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Forums / Relationship and family issues / Retroactive Jealousy - Anxiety/OCD over my partner's past - Getting severe

Topic: Retroactive Jealousy - Anxiety/OCD over my partner's past - Getting severe

  1. Natalia S
    Natalia S avatar
    16 posts
    24 June 2021 in reply to Here2Talk

    Yes, yes I see... It's similar to people thinking a better paying job or a sports car will being them true happiness and success/confidence within themselves. I think I need to accept myself for who I am NOW, not 5 years down the track...

    My goal is to heal the emotional scars of my past that have a direct impact on my present. Psychology and meditation will assist but I am trying to find ways to better make a difference.

    You were right, GAD! :) Haha, I've never put a smiley face after the word "GAD" before... quite funny.

    Anyway, I think discovered where a lot of my anxiety and low confidence stems from. Growing up, I had to deal with a lot of things on my own - my father was emotionally absent and was quite aggressive/abusive/not understanding, whereas my mother was loving but majority of her time was spent tending to my brother who has autism/asperges, and she dealt with her own depression. Situations like being bullied in primary school, to having trouble with homework, were always dealt with alone by me. My parents barely knew what was going on in my life because when I did try to reach out, there was too much violence or toxicity or just plain rejection or misunderstanding.

    Throughout my life I have kept a lot of things to myself for this very reason, it is only recently I have learnt to open up (my boyfriend has been excellent in helping me do this) and for a long time I didn't cry in front of anyone - family, friends etc. It took me almost 4 months to cry in front of my boyfriend, purely because I viewed crying in front of people as being embarrassing because growing up emotions like this were never accepted - I cannot remember a time I cried in front of my dad or even said "I love you".

    Since moving out of home, my relationship with my parents has gotten much better, but the scars from this upbringing do remain. I think this paternal relationship set me up for a lot of confusion when it came to romantic relationships, especially with men who were emotionally absent - I find I competing for their love a lot and completely destroyed myself just for a little bit of their attention. I also always neglected my emotions and needs for these relationships.

    However, my current boyfriend is wonderful and always treats me how I deserve. Except I still get anxious and the jealousy of his past is a problem, and think low of myself. Will it ever end?

  2. Here2Talk
    Here2Talk avatar
    275 posts
    24 June 2021 in reply to Natalia S

    hi again Natalia,

    part 1 of another two-parter:

    It was lovely to read that message- all I know of you is a collection of paragraphs and due to the anonymous nature of this forum I never will know you, but I feel like in some way I know you, you’ve shared a lot of your soul, so to speak. Sounds like you’ve been unable to share these vulnerable parts of yourself with people throughout your life, so I just want to let you know that I feel privileged that you have shared it with me.

    It sounds like your boyfriend is a nice man, very understanding. And you know what, I think you are too. There’s just a lot of.... in psychological terms cue and response associations that have become quite strong over time (eg Facebook post, or discussion of threesomes)- response is this automatic dread response, together with intense emotional reactions. There’s an interesting theory that I’ve been looking into with GAD atm (obviously I have a vested interest in GAD) called emotional avoidance where the worry is an attempt to avoid the emotions - another therapy focused on these ideas is is emotion focused therapy. There’s a book called emotion focused therapy which I’m thinking of getting - I think it might be geared towards therapists though, which is what I’m training towards.

    Obviously this avoidance of emotions creates more emotions and secondary problems over time.... this has certainly been the case for me.

    Clearly there has been a lot of deep hurt that has occurred to you throughout your 22 years on this earth. One really great thing for improving people’s symptoms is having a really good quality relationship - if you can overcome this hurdle then your relationship together could be very curative for you and your past. Of course I don’t want to put pressure on you, because any relationship can fulfil that.

    A lot of good ideas you have - looking for better ways to make a difference. Do you mean like things you can do to improve your life in general??

    I think your jealousy can end. I think that the way past it is through it, though... Like in the title of this thread you put ocd, and in a way you’re right: some part of you wants to keep inquiring and stalking, even though another part of you also doesn’t want to - for part of you it fulfils a need, and for part of you it is distressing.

