How Do You Know If You’re a Rebound?

Name: Ashley | | Location: Washington, DC|Question: My boyfriend and I have been together for three months.  When we first met he told me that he had broken up with his last girlfriend three months earlier. I haven’t asked many questions about her or their relationship or why it ended. I do know they were together almost two and a half years and lived together for one.  My friends keep warning me about getting too serious with him in case he’s on the rebound.  Are there signs I should look for? |Age: 31

I have to be honest and say that the only sign I go by is how soon the person starts dating after the break up. As we discussed a few weeks ago, someone could have emotionally detached from a partner looooong before the actual break up occured. And everybody deal with their break up grief differently. Some people choose to retreat to lick their wounds. Other prefer to get right back in to the game and forget.

I had a date a couple months ago with a man who was recently separated. Recently as in the last 3 months. I knew this going in to the date, and decided that it would be a fun night out if nothing else. The guy was totally normal, open, friendly and engaging, lest people assume that someone just out of a relationship are all embittered and wounded. But despite how positive he seemed, I was still on guard. For me, he wasn’t separated long enough not just from his ex, but his life with his ex,  for me to think he was ready for anything remotely consistent or serious. Not only that but the last year/months/week of a marriage or a relationship are usually stressful ones, devoid of various types of intimacy – emotional and physical. So someone just coming out of that dark cave, so to speak, is going to be hungry for a number of things. Not just sex, mind you. Simplicity. Which is totally understandable. The problem, though, is that they might be suffering from a variation of good ol’ PTSD. The slightest sign of conflict or tension or difficulty – even perceived difficulty – is going to make them run, as it brings them back to those days in the cave.

I guess the first sign to look for is how you two communicate. (Note: Keep in mind that all of what I’m about to say is referring to someone newly separated from a marriage or an ex.) In 3 months, there has to have been some moments where you or he has had to compromise on something. How willing is he to compromise? Does he even offer to meet you half way on things? Does everything roll out on his terms or yours? It’s not something you’d typically notice, especially if you really like someone. You’re happy to compromise if it means spending time with them. But there’s easy…and then there’s too easy. Someone just our of a long-term relationship is either going to completely acquiesce to their new partner’s requests OR they will not budge an inch because they refuse to be coerced so they date someone who doesn’t pose much of a threat. It’s in their best interest to keep things as simple and easy as possible. So they are going to avoid drama when ever they can.

This sign is more for the person who is rebounding. Everything about the post-break up relationship is SUPER! AMAZING! DIFFERENT! The Rebounder is in a state of euphoria to some regard. They do a complete 180 in their behavior. Everything about this new relationship is incredible, simply because they’re with someone else and they’re in the honeymoon phase. Regardless of whether or not you’re rebounding, the first few months of a coupling are usually the easiest and most enjoyable, because everything is new because you’re experiencing it through someone else’s eyes. It’s kind of like when people have children and they take them to the beach for the first time. The baby squeals at the sight of a seagull or fish because that’s the first time they’ve ever seen one. But the parents have seen tons of them. Watching the child’s reaction to the oddity fills them with a renewed sense of wonder. Eventually, the newness wears off and it’s not as cute. The person rebounding is just happy to be happy, because they were unhappy for so long. They’re going to try to sustain that for as long as possible. Once the feeling of obligation sets in, that’s when they will either slowly back away or disappear completely.

What will make them feel obligated? :

1. Questions about where the relationship stands

2. Overt steps taken to make the relationship public – This does not include meeting your friends. They’ll meet your friends, possibly even your family. But they probably won’t introduce you to theirs.  Of course, Facebooking, Tweeting or otherwise making your relationship public knowledge will also make them begin to feel pressured.  Any sort of formal announcement like that is going to freak them out. Now, they could end up doing all these things and still be rebounding. Usually, when The Rebounder does engage in this kind of behavior, it’s quickly. Too soon. As in the first couple months. Personally, if I had just gotten out of a long term relationship and found myself in a new relationship just a few short months later, I wouldn’t be making it too public too soon. That might raise eyebrows. Plus I wouldn’t want to rub my ex’s face in anything. But when you’ve come from an unhealthy/unhappy situation, it’s common to compartmentalize and lock that memory away and go forward as though it didn’t really exist.

