Playing with Matches

by Jennifer Garstang January 1, 2013


By Jennifer Garstang

They say: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s a lovely sentiment. Sometimes it’s even true. Of course, usually it’s utter chazzerai (look it up). A more medically accurate phrase would be: “What doesn’t kill you leaves you wracked and weakened, prone to secondary infections and reinjury until you have had time to recover.” This is one reason I have a (kosher) beef with the concept of rebound relationships.

Think about it. You’ve just gotten out of a relationship. You’re feeling down, lonely and vulnerable. So what do you do? You jump right back in. It’s like saying: “Hey, I’ve just sprained my ankle. I think I’ll run a marathon to recover.”

Now, sometimes, it does help to “walk it off,” but take a few breaths and assess where you’re at before you get back out there. If you aren’t up for it, jumping back into the dating scene can actually slow down your recovery process and make it take longer for you to find what you’re really looking for. To be clear, I define a “rebound relationship” as a relationship you enter into either to get over a past relationship, or because you can’t stand the thought of being single. A rebound relationship can happen days, weeks, or sometimes even years after the previous relationship ended. The motivating factors are what matters, and are the difference between you finding love or wasting your time and causing heartache.

Now, I never say “never” (except when saying “never say never”), but if you want to go for the rebound, you need to do some serious soul searching. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to “walk off” a broken leg.

First of all, there are very few good reasons to enter into a rebound relationship, and a lot of bad ones, so really examine your own motivations. If you’re thinking of this as a “palate cleanser,” are you really, honestly just looking for some fun, or is this because you don’t think you can get over your ex without it? If you’re thinking of this as a long-term thing, are you actually interested in this new person, or are you afraid of being alone?

Likewise, there are very few good reasons for the other person to be your rebound, and (you guessed it) a lot of bad ones. For example, they might be massively insecure and don’t see another way to get into a relationship. They might see this as an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability. Maybe they are so desperately into you that they don’t care how they wind up being with you. Maybe they are on the rebound themselves. Or maybe they aren’t aware that this is a rebound (if this is the case, allow me to fill in for your bubbe and say “Oy gevalt! You haven’t communicated this fact to them??? I could just smack you!!”)

The bottom line is, rebound relationships probably won’t end well, and when things go wrong, you’ll likely find yourself worse than before. You may even find yourself moving backward. My one foray into rebound territory nearly sent me skittering back to my ex.

Okay, now let’s say things don’t go horribly, terribly wrong. Let’s say you stay with Mr. or Miss Almost-well-sorta-but-no-not-even-a-little-Right for several months, or even years. What happens to that great relationship you could’ve had if you had just waited a little longer and let yourself heal? Worse still, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to be single. I don’t mean “staying out late downing martinis and Manischewitz” single. I mean “being whole and complete as just YOU” single. Before you can be a member of a happy and fulfilling couple, you first need to be a happy and fulfilled single. If your impulse to jump into a rebound relationship comes from feeling incomplete on your own, you will be doing yourself, your potential rebound and your future special someone a huge favor by walking away. Being out of a relationship can be an opportunity to reflect and be really solid with yourself. That way, instead of bringing half a person to your next relationship, you and your future someone will both bring a whole and happy person to a happy and whole partnership.

I know it’s hard. But seriously, give yourself time to heal before jumping back in. After all, a broken heart is like the common cold: When you’ve got it, the best thing to do is take a little time, let yourself recover and take plenty of advice from your bubbe. So, whether you choose to walk it off (or dance it off, or party it off, or schmooze it off…) with friends, or to curl up in your Snuggie drinking tea and watching sitcoms, just remember to recuperate, and don’t go running after rebounds.


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