Take your time

16 June 2020

You’ve probably read that January is notoriously the most popular month for divorce.

Tensions over the holiday period – or the final straw in a relationship breakdown that’s been coming all year – may leave us emotionally drained: we don’t want another relationship, ever.

For others, the stress of dumping someone, or being dumped, leaves us needing to fill the void, and quickly – just to prove to ourselves that, even if our ex-partner doesn’t value us any longer, others will.

We’re tempted to hook up with the first person who gives us a second glance.

Do ‘rebound relationships’ work?

The common definition of a ‘rebound relationship’ involves someone rushing into a new relationship before they’re ‘over’ their previous one – replacing old with new.

Popular opinion suggests these relationships are destined to fail: that the new partners will eventually realise they have nothing in common, or that it’s just too unstable a foundation on which to build anything substantial.

There’s some truth in it: it’s hard to deny that ‘rebound relationships’ can come with risks.

The biggest is that the new relationship is being used as a way of avoiding emotions and feelings bound up in the previous one – that, by finding a new partner quickly, we try to avoid the pain of breaking up and the sensation of uncertainty that may follow.

The problem here is that these feelings often have a way of working themselves out anyway – and that may create instability in any new relationship.

Another risk comes from the way in which rebound partners tend to be chosen. While the popular perception of ‘rebound relationships’ is that we choose a new partner at random, the actual pattern can be more problematic. It’s not uncommon for us to choose a partner who is very, very similar (either physically or personality-wise) to our previous one – or someone who is totally the opposite.

Both outcomes can be fraught with difficulties. Choosing someone similar may mean we’re trying to work out unresolved issues with our previous partner – finding a similar partner with whom we can re-live and ‘correct’ experiences.

This is an unwelcome burden for the new partner to face, and usually an unpredictable way for such issues to be resolved.

However, choosing someone totally different can mean we end up with a new partner who turns out not to be particularly suitable – events often take a turn once the initial ‘honeymoon’ phase is over.

There are no concrete rules.

But, when it comes to relationships, it doesn’t pay to be too prescriptive. ‘Rebound relationships’ come with risks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doomed to fail.

As many of us can attest having witnessed the newly developing relationships of family and friends, and indeed our own, occasionally what some might describe as a classic ‘rebound relationship’ turns into a strong and loving partnership that lasts many years.

The truth is it can be really hard to predict what will work. A partnership that looks great on paper might not go the distance in real life – and vice-versa.

So, instead of drawing up hard and fast rules for what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do, we might instead ask ourselves some questions before deciding whether to get involved:

What makes the difference

How do I feel? This can be a complex ask – especially when we aren’t feeling any singular emotion at any given time – but it can be useful to try to get a sense of where we’re at regarding our previous relationship. Are we experiencing confusing feelings and emotions? Do we feel we may be acting out of hurt or anger?

What do I want? Again, this can be a perplexing, but just thinking about it may begin to help us move towards an answer. Is there a direction we want to head in next? Conversely, is there a direction we don’t want to move in?

What would I say to someone in my position? Sometimes it can be useful to step outside ourselves and consider things more objectively. If you were to have a conversation with yourself about what’s happening, what would you say?

Of course, the answer to any, or all, of the above may still be a resounding: ‘I don’t know!’ If this is the case, your best option is probably to proceed with caution.

It can take time before we’re able to understand what it is we’re really after – or indeed how we really feel – but, in the meantime, there’s no need to rush into anything.

That doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding new relationships, but it might mean refraining from making any big decisions, or diving in headfirst into a serious commitment. In short: don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Equally, try not to worry too much about what people say about ‘rebound relationships’. In the end, what really matters is whatever makes you happy. And, sometimes, the best way to figure this out is simply to take your time.



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