Jul-19 17:53:30

I was very reluctant to start the appropriate medication but my GP said that if my iron levels were low I would be daft not to take any medication and it is the same with serotonin! If your levels have been depleted they need to be replaced. I came off the medication about two years later by gradually reducing the dose and didn’t have any problems.

The issue I was obsessing about didn’t turn out to be the underlying worry but a good counselor will help you to clarify your thoughts and get a healthier perspective. As suggested already, if your counselor isn’t helping you may need to ask to see a different person. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right.

I was amazed at how many friends had been through similar issues but had kept it secret. Hopefully we are beginning to have a more enlightened approach.

BlueBelle Mon 29-Jul-19 18:01:47

This is horrible when your mind takes over and whisks you off in a different direction to where you want it to go I would suggest a doctors visit as well as the therapy you’re already having I m not a great believer in tablets either but sometimes it just has to be and these extreme thoughts are spoiling everything for you, the medication may help with these unreal thoughts and the therapy will be more likely to help you if you are calmer while receiving it

I m sure you realise in your good moments that a man of 28 would be unlikely to be a virgin and to be honest not too many women of 28 would be virgins either Your brain is twisting it all up to seem like he’s being unfaithful now and you know that his not being a virgin when he met you doesn’t make him a bad person, it’s you he loved, you lucky lady

Please do get help as it must be very distressing for your husband too
Sending a cuddle 💐

SalsaQueen Mon 29-Jul-19 18:06:10

It's interesting that all this began as soon as you retired.

Do you and your husband go out together, have shared interests? Have you got friends, family to visit? I ask because I wonder if, since you retired, you are isolated/alone/bored?

I have anxiety myself, and depression - some people I know wouldn't realise that, as I manage to "put on a front" of being confident, cheerful, outgoing.

I take antidepressants (I have done for years), and they help a great deal. Don't dismiss the idea of medication just yet. Best wishes x

Bridgeit Mon 29-Jul-19 18:30:31

I totally understand why you are feeling like you do, you have carried an assumed belief for so many years without knowing or wanting to know or even considered that your man may have had sex with anyone else.It has come as a shock to you.
Rationally you may accept it, emotionally it is much harder.
Also you are probably feeling that had you have known about it ,you yourself may have chosen a different path & perhaps you may have chosen to experiment with other partners yourself, which now you may feel is a experience that has been denied to you. It is in fact very logical to react as you have , because when you married you were not aware of these facts about him , so be kind to yourself , you are not being stupid in any way. Best wishes.

Starlady Tue 30-Jul-19 06:26:56

It sounds as if the changes that come w/ retirement through you into a state of anxiety. I agree that it would probably help to get your mind occupied w/ some hobby or volunteer activity, etc.

"I feel, as soon as I told him I was a virgin he should have told me about his sexual history. "

It also seems to me as if you feel somehow betrayed by his failure to tell you about his sexual history, as if you feel since you told him you were a virgin, he should have told you he wasn't. Since, as another poster said, most men of 28 aren't, he may have just assumed you knew. Or maybe he felt uncomfortable telling you b/c you were a virgin. Who knows? I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt you in any way.

An old trick that might help is to make believe your thoughts are on a CD. When they get too negative, just "remove the CD" and "replace it" w/ one that contains more pleasant thoughts (a favorite place, a recent family event, etc.).

Glad you're getting therapy. That's the best course to take, IMO. If it's not helping, though, I agree w/ the posters who suggested finding another therapist. However, healing may take time.

Please keep reaching out to us and letting us know how you're doing.

TwiceAsNice Tue 30-Jul-19 09:26:16

Irrational/obsessive thoughts are a particular type of OCD very different from obsessional/repetitive rituals OCD.

The best therapy for this is a therapist trained in CBT ( cognitive behavioural therapy) which links thoughts/feelings/ behaviours in a way we can understand and change.

I think it would be good for you to find a therapist trained in this way. Look at the BACP website or the Counselling Directory . Com for a therapist, they are all vetted on these sites.

