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Retroactive jealousy has finally ended my relationship


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Hi,

I (20m) have just broken up with my girlfriend (19f) a few days ago after 6 months of dating and I’m just looking for some opinions on my situation and advice on what to do/how to cope.

So, for context, we met at university. She is the year below and I am currently on a work placement and living on my own in London while she is living about a 4 hour train journey away at uni. I am so upset about breaking up with her because I really loved her and I really thought (except for this one problem) our relationship was pretty perfect.

Now, I suffer pretty badly from retroactive jealousy, I think, as a result of extensive bullying and anxiety throughout my teenage years which caused me to have very low self esteem. This meant that I really struggled when it came to sex and relationships and was basically too nervous to do anything until I met my girlfriend. I’d had kissed a lot of girls and had a couple of very, very minor sexual experiences before, but, my girlfriend was pretty much my first for everything.

Yet, before she knew me. She’d had a couple of boyfriends and had done stuff with a few guys before and slept with one other outside of relationships, so we were pretty different in that regard. Before we started dating we spoke a bit about our pasts and at first I thought it didn’t bother me at all. However, after we started dating and I really started to fall for her I became very upset thinking about this stuff. To make matters worse, she would talk about it fairly frequently and very nonchalantly which led to me knowing much, much more than I wanted and just further these feelings of sadness and jealousy.

We have talked about this a lot and she was very understanding and supportive and she knew not to speak about that kind of stuff, however, I guess the damage had already been done. I already pretty much knew everything and had it circling around in my head constantly.

I am getting therapy for this issue and I’m not 100% sure if it’s working yet but I am fully committed to learning how to hopefully reduce and properly deal with these retroactive jealousy thoughts.

Now, I was going through a particularly rough time with it over the last 2 months or so and last week I saw my girlfriend and we basically came to the decision that we’d either have to break up or stay together and I’d have to just try my hardest to get over this.

I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking up with her and neither could she so we decided to stay together, under a couple of conditions. I would fully commit myself to therapy and try to manage my bad thoughts. And I asked that she just did not speak about her past exes or hook-ups or anything because I just wanted it out of my mind and I couldn’t bear to hear any more.

Annoyingly, about 10 minutes after deciding this she started telling some story about her ex. I asked her why she was telling me this and she said she thought it was relevant but it still just didn’t need to be said. But anyway, while it was annoying, I just ignored it.

I decided to go back to uni with her for the week so we could spend some time together and I could see my friends. The first few days back were fine, I was still having some retroactive jealousy thoughts but I was just trying my hardest to push them out of my mind and try to enjoy the time with my girlfriend.

On Thursday night we were going to go out to a club with some of my friends. My girlfriend gets along with them well and I hadn’t seen these friends in weeks so I was really looking forward to the night.

Now, for a little more context, about a month ago, I found an unused STD test in my girlfriend’s room. I was a little bit concerned as we both know I hadn’t slept with anyone else and I thought her ex was the only person she’d had unprotected sex with (and he too had not slept with anyone before her) so I didn’t understand why she had one. I asked her what it was and she said that she was with her friend whilst she was getting one and she thought she may as well get one too because they were free and she suffers from health anxiety so she’d just like to be 100% certain. I understood and didn’t think anything else of it.

Now, back to Thursday. We were pre drinking at my friends when they, for some reason, start talking about STDs. My girlfriend said she was feeling stressed out about this so we left the room and I asked her what was up. She said she was feeling stressed about having an STD after my friends started talking about it. I tried to reassure her saying that that wasn’t possible seeing as the only people she’d had unprotected sex with were me and her ex. At this point she started acting very cagey so I asked her if we were the only people she’d had unprotected sex with and she said she wasn’t supposed to tell me. Now, I’m not an idiot so I managed to put two and two together and realise that she’d had unprotected sex with the other guy she’d slept with at uni.

This was really upsetting to hear as it just made my retroactive jealousy even worse. As well as this it made me feel as if she’d broken my trust a bit. I was very nervous to have sex unprotected as I too suffer from a bit of health anxiety and I was wary of STDs and pregnancy scares. My girlfriend knew this but never told me that she’d slept with this guy without protection and had not had a test afterwards and, had I known about this, I would not have had unprotected sex with her until she had a negative test as I just don’t know anything about this guy and what he’s done.