3. Disagreements of any kind – There’s a difference between someone asserting themselves and someone being confrontational. But The Rebounder usually doesn’t see the difference. They just hear someone disagreeing with them, which means a fight is imminent, which triggers the flight response.

Here’s how I approach situations like this: I apply a general rule of thumb. I prefer not to date anybody who hasn’t been out of a long term relationship (2 years or more) at least 6 months. If they’ve lived with someone, and I’m not in a particularly lonely or vulnerable place, then it’s a hard and fast “No” until the 6 months have been reached.

Somebody who gets out of one long term relationship and is back on the dating circuit within 3 months, to me, is suspect. That is someone making up for lost time and trying to forget.

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5 Responses to “How Do You Know If You’re a Rebound?”

  1. Saj Says:

    I don’t know about the analysis. It makes a bit of logical sense but in another way it seems cold. I think the biggest problem would be if your rebound relationship reminded you too much of the relationship you just got out of. If it was new and fresh and didn’t on the surface have similar problems then it can be refreshing and enjoyable and I can’t speak for guys but new problems to deal with would be much nicer then reliving the problems you were fighting with for years. If you were dealing with a workaholic and broke up and then met another workaholic then you might have the urge to run.

    In my rebound relationship I knew I was a bit of a mess but the key difference was that I was emotionally open and willing to give it my best shot. I think you can be in that mindset while grieving a previous relationship but I know that many are not. I guess the key to see this is how flexible they are. The introduction to friends as you said and a willingness to just go with the flow without putting too much rules to maintain distance. You shouldn’t be defining your relationship and trying to limit it if you are open minded you just do what feels right.

  2. Paula Says:

    I had a rebound relationship after my marriage ended, that, while in retrospect, wasn’t the best thing for me ultimately, was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time. It wasn’t meant to be anything serious, and started off as a primarily sexual thing, but after a while, and I started to heal, we realized that we meant more to each other than we originally thought. (Then I healed some more and realized this wasn’t the guy for me long term.)

    The things I think are important to watch out for: are you being selected because you’re meeting the needs of this guy? or just because you’re the opposite of the last person? I agree that with Moxie that they are going to want to avoid drama, so as long as you’re not avoiding the pink elephant in the room and not communicating about important major things, then it’s wise to just keep it low key for a while.

    Rebound relationships can work: one of my best friends went from a 11-year-relationship right into a second relationship of over 8 years before he’d finished moving out of his first partner’s house, and I was with my guy for 2 1/2 years (hardly a longevity record, but also long enough to have made it work if we had been right for each other). But you have to be prepared to live with the shadow of the ex for a while, and with someone who’s going to be more selfish and self-absorbed for a while while they work out a bunch of stuff that really has little or nothing to do with you. If that’s something you can live with, then you might end up with a really great guy who didn’t deserve the trauma of the last breakup.

  3. chuckrock Says:

    I don’t think you can make any hard and fast rules about how long is enough time before being in another relationship because there are too many variables (how long was he with the ex, who ended it with who, was the relationship essentially dead prior to splitting, what types of experiences has he had between the split and you?).

    For me, i needed to get out there and date pretty quickly and it was probably about 4 months post break up or a month post trying to fix things that I was truly ready to meet someone. I went through the kiss someone new and the sleep with someone new which probably were more about the newness for me than the other person. But i think truly it doesn’t matter when i had meet/will meet the next real relationship woman, because as long as I am willing to recognize i won’t allow my ex to effect it at all.

    • dimplz Says:

      I agree with this. I don’t think there is a time period, it’s just more like when you’re ready. I usually take a long time because I get very attached to people, and then it takes a long time to find someone that I feel the same way about or stronger. Once you get to the excited to meet someone new stage, you’re ready, in my opinion.

  4. Mike Says:

    How often does he mention his x?

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