It can be hard to deny the looming existence of the ghosts of partners past. Whether your partner still wears the winter hat that their ex knit them or uses the pesto recipe they created together, traces of your partner's first flame can be hard to ignore. And if you're jealous of your partner's first love, à la Lara Jean, Peter Kavinsky, and Jen (perhaps the most relatable plot point in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You), it can be easy to get a little swept up in questioning the past.
"It’s totally normal to be jealous of a person’s first love or the first person they slept with," Jenn DeWall, career and life coach, tells Bustle. "It is a common way that people reduce their own insecurities and anxiety around the newness of the relationship."
As DeWall shares, when you're trying to understand how you fit into your partner's life, you may start to pay close attention to their past lives. Maybe your partner's ex always dressed up for their lacrosse games or made them amazing cookies. Does that mean you're supposed to act as they did? (Spoiler alert: you're flawless, and you just need to be yourself.)
"It's easy to compare yourself with past lovers and relationships because you want to try and figure out the other person," DeWall says. "We’re jealous to try to understand our surroundings until we have more data or time in the relationship to prove otherwise."
If your partner posted a ton about their first love on IG and hasn't put even put you on their Story yet, or they used to go on fancy vacations with their ex, and you've never left the city together, it can be natural to feel a little insecure about how your love stacks up. Will they always have feelings for their first love? Will they ever love you the same way?
"History can create vulnerability," Meredith Golden, dating coach and dating app expert, tells Bustle. "Is the past really in the past? Will that door reopen? Is your current relationship being compared to the past relationship?" Although it can be easy to jump to conclusions or get carried away with your questioning, if you're feeling totally jealous of your partner's first love, Golden emphasizes the importance of centering yourself and living in the now.
"If that previous relationship was meant to be, it would still be happening — and it isn’t," Golden says. "Emotions are fleeting, and this too shall pass." And even if it does pass through you like a burrito from Chipotle, DeWall says it's OK to let yourself be jealous for a little while. "Don’t shame yourself, but simply try and understand what is coming up for you," DeWall says. "Acknowledge the feeling and give yourself permission to be jealous for a short period of time."
While feelings your feelings can be productive, if you really struggle to shake off the jealousy, try investigating the root of your emotional response (and, while you're at it, stop creeping online).
More often than not, jealousy is founded in assumptions, which typically are not the truth.
"Ask yourself, 'What difference is it going to make if I overthink this? Is it going to benefit me or hurt me?'" Trina Leckie, host of Breakup BOOST podcast, tells Bustle. "Stop looking for information online about this person. Comparison is the thief of joy."
Rather than trying to "one-up" their first love or to compete with their memory, think about the ways to feel secure and happy in your current relationship. Do you need more one-on-one time with your partner during the week? Do you need to clearly define the relationship? Would it mean a lot to you to meet their parents or go out of town together?
"Look within. Determine the source of jealousy," DeWall says. "Once you have determined the source, ask yourself if you have any evidence to support your feelings of jealousy. More often than not, jealousy is founded in assumptions, which typically are not the truth."
All experts agree that being transparent about where your head is at and what you need moving forward can help you and your partner connect deeper. DeWall also suggests making a joint bucket list of fun things you and your boo can do together, effectively creating your own firsts.
"It’s not about being first, it’s about being a good fit," Golden says. Just like Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky's, your love is the first of its kind.
Trina Leckie, host of Breakup BOOST podcast
Meredith Golden, dating coach and dating app expert
Jenn DeWall, career and life coach