    1 person found this helpful
  3. Here2Talk
    Here2Talk avatar
    275 posts
    24 June 2021 in reply to Here2Talk

    Part 2 of message:

    Classic treatment for ocd and really specific kinds of anxiety (e.g. phobias) has you confronting what you fear in small steps. You can probably look it up, it is called systematic desensitisation. You could maybe try adapting this to your situation. You pick the least distressing thing eg imagining your partner in the past just having dinner with an ex (whatever is least distressing to you but still something you could handle), and chip away at it, slowly - and “voluntarily”, until you get to the worst thing that you could imagine.

    Happy to talk more depth about that kind of thing if it would help.

    I think whereas the acceptance and love of yourself is a more values based approach which works at why these issues developed in the first place, the desensitisation is more of a classic behavioural approach that could help break that cycle of almost an addiction- like process that happens whenever something triggers your anxiety about your partners past....

    Again sorry if I’m way off or have misperceived your situation or thoughts.

    1 person found this helpful
  4. Natalia S
    Natalia S avatar
    16 posts
    25 June 2021 in reply to Here2Talk

    Good Morning :)

    Thank you for your kind words. I really do feel heard and comfortable with you... you are very insightful. I think you would make an excellent therapist and you could save a lot of peoples lives!

    I agree. I emotionally avoid the things I need to address to move on successfully. Through this emotional avoidance, I just create unnecessary pain for myself. As I've never experienced OCD to this extent before, I gather it is because of this emotional avoidance. It's like the OCD has surfaced.

    My partner and I actually have had many talks lately on our relationship and finding ways to strengthen it. He has agreed to see a psychologist too (for his own issues and unresolved past traumas). I feel confident we will make it because I know I love him very much and do not want to be with anyone else. I'm considering taking a break in the relationship for a bit though to really be on my own and get real with myself, I think he needs space too.

    Yes, ways to make my life better in general by focusing on certain facets of my life such as my mental health.

    Wow, those are great treatments I've never heard of before! I will bring them up to my psychologist and see what she thinks is best for my situation. I think a hybrid approach of both those treatments could work for me!

    No no do not be sorry, you've hit the nail on the head! It's great to talk to someone who really understands GAD and not just from studying it, but from actually living it! Do you know why GAD surfaces in individuals? Is it purely from environmental and/or genetic influences?

  5. batticus
    batticus avatar
    58 posts
    25 June 2021 in reply to Natalia S

    Hi Natalia S

    I can relate to what you're going through. I went through something much the same before with my girlfriend. When we became a couple I was 24 and she was 31. A bit of an age difference. I had only one relationship previously. She has had a few, in fact I'm not sure how many, but more than me in any case.

    Like you, the slightest mention of an ex was extremely triggering. I'd go in to a panic. I felt incredibly insecure and had zero self-confidence. Somehow I imagined all her exes were way better than me... more successful... wealthier... you name it.

    It took years to get past that. I've focused a lot more on myself in the last couple years and I now have a healthier sense of my own self esteem. In the end - your boyfriend chose you - he did that for a reason. I personally think it's normal to be put off at the mention of exes etc. I generally don't talk about anything to do with my ex with my girlfriend. Firstly, I've moved on from that and don't really want to dredge up the past, and I am mindful that it would my my girlfriend uncomfortable; perhaps not as much as I was.

  6. Here2Talk
    Here2Talk avatar
    275 posts
    4 July 2021 in reply to Natalia S
    Hi again Natalia. Sorry for the late reply. As you would probably know with the disorder, there have been a lot of things on my mind - a week off of work has been a blessing to not work, but gives me time to catch up on tasks, and think of all the things I wish I was doing that I've been neglecting... Honestly nearly anything I think about triggers a cascade of worries for me - at least a few times every hour.... this is how it has been for me since... well gradually working up since very early childhood. Of course it's not clear how much of that is verbal (a heck of a lot is) with me, as well as the emotional avoidance which we discussed earlier with you. For me anything achievement oriented is my trigger - which is hard because there are infinite things that one can try to achieve.....

