Are Rebounds Healthy?

If you've had the (common) misfortune of going through a heartbreak, something people either tell you to engage in as soon as possible or avoid altogether depending on the friend you ask, is a rebound. Rebounds get a lot of stick whether it's judgment of sexual rebounds for being shallow or that a rebound (defined by it being soon after a breakup) relationship is inherently negative. But is it always? There is some research that would suggest otherwise...

"Rebound" pretty much covers any relationship, be it sexual or romantic, that is started soon after a relationship ends and before the person engaging in the rebound has fully emotionally recovered from their breakup. As how soon after a relationship dating is no longer considered a rebound is highly subjective and we have no way to measure how quickly the average person emotionally moves on, there may be room for dispute on any relationship regarding its status as a rebound but, if you're looking to engage in a rebound, then you should have a general understanding of your own timings.

The reason rebounds generally happen is very simple, after a breakup we will be going through a withdrawal type phenomenon where we are craving intimacy and the comfort of familiar company. This is often why it is tempting to go back to an ex, drunk text them, cyber stalk, whatever you can do to get that rush of feeling close to them again. I, for one, would never suggest prolonging a breakup by going back and forth with an ex- this slows down the recovery process and is often just a massive mistake (trust me, I know this all too well) and, while you may eventually get closure and realise while you're sat in their room with them that actually you're over this and would quite like to start the 3 hour journey home from their uni house, it's better to just save yourself the trouble (and train fare) in the first place. So you want intimacy, you're feeling a little sad, and you can't speak to the one person you want to about it? This is where the rebound happens.

Now, there is a significant difference between a romantic rebound and a sexual one. Have you ever heard that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else? Well in a sense this is true. Some sex therapists have stated that the sexual encounters after a breakup can give you an opportunity to explore your sexuality and express your desires while still giving yourself space to process your emotions away from an emotionally dependant partner. It can also give you external validation that, while not entirely necessary from a sexual encounter for your healing, may help you spend less time after a breakup experiencing self doubt or a dip in your confidence. Overall as long as you are taking care of your own emotional wellbeing and communicating with your sexual partner as to not lead them on if you're not ready for a relationship, this should be perfectly healthy.

So what's the flip side? While sexual encounters after a breakup can do wonders for your self esteem, if you're not in the right place they can also make you feel a lot worse. This will work on an individual case basis but it is important not to seek validation from a sexual partner if you feel emotionally raw or consistently struggle with self esteem as this will likely leave you feeling worse afterwards. For plenty of people casual sex is not something they enjoy engaging in and, directly after a breakup, this is unlikely to change. It is also not worth having casual sex after a breakup for the purpose of revenge or to better your ex- while sometimes it can be tempting to show people that we are desirable even if they don't want us, you are very unlikely to feel any better in yourself by engaging in acts out of spite.

So what about romantic relationships? Some argue that rebounds are shallow and often end in disaster but recent studies have found that this actually could be quite the opposite. There has been evidence that rebound relationships can be just as healthy and can do miracles for speeding up the recovery process and increasing confidence. Also, contrary to what people widely believe, they have found that less time alone between relationships can be indicative of greater attachment security, meaning that a person who is more comfortable with intimacy and trusting is often more emotionally stable after breakups and so can move on to a new relationship faster with great effect. That's right, the serial monogamists out there are actually generally healthier in their relationships as long as they're not in them for the wrong reasons!

The area where things get a little more complicated is in comparison. People who get into relationships soon after a breakup will have success depending on how their new partner compares to their ex in their eyes. If you get into a relationship with someone who you consider to be better than you ex then this can be extremely healthy, you're more likely to have a transfer of romantic feelings more easily, less likely to spend a long time getting over your ex, and can find that the relationship outcome will be positive. In a way you effectively disrupt your brain's connection to your ex and relearn happiness without them in the picture which can build an incredibly strong bond with your new partner and does wonders for your mental and physical health.

Now some people after a breakup will lower their standards and, while this isn't always the case, this can in fact have the opposite impact. If you end up in a rebound relationship where your ex by comparison feels better, then you can actually strengthen your feeling of attachment to your ex and your desire to fixate on them which means it would make it harder to get over them at all- this is where we see a negative rebound relationship. In this case, the initial distraction that the rebound may have given will not in any way be worth the long term outcome as, with a rebound, the purpose is actively replacing feelings for your ex with feelings for someone else, not distracting you from them and elongating the recovery period. So if you can't find someone who can compete with your ex? Don't try. This is a huge sign that you are not ready to move on and you should avoid a rebound where you feel like you're "settling". Wait to meet that person who does compete and then get into a new relationship, don't just find the first available person and think that'll work.

So the general take away? If you're happy to- rebound. There is no shame in wanting to explore your sexuality after a breakup and meeting someone you really love after a breakup doesn't mean you're tricking yourself and it won't work out. The only time you should reconsider a rebound is when it makes you feel bad or makes you compare and, as a result, miss your ex, otherwise it's completely healthy and could do you a lot of good! So, as it goes, the "just get back out there" advice wasn't so wrong after all.

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