Sometimes the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else… But only if you’re prepared to do the emotional dirty work. By Rebekah Kendal
You know the story: boy meets girl; they fall in love, they get married and then get divorced; boy meets new girl … and they move in together before the ink dries on the divorce papers. Clearly it’s true love. Or a kind of variation on love. Or something that feels like love, but actually isn’t.
Forever and never
It’s a big part of the problem with rebound relationships – they are confusing as hell, not only for the person bounding willy-nilly towards the first singleton they meet, but also for the said singleton.
So, what exactly sets a rebound relationship apart from the regular variety? When a long or otherwise meaningful relationship comes to an end, it often creates a void that quickly fills up with feelings: pain, hurt, loss, anger, regret and our old friend self-pity, to name but a few. It’s usually a delightful cocktail of everything you never want to be feeling. By immediately becoming involved in a new relationship, you can avoid these feelings – albeit temporarily – and also have your attachment needs met.
A key characteristic of rebounds is the quick jump from a break-up to a new relationship. But the more important factor, says life coach of Life Vision Cherri Forsyth, is your emotional state. If you are about to leap into something new, it is worth stopping to ask yourself the following questions:
• Am I using this person to help me deal with the pain of the loss?
• Am I using this person to boost my self-confidence?
• Am I hoping that this new person will meet all the needs that weren’t (or maybe were) being met by my previous partner?
• Do I subconsciously or consciously expect this person to be perfect?
• Do I understand why my previous relationship ended?
• Do I still have unresolved feelings about my ex?
• Am I attempting to make my ex jealous?
Onwards and upwards
Rebound relationships get a bad rap, but Cherri points out they can actually aid the healing process.
‘A really understanding partner can help you heal. A recent study suggests, in fact, that people who dive into rebound relationships not only get over their ex-partners a lot faster, but also feel far more confident and attractive.
‘Scientists have also discovered that less time between a break-up and a new relationship generally predicts greater well-being, higher self-esteem and more respect for a new partner.’
Of course, using someone else to heal yourself is only okay if that person is on-board. The danger of getting involved with someone on the rebound is that you risk being used and discarded.
‘Often the person on the rebound wants more, and quickly,’ explains Cherri. ‘Don’t let yourself be rushed if your partner is on the rebound. Take it slowly, giving the time for an honest relationship to be built. And communication is always the crucial ingredient in a successful relationship. So, issues about the pace and level of commitment of the relationship – and most other elements – can easily be resolved with clear, caring communication.’
Even though open communication can help to manage expectations in a relationship, Cherri cautions that, if it is evident that you’re in a relationship with someone who is using you as merely a distraction or a means to make their ex jealous, then you may be better off getting out of the relationship – before you become too invested.
Can it be more?
The rebound relationship is typically just a fling, and many of them are never going to be more than that. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all rebound relationships are doomed to fail from the beginning.
‘They may start off on the back foot,’ says Cherri, ‘but this doesn’t mean that they will always end in disaster. Many successful relationships start out on the rebound. The important thing is that the common obstacles of a rebound-based relationship need to be healed.’
According to Cherri, these obstacles often include (but are not limited to): unresolved hurt and emotions from the previous relationship; seeing your new partner as perfect, which will inevitably result in disappointment over time; and an inability to acknowledge your own role in the previous break-up.
‘If you do the emotional work to heal from the end of your former relationship, whether before or during a rebound relationship, that is the thing that will determine the long-term success of your new relationship,’ says Cherri.
Signs you’re the rebound
• Your new partner just got out of a serious relationship.
• The relationship is moving a bit too quickly.
• Your new partner can’t stop talking about their ex.
• They are either emotionally unavailable or open up too much too soon.
• Their emotions appear to be inauthentic.
• Your new partner is still in contact with their ex.
• Your new partner’s friends are shocked to find they’re already dating again.
My partner and I have been together for six years and have a daughter. Our relationship was once abusive, but even though I got over that, I feel like I don’t love him any more. However, I’m scared of what might happen if I break up with him. I want to be happy, but I don’t feel as if I’m loved the way a woman should be loved. Am I wasting my time in this relationship or should I stay and see what happens?
If your fears about breaking up with him are related to feeling physically threatened, I don’t think you can say that the abuse is over or that you’ve gotten over it.
You’re only ‘wasting time’ if you’re staying because you believe that he, how you feel or your relationship is going to magically change.
But, has anything changed for the positive over the six years? Many couples will stay together for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with love. Some stay together because they think it’s best for the family unit, or for financial reasons. In your case, however, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to stay together at all other than your fear of leaving. Why are you afraid? Is this a reason to stay?
Should you decide to take control of your life and redirect its course, there are networks that will support you with this, from both a legal and a counselling perspective.
Powa is an organisation that has been set up to help women like you feel safe and empowered to make the decisions that are best for them and their children.
Visit powa.co.za or contact them on 011 642 4345/6.