I was contacted the other day by a young woman who is presently separated from her husband….soon to be ex husband according to her current sentiments. She had met a new guy and while she said it was not yet registering as a close or intimate relationship, she wanted to know if perhaps it was what is commonly called a rebound relationship.
She was not too sure quite how to define it and whether or not she should continue to explore how she felt about this new guy. She asked me if she should give it more time to see if love will bloom.
These are all good questions and it is probably best to start with what is a rebound relationship and even more importantly, why do they happen.
What Makes Us Prone to a Rebound?
When we are married or involved in a close relationship with someone we lover very much, a great deal of ourselves become invested in this other person at an emotional level or even spiritual level.
We learn that love is more than just a word, but consists of many things, least of which is our need to experience a feeling of safety, closeness, and connection. After many months or years of experiencing those good vibrations of love, we in a way become addicted both physically and psychologically.
When this relationship it is taken away from us or ends abruptly, we often will look for a way to replace it. This is where the term “rebound relationship” comes into play.
Often what happens is a person will be pulled in the direction of wanting (almost needing) to be part of something in order to replace the lost feelings of safety, connection, and closeness. When it was part of your every day life, you took it for granted. When you are recently divorced or separated, these feelings are slipping away, fast.
So sometimes a person will look for a way to bridge those lost feelings and transfer their affection to another. Often times, it does not work out because the person got involved with this other person for all the wrong reasons. So in such cases, the affected individual (e.g. the recent divorcee) is truly rebounding from that which was previously lost.
The Dark Side of a Rebound Relationship
Now sometimes people fall into rebound relationships for other reasons. And let me tell ya, there is little fun or relief in such relationships. Somewhat darker forces will compel some people to pursue another relationship. A person may decide to experiment a bit and enter into another relationship partly to satisfy some of the things I discussed above. But another motivating factor could be their desire to strike back at their ex husband or wife. They may revel in the notion that there ex husband or ex wife may feel the pangs of jealousy as they learn about their new beau.
Another way a person can find themselves engaged in a rebound relationship is what I call the “best intentions date“. This happens when a friend, whose usually only has your best interest in mind, decides to set you up for a date. Perhaps you have been moping around the house too much since you and your husband or wife broke it off. Your friend is thinking, “I have a really good match in mind so let me come to the rescue“. Maybe the divorce has been messy and your friend just wants to help you get your mind off all of ugliness. Like I said, usually the motivation help is heartfelt and their thinking is that you just “need to get out there” and live a little.
I got a call from Sally a few weeks back and she was telling me about her situation. She and her husband of six years had split up. They were separated and looking seriously at divorce. They both agreed to give it six months before taking up in serious measures (i.e. filing divorce papers), but they were already living apart and moving forward with their own lives.
It so happens Sally’s best friend knew a guy that she thought would be a nice match and after introductions, Sally and this other guy were going out on casual dates. At the time, Sally was not interested in dating, but figured it wouldn’t hurt either. After all, she was looking for a new distraction and hopefully something that would be fun.
What made this more of a rebound play in my view is that while she was dating this guy and while they had a a few intimate encounters, Sally was not convinced she wanted a divorce and continued to communicate with her husband during the separation period.
The way Sally looked at it, no harm, no foul. Realizing that she was playing with potential “trouble”, she kept her relationship with this other man under wraps. But of course, you can never keep everything secret, particularly when you are dealing with matters of the heart.
Suffice to say, everything blew up in Sally’ face a few months later when her husband learned that she was intimate with this other guy. That revelation, ended up setting back any attempts to reconcile for many more months. Of course, none of this was part of what Sally wanted. Things just sort of took on a life of its own. She was lonely and one need led to another and before she knew it, her desire to reconcile with her husband had suffered a setback.
So now that you have a better idea of what causes people to find themselves involved in a rebound relationship. Let’s explore whether such relationships are good, bad, or if it really does not matter in the scheme of things.
I guess if you are looking for the short answer as to whether a rebound relationship is something you should avoid or if it is a stepping stone to getting where you want, I will have to disappoint. In my view it is all of those things and more.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up if You Find Yourself in a Rebound
First of all, just know that if you find yourself involved in a relationship that could be characterized as “a rebound”, it is not that unusual. Indeed, it is very natural, as we discussed earlier, to want to fill in the void, that part of you that is missing companionship, love, feelings of security and many more things.
None of us are designed to completely shut off our feelings and needs after something as difficult as a breakup, separation or divorce has occurred. We still need to be loved. We still need someone to talk with on a daily basis. We still want to feel that there is someone that will help us in our time of need. We still have deep emotional and sexual needs that should be met.
Sure, there may be others in your life that can give you some of this. Just because you are alone and your husband or wife are no longer part of the picture, does not mean that your whole existence will be shattered. People are much more resilient than they even realize.
But my point is that when those special things that a relationship can bring into your life is taken away, it can hurt and you can suffer. So in that respect, it is perfectly normal to reach out and look for someone that can help you fulfill some or even all of those needs.
Now, that does not mean this person will end up being your future bride or husband. And nor does it mean that by entering into such a relationship you are committed to never returning to your husband or wife. What it does mean though is you are human and you are only seeking to put the pieces of your life together by finding someone suitable you can benefit from.
