Why Being A ‘Rebound’ Isn’t Necessarily A Relationship Death Sentence
There certainly isn’t one right way to enter a new relationship. But the idea of being a rebound still feels intrinsically negative and even shameful, like you’re just a passive part of someone else’s love story.
Hot take: We shouldn’t be using the term “rebound” at all — and our culture only perpetuates the negative connotations associated with it.
“The term ‘rebound’ is one of those socially constructed terms that’s negatively loaded with societal expectations,” says Dulcinea Pitagora, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychotherapist and sex therapist. “Inherent in the [word ‘rebound’] is this idea that there’s a ‘correct’ way to do and be in relationships.”
Pitagora is right: There certainly isn’t one right way to enter a new relationship (we believe that emphatically here at Tinder). But the idea of being a rebound still feels intrinsically negative and even shameful, like you’re just a passive part of someone else’s love story.
And while it can be OK to be “the rebound” (a term I’ll continue to use for the purpose of this article) — at least in particular situations — it can be a fine line between healthy and toxic.
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If someone’s not over an ex, walk away.
If your partner frequently talks about their last situationship, your relationship might be dead on arrival.
“Even if your new love interest thinks they’re checked out of a relationship that recently ended, odds are, they’re probably still grieving,” says “Contagious Love” author and dating and relationship coach Carla Romo. And you’re smack in the middle of that process.
“A ‘rebound’ is used as a way to get over a heartbreak or as a distraction from it,” says Irina Firstein, LCSW. “The rebound isn’t really seen as a person, but rather as an object or a means to an end.”
From the jump, someone who’s using you as a rebound may be doing just that — using you — for thrills or to combat feelings of separation from an ex. And if you’re not on board with that, it’s probably not a good idea to play along. “The reality is that so many people dive into situationships after a breakup for instant gratification and the feeling of independence,” says Romo. “Sometimes escaping grief from a breakup is easier via rebound.”
To carry out a relationship like this over the long-term isn’t ideal, because the person who’s seeking the rebound probably isn’t entirely emotionally available and presumably needs some more time to process and deal with their previous relationship baggage.
Of course, it’s normal to look for human connection after a breakup, and there’s something to be said about a person who’s upfront about their intentions. If someone tells you they’re not looking for anything serious at the moment but wants to keep seeing you, you can proceed at your own risk. But don’t convince yourself that they’ll be ready for more on the same timeline you will.
It’s OK to be the rebound — as long as you consent.
“Nothing is a relationship death sentence other than people who no longer want to be in a relationship,” says Pitagora. “As long as people are being transparent with new partners about where they are in their healing process and what they’re looking for, and everyone’s a consenting adult, all is fair.”
When it comes to putting ourselves out there, all of us are works in progress with a little baggage here and there — it’s just important to ask for transparency so you know what you’re signing up for.
For example: When I got out of a serious, long-term relationship after college — right around the time I first moved to New York City — I met the seemingly perfect guy at the seemingly perfect time. Then I found out through mutual friends that he’d just gotten out of a serious, long-term relationship, too.
I felt sinking dread at the idea of being the rebound — and obviously social media-stalked his ex-girlfriend at the first opportunity — while he clearly was, in a way, my rebound. It sounds hypocritical, but there was a key difference: I’d been majorly checked out of my previous relationship for quite some time and felt emotionally available enough for a rebound to turn into a meaningful relationship. It quickly became obvious that this guy, however, was still in love with his ex and refused to admit it. I was so in denial that our situationship dragged on painfully for nearly a year. Needless to say, I didn’t quite consent to being the rebound.
Not all post-breakup relationships are rebounds.
“The next partner is not a ‘rebound’ if someone doesn’t have unresolved issues from their last relationship,” says Pitagora. So if you — like me in this story — don’t have lingering feelings for an ex, any new dating prospect is simply…a new dating prospect. Just because you’re recently single doesn’t mean you won’t be able to turn a subsequent relationship into a meaningful one.
Again, the key is to acknowledge where you stand with your emotional availability. “It’s completely OK to enter into a new relationship with unresolved relational wounds or trauma when a person is aware they’re doing so,” adds Pitagora. “They need to be aware of what patterns they’re trying to change and make their partner aware of these things as well.”
Everyone deserves love — even people with major baggage. And a healthy relationship can actually help people become more and more emotionally available, according to Pitagora.
Moral of the story: Don’t throw in the towel or expect disaster just because you’re quote-unquote the rebound. It certainly doesn’t always deserve the bad rap it gets — and we should probably kick the socially constraining terminology anyway.
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