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
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 beer 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 auned 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?