Couple relationships

Rebecca syndrome: jealousy towards your partner’s ex

Rebecca Syndrome refers to those situations where a person experiences jealousy towards the ex of his current partner. Nowadays, it is increasingly common to develop these types of feelings, according to some psychologists.

This can be due to a variety of causes, from low self-esteem to a compelling need to compare yourself with others. Sometimes, even the partner may be the cause of this situation.

Let’s go deeper.

Why is it called Rebecca syndrome?

This syndrome receives that name inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock film called in the same way, “Rebecca”, and released in 1940. In turn, the film production was based on the novel “Rebecca”, by Daphne du Maurier.

In this cult feature film we learn the story of a young companion who lives an affair with a widowed millionaire and ends up marrying him. Unfortunately for the new wife, the housekeeper and the rest of the house staff (an imposing mansion called Manderley ) are hostile towards her from the beginning.

The young woman is constantly compared to the former woman. This is sanctified, glorified and admired by the whole world  and, little by little, the protagonists begin to feel that their self-esteem falls to the detriment of the untouchable image of the deceased.

For this reason, she begins to develop a jealousy that has no reason to be, especially when it is discovered that her husband’s relationship with his previous wife was anything but happy and peaceful.

What is Rebecca syndrome like?

The author Peter Van Sommers, in his interesting work entitled: “Jealousy: Knowing It, Understanding It, Accepting It”,  has expressed his own opinion about this type of jealousy which he has classified as “retrospective”. That is, those  caused by the previous relationships of the current partner.

This is why the affected person can feel jealousy even of a former  deceased of his current partner. The Bulgarian writer Elias Canetti also previously uttered an aphorism that fits this description very well:

“Jealousy should be classified according to what one hated the most: the rivals who were, who are, who will be.”

Being someone who is considered as a rival from the past, it is common for the person with the syndrome to imagine happy situations that that person lived with their partner.

It is also common for those who suffer from this syndrome to assume that that person is or was more intelligent, beautiful or attractive, among others. That is, to assign outstanding qualities to it.

This leads those who suffer from jealousy to have a complacent behavior towards the other, although the opposite can also happen, that they feel superior. The truth is that this situation seriously affects living together as a couple, causing conflicts or completely destroying the relationship.

Read: How to manage jealousy after an infidelity

Causes of Rebecca syndrome

As this  study by researchers Scheinkman and Werneck points out, “Jealousy is a complex relational experience. They are a visceral fear of loss. “

This way of feeling includes thoughts and feelings that generate actions and reactions that sometimes seem incomprehensible.

Woman with Rebecca syndrome
Sometimes Rebecca syndrome has its origin in a problem of self-esteem of the person. However, it can also be given by pair comparisons.

The situations that increase the possibility of this box appearing are the following:

  • Low self-esteem and self-concept of those who suffer from the syndrome.
  • When the partner or the environment constantly remembers the previous partner.
  • The partner makes direct comparisons between both pairs.
  • When the person suffering from the syndrome realizes that they resemble the previous partner of their current partner, either physically or in personality.
  • When the couple has recently been widowed, they have not passed the stage of mourning and the feelings and memories are on the surface.

You may be interested: How do I know if I am jealous?

Is there any treatment?

Improving the situation in which irrational fears prevail  often involves some type of intervention , according to Dr. Cuesta . In some cases, it may be necessary that the partner of the person suffering from this syndrome also receive psychological support.

Some suggestions that may help include the following:

  • That the current partner improves communication.
  • Let the current couple express their dissatisfactions and remember why they are together.
  • Avoid making exaggerated mentions about the qualities of the previous partner or verbalizing many details.
  • Review the beliefs that the person suffering from jealousy has.
  • Improve the self-esteem of the person suffering from this syndrome.
  • Modify attitudes that are controlling, among others.

With the support of a psychologist , it is possible to leave behind the pictures of celotype and begin to truly enjoy the relationship as a couple, in the here and now.

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