Investigating Your Partner's Ex on the Internet

Many of us monitor and spy on our partner's ex. We might obsess over their looks, how they dress, and what they do. However, eventually, this behavior can become obsessive and completely undermine our self-esteem and even our own relationship.
Investigating Your Partner's Ex on the Internet
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 02 December, 2021

Investigating your partner’s ex on the Internet is unhealthy and exhausting behavior. In fact, it indicates an irrational obsession with your partner’s ex. You could even be suffering from what’s known as Rebecca syndrome.

In reality, not enough is said about this kind of behavior. However, due to the presence of social media, it’s becoming more and more frequent. For instance, you might even find yourself making a fake profile just to follow that man or woman who, not long ago, shared their life with your partner. You look at their photos, analyze their appearance, their way of life, and their comments on a daily basis.

This can lead you to a series of very specific situations. The first is insecurity in your relationship. You might start to feel disadvantaged. You tell yourself things like, ‘I’m not as attractive or sophisticated as them. He’ll definitely leave me’. This means your self-esteem gradually starts to weaken.

Jealousy, obsessions, fears… These are extremely problematic realities that are well worth mentioning.

A good part of online harassment is carried out by people who seek to monitor and find out things about their partner’s previous relationship.

Man reading about when we investigate our partner's ex-partners on the Internet

Investigating your partner’s ex

Surveillance or spying on someone on social media is called stalking. This term defines the kind of behavior that, in many cases, can become addictive. What’s more, when you investigate your partner’s ex on the Internet, you fall into a clearly obsessive behavior from which it’s difficult to get out. Furthermore, it’s not a joke.

Many Facebook groups talk about this problem, the fact of not being able to stop monitoring a partner’s old relationships. Indeed, this phenomenon has increased in the last decade, and it’s no coincidence. Because right now, there are multiple resources available for spying on others. In fact, as long as someone has some kind of ‘fingerprint’ on the Internet, you’ll be able to access their life.

Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter Who doesn’t have an account on at least one of these social networks? Furthermore, they’re perfect instruments for spying on others. Indeed, it’s extremely easy to find the person you want by simply searching for their name or via their relationships with others you know.

From curiosity to addiction

When you investigate your partner’s ex on the internet, you usually do it at first out of sheer curiosity. What are they like? Are they attractive? What kind of life do they lead? What do they do? Hence, you take a look, just for a moment, discreetly. Like peering through the curtains.

However, that fleeting glimpse often turns into an hour as you look at their old photos, comments, and other information about them. At this moment, you’ve opened the door to an obsession and you can no longer close it or get that person out of your mind. This spying behavior includes two processes: stimulation and self-loathing.

When someone begins to follow their partner’s ex on social media, they experience the obsessive need to review the content daily. However, they hate themselves for doing it.

Retroactive jealousy

Surveillance and harassment of the ex-partner of the loved one is a psychological reality of great interest today. It’s a relatively new phenomenon thanks to the advent of new technologies and social networks. It’s also well worth analyzing.

As a matter of fact, Ohio State University conducted a study in 2018 on this particular topic. It claimed that what’s experienced on these occasions is retroactive jealousy. This involves feelings of threat, concern, and annoyance towards the partner’s ex, despite the fact that this figure doesn’t interfere in any way in the current relationship.

The study claims that the basis of this jealousy is to be found in social comparison and relational uncertainty. In other words,  when constantly monitoring the previous relationship, the new partner suddenly feels at a disadvantage. In fact, they feel inferior and that awakens the idea of fear of abandonment (if he left someone like his ex, he’ll most likely leave me too…).

Woman on mobile, depicting when we investigate our partner's ex on the Internet.

How to stop spying

Investigating your partner’s ex means you often become someone you don’t like. However, you might be unable to stop doing it. Furthermore, the more you do it, the more you despise yourself. What’s more, you might even resort to some extreme behaviors.

For example, some people even start to imitate the clothing style of the couple’s ex. This kind of behavior is clear evidence of burnout and can quickly become psychopathological behavior.

If you’re finding yourself prone to any of the aforementioned behaviors, what should you do?

Firstly, you must analyze how you feel. You might be ashamed, jealous, sad, and angry. You may feel hatred, worry, and even obsession. However, behind these emotions, you’re always insecure and have a clear lack of self-esteem. These two dimensions can break down your affective relationship, the one that, without any problem at all, you’re already boycotting yourself

  • Next, you need to consider removing yourself from social media for a while. In fact, instead of spending time in front of your mobile, think about doing other things, new hobbies perhaps.
  • Dedicate quality time to your partner and take care of your relationship. After all, if this is what matters most to you, you must prove it. Be mature, take care of your own identity and feelings of security. Only in this way will you build a bond in which jealousy or fear has no place.

Last but not least, don’t rule out the need to go to a specialized professional. Indeed, if you find you can’t reduce your spying activities, you should obtain psychological therapy to regain control of your life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Frampton JR, Fox J. Social Media’s Role in Romantic Partners’ Retroactive Jealousy: Social Comparison, Uncertainty, and Information Seeking. Social Media + Society. July 2018. doi:10.1177/2056305118800317
  • Martinez-León, Nancy & Peña, Juan & Salazar, Hernán & García, Andrea & Sierra, Juan. (2017). A systematic review of romantic jealousy in relationships. Terapia Psicologica. 35. 203-212. 10.4067/s0718-48082017000200203.
  • Kreya, Math & Wok, Saodah. (2021). Social Media Addiction and Its Influence on Mental Health among University Student in Cambodia: Beyond Cultivation Theory.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.