Of course, for this to be a healthy relationship, both of you should benefit and if you enter into such a relationship, you need to be completely honest with yourself and the individual about your needs and motives. Quite frankly, that is easier said than done in affairs of the heart.
So are all rebound relationship beneficial and help you with your healing and filling the void that is now in your life?
No, they are not. Some people rush into rebound relationships due to their anxieties and fears getting the best of them. The may enter into a rebound relationship impulsively for all the wrong reasons and get locked into a relationship with someone that just makes things worse.
You may be looking for a quick fix, whether it be an emotional bond or possibly even a sexual encounter. It is entirely possible you could find yourself in the middle of a situation that you will almost later regret, causing even more harm to your sense of self.
Don’t Act Impulsively
I had client who was so broke up over her separation which was precipitated by her husband’s affair, she impulsively decided to have multiple short term sexual encounters with her husband’s friends.
She told me that she knew at the time that she was seducing these guys that what she was doing was going to just blow up and she would end up feeling awful about it all. But something inside her (anger) was pushing her to do it. And just as she had predicted, after a few months of jumping literally from on bed to the next, she came close to really melting down.
When we are married and then something happens to change all of that, we lose a part of ourselves. It is hard to understand it, until it has happened to you. But when it does, the sense of not being completely whole can be overwhelming.
Coupled with that feeling is often a loss of self esteem and self worth. This is what was happening with the woman who was jumping from one sexual rebound rendezvous to the next. Anger was in part fueling her motivation, but deep inside she felt that her self esteem had been ripped away.
She was harboring thoughts that perhaps she was no longer an attractive woman or that she was not sufficiently good in bed. So she was going to prove her husband wrong and show him just how attractive she truly was. That was what the little (angry) voice was telling her.
And unfortunately, she followed this inner voice to a place that led her down a slippery road. On one hand, she gained confidence and assurances that she was still a “catch” and that men found her attractive and that she could please many men in bed. But when her series of rebound relationships was all over, she felt completely ashamed and disappointing that she had taken such measures to prove her worth.
In cases like this, it clearly does not benefit you to enter into such a rebound type of relationship. Trying to teach your ex a lesson or gaining short term pleasure through casual sexual affairs is almost always a quicker path to self destruction.
So it begs the question, are there any instances in which a rebound relationship can be helpful, even healthy in the long run?
Sometimes a Rebound Relationship Works Out
I had a client whose name was Billie. She had been divorced for a few months and was really struggling in what she should do with her life. Earlier, prior to the divorce going through, she had gotten herself caught up in a rebound relationship.
The guy she met seemed like a good guy at the time and he understood that she was going through a tough time in many respects. She was still dealing with the obvious disappointment that her marriage of eleven years was coming to an end. She did not harbor any false hopes that it could all come back together. She knew better.
Her ex husband had been a serial philanderer and after all of the facts came out, it was as if she was living with a stranger. So in large part, the divorce was something she sought out and wanted very much. What made it all the more difficult was not just the normal challenges of recovering from such heart ache, but her ex husband was not wanting the marriage to end.
He played every angle to guilt her back into giving him yet another chance. And what made it painful was that she knew she still loved him, but felt she could never trust him again. The final straw was when she discovered that he was seeing another woman during the trial separation. Previously, they had both agreed to live apart for awhile, but go to counseling. Things seemed to be improving and she even held out some hope that just perhaps she could learn to forgive him and the two of them could start anew.
All of that went out the window when she learned her husband was back to his old ways. Shortly after all this happened, she met someone and while she was still literally rebounding from the pain and shock of what her ex husband had put her through, she agree to start seeing this other man.
So while she and the new man in her life seemed to hit it off really well and made each other happy much of the time, my client was just not ready to get involved in a serious relationship. She needed more time to deal with the aftermath of her divorce and just “find” herself again, as she said. So she broke it off in a gentle way with this other man, simply telling him the truth about her emotional struggles and need to be alone for a spell.
So in once sense, what Billie had with this other guy would indeed be characterized as a rebound relationship. It had all the markings of something that got started far too early.
But in this case, the rebound relationship turned out to be a positive event. Because later, Billie was able to confront and defeat her emotional demons and when she felt she was ready, reached back out to this man who had once “been there” for her. Because of their previous history together and the positive experiences they enjoyed when together, he agreed to see her again. After a few months it turned out to be a good choice for them both.
In summary, rebound relationships can take on all forms. They need not eleven be of the romantic variety. Sometimes they can help us through hard times. Sometimes they can make times even harder for ourselves and others that we love.
Try to recognize what might be happening to you if you find yourself in between relationships. Embrace your true feelings. Act out not from your emotions, but from your sense of what is best for you.
To accomplish these things, you need to recognize that if your are coming off a break up or are in the middle of a separation or divorce, you are in a vulnerable place. Take things slow and before you enter into a romantic, sexual, or even casual relationship, ask yourself if your are really ready. If you don’t trust your own answer, then seek out a close friend and ask them. Sometimes it is better to wait, than to take a plunge into the deep or the unknown.