The Advantages of Rebound Relationships

Purple flowers grow within crevice of a sidewalk

We always hear that after suffering a break-up, you must — above all — avoid the “rebound” effect. If you enter a relationship “too soon” after the breakup of another relationship, it’s automatically and always unhealthy and will always end in disaster, we’re told. If you enter a relationship at the “right time,” all will be well. So the assumption goes. Unfortunately, how much time is the right amount before entering a new relationship is never specified.

Here’s what Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D., writing at [“Rebound: Time Heals, But a New Relationship Is Quicker” 2-7-10] has to say on the subject:

When an important relationship ends, just grieve. Don’t go looking for a rebound. You can’t run away from your problems. Only time will heal.

I agree with that common advice whole-halfedly. I think it’s absolutely half-true, and so would like to make the case for the other half.

Life is incredibly short. We don’t have forever to grieve. Until you have exhausted all of the options and configurations available, you would do well to move on, start a new life, change the scenery. Rebound is good. Life rebounds and so should you.

The question isn’t whether to rebound but when and to what.

The key phrase here is, “Life is incredibly short.” Missing the opportunity to pursue a great relationship simply because you haven’t met the never-defined time period required before you’re able to once again pursue a relationship would be a tremendous waste, or even a tragedy. The fact that you’ll never know what you missed out on only intensifies the sadness of the error.

Does this mean that it’s automatically and always correct to pursue the first relationship you find, even mere days or weeks after you experience a painful breakup or loss? Of course not.

The solution here lies in probably the only absolute we should follow when it comes to love and romance in particular: Always, always be honest with yourself. Brutally honest, when necessary. Always consider the facts, no matter how strong the emotions might be in pulling you in any particular direction.

That’s actually a good principle to follow with respect to romantic love regardless. It applies whether you’ve never been in a relationship at all; or if you broke up two weeks ago; or if you broke up or lost your romantic partner five years ago.

Emotions are not bad and wrong. But, particularly in romance, they do tend to “make people up” in positive ways. Some have observed that the period of infatuation or falling in love is not unlike a physiological and psychological “high.” You find it difficult to concentrate, you’re very imaginative, creative, and deliriously happy. You can only see everything turning up roses and right, in the end. These are wonderful feelings and they certainly ought to be cherished — for what they are. Nothing more, and nothing less.

One of the big things I find people fail to recognize is just how long it takes to really get to know somebody else, particularly somebody with whom you wish to potentially spend the rest of your life. Feelings tend to tell us that we know after the first few weeks or months. In reality, it can take years –two, three, and sometimes even more — to really get to know somebody. You have to see people go through a full year’s worth of events — holidays, seasons, what have you; but, much more than that, you have to see how they really respond to various challenges that life can throw them. How is a man or woman under pressure, or stress? Not necessarily a calamity or catastrophe, but things that are really big compared to the ordinary. Also, things that are ordinary but after the brand new effect of any relationship starts to wear off; it’s wise to really see how well the person treats you then.

If more people considered or respected these factors, then what we call “rebounds” would not be so troubling. Instead of saying, “Well, I just met this new person. But it hasn’t been long enough since my break up. How long is long enough? I don’t know,” we could be saying the following: “It hasn’t been very long since my breakup. But this person really is intriguing. It takes several years to really get to know somebody. I’ll just take my time and find out more.”

Dr. Sherman makes a very fine point when he states, “The question isn’t whether to rebound but when and to what.” This hints at my own point that while you do need some rational criteria in order to embark on any new relationship, we give far much too weight to the idea that a certain time period is required before you do so, and that if you meet that time period, all will probably be well.

In fact, this fixation on a time period distracts us from the self-responsibility and honest thinking required to actually proceed in a relationship, or any other life endeavor for that matter. Remember that your feelings, while they should be celebrated and enjoyed, are not — by themselves — a means for knowing what the truth is. It takes serious time to really discover who and what a person is, and how you will actually be in a relationship with him or her. If you find someone promising, then treat the opportunity as the promising one that it is. Don’t obsess on some arbitrary rules about how or when to enjoy what the person has to offer.

Another myth at work here is the idea that, “I must be over the last person before I can permit myself to fall in love again.” But that makes no sense. In what way do you get over the loss of somebody? What if that person died, unexpectedly? Are you supposed to ever get over that fact? Get used to it, maybe, but really over it? Or maybe somebody dumped you, and it really hurt your feelings and confused you. Yes, you have to move on, but you can’t pretend that you’re not hurt and confused by this other person’s actions.

Think about why most of us fall in love, and seek out love, in the first place. Among other things, we’re looking to feel visible and special in an important way to another person and — if we’re rational and healthy — we want the other person to feel the same thing back. One of the most devastating things about a loss (whether due to death, dumping or something else) is the sense, “I’ll never have that feeling or experience again.” In that respect, you’re never going to be over the person you lost until or unless you meet someone new. It’s then and only then that you’ll feel, “OK, so now I can feel this way with somebody else. It wasn’t a freak occurrence unique to that one situation.”

Granted, it’s possible to rush compulsively and mindlessly into the arms of some relatively unknown person in order to experience that feeling as quickly as possible. This is the sort of experience that gives rebound a bad name. Yet the thing to blame here is not the time frame, but the method utilized in getting involved in the new relationship. People sometimes rush compulsively or mindlessly into a new relationship when they haven’t been involved for years, and it’s just as much of a problem. As I said, if you keep your thinking and reasoning engaged even as you enter the emotional thrill of a promising new love, while recognizing how long it takes to get to know somebody new, then you’ve given yourself all the protection you need.

Life always goes on, so long as you go on living. Rebounds are an indication of resilience. Don’t be so quick to condemn or avoid them.


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