IN DE­FENCE OF THE RE­BOUND RE­LA­TION­SHIP

They say re­bounds are the worst way to get over an ex, that you need alone time to clear your head and re­cover from a break-up. But do they re­ally de­serve their bad rap? Clara How al­ways thought so, but af­ter talk­ing to women who’ve found hap­pi­ness af­ter

Herworld (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Do re­bounds re­ally de­serve a bad rap? One writer finds out.

I’ve al­ways been hun­gry for love. But I’m equally ter­ri­fied of be­ing dis­ap­pointed. Which is why, even in my post-break-up agony, when I sobbed to my friends that “it hurts, it re­ally, re­ally hurts” and the temp­ta­tion to find some­one, any­one, to make the pain go away was so real, I never acted on it. My friends soothed me, gen­tly ad­vis­ing me to take time out to be alone. Sin­gle­hood, good, they said. Re­bounds, bad.

Four years of sin­gle­dom later, I wonder if I might have taken things to the ex­treme. I’m now the one who com­forts my weep­ing friends, recit­ing the same litany I was fed – be alone for a bit, be kind to your­self, and take the time to fig­ure out who you are and what you want, with­out a plus-one.

I wouldn’t have ques­tioned this stance if not for a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend. Char­lene* has been hap­pily part­nered up for three years, but prior to that, she’d been through some­thing like 10 re­bounds – one for al­most ev­ery break-up. In fact, mid­way through the con­ver­sa­tion, she said: “I can’t re­mem­ber the ex­act num­ber.” She doesn’t hide the fact that the re­bounds were purely to help her get over each break-up, and they weren’t guys she would ever se­ri­ously date.

Char­lene says div­ing straight back in is eas­ier than hav­ing to con­front her feel­ings about a split. “You go out more, dwell less on the past, and feel less de­pressed,” she says. Af­ter the sad­ness re­cedes, she cuts her losses. “I tell them that we’re not com­pat­i­ble, and then I end con­tact,” she adds. These fleet­ing en­coun­ters rarely last more than a month, and she al­ways tells them that she’s fresh out of a re­la­tion­ship.

While not every­one has Char­lene’s steely re­solve, I’m cu­ri­ous as to how big an ad­van­tage a re­bound re­la­tion­ship could re­ally be. So, I’ve dug into my friends’ love his­to­ries to find the an­swers.

It can teach you to make beer choices Af­ter break­ing up with Peter*, her abu­sive boyfriend of three years, a heart­bro­ken Gina* jumped straight into another re­la­tion­ship with Charles* – a col­league who had been pur­su­ing her for months. He was Peter’s po­lar op­po­site. Where Peter had been an ag­gres­sive go-get­ter, Charles was un­am­bi­tious and indecisive. “He was gen­tle and mild-man­nered, and I knew he would never hit me. Look­ing back, I was hold­ing him to such a low stan­dard,” she says. The re­la­tion­ship lasted just seven months (he even­tu­ally left her for some­one else), but the clar­ity she gained had far more last­ing ef­fects.

Gina was tired of just set­tling. “Af­ter these two ter­ri­ble re­la­tion­ships back to back, I re­alised I should take a good look at what hap­pened,” she adds. Her friends ral­lied around her, and she went on a six­month re­la­tion­ship ban. Over this pe­riod, Gina came to some re­al­i­sa­tions about her­self and what she wanted – es­pe­cially when she con­cluded that a new re­la­tion­ship wasn’t al­ways a salve for old wounds. “I saw that I was per­fectly ca­pa­ble of be­ing sin­gle and happy, and I would rather be alone than in a bad re­la­tion­ship.” Dur­ing her dat­ing hia­tus, she met a guy who would even­tu­ally be­come her boyfriend – but in­stead of jump­ing right in, she held off and told him to wait un­til the six months was up. He did, and they’ve been to­gether ever since.

Gina’s story is to­tally against what I’ve been told about re­bounds be­ing emo­tion­ally dam­ag­ing danger zones. She might not have been dis­cern­ing about the men she dated, but a re­bound re­la­tion­ship – and the se­cond bad one in a row – had been just the shock treat­ment she needed to pull her­self out of a bad place.

Sim­i­larly, Jenny* re­bounded with a col­league af­ter a boyfriend cheated on her while she was trav­el­ling for work. Mark* was ex­tro­verted, a heavy drinker, and into the nightlife scene. “In com­par­i­son, I had only been club­bing three times be­fore I met him,” she says. “Then, I thought that as long as two par­ties en­joyed each other’s com­pany, that was enough for a re­la­tion­ship.” Af­ter a two-week hol­i­day to­gether where Mark hit the clubs ev­ery night, Jenny re­alised that their life­styles were too dif­fer­ent, and they broke up.

It hit Jenny then that there was a pat­tern to her be­hav­iour – she had al­ways been in a re­la­tion­ship, and as a re­sult of that, other re­la­tion­ships in her life had suf­fered. “Af­ter that re­bound, I fi­nally had time for my­self,” she said. “I used to think that I needed to spend all my time with my part­ner. Now, I saw that I had been ne­glect­ing my friends and fam­ily. I had to ex­pe­ri­ence the re­bound to un­der­stand this for my­self.” She spent a year work­ing on re­build­ing these other im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships be­fore re-en­ter­ing the dat­ing scene.

