If you weren’t willing to settle for your ex, you’re a fool to settle for your rebound.
Jumping into a new relationship too quickly after a break-up is called “rebounding.” It’s called this because it’s a period where you are vulnerable and inviting attention on yourself from people who have their own agendas, just as an NBA player becomes vulnerable immediately after retrieving a missed shot.
When I left my marriage, I didn’t think I would rebound. I looked forward to the freedom associated with single life. I imagined that a combination of friends, casual dating, and personal growth would fill the lonely void created by my spouse’s absence, but they didn’t. Friends aren’t always as reliable as romantic partners, dating prospects can dry up, and the depression of heartbreak often impedes personal growth. People told me not to get a new girlfriend until that growth was complete, but it’s never complete, is it? So I found myself imagining that a new relationship, this time with the right person, would help me climb out of the ditch the divorce left me in.
People offered me all sorts of advice to talk me out of rebounding, but nobody was able to change my determined mind. Still here are five things I learned, all of which I wish someone had told me beforehand:
1) You can have more than one rebound.
My wife and I had been separated for a week and a half when I went on my first “rebound” date. A week after that, I asked out a girl in a coffee shop and dated her for a month and a half. When things didn’t work out, I was sad, but I was relieved to know that the “rebounding” part of my post-divorce dating life was over and that now I could go find my next true love.
The next woman I dated was a rebound, too, as was the woman I would eventually commit to a serious relationship with. Rebounding isn’t something that happens once with a single partner; it’s an emotional state that a grieving person undergoes after a break-up, and there isn’t a limit on how long that grieving takes, nor are there fool-proof steps to get through the grief faster.
2) It’s not a competition.
We all have our own selfish reasons for leaving our partners, just as we sometimes have our own selfish reasons for staying. Even after the ugliest of break-ups, we grieve that our ex finds the right partner. The fact that they were wrong for us doesn’t mean they deserve to be alone and miserable for the rest of their life.
Still, when you actually see your ex with their next partner (which you will, thanks to the pervasiveness of social media), it’s hard not to take it personally, especially if you’re still in that emotional “rebounding” state while they appear to have moved on. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between yourself and your successor. Even if you’re the one who left, you now observe how happy your ex looks with their new partner, and you wonder why you weren’t able to inspire that same happiness.
Then you wonder if this means you should have found an equally fulfilling relationship by now. You wonder why finding a new significant other seems so easy for your ex but so difficult for you. This exacerbates your vulnerability and makes you more likely to jump into a relationship you aren’t ready for with a person who is wrong for you.
Bottom line: no matter what you see on social media, you don’t know your ex’s actual situation. You don’t know the whole story of their life after you, and you have no business knowing, anyway. The only thing you need to know is how to measure your happiness independently, not relative to your ex’s.
3) Your rebound has an agenda, too.
I announced my divorce on Facebook because I wanted the love and support of others as I made the difficult transition into single life. Within a day, a girl with ulterior motives had already asked me to meet up with her. This happened with several women, and in each case, I don’t think they were pursuing me; I think they were pursuing the type of relationship I had with my wife. They saw the way I loved her, and they wanted that love for themselves, but I don’t just offer that kind of love to anyone, especially not when I’m heartbroken.
Sometimes a man will pursue a rebounding woman in the hopes that it will grow into a relationship, and other times, he will pursue her only for casual sex, knowing she is unable to commit. His motives are not necessarily predatory, nor are the motives of women who do they same, but they are self-serving, and if they try to sell you the idea that they’re doing you a favor by “being there for you” or “helping you get it out of your system,” that’s probably just their way of justifying their own self-interests.
4) Your rebound knows all of your weaknesses…because your divorce made them apparent.
We say horrible things when we break up. We don’t mean to, but we do, and then we leave our ex to heal alone, knowing that the person we usually lean on in times of healing no longer wants us around. Instead, we share the hurtful words of our exes with our rebounds, who reassure us that the hurtful words aren’t true. This is part of why we like rebounding so much: it reminds us that we are still lovable and teaches us not to define ourselves by what our ex-spouses think.
This trade-off can backfire, though. In our effort to put less stock in our ex-spouses opinions, which are largely negative, we put too much stock in our rebound’s opinions, which are largely positive. So when things don’t work out with our rebound, they have a whole arsenal to throw back at us. They know all of the insults that hurt us the most, plus they twist the knife a little deeper with their exit line: “Your ex was right about you all along!”
Only you can truly know if your ex was “right about you,” and realizing this is part of achieving true recovery instead of leaning on a rushed relationship for a quick fix.
5) When things are over with your rebound, you’ll finally remember why you loved the person you married.
It’s easy to look back at a relationship that just ended and only see the negatives. It’s even easier to do so once you’ve found a new relationship that doesn’t have those negatives. You wonder why you thought you had to settle and feel grateful you aren’t settling anymore. You come up with all sorts of excuses for why you married the other person: “We were too young,” you say. “We rushed into things,” you say. “We didn’t really know what we wanted until it was too late,” you say.
Well, maybe you were too young, maybe you rushed into things, maybe you didn’t know what you wanted, but you still married them for a reason. You still chose that person for a reason. When you stood before God with all your family members watching, looked your partner in the eyes and promised this was going to last forever, you meant it. You were horrified and unsure, but when you looked at your partner, something about them reassured you that it was going to work.
For me, it took being with other people to remember why I married the person I married. It didn’t make me want to come crawling back to my ex-wife, but it helped me realize what my non-negotiables are in a partner and how to look for them in future potential matches. You slowly learn to stop comparing every woman to your ex-spouse and instead realize that you’ve been comparing every woman, including your ex, to a hypothetical ideal match that you haven’t met yet. The fact that your ex was once the closest you came to that ideal doesn’t mean the things they shared with that ideal are no longer important. The fact that your marriage’s failure has made you realize new non-negotiables doesn’t mean the old ones, the ones your ex-spouse had, are no longer important.
Occasionally, people leave their first marriages and walk straight into a relationship with their true soul mate, but the rest of us should heed this advice: if you weren’t willing to settle for your ex, you’re a fool to settle for your rebound.