Everyone deals with breakups in different ways: some people take a few steps back, taking the time to heal and recover, only to delve in the dating scene when they’ve truly moved on and ready to get back out there. Others, like myself, feel an instant need to fill the void, so we seek out a Rebound, often someone subpar, to eliminate the feeling of emptiness. Rebounds are not negatives in all cases, in fact, they can be a wonderful distraction from a painful experience. But, incorporating someone into your life in the Rebound capacity has to be handled delicately; there is a fine line of what works and what doesn’t, and it's very easy to cross over from something fun into an unhealthy craving for validation.
The fact of the matter is that we all have different needs and ways that they should be met. It’s no secret that a break up is a form of rejection and it’s only natural for us to want to feel loved and important again. Those who go on a sleeping around rampage after they end a relationship (probably) aren’t doing it for the glory or fun, but rather an underlying need to feel desired and attractive; just like those who immediately start dating again are (most likely) doing so because they want to have a connection. The problem with the latter mentality is that we aren’t thinking clearly, we will latch on to anyone or anything simply because they’re there.
Honestly, I am guilty of this. While I don’t like including my personal details in this blog, during a conversation I was having the other day with my #1 muse (AH) I realized it’s really a problem of mine. When my heart is broken or I feel insecure, I morph from a confident, dynamic woman with incredibly high standards to putting up with nonsense from people not worth my time, simply because they’re giving me attention. (In a few cases, they were perfectly nice guys that i simply wasn't ready for, and I behaved... erratically) But, when I think back to most of my Rebounds, I cringe and an overwhelming sense of disappointment takes over. Some were just silly wannabe playboy types with inflated egos but there were others who were dangerously destructive, and I just welcomed them in. How could I have allowed it to happen? How could I have been so oblivious? Retrospectively, I wasn't as incognizant as I claim. I saw the signs and ignored them. I broke all of my own rules and barometers simply for the sake of distraction.
I am not alone in my dabbling in lackluster romantic interludes, nor am I alone in seeing the good and bad they can offer. Rebounds can be the best or worst thing for us, depending on how we play it:
Benefits of a Rebound
Distraction: Heart break is utter misery...you're suddenly alone, vulnerable, and a part of the rejection heap. The negativity can be all consuming, so a Rebound can be a powerful deflector. Taking away the pain from the current situation, giving us something else to focus on
Ego Boost: One of the worst feelings about ending a relationship is the feeling that you may never find love again. What if you're alone forever? What if no one ever wants you again? What if you never find someone that you want to be with? These are all totally irrational (but common) concerns and a rebound negates them all.
Resilience: One of the best parts of the Rebound is that they are tangible proof that we are capable of moving on. They show us that it's possible to be drawn to and connected to a person other than our ex. Even if we know it's not the right person, it's still reassuring to know that we're capable.
Drawbacks of a Rebound
Lack of Clarity: When we're recently uncoupled we aren't thinking clearly. We don't know exactly what we want or don't want. We just know that we want something different but aren't in the right mental state to figure out exactly what that is. We aren't ourselves, we're just blindly grasping at things until the chaos settles and things make sense again. Not the best time to get involved with someone else---for us or for them.
Magnifies Emptiness: It's unlikely (but not impossible) that we establish a long term, meaningful connection with a Rebound. So we transition our feelings and behaviors onto another person only to find that they aren't what we wanted and expected. Or that they aren't into us the same way. Our expectations of how things are supposed to go are met with disappointment, and with this disappointment, an emptiness. The very emptiness that we were running from to begin with. We become acutely aware of the fact that we are alone. That sleeping with someone doesn't mean you feel something for them, and for many of us, if you've been in a meaningful relationship, to go from that to meaningless sex leaves us feeling like something is missing, like we're numb, and I'll say it again...empty.
Regret: I'm not a big fan of regret because I do believe that everything we do and everyone we bring into our lives is there for a reason, and we learn something. However, there are exceptions. With Rebounds we can often look back months later and wonder what we were thinking, why we did X, Y, or Z.. Berate ourselves for our lapse of judgement or particular decisions. Some of us even feel guilty, like we're betraying or cheating on our ex.
Residual Pain/Fragility: If your Rebound is "meaningless" or doesn't really like you, or it isn't serious, and you are already in a fragile state... it can be pretty upsetting. You may not even like the person but the fact that they aren't into you is another blow to your already brittle ego. You wonder what is wrong with you and can start thinking in the terms of not being able to get anyone, or do anything right in a relationship, completely disregarding the fact that you didn't want to invest anyway, and never would in normal circumstances. On another note, if your Ex was great and your Rebound treats you terribly, it will reopen the wound and pain of how wonderful your old life was and cause you to mourn your Ex all over again.
Target: Silly as it this may sound, but some are on the prowl for emotionally broken and vulnerable people. These people enjoy manipulating and causing more distress but unfortunately aren't as easy to spot if we're not at our peak.
I am not preaching that Rebounds should be outlawed and banished from our breakup regime. Not only do I believe that is unrealistic, but, as I've said, there are some advantages to them. I think what we need to do is evaluate ourselves, and honestly assess our behavior and choices when we're in a state of trauma, and recognize what works and what doesn't and make decisions accordingly. I am not in the position to tell anyone how they should behave during a break up. I, admittedly, have made poor decisions, though will say that I have learned from them. Mostly that I don't like feeling bad about myself, and that I need time to breathe before I make any big decisions again. I think that we inherently know when we're ready to let someone in. It's instinctive; exiting survival mode and start being ourselves again, is a huge indicator. When it makes us feel better for the right reasons, when it;s organic rather than contrived. It's a learning process: trial and error, sink or swim...all to become the person we are supposed to be.
AH: My muse, regardless of where in the world she is, though I wish it was still Hanoi
The idiots (you know who you are): for the lessons learned and the desire to never degrade myself again, and
The prodigious JF: for his incredible hoop jumping skills (despite the ever changing obstacle course)