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Rebound Relationships: Potential for Greatness or Potential for Disaster?

Rebound RelationshipsAnyone who has ever been in a serious relationship knows that a breakup can rock your world. Whether you saw the breakup coming or not, the time after a relationship ends can be tenuous at best and self-destructive at worst. So, if the guy or girl who has caught your eye is on the rebound, proceed with caution. You could be heading for major heartbreak if you don’t get your expectations in check.

Rebound relationships provide a number of emotional needs for the person who just experienced a breakup. The new relationship can provide an opportunity to avoid dealing with the pain of their loss. For the person on the rebound, the relationship can build up their damaged self-esteem and make them feel desirable again. Rebound relationships can be very one-sided and selfish. While the relationship might be all roses for a couple of months, reality is likely to come crashing in—most likely, it will crash on the new person in the rebounder’s life.

It’s important to note that, on some occasions, a rebound relationship can turn into something long-term. Before we get to that, though, let’s identify some key questions to ask yourself to determine if the rebound relationship you are in is going nowhere:

  1. Has the person you are dating allowed him/herself to grieve or heal from the previous relationship?  They may be “on the market” but that alone doesn’t make them prime for a relationship. If you’re up for casual dating – great!  But don’t expect or offer anything more. A good rule of thumb is to gauge their needed healing time by how long they dated their ex. For example, a relationship that lasted a few months could take a month or two to get over (more if the person you’re dating was devastated over the loss). However, recovering from a relationship or marriage that lasted several years could, and should, take considerably longer.
  2. Does the person you’re dating talk about their ex … all the time?  This is a high-flying, flapping in the face BIG, RED FLAG!  If they use you as their personal therapist and talk about their ex all the time, this person is not ready for any type of romantic relationship. Put this potential relationship in the “better off as friends” file and move on.
  3. Does the person you’re dating transfer negative emotional baggage to you?  For example, their ex cheated and now they’re suspicious of your every move; or, their ex stole money and now they’re treating you like a thief?  In other words, if he or she is making negative assumptions about you that simply aren’t true, it’s time to walk away.
  4. Has the person you are dating expressed emotions or a commitment level that seem unreasonable or too-good-to-be-true?  It might feel great to have someone tell you how much they love you. But ask yourself if it is realistic to have such strong feelings this early in a relationship. Go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel sincere, it probably isn’t. That’s not to say that the person is intentionally misleading you; they are simply transferring their emotions from their past relationship to you. Trust yourself on this one … if it feels too soon, it probably is.

Now, let’s take a look at the possibilities for extending a rebound relationship into something lasting and long-term. It’s rare, but it can be done. Here’s how: 

  1. Take the relationship very slow. Being a friend to the person you might have a romantic interest in is probably the best way to start. By spending casual time together doing fun, non-romantic things (walking your dogs, volunteering somewhere, biking or running together), your emotional investment in each other will slow down and you will have the opportunity to see if you’d be interested in a relationship. Don’t rush into physical intimacy. The longer you wait, the better your chances are for having a lasting relationship.
  2. Provide the time and space they need. Be kind, thoughtful and encouraging (like any friend would be), but don’t pressure them to move on with their life. Instead, acknowledge that they’ve been hurt and make them feel cared for and understood.
  3. Encourage them to spend time with their friends and family. This provides the person an opportunity to talk about his/her hurts and frustrations with friends and family, rather than with you all the time. It may sound a bit selfish, but it will help make your relationship about the two of you rather than about their previous relationship.
  4. Don’t be overly available. Set some boundaries to protect your heart and don’t become their “primary caregiver.”  Don’t go to their house and fix dinner every night; don’t drop everything when they call. It’s important that you maintain control over your emotions and behavior for your own sake.

Rebound relationships are tricky. The rebounder can unintentionally draw someone into their life to soothe their emotional wounds. When they are feeling better, they tend to want to move on with someone else. Because of this, it’s usually best to walk away, especially if you desire a healthy and permanent relationship.


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