Are Rebound Relationships Doomed?

rebound relationshipsRebound relationships can be quite intense. It’s often the case that the longer the previous relationship, the more intense the rebound. Why does this happen?

Rebounds have a lot to do with our attachment makeup (based on early life development). To create a visual, imagine for a second that you have a bunch of strings coming out of you — each string representing a type of need based on your attachment type. When in a relationship, most or all of these strings are attached to our significant others (like a plug into an outlet). When we make this connection, our partner essentially soothes our attachment needs by being the recipient of these strings.

When going through a breakup, it’s a form of emotional crisis. Even if we weren’t happy in our relationship, there’s an overarching feeling of being grounded in the sense that our attachment needs are being soothed. The longer the relationship, the stronger the “strings” become, and the more unconsciously dependent they become on this other “object” (our partner) to maintain this connection. So, when the strings are suddenly pulled away from our mate, we suddenly end up with these emotional strings aimlessly flying around in the wind waiting to attach to someone. It can feel similar to breaking a long-term addiction all at once — there’s generally no weaning process in a breakup. (It has been said that love is a form of addiction).

What ends up happening is that we end up looking for somebody who can be the recipient of our attachment strings in order to soothe our emotional crisis. When this happens, we end up in a rebound relationship, with pre-strenthened attachment strings, with an increased sense of urgency to re-connect, from the reaction of the sudden detachment. This paves the way for a fast and intense connection.

This leads to a combination of problematic issues that often present in a rebound relationship:

  • The previous relationship hasn’t been resolved. Rebounds are generally reactive. These relationships start out as an emotional response to a removal from emotional security and stability (whether or not the relationship was healthy). Therefore, the previous relationship as a whole, and the accompanying emotions from the breakup have not been processed or resolved. A rebound relationship is a subconscious way of trying to avoid feeling the hurt, sadness, disappointment, and other emotions from the relationship that didn’t work. The euphoria drowns the sorrow. But only temporarily. Eventually, these emotions surface and often cause confusion within the rebound relationship.
  • The rebound partner is often idealized. In a rebound relationship, it’s common that the new partner is viewed as perfect — the person that we always wished we’d found first, and were so lucky to find this time. It’s euphoric. This response has a lot to do with our attachment needs seeking a state of stability to resolve the emotional crisis we experience in a breakup. In a metaphoric sense, we end up plugging all of our emotional strings deeply into a new partner all at once, in order to emotionally stabilize ourselves. They aren’t slowly worked in, such as with most non-rebound relationships. Eventually, the idealization (and euphoria) goes away, and this is when rebounds often hit a well.
  • Our own role in the previous relationship has not been explored. People often find they deal with similar types of struggles from one relationship to the next. This is because we have a role, based on our developmental history, in the formation and dynamic of our relationships. Simply said, if we don’t work to understand how our previous relationships went wrong, and what we can do to learn and grow from the experience, there’s a significant chance we will end up dealing with similar issues, only with a different person. (See “What Attracts Us to Bad Relationships?” for more on this).

It’s worth mentioning that many rebound relationships have grown into long-lasting, happy relationships. So they aren’t doomed from the start. But at a certain point in a rebound relationship, the above issues (as well as other possible issues) will most likely emerge and will need to be resolved. It becomes confusing when we’re in a new relationship that’s exciting and intense, and then suddenly we start experiencing the loss of the previous relationship. The question starts becoming, do we slow down the rebound, get to know our new partner, and stick with the new relationship?;  or, do we end the rebound, resolve the residual issues from the other relationship, and work on ourselves?; or, possibly consider resolving and returning to the other relationship? There are options.

On the other side of the coin, it’s also worth noting that the new partner in a rebound relationship is in a vulnerable position just by being the rebound partner, due to the issues above. While the relationship can certainly grow, there are obstacles. The partner who’s fresh out of a breakup is forcing emotional space into a crowded well in order to have the rebound relationship. The question is, is the partner who is rebounding emotionally available for this relationship?  This puts the new partner nearly at the mercy of the other. When the euphoria settles to reality, there is often a feeling that the partner is pulling away, which is generally due to the unresolved issues from the previous relationship.

So, both people in a rebound relationship do have options. While rebounds aren’t necessarily doomed, there are built-in obstacles. Slowing down and facing the emotional process becomes a necessary step in determining how to move forward.

Unhappy couple photo available from Shutterstock

10 thoughts on “Are Rebound Relationships Doomed?

