Rebound or Real?
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Rebound or Real?

When A New Relationship Follows on the Heels of an Old One

What Is a Rebound Relationship, Anyway?

The term rebound relationship is generally applied to any new romantic involvement that closely follows the end of a previous relationship. One of the difficulties in discussing the issue is the wide array of situations to which the term is applied, the very subjective and vague idea of what length of time is "appropriate" before dating again and the overall negative connotations associated with the term. The use of the term spoken with a hint of disapproval is more like to take place when the duration of the previous relationship is considered significant, a greater difference in age between the rebounder and his or her new partner is part of the equation, how dramatic or sensational the demise of the original relationship was displayed and how similar -- or dissimilar -- a rebounder's old and new partners are considered to be.

Why Do We Assume All "Rebound Relationships Are Bad?"

Websites and the "relationship" section of bookstores overflow with articles warning of the dire consequences in engaging in a rebound relationship, very often without specifying what the author means by the term or clarifying any of the vague factors by which it is judged, such as a "long relationship," what an "age difference" is or how anyone outside of the new couple could possibly assess how alike or different the new partner is from the old one. It's essential that we recognize the term rebound relationship as a subjective term with a cultural meaning that has changed significantly over time. In the 1700 and 1800's, it was not at all unusual for a widower to remarry within months of his wife's death. The idea of "rebounding" was laughable. It was necessary to have as many adults available as possible to run a household and this behavior was the norm. Conversely, 19th century widows who were not economically obliged to remarry as soon as possible often spent a full year dressed only in black. In the early 1900's -- when divorce was still a shameful situation -- women often remarried right away in order to regain their "respectability." A fast "rebound" was desirable in order to limit a lengthy time unattached and shamefully so.

It is only as divorce lost its accompanying moral judgment and adults became able to freely pursue romantic and sexual relationships outside of marriage, that this judgmental term of rebound relationship appears, perhaps as a means to limit individuals frequently changing partners. Whose business is it anyway? Make your decision based on your heart and your truthful responses to some of these arguments and opinions.

Characteristics of Rebound Relationships versus "Real" Ones

Rebound Relationships Don't Allow the Participant a Chance to "Process" or "Get Over" His Old Relationship

Real Relationships Provide a Safe and Loving Space in Which to Do So

Our culture's insistence that every bad relationship, feeling or event have "closure" has gone overboard. No relationship is perfect -- neither the previous one, nor the new one. Certainly, the ends of some relationships require a period of grief and readjustment. This often depends upon the circumstances surrounding the end of the partnership and may or may not depend upon its duration. But few among us have the luxury of retiring to a convent or monastery for months of silence broken only by prayer. The loss of a relationship is not a "recipe" that requires a specific amount of time preparing to appear in public. It isn't any healthier to take up drinking, partying and promiscuous, anonymous sex than it is to retreat entirely from any social events, eschewing any entertainment or enjoyable interaction. Not one of us has a red plastic button that will puncture our sternums to indicate a healthy emotional readiness to become romantically involved again -- to think otherwise is to continue the drama of a break-up. Even if it follows on the heels of an old relationship, a mutually caring relationship can avoid the bad classification when it provides a health situation

Rebound Relationships Are Selfish -- The New Partner is Only Being Used

Real Relationships Recognize that Both Parties May Have an Agenda and Keep it Honest

Rebound relationships can be selfish on the part of the "rebounder" if they purposely begin a new relationship in order to get back, or get back at, their old partner. They can also be a means of deferring dealing with issues related to the split. Otherwise, what's "selfish" about spending time around someone who makes you feel special? What's unselfish about mourning publically and at great length? Again, the individuals left alone at the end of a partnership don't have any need to prove the depth of their loss to their old partner or the rest of the world. As long as they are upfront and as honest as they are able with their new partners, that's all we humans can ask of any relationship.

Rebound Relationships Are Doomed

Real Relationships Last Forever

Far too many people believe that "all rebound relationships are doomed, imagining that all real relationships last forever. In fact, it's a sad but true fact that most romantic relationships -- formally established by marriage or not -- end before the death of one of the partners. As "Stephanie Spielman and Goeff MacDonald from the University of Toronto argue that to the degree to which a rebound relationship can revive [an] individual's optimism about finding new love, these types of relationships can actually be "healthy" and beneficial to the process of resolving whatever emotional connection remains to the ex-partner." So, let's change that erroneous assumption: Real Relationships Don't Necessarily Last Forever, Real Relationships Last Long Enough to work whatever positive magic they were meant to do.