Try different therapy first before you try medication although the right anti depressant works well for OCD anxiety. There are also good books to help you if you look on Counselling Books . Com. Look for anything on obsessional thinking rather than actions. Hope that would help you

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 09:41:16

Dear Fizzers, Danni Rae, Sussexborn, Bluebelle, Salsa Queen and Bridgeit, I cannot thank you all enough for your kind and compassionate responses. Thank you also for sharing your own struggles with depression and anxiety.
To answer some of your questions. I had a career I loved. Ironically I was a therapist myself for 25+ years. It is right to say that it is no coincidence that this awful condition began almost straight away. It was as if my mind, so used to listening to other people, suddenly had a blank which it filled with these tortuous questions, thoughts and images etc. My husband and I do go out and do most things together. When this isn't causing the most horrendous meltdowns and heartbreak, we get on well. We have always been able to talk for hours and enjoy our company. We have similar interests and attitudes. It is right to say that a big part of my pain is the feeling of being betrayed. I feel that because he didn't tell me about his own history when I told him about my complete lack of sexual history, it cheated me of a choice as to whether I wanted to stay with a man who had had meaningless sex with several women. I seem to have reverted to the black and white thinking I used to have as a young person. Rightly or wrongly I have felt deep shock about it all. I actually feel in shock. I look at him and all I can see are the women and the number reverberates around my head. I also feel angry with myself that I could ever have been so naive and stupid. How could I have not realised that a man of 28 was going to have had sexual experiences before meeting me. You have all been so kind and I appreciate it more than you can know. For the initial few months, I didn't talk about it because I felt so ashamed. I isolated myself which didn't help. I know I am ill. I know this is 100 miles from "normal ". I have only had 2 sessions so far with this therapist who, at least, had heard about retroactive jealousy and knows it is an extreme form of OCD/anxiety. I will keep battling even though there are times when the pain is so great that I have to admit to having some dark thoughts about the best way to finally get peace from all these images, thoughts and feelings. It felt a big thing to reach out to you all and you have been so generous in sharing your experiences and even strategies for dealing with the unwanted, intrusive thoughts. Thank you all from a very grateful heart. Sending love to you all. Xxx

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 10:09:01

Dear Star Lady and Twice as Nice a heartfelt thank you to you both. I will let you all know how things progress. I have been overwhelmed by all your responses. I hope these answers will come up as I am computer illiterate. I notice my last response came up pink and I don't know why that would be. I would hate for you all to think I haven't replied. Thank you again. Sending love xxx

cookiemonster66 Tue 30-Jul-19 10:25:08

Mindfulness helped me in so many ways as it focuses on the 'here and now', I also did a very helpful CBT course. Our minds are very powerful and with anxiety they throw your worst fears at you in an effort to knock you over. You have to unlearn that negative behaviour. Rewire your brain, unprogramme the bad thoughts. Most Dr's will not give drugs if you make it clear you would prefer the holistic method. CBT and mindfulness is my recommendation.

Guineagirl Tue 30-Jul-19 10:44:51

There is such a thing as ROCD which I’m sure you are aware of. Maybe you’ll settle into your retirement and your thoughts will go,

NotSpaghetti Tue 30-Jul-19 10:46:09

The reason your response is pink is because you are logged in as you.
I wondered the same thing when I first noticed that my own responses were pink.
It does mean that you can find your own comments on threads you have contributed to.

Regarding your current difficulties - at least you are recognising that you aren't well and you are taking steps to get well. I do hope you find some peace soon.

Re your husband not telling you about his sexual experiences before he fell in love with you, it's entirely possible that he was not "hiding" them as you now fear, but was actually protecting you from feeling that you might need to live up to something.
Guessing what was in people's heads (even our own) is not easy. It does sound to me as though you have had a good and happy marriage until recently. I feel there I'd every hope you can get back to something positive once again.

All good wishes for your peace of mind.

jenkins Tue 30-Jul-19 10:47:33

I found I had similar thoughts when I started the menopause at 40

GoldenAge Tue 30-Jul-19 10:54:33

Coughdrop - your behaviour is the result of a drop in your self-esteem and that demonstrates that it was your job that made you feel valued and of importance to the world at large and also to your husband. Sure, you should go to your GP and get checked out for any physical changes - maybe your diet and sleep patterns have changed as a result of your retirement and these can have big effects upon your mental health - but if there are no such changes, then you have to look at your self-perception and your own identity. Mindfulness is wonderful in grounding people but as a professional I would say that it is your self-esteem that needs attention and mindfulness will only serve to remove your anxieties. You need to see a counsellor for talking therapy, an analyst who can focus on your self-esteem and help you to get back to the place you were when you had a job and a good self-image. Please ask for this type of therapy and push your GP to make it available for you. If there is a long waiting list then perhaps you could afford some private counselling and if this is what you want to consider, then look for low-cost counselling options. I know you class yourself as computer illiterate - I am sure that's not true - just another example of your low opinion of yourself - so google low-cost counselling in your area and see if you can afford it. I am sure that 10 sessions would make a big difference to the way you think about yourself and consequently about how you think about your husband's perception of you. I hope you feel better.

