Thursday, March 20, 2014

On the Rebound

The conventional wisdom tells you to beware of rebound relationships.

It warns you against trying to overcome the pain of relationship loss by jumping into a new relationship.

Or, as Taryn Hillin charmingly puts it, trying “to get over someone” by getting “under someone else.” (We forgive her for the slightly sexist implication.)

One appreciates the clever image, but I am sure she would agree that one does not get over a failed relationship by hooking up with just anyone.

It is good to replace a former relationship with a new relationship. It is not good to replace it with random, anonymous sexual encounters.

A replacement relationship should be commensurate, not incommensurate with what has been lost.

Those who warn against rebounds believe that the mind must process what went wrong before it can ready itself for something new. One suspects that they would advise some therapy, as a transition from a bad to a better relationship.

The conventional wisdom suggests that it’s better to take the time to nurse your wounds, to allow them to heal, to feel whole and recovered before you try to find a new romance.

In truth, they are trafficking in a metaphor. They are treating the soul as yet another body. They fail to recognize that fear of failure, unchallenged, is more likely to fester than to heal.

By the principles of cognitive psychology, we do better to face our fears than to retreat into our minds to try to discover why we fear what we fear.

Some people get too good at nursing their wounds and withdraw completely from the dating game. They overanalyze what went wrong and see signs of impending doom in every new relationship prospect.

And yet, they feel that they are making progress. By avoiding taking the risk of a new relationship they avoid the mental anguish that accompanies failure.

Avoiding a new relationship is guaranteed to save you the pain of yet another failure.

Besides, if therapy teaches you why it all went wrong, you may arrive at the point where you will be free to make a different mistake.

Understanding what went wrong does not in any way prepare you for a successful relationship.

And yet, jumping into a new relationship head first does not feel quite right either. We know, or we ought to know, that, following a trauma, one’s judgment and one’s instincts tend to mislead.

If a rebound relationship is one that you enter into because your gut or your loins point you toward it, you might very well choose someone who is wrong for you.

To avoid these traps, it is usually good to take the advice of someone who is older, wiser and more objective.

Good advice will not solve all of your problems. It will not ensure that you never make another mistake. It will, however, help you learn how to make decisions and to exercise good judgment.

Since I always find it useful to challenge the conventional wisdom offered by the therapy culture, I was intrigued to read Taryn Hillin’s report on a recent University of Illinois study:

In a new study, researchers from Queens College and the University of Illinois surveyed 313 young adults -- some single and other in relationships -- to determine how rebound relationships affect personal recovery following a breakup. Their results were published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

What they found is that participants who had stayed single for a shorter amount of time recovered faster from their breakups than those who waited longer to enter into another relationship or had not yet found another partner.

Specifically, those who rebounded with other people reported higher self-esteem, higher dating confidence, higher confidence in their romantic desirability and were not as hung up on their ex….

Hillin quotes the study:

Compared with those who remained single, people who had begun dating again were generally better off ... Because dating individuals already demonstrated that they had the ability to attract another partner, their confidence may have been higher than singles who could have more uncertainty about their romantic future and ability to find a mate.


Sam L. said...

The PuffHo is (IS) a reliable site for sociological info, but somehow I just can't force myself to trust it.

Ares Olympus said...

Rebound relationships are dangerous, but how long and what do you do in the mean time?

After re-reading C.S. Lewis's "The Four Loves" last month one quote I copied down was:
"It is one of the most difficult and delightful subtleties of life that we must deeply acknowledge certain things to be serious and yet retain the power and will to treat them often as lightly as a game."

We all can feel threatened if it seems like someone is "playing us", but I think what Lewis means by "game" isn't a lack of caring, but the existence of rules of fair behavior, that is to say we all have some inner sense of "fair behavior", while we can call out someone else's transgressions, and miss our own.

So I'd say what's important about "debriefing" a relationship is to identity what implicit "rules" were broken, and understand why they were important to you, and how you didn't know they were important before, and how to clarify this "need" in future relationships.

The big problem I see is if a relationship gets to a point that you don't respect your partner, or they don't respect you, if you can't sort out that, then instantly starting a new relationship is like just playing dumb.

So if this exploring is about "This is what was important to me", "this is where I failed to stand up for myself", "this is where I was dishonest and should have come clean sooner", that seems good to me.