How to Stop Getting Jealous When Your Boyfriend Brings Up His Past

My friend Emily Rosen is the CEO of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. She is also one hell of a poet and storyteller. I was blown away when I read this post of hers on Facebook and asked for her permission to print it here.

In her own eloquent words, Emily advocates for the concept of being accepting, trusting, confident and gracious, instead of leading with fear and insecurity – specifically when you’re dating a man who shares stories of women in his past.

I used to think
that other people loving him
took something away from me
I wanted to be the only one
and I resented all his memories

Years ago on a trip to Hawaii
we met a naked man
who sold jewelry
from the back of his pickup truck
I bought two pieces
but one was too big
so he invited us back to his home
so his wife could fix it

While we waited
they served us raw bread made of seeds,
green tea and fresh herbs
and the man took out a photo album

“Can I show you my loves?”
he asked,
to which we agreed readily

He opened the book
and began to turn the pages
It was filled with pictures
of beautiful women
of all colors, shapes and sizes

And he began to speak…

“This is Tanya,
Oh Tanya, she always knew how to stop time,
when I was with her
I knew everything was always okay
Sara, now Sara was amazing,
a dancer, the way she moved her body,
took my breath away
Laura, she stole my heart,
I never met a girl so smart and kind,
we would laugh together for hours on end”

He kept going
page after page
after page after page
story after story

The smile on his face
was of a man in ecstasy

But I felt incredibly

His wife was there
and he was sharing about women
from before?

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

From everything I had ever learned
this was a no no
a big no no

Aren’t we supposed to act
like the person we are with
is the only one ever

But I watched his wife’s face
and she was lit up and smiling
seeing him in so much bliss

So I began to ask questions…

They had been together 11 years now
living in this remote part of Hawaii
with very little outside contact
They spent their days making art and love
and seemed happier than most anyone
I had ever met

After an hour,
I garnered up the courage
to ask her…

How she feels about him
being with all these women
and sharing their pictures

She laughed without hesitation
and smiled at me knowingly,
“Well, he loves women,”
she said,
“so I am glad he has had so many”

I got misty eyed
this is not how I would feel
this is not how I did feel

The part about saying goodbye
to a relationship
that grasps often at my heart
is my fear of being forgotten
And that fear is bigger
with those who have been with many
because then I am just literally
one of many
more easily forgotten in the crowd of love
the odds are definitively against me
or so I imagine

I have always struggled socially
and with intimacy
so the people who are close,
really close
are few and far between

So, many of the men
I’ve been with
or been close to
have had many more relationships than me
and definitely many more lovers

So I’ve always felt
easily replaceable
easily forgotten

At this point in my life
I had kissed
as many men as I have fingers
and here he was showing me
a book of women
he had loved,
I didn’t even know that many people

So I asked her…
if she had as many boyfriends
to which she said,
“Oh no, not at all”

She explained,
I grew up in Sweden
and didn’t really understand my sexuality
until I was in my late 30s

I was afraid of men
and avoided intimacy

“Till I met him,”
she said
pointing at the man
still looking at his pictures happily

“Oh,” I said
amazed at her strength

I would just be so incredibly insecure
I thought to myself
I would never be with someone
who had dated so many

She put her hand on my shoulder
and as if she could hear
what I was thinking
and said,

“There will only ever be one me
and one you
We don’t have to worry about competing
we have already won everything,
you are you, uniquely you”

Tears filled my eyes
and I asked to use the bathroom


I remember looking in the mirror
carefully wiping the tears from the corners
so as not to ruin my mascara
and thinking to myself…
it’s true
I cannot argue
there is only ever one of anyone
but what if I am not
a good enough one…

We left
and that night
we drank tequila, and told stories

I asked my boyfriend at the time
to tell me
about the love before me

At first it was hard
I felt my stomach in my throat
and my heart was pumping rapidly

But soon
we were both smiling
and yes, sometimes crying

It was so incredibly healing
to hear about what helped shape
the man I was so in love with that day

Envy can poison everything

We are taught to compare
and compete endlessly

We are taught that love is limited
and someone having something
takes it away from us
It keeps us trying to control
the uncontrollable
It keeps us focused
on small and insignificant things
that drain our life energy
And it keeps us separate
and disconnected
even when in relationship

We keep secrets
for fear of punishment
or scarier yet
for fear of being seen

But I see a different possibility
and it’s one I’ve been fortunate enough
to live

Where we let go
of what we have been told
and design relationships
that reflect our values

Where we own our humanity
and yes, how scary jealousy can feel

Relationships where we choose
to share what’s true

Because being true
is more important
than keeping anyone
or anything

when we aren’t being true
We might lose
the very most important thing

That was Emily Rosen, ladies and gentlemen. And while I don’t have a photo album of my exes that I foist upon my wife, Emily could well be talking about me. I am an honest, loyal, blissfully married man – who happens to have a lot of dating and relationship stories that helped to make me who I am today. Instead of having to bury those memories due  of my wife’s insecurities, I’m free to share them as I see fit – without any fear of backlash. My wife doesn’t act this way because she’s doormat; rather, she listens to me because she’s confident  enough to know that those are fleeting women of my distant PAST, while my wife is the only woman in my PRESENT and FUTURE.

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated. Feel free to share this poem and follow Emily on Facebook and Instagram.