  1. My friend from university was dating this girl for 3 years and the girl broke up with him to date another guy. A girl from the university dated him 2 months after his break up . They ended getting married and they are still married. My first serious gf and I met during university . We met thru a mutual friends party. We clicked and started dating. She told me her last ltr was 2 years ago. There was no sign that she was on the rebound . Soon we became an item and I fell in love with her . Lets call her D. One year into the relationship she told me she ended a ltr of 3 years 6 weeks before she met me. She did not say she wanted to date other guys or if there was someone else. I asked why tell me now after 1 year. She said she felt I should know that’s all!!! I was angry but managed not to explode . I just continued to spend time with her doing the usual things. I was not cold or nasty . I hoped that she will open and tell me more. 3 weeks later she broke up with me. She said I was not supportive. I wanted to ask her how was I not supportive ? I wanted ask her if there was another guy? But I just thought why bother ? I would not know if she was telling me the truth or lying like she did about her last ltr. I was losing trust in her since she told me the truth about her last ltr. I think she thought I was going to leave her and decided to preempt me. I said ok and walked away. I was hurting very badly . I made no attempt to contact her or keep tabs on her. I was severely depressed for 2 months before I started feeling friends told me my ex was sorry about the break up and that she was not seeing anyone . After much thought, I wrote her a note : trust once broken is hard to regain but not impossible. A obvious hint I was ready to hear her out and try to work things out. No response. I moved on. It took me 8 months to fully grieve over my ex and recover. About a year after my break up, I meet J. We started dating and things went well . My ex started to text me and when I did not reply she called me at home . She asked to meet and “talk” . I said no there is nothing to talk about. She said she was sorry about hurting me and she was going thru issues . I said whatever issues you had was no excuse to be dishonest . I told her she choose not to open up and just left. She said she deserved a 2nd chance considering the good times we had. I reminded her I did give her a chance. She kept quiet and I hung up. My ex then began spreading rumours about me confirming that she is just a CRAZY BIATCH!! J and I got married after a 2 year courtship and we are so happy.

  2. we dont grow become mature and better which is a huge loss to us in life and more often than not people do rebound with playboys or normal ones but below their league and different types!
    Another source agrees, saying, “There’s a reason it’s called a rebound — it’s a reaction to a break-up. That does not mean that every relationship that comes after a breakup is a rebound.” But as a note of caution, adds, “If it is a reaction to the end of a relationship, then getting into it is like cheating yourself and your new partner. Noone can get over someone too soon, and you’ll be using your new relationship as a crutch for dealing with the pain.

  3. Was In a relationship for 17 yrs. we are not young couple 60 and 63. Out of the blue he told me he wasn’t happy and we are in a different place. He said he felt like this since the winter. We do not live together. We didn’t see much of each other over the winter due to the weather and his job of working nights. He said he had been talking to someone for about a month. He broke up with me and I found out she is 22 yrs. younger than him. Most of the relationship was great. What gives? This happened 3 months ago. Haven’t heard from nor have I tried to contact him. I texted him once that we need to talk. He agreed but he has not attempted to contact me.

  4. Marcia, I am so sorry to hear about your situation. Im going through something very similar although we did live together and we “only” been together for 8 years and she is not 22 years younger but 12 ;). Anyway, I think that men in these situations have detached themselves from their partner months before the partner finds out. As with you i also thought it was a great relationship for most part of the 8 years together …but knew he was unhappy a couple of months before it all came crushing down. Its all news to us but for them they move on quickly as they already “broken” up in their head and hearts. I dont think men leaves unless they have got something else and as much as it may hurt im pretty sure your man had his little fling lined up already otherwise he wouldn’t have left so easily. I hope you will sort it out eventually. 17 years is a long time and it will take some time for you to heal regardless what happens next. I think you are very strong for not contacting him. That will hopefully make him tear his hair out and he will contact you sooner than you think. Question for you then, would you take him back if he wanted to come back? Take care

  5. I have been in a 4 month relationship with a girl who came out of a very long relationship last year. She has been on meds since early this year for anxiety and depression due to the stress of separation, though the feelings toward her ex are negative as he has had affairs and refused to see her for 6 months or so now, each contact has been very negative.
    Though we have had the most amazing relationship I could feel that she still has unfinnished business with her ex, she has unanswered questions about her rejection. l
    Last weekend we stopped seeing each other so she could get her ‘head’ right. Our connection was out of this world and I would love to have her permanently in my life.
    Is this possible? how long should I leave it before I make contact, what would be the best approach for me to make. I am 100% sure her ex doesn’t want a relationship with her anymore, but how can she move on from this hurt and be ready for a new relationship. Thanks.

  6. Dave, 30 days should do it. Afterwards send her a note that doesn’t sound needy, but that you were thinking of her. Something like, “Hey, just at at X and remembered what a great time we had there.”

    If she responds, great. Just don’t send message after message. Make sure you end the conversation after about 3-4 texts. Then try again in 5-6 days with a new one.

    If she doesn’t respond, wait 2 weeks and send another message, “Hey, I ran into friend Y of yours. We had a nice conversation and I remember what good times we had with Y at the bar.”

    Then when she does message you regularly to these things, send her more intimate messages, but nothing sexual. Romantic ones about characteristics or what not that she has. Try to get her to start initiating the text messages.

    The trick to texting is don’t smother her. If she takes 10 minutes to respond, you take 15-20. If she ends short messages, you send short messages. If you tends to bail out of the conversation, you start to do it. Never let her know when you are going to text. Make it a surprise treat so gets excited to have received the message.

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