    It has been my experience from therapy that most psychologists do CBT or something very similar to it... This is because it works for a lot of things - especially phobias and OCD, and because it is like an industry standard, and what is expected of a lot of psychologists. My next subject at uni which kicks off in roughly a week is all about learning how to deliver CBT in fact! That being said, I'm really high in trait openness to experience and so I have like a craving to search out other modes of treatment, both to study and (if I can find the right therapist), to find someone who is qualified to treat me.. One day, maybe. I was seeing one last year but a long session was required next which wasn't covered by any subsidies... I should go back but you know, money being such a problem...

    I went into that story because from what I have seen, you have to find therapists who specialise in something outside of CBT (for example to find someone who practises emotion-focused therapy). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is more common than EFT, but not dominating like CBT. I think all of them share some core ideas and values though, and a good therapist should be able to tap into that no matter what kind of therapy they practice. To tie this into your post, your psychologist may not know, practice or care about EFT or ACT, but then again who knows, and like I said a good therapeutic relationship should have values and skills that help you to deal with emotion, acceptance and commitment, as well as Behaviour and Cognition.... Hope that explains my thoughts rather than make them muddy.
  7. Here2Talk
    Here2Talk avatar
    275 posts
    4 July 2021 in reply to Here2Talk
    From what I've read, GAD will often be a chronic condition that has built up over a long time. This has certainly been the case for me - like I said it was probably around 6 that I remember the earliest beginnings, starting with become acutely aware of death anxiety. I wonder if this has something to do with it, at least in some cases... Like, I had not a lot of stuff that you have described. Stable loving parents, loving to me and each other. No money issues, only a couple of minor bullying incidents throughout my whole schooling. Never had anyone betray me, romantically or friendship. But, I never had any friends growing up, and have had pretty bad comorbid social anxiety - still disabling now but like a fullblown disorder from late primary to like... 21... I would love to start a new individual thread on GAD on the BB forums... Wonder if anyone else would like to chat...

    But yeah as with most things in psychology, environment and genes are always intertwined in ways that are near impossible to separate. There is a temperament component in genes that people can pass on which can make people susceptible to anxiety, just as there are for aggression, and sociability. In fact I recently heard one thinker say that genes pretty much affects everything. Then they have found out in recent years that our environments can manipulate which genes are expressed. Then we pick our partners to reproduce with (this is an environmental choice which is guided in part by our somewhat inherited disposition and preferences) - which we pass on to our children. You can see the endless rabbit hole that is emerging...
  8. Here2Talk
    Here2Talk avatar
    275 posts
    4 July 2021 in reply to Here2Talk

    My personal belief is that experiences are what we should most pay attention to, because they are the easiest thing to mess up - we can't easily change our genes, but we can try to avoid what we expose our kids to. It's why I disagree with the old folk wisdom that you should make life hard for your kids because the world is a hard place.... They need to learn, so the argument goes. But I counter with: you should try to make kids lives as free of pain as you can, because you just don't know what children find painful, and humans respond to pain by developing schemas and behaviours which attempt to avoid painful emotions, but will probably result in psychological disorder to some degree in the future... I certainly feel that's the case with me. But just because you can define something and realise the cause, doesn't mean that you can get rid of it. Hence I have this... feeling, it's kind of like a dread and a loathing of myself really, that's constantly lurking just beneath the surface, but which I try to shove away for example by creating things, achieving at uni, and trying to write the most thoughtful and considered things to people I have never seen on internet forums. So that's why I have taken so long to reply... Cause I get this angst inside of me when I go to talk to people, like I just probably won't say all that I want to, like I know I can.... My triggers (worries) are part achievement and part social, but always centred on my perceived failings.. Everything I think of or accomplish or every conversation I have is always accompanied by some vague disappointment in myself... Yessss I'm effffed up hey? Tell me if there's anything you asked that I left out..

    How have things been with you and your boyfriend since we last talked? Have you had more events that have triggered your anxiety?

    Well this is awkward, I had to split this into three messages LOL, so if you just read this one there are two above. Whooops haha

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