Relationships often end because our needs aren’t met and communication falls short for both people to feel loved enough. When we are left with misgivings, grievances, and longing, we may be propelled to avoid pain by entering into a new relationship right away—what is called a “rebound relationship.”

A rebound relationship is defined as “A relationship that is initiated shortly after a romantic breakup—before the feelings about the former relationship have been resolved.” (Brumbaugh, C. & Fraley, R. “Too Fast, Too Soon? An Empirical Investigation Into Rebound Relationships” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2015.)

But there are pitfalls for getting involve too quickly, even apart from missing out on the rewards of giving ourselves time to grieve. Taking some time before getting into a new relationship is therefore helpful for three primary reasons.

Danger #1: We can become blinded trying to fill what our ex-partner lacks.

After a breakup we can be torn open with misgivings and longing, especially for what we didn’t find in our previous partner. When a relationship fails, we can find ourselves longing for the qualities that were missing. We can become fixated and intensely desirous of these qualities and feel a sense of urgency to have these needs met. This can propel us into relationship prematurely.

For example, if my previous partner didn’t hug with passion or keep her word, and these were important to me, I will long for someone who does. If I find someone who possesses these qualities—especially if I haven’t yet integrated the loss of my previous relationship—the excitement can cause me to want to be with them right away! If we even so much as sense someone else might have such qualities, it’s easy to become blinded and think we’ve found what we’re looking for.

It takes some time to integrate our intense feelings after a break-up, to be there for ourselves and find comfort and resilience among friends (the natural world and animals, included!). If we don’t let these feelings settle, we can jump too quickly into a relationship that does provide the qualities we were missing in our previous partner, unless we blindly project them to be present when they are not, which is also all too common when we have an emotional need to get these needs met.

Danger #2: We can be unreasonably triggered by what our ex-partner lacks.

A second concern is the obverse of trying to fulfill the qualities our previous partner didn’t have: we are still too triggered by their negative attributes and the ways we were hurt by them. Using the previous example, if my partner doesn’t hug me with passion or keep their word, I can be too powerfully repelled by someone new who does the same. My bias is still too hot to roll with it more gracefully. One tired hug after a long day or a forgetful moment might bring up the knee-jerk thought to write them off for good, sabotaging what could otherwise be a worthwhile connection. This is an extreme reaction, similar to becoming overly excited over someone who displays the pleasing qualities I long for quality, such as juicy hugs and reliability.

Danger #3: We can miss seeing our new partner’s deal-breaking faults.

A third danger of rebounding is a by-product of Danger #1: as a result of being overly-enamored, and thereby blinded, by the missing qualities, we long for we fail to consider other qualities we need and which our new love interest might not possess. In my overexcitement over finding someone who hugs me with passion and stays in touch, these qualities take up all my focus. As a result, I might not recognize that this new lover is, for example, also dishonest and/or abusive. In other words, I miss noticing the bad because I’m too enamored by the good. In this case, the reason for this oversight is the lack of integration—the settling of my heart and mind—and becoming blind to another’s wholeness.

Reclaiming Power

Until we cozy back into our own sovereignty, let the charge and biases we hold against our partner settle, we remain too eager and too blinded by these dynamics. We need time to integrate our hurt, regrets, and longings. Otherwise they can have undue power over us dictate our choices. As a result, we have an urgency that can propel us to unwise, hasty decisions that sabotage us because we 1) too quickly try to attain what we’ve been missing 2) excessively avoid what upset us, and 3) become too fixated on desirous qualities at the expense of seeing the whole picture.

The result in all three examples is an exaggerated projection of our longing and perpetuation of our blind spots. In addition to fixating on another to immediately fill what we often need in greater measure from other sources of support, abdicating our power also results from not grieving the loss. For this reason, we may also feel a desperation to hold onto an unhealthy rebound relationship, because letting it go could mean being with the pain we don’t want to face from our last relationship/s.

Too often, rebound results in short-lived relationships. We can become more polarized, biased, and cynical unless we recognize the dynamics at play by pausing and reckoning with ourselves. Even if a rebound relationship works out, the crucial work of taking inventory of ourselves and owning our projections can rob us—and any truly worthy partner—of our fuller selves.

This is not to say that we should never rebound; sometimes it’s the best we can do and can be healing. It’s just important to keep it in perspective. Rebounds might be helpful short-term, but usually aren’t the wisest path if we want the best chances for a longer term, mutually empowered, and sustainable connection.

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