I'm frequently asked by clients both in new and long-term relationships how to determine if the relationship is a rebound or real love.
The term "rebound" carries quite a negative stigma in our cultural lexicon, and armchair psychoanalysts tend to throw it around anytime someone enters a new relationship within weeks after their last relationship ended.
In short, we understand it to mean that the newly brokenhearted person is filling their emptiness and smoothing over the pain of a breakup by immersing themselves in the romance of a new and exciting relationship. While this may be the case at times, to simply judge a situation as categorically "rebound" because it follows a certain timeline can lead someone down a path that may not be the most loving choice.
It would be nice if life could be compartmentalized into "brown paper packages tied up with strings." In an ideal world, the aftermath of a breakup would be spent turning inward, reflecting, and spending time alone so you could process your grief and lay a healthy foundation on which to begin your next relationship. But we don't live in that world; we live in this world — messy, complicated, and mysterious.
This means that if you find yourself in a loving, healthy relationship just weeks after a breakup, you could be experiencing real love.
Here are some guidelines to help you determine whether it's a rebound or real love:
If it's a rebound:
- You have a niggling sense (or even a pervasive knowing) that you don't really like the person but you're just using him or her to fill the time or distract from you pain.
- Your primary attraction to the new person is sexual and you sense that you're using sex as a way to avoid dealing with your breakup.
- When you're honest with yourself, you know that your draw to the new person is coming from a fear of being alone more than a genuine attraction to the person's essence.
- You find yourself going hot and cold with the new partner, vacillating between wanting to spend time together and wanting to run away as quickly as possible. Your fear of commitment could be an indication that you haven't grieved and processed your ex sufficiently.
If it's real love:
- You may have some doubt or uncertainty, but deep inside you sense that this could be someone with whom you could build a life.
- There's a strong core connection and an undeniable overlap of core values.
- You have some fear of getting close but your desire to be close overpowers the fear.
- You're willing to be honest and vulnerable about your inner world, particularly your last relationship.
A breakup needs to be grieved and processed, and if you've found yourself in a new romance shortly after your last one ended, you'll need to bring this grief into the container of the new relationship.
Again, it may not be ideal, and it takes a strong partner to allow you to cry about an ex or mistakenly be called someone else's name, but if the new relationship is solid it will be able to tolerate these more difficult feelings.
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