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 10:55:40

Thank you. I have spoken to someone about Mindfulness and it is something I will be doing soon. She suggested I wait until I have had a few more therapy sessions. Thank you again. X

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 11:03:00

Dear Golden age I think you are spot on. I know my self esteem is zero and it was very much tied up with my work. I do actually compare myself to those women, even though my husband tells me there is absolutely nothing to compare because having sex with people who have no meaning and lovemaking with the one you love are so poles apart that they cannot even be contemplated. I think retirement has made me face my age too. I never felt 'old' when I was working and suddenly I did. I do know there are different strands to this. Thank you so much. X

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 11:09:57

Dear NotSpaghetti thank you so much for explaining the pink thing to me. It was bothering me. You are right about what you said. My husband has told me that by 28 he had believed he would never find someone he could have feelings for because he never had done with anyone. When he met, and fell in love with me, he feared losing me. I can see that in my more grounded moments but, mostly, I feel let down and "duped" and my mind turns this into a very bad thing to have done to me. It is a very bad time but I am so relieved to be able to open up to you all. It is so good to hear the thoughts and perspectives of others. I easily get locked into my own spiral of thoughts. X

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 11:11:49

Dear Jenkins I am sorry to hear that you went through something similar. Did it last for long? I hope you have come through it. Sending a hug x

Coughdrop Tue 30-Jul-19 11:14:10

Dear Guineagirl thank you. I will look that up as I hadn't actually heard of it. I knew I would miss my work, but I never expected this to happen. It felt like someone had tossed a hand grenade into my brain. X

GabriellaG54 Tue 30-Jul-19 11:23:28

Difficult to understand how anyone, even 50 years ago, could possibly assume that a man of 28 was a virgin.

What people do before you met them is not your business nor of any consequence unless it was a previous marriage, a child, a criminal offence, illegal or likely to impact your health.

It's naive (as you say) to expect a 28yr old to have lived in a bubble until he is kissed by a princess.

I have the same opinion as many GNers re their advice to see your GP and referral to counselling.
If you continue as you are, it could affect your marriage and that, I feel sure, would be devastating for both of you.

Try to busy yourself as much as possible so that these thoughts don't have the space to settle and take root.

Would part-time work be a solution, in tandem with counselling?
If you concentrate too much time on these thoughts, they may, in your mind, assume a far greater importance than is warranted.
I wish you the very best outcome and
I'm sure all will be well in the end.

Barmeyoldbat Tue 30-Jul-19 11:26:58

How awful for both you and your husband to have your min dancing all over the place. You need to see your GP and if medication is required for the sort term, then so be it. It can only help.

Also try some yoga breathing and this will still your mind and take your focus away from these thoughts. Sending you a hug.

BladeAnnie Tue 30-Jul-19 11:46:51

I'm so sorry that you are going through this - anxiety and intrusive/irrational thoughts can be so debilitating and disabling. I am a mental health nurse and I would suggest you go and have a chat with your GP. I'm also a big believer in mindfulness and a really good book on this is "The Art of Breathing" by Dr Danny Penman. It's also good to try using some distraction techniques when you experience intrusive thoughts. Listening to music or an audio book might help; also writing your thoughts (& anything else you want) in a nice notebook/journal is something you could try. Lots of love and you are in my thoughts 😊

Diane227 Tue 30-Jul-19 12:13:08

Im so sorry for what you are going through. We all look back and sometimes I think, remember things differently as to how they actually were.
Dont you think that you would have been so in love with your husband, that had he told you of his history it wouldnt have mattered and you would have married him anyway.
50 years ago it was pretty bad form to talk about previous sexual encounters. Not like today when people tend to reveal everything.
I understand that you need professional help to overcome these thoughts but can you focus on the fact that your husband chose you and has loved you ever since.
Is there another issue which you are transferring anger away from and towards this issue.
I agree mindfulness will help but teamed with activities to boost your self esteem and self worth.
Thinking of you. X