At this point in time I didn’t know what to say or do. I was a bit drunk so that probably made things worse but I was just so upset and quite angry at her for misleading me like that. We walked to the club together in silence and pretty much as soon as we got these she wanted to leave. I walked her back to her house and when we got there she stopped assuming I’d come in to talk about it. But I just couldn’t, I was too upset and I just did not want to spend the next few hours talking with her and just getting more upset and angry so I decided to go back to the club and spend the night with my friends who I was really looking forward to seeing. Her friends were pretty pissed off at me for leaving her at her house and thought I’d really overreacted about the unprotected sex thing but I just didn’t care what they thought at that point.

I ended up going back to my mates and talking about it with my best friend who helped me calm down a bit and I got back to my girlfriend’s at about 4am. Neither of us spoke or slept at all that night and after lecture we decided to speak about it.

I told her how I felt she misled me and how I wouldn’t have been comfortable sleeping with her unprotected had I known about this guy and she profusely apologised. At this point I kind of knew I was going to break up with her because I just couldn’t deal with the retroactive jealousy whilst still being in a relationship with her. We were both incredibly upset as neither of us wanted this. She thought it was all her fault and kept apologising to me and asking how she could make it up to me, and I tried to reassure her and tell her it wasn’t but I’m not sure if she thinks that. She said that if I feel as if I’m ready for a relationship again that she would be very willing to get back together and I wouldn’t be against that, seeing as we still love each other and we broke up on good terms, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.

I mainly just wrote this to vent and get this all off my chest. But I also just feel so hopeless right now. I don’t want to sound like too much of a downer but I’m literally all alone in London, all my friends and family live hours away and I have to work a 9-5 job everyday. I just feel angry at myself as it feels like I’ve thrown what was a ‘perfect’ relationship away because I couldn’t deal with her past. I knew this isn’t particularly true and I think I did the right thing as I just need to distance myself from it all and my girlfriend doesn’t deserve someone who feels so irrationally upset about her past. So any advice is welcomed!

TL;DR: Suffered from retroactive jealousy regarding my girlfriend’s sexual past and my lack thereof. This put a strain on the relationship but we were willing to stay together and work through it. Until I found out about her sleeping with a guy without protection and not testing for an STD before we met and not telling me about it before we had unprotected sex (which I was nervous to do because of STDs and pregnancy scares). We ended up breaking up after I found out about this as it all got too much for me to deal with.

Any advice on what to do/how to cope because I'm finding this really difficult.

Sorry this is so long, I just wanted to get this all out. But, if you make it this far, thank you for reading 🙂

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You posted this exact same thing the other day. Not sure if you're looking for more responses or it you're just venting.

You both are very young, so mistakes and misunderstandings are to be expected. 

Don't beat yourself up too much. You can learn from this experience and so can your ex.

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Unfortunately, this may be the best option. Not only because of distance dating, but because your relationship is relatively young and you are unwilling to commit. 

In the future do not discuss your or anyone else's past. It's unnecessary and invasive. It's something teens do at a slumber party so leave the past in the past.

 Sadly between your insecurities and opening this Pandora's box, it's contaminated the relationship.

At 20 you'll want to date more but being tied down to a contaminated distance situation seems to be eating you alive. Work on yourself. Be free and remember to be a gentleman in the future and not discuss a woman's or your past.

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Have you asked your therapist for advice on this? What did s/he say?

Going forward, you are entitled to ask whether a potential sex partner has been tested clean for STDs since their last sexual encounter--but that's all you need to know about their sexual history.

Discussing past partners beyond the length of time since last breakup from a long term relationship just makes a mess, have you noticed?

Unless you're willing to narrow your dating pool down to only people who sprang from the womb fully formed as an adult with zero prior sexual experience, you'll need to assume that most if not all people will have had a private past. One key word is 'private' and the other is 'past'.

Live in the present, and create your own memories with your next lover.

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You are both young and not very experienced with relationships, and you both made mistakes here. 

This relationship was training wheels for the more mature and significant ones that are in your future. You don't need to know the details of someone's sexual history to this extent, beyond whether they're free of STIs and have a healthy relationship with sex and intimacy. So yes, you do need to work on your insecurity - but hopefully the next young lady will be mature enough not to rattle on about her previous flings or boyfriends either. 

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