I had a question recently come up in my Facebook group about rebound relationships which went along the lines of “how long after a break-up is a new relationship considered rebound?“
There was so much to to explore from that question, that today I wanted to share all of my thoughts on the subject.
Defining a rebound relationship
Rebound relationships happen when you start dating following a break-up, before you are emotionally ready. I believe it’s considered a rebound when you:
- Move into a relationship to fill a void in your life. You feel your life is lacking without a partner and you can’t be alone.
- Need another relationship to distract yourself from feeling the emotions of the break-up, or from doing the personal growth work you know you need to do in order to be happy with your life.
I don’t believe that rebound relationships are necessarily sought out deliberately. You might think you are ready. You may simply meet someone who it feels good to be around, and think “what’s wrong with feeling happy after what I’ve been through?”
But is it too soon?
The question of “how long?”
“How long?” is a concept that comes up over and over again in break-up healing. We want to know how long before we smile again; how long until we can forgive; how long before we should sell our wedding ring. I always maintain that it’s never the length of physical time passed which is significant. What matters most is that where you are in your healing and moving on process, and this is unique for everyone.
If you don’t have enough closure, you may still find yourself entering a rebound relationship years after your break-up. Yet someone who has been able to grieve, let go and gain understanding of themselves, might move into a new healthy relationship within weeks.
So, how do I know if am ready?
When you have sufficient closure from your break-up it doesn’t mean you will never feel lonely or miss things about your ex. It doesn’t even mean that you have to be 100% OK with no issues around your break-up.
Sufficient closure simply means that you have done enough of the work to allow yourself to invite in a new relationship. It means you have:
- Allowed and expressed your grief emotions.
- Gained some understanding and new perspective about the previous relationship and why/ how it ended.
- Healed that part of you that feels “not enough” without someone else, and are comfortable and happy with who you are.
- Found recognition of your own worth and what you can bring to a relationship; you are not relying on the other person to make you happy or “complete” you.
If you’ve done this personal work, even if you have some old wounds left over from your previous relationship, the right new partnership can help you heal them further. This is the beauty of a healthy relationship; it can highlight issues and help you to overcome them in a safe, loving environment.
However, if you aren’t even addressing the points above, it’s likely to be a rebound relationship.
What’s so bad about rebound relationships anyway?
There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with rebounds except that they have the potential to set back your moving-on process and lead you to more hurt. Going into a relationship to avoid grief emotions or to fill an emptiness, is only delaying what needs to be dealt with.
Loneliness is hard and it’s tempting to take this route of short-term comfort to avoid feeling pain. But if you aren’t really aware of your needs or motives, because you haven’t worked through your pain, you will most likely sabotage this relationship.
Most people don’t consciously go into a rebound trying to “use” someone else to help them get over an ex or feel happy, but once you become aware that this is what you are doing, are you still willing to let yourself get into something you know deep down isn’t right for you or someone else?
Can a rebound relationship become something meaningful?
Yes, I believe it’s possible. But it’s dependent on a certain level of self-awareness, honesty with the new partner and willingness to grow yourself while in that relationship.
A rebound which goes on to provide a space for you to process your previous relationship pain and supports you to become who you need to be, is a beautiful and valuable thing! However, often it’s far easier to do this work alone before meeting someone. The added pressure of trying to form a connection with a new person while figuring yourself out, can make you confused about what you really need.
Help! I’m seeing someone new and now I’m not sure if it’s rebound. How do I know?
Although I’ve given you some pointers to be aware of, emotions around new relationships can be confusing. You might have started dating and it feels good but you are now second-guessing whether it’s a rebound or not.
Firstly, don’t panic; trust yourself and how you feel about this new partnership. Then go through this little checklist:
1. How happy can you be/have you been on your own?
It’s normal to want to be in a relationship. When you are single, and especially if surrounded by couples, there is a longing to be partnered up too. It’s not wrong to want to be with someone. But how fulfilling have you made your single life since your break-up?
- Do you find pleasure in doing things alone?
- Is there satisfaction in the other areas of your life: your work, your kids, your friendships, your health, your creativity and interests?
- What is your self-worth like? Do you like who you are as a person?
If you find no real happiness in these things, yet are still reaching for a relationship, be aware that you might be pinning your hopes for contentment on this person. A healthy relationship should always add to your happiness, not become the reason for it. Do you need to be with this person or do you want to be? There’s a difference and deep down you will know it.
2. How much processing have you done from your last relationship
Ask yourself whether you have:
- Let yourself process the loss of the last relationship?
- Really explored and felt the grief emotions, or simply dismissed them and pushed on?
- Taken time to reflect on that relationship, what it meant, what it taught you?
- Considered what was lacking in that relationship for you and worked out what your really want and need from the next one?
If you have the self-awareness to have done this work, it’s unlikely that you are dating on the rebound. Even if you still have issues to work through (and who doesn’t?), your ability to feel, reflect and question means you are in a healthier place to enter a new relationship.
But if you’ve done none of this work, it’s likely you’re entering a rebound relationship. Ask yourself whether being with this person is the best place to undertake this process.
3. The new partner
Think about the person you are dating (or considering dating).
- What is it about them that draws you together?
- Is there a particular attraction or could they be just anyone really, so long as you are not alone?
- Do you value them enough to bring the whole of yourself to them for an honest, mutual connection?
- Are they really right for you, or are they serving a purpose for the next stage of your moving on?
These are hard honest questions to ask yourself, but it’s important to really take responsibility to avoid causing unnecessary pain to yourself and others.
Finally: My ex has moved on so quickly – is it rebound?
This is an issue I often get asked about, which I feel is important to address. If you are wondering about your ex and their dating situation, the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. When a relationship is over it’s so easy to obsess about the ex and what’s going on in their life. But if you are trying to second guess what’s going on for them, then stop! It will only lead to more frustration, powerlessness and will keep you stuck from moving on.
Use this new knowledge and awareness of rebound relationships to help yourself, but don’t be tempted to apply it to your ex. That thinking will never get you where you want to be. When you spend time focusing on how they moved on so quickly, whether their new relationship is real or whether it will last, you are wasting precious time and energy that should be used to prioritise your self-care, your inner work and your future.
Focus on what’s within your control. Keep working to ensure you have done enough healing and have sufficient closure, so that when an opportunity for a relationship opens up, you can be sure it’s not a rebound.
With love and support,
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