Ask Sarah – Rebounding
How can you avoid becoming someone’s rebound?
Well, let’s define our terms first. Because when most people use the term “rebound,” they don’t just mean the person someone dates right after coming out of a long-term relationship. There’s a connotation that the rebound relationship is NOT going to work out to be long-term or meaningful… that it’s just a stop along the way of the wounded person’s healing process.
And, everybody should want to avoid THAT.
But I DO believe there are people who are healthy enough to do the required work after a breakup, so that their next relationship CAN be healthy and long-term. So – while you may technically be their “rebound,” it might have potential to be great. I dare say there are a fair share of marriages out there that began as “rebounders.”
And it wouldn’t be fair to discount someone as a potential partner JUST because this would be their first relationship after a failed one!
So, I think a better question would be
“How do I assess someone’s true ‘readiness’ for a relationship?”
Obviously, there’s no foolproof method for this, or else multitudes of broken hearts around the world wouldn’t happen at the hands of ill-prepared men and women entering relationships they’re not ready for. I have fallen victim to this myself, getting involved with someone who, by his own admission a year and a half later, wasn’t ready. Sigh…
But… I do think there are some tools we can use to better the odds.
1. Does she have a happy life, aside from being single?
I’ve talked about this before – that you can know there’s something missing in your life – even long for it, while still creating a life you enjoy around you.
When you meet someone, he should seem satisfied with his life, not like he’s moping until he finds you. If you come into an unhappy life, he or she will be expecting YOU to be their EVERYthing and that’s a lot of (too much) pressure. That’s a recipe for co-dependence.
Rather – look for someone who has friends, hobbies, who seems pretty content with things.
This also includes looking for moodiness. Now, everyone has a bad day. Everyone has natural ups and downs, but I’m talking about something more dramatic. Someone who’s consistently moody (high highs and low lows… and you don’t know what you’re going to encounter when you call/text/meet up) may be either still hung up on a past relationship (meaning that they’re still in the healing phase), or may even have a mental disorder that needs to be addressed.
True happiness/contentment should look like this – she’s generally in a good mood, has people and activities in her life that make her happy, seems content with the way things are… and YOU would be the icing on the cake that would take her from good to GREAT. You don’t want to have to be someone’s savior.
2. Does there seem to be an overemphasis on the physical?
When people aren’t healthy enough to do what’s required for a relationship, you can often tell because they’ll be very into the physical stuff (touching, snuggling, kissing, etc.) and neglect the emotional/intellectual connection required to really know each other.
After a breakup, one of the things we all crave and miss – is that physical connection and attention we used to get all the time, that’s been suddenly taken away. It leaves a lonely hole that we yearn to fill. And it’s so easy to go after it in someone else before really mourning the first relationship’s end and coming back to a good personal place. I’ve heard several people lately talk about how much they miss just having someone in the bed with them – not even sex, necessarily – just another person next to them while they sleep. I get that – I DO! But, don’t go into a relationship JUST to get that. Or don’t be the one in a relationship that’s giving JUST that.
Do not confuse physical intimacy for a complete picture of closeness. When two people fall in the love the RIGHT way, the level of intimacy always matches the level of connectedness. It doesn’t precede it. As you know each other better, affection naturally increases. If the two are out of balance… it’s a red flag.
So, if you find yourself with someone who always wants a little less talk and a lot more action, you might ask yourself if s/he’s only in it for the temporary ego-boost/healing balm that mugging down can give you when you’re not really ready for the whole enchilada.
3. Did he come right out and TELL you he wasn’t ready?
Sadly, I’ve fallen into this trap a few times. Someone’s literally told me – point blank – that he wasn’t ready for a relationship… he just wanted to get out there and have some fun. But, I was so attracted to him that I tricked myself into thinking that if he got to really know me, he wouldn’t be able to help falling madly in love. Ha!
If he SAYS he isn’t ready – believe ‘im. Because, hey – what’s the alternative? That he’s wrong – which makes him either REALLY not self-aware, or a liar… neither of which do you want to date.
4. Is she selfish?
I know this sounds obvious – ‘don’t date someone who’s self-absorbed.’ Duh. But, it’s not always so simple. Selfishness can often be disguised beneath false kindness/sacrifice. You know that girl who bakes you cookies and leaves you sweet notes? That’s all well and good… but doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s still not thinking only of herself. Listen to the language… is the “me monster” showing up in every conversation? (shout out to Brian Regan there…) Do you know all about her preferences/hobbies/ideas, but she hasn’t asked about yours or engaged with you about your life? Sweet notes with her lip prints doesn’t count toward truly knowing each other and being partners on a team.
This is a dangerous one because – at the beginning of a relationship, it can feel like the other person is meeting all your needs, when in reality it’s just fulfulling something in her and isn’t about loving/serving you at all.
5. Does he talk about his ex too much?
Another one that seems obvious… but it can be masked in the tantalizing sweetness of comparison. How nice is it to have a guy say, “You are so much more [fill-in-the-blank good quality] than my ex was.” The natural competitor in all of us wants to “win” by being the BEST boyfriend or girlfriend someone’s ever had. Heck, I find myself falling into this trap even with friends! If I find out I do something better than another friend, I get a swollen sense of pride.
But, here’s the deal – you don’t really want to aim for “better than the ex.” You want to aim for “great. all on your own.”
Being a notch or two above the one who ended up getting ditched isn’t exactly a lofty goal. We should all be targeting an amazing connection that moves beyond the bounds of exes and is incredible all on its own – free from the ghosts of our past relationships.
If you keep hearing stories of the ex, comparisons to the ex, or complaining (that’s the worst) about the ex… it may be a sign that he’s not really over her.
Talking about a past love with pain in his voice is a sure-fire clue that if she were to come back into the picture, he’d turn away from you and into her arms in a heartbeat. And that’s not the man you want. You want a man who has a whole heart’s worth of room for you.
There are other signs, of course. But these are some that you can be on the lookout for, to avoid being the bad kind of rebound lover. But, remember, sometimes – the relationship that comes right after an unhealthy one has ended… can be good – as long as the dumpee has done the work needed to be ready.
Listen to your gut. Watch for red flags and pay attention to them. We are built with an intrinsic sense of right/wrong and being able to sniff out falseness. If you can hone that ability by paying attention to the things that aren’t being said – you can probably avoid a fair share of heartache.
But, in the end… love is still a risk. And even the best of the best get duped, swept up, fooled or disappointed. Welcome to the grandest gamble of all. When you lose, it hurts like a mother-dumper. But when you win… it’s the most exhilarating feeling in the world.