You might meet the love of your life

So I went from think­ing “re­bounds are bad” to “re­bounds are bad but you can still learn some­thing from them”. But two other women’s sto­ries pushed my change of per­spec­tive even fur­ther: I heard how their bounce­back guys ended up be­com­ing Prince Charm­ing. The ide­al­ist in me loved the idea, but the re­al­ist saw it as a mere stroke of luck. Was fate just on their side? Af­ter speak­ing with them, though, I re­alised that there was a method be­hind the mad­ness.

Belinda* started dat­ing her cur­rent boyfriend just two weeks af­ter she broke up with the guy she’d been with for four years. In the after­math of that breakup, she tried to fill the empti­ness by re­con­nect­ing with other peo­ple. James* was a ca­sual friend from univer­sity whom she had lost touch with, and who was based in In­dia. As it turned out, he too was re­cov­er­ing from a breakup. Af­ter two weeks of con­fid­ing in and sup­port­ing each other, the pair re­alised their con­nec­tion was more than just platonic.

James was the one who broached the sub­ject, call­ing her pet names, and want­ing to know where he stood with her. “He was very se­ri­ous about his in­ten­tions, say­ing straight up that he liked me, that he wanted to come to Sin­ga­pore to meet me, and see where things went,” says Belinda. Her friends were alarmed and warned Belinda that this was prob­a­bly a re­bound on both sides. But Belinda was will­ing to take a chance on James. “This man was there for me emo­tion­ally, so why not put my­self out there? How long can I be sad for?” she says. The gam­ble paid off – the pair have been to­gether for three years. They are still in a longdis­tance re­la­tion­ship but are work­ing to­wards liv­ing in the same coun­try, and even­tu­ally get­ting hitched.

This idea of seiz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties was also what mo­ti­vated Sarah* to date her cur­rent boyfriend of two years, Michael*, a month af­ter a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship fell apart. She had fully in­tended to stay sin­gle, but a drunken en­counter with Michael changed that. While she dis­missed it as a one-off, he didn’t. “Michael was very per­sis­tent,” re­calls Sarah. “I de­cided to give it a go be­cause we had been friends for a year and I knew he was a great guy. If I waited to get over my ex, what if Michael and I missed this chance?”

I ad­mired how Belinda and Sarah didn’t be­lieve there was a “right” time to start dat­ing again. In­stead of see­ing a re­bound as a pos­si­bil­ity for failure, they chose to see it as a se­cond chance at find­ing hap­pi­ness. It came sooner than ex­pected, but hey, no one’s com­plain­ing.

You’ll be hap­pier and more auned to your feel­ings

To be fair, Sarah’s and Belinda’s pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with re­bounds came down to choos­ing men who were re­spect­ful and will­ing to cope with their post-break-up blues. But clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Vanessa von Auer of VA Psy­chol­ogy Cen­tre says there are le­git rea­sons why re­bounds can be good for you. “They can be a source of hope, hap­pi­ness, much­needed fun, and in­creased self-es­teem, es­pe­cially if you go into the re­la­tion­ship with open eyes and no agenda,” she says.

But it does re­quire work. In Sarah’s case, be­ing hon­est with Michael about how she was still grap­pling with her feel­ings helped. “Of course I had con­cerns – I didn’t want peo­ple think­ing I’d cheated on my ex, and I was scared that my feel­ings for Michael were not real,” she ex­plains. “What helped was that I was al­ways open with him. You can’t lie to your­self that you’re okay when you’re not.”

She also made no secret of the fact that she had feel­ings for both men – resid­ual sen­ti­ment for the past re­la­tion­ship and bur­geon­ing af­fec­tion for the new one. She even told Michael that she was still tex­ting her ex. That meant Michael was able to go into the re­la­tion­ship with his eyes open. Be­cause of her com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Michael’s pa­tience, Sarah’s feel­ings for her ex faded, and she and Michael are still go­ing strong to­day.

It re­minds you that there’s al­ways a chance to nd love

But be pre­pared – not all re­bounds will have a happy end­ing. Ken­neth Oh, re­la­tion­ship coach with Ex­ec­u­tive Coach In­ter­na­tional, has a more mea­sured per­spec­tive. “There’s no right way to dis­tract your­self,” he points out, ex­plain­ing that some peo­ple choose in­stead to throw them­selves into work, or go on an ex­tended hol­i­day. All dis­trac­tions have their pros and cons. “Un­der­stand what you’re get­ting your­self into with your de­ci­sion. If it’s a re­bound, you ac­cept that it might work out, or there might be risks.” It would be overly sim­plis­tic to clas­sify a re­bound as “good” or “bad” – it comes down to what you choose to make of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

All things con­sid­ered, my per­spec­tive has been re­jigged. I’m not say­ing I’ll im­me­di­ately be look­ing to nab a man the next time a re­la­tion­ship fails, but I can con­fi­dently say that a re­bound re­la­tion­ship’s def­i­nitely some­thing I could be down with. *Names have been changed.

We’ve only just met, but I al­ready feel you’re a step above my ex.

Don’t worry… I’ll wait for you. My ex is still on my mind. Are you cool with that?

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