I have a confession to make about my pre-DWD days: I didn’t know how to be alone.
As soon as my current relationship began deteriorating and a breakup seemed inevitable, I’d start mentally assessing my options:
Hmmm… Brad from work is super cool and he’s always flirting with me. Or maybe I should give Kevin another shot – we always got along so well back when we used to date. And what about that cute new neighbor in 3C?
Even typing this makes me a little nauseous. It’s pretty pathetic to see it in print, but it was the truth: Before I could bear the thought of going through a breakup, I (felt I) needed to have someone new lined up to jump into a relationship with.
When I decided it was time to whip my butt into shape (emotionally speaking) and discover the secret to dating without drama, I took a long, hard look at this behavior. I read lots of books on the topic. I spent countless therapy sessions examining it.
And I’m sharing this with you because you just might relate (or know someone who can).
It’s one of the most common unhealthy dating behaviors women struggle with. Whether it’s a one-off rebound fling with an inappropriate guy after a heart-wrenching breakup, or a pattern of serial dating (one relationship after another with no down-time in between), it’s something many of us do – or have done.
There’s even a line in the popular song Why Can’t I? by Liz Phair: ”Isn’t this the best part of breaking up? Finding someone else you can’t get enough of…”
In last week’s blog (Part 1), I explained the reasons why men rebound after a breakup. This week, let’s look at why we do it, and how we can make better choices:
Why Women Rebound After a Breakup
- We’re afraid to be alone with our thoughts and feelings. Breakups suck. Who really wants to sit around at home, moping and missing her ex? There’s no time to cry or obsess over why it had to end when you’re two Margaritas to the wind, flirting with a guy named Axl who’s in a band and rides a motorcycle. In short: Rebounding is a distraction (which is one of the reasons why men do it too.)
- We’re afraid to be alone, period. Changing your Facebook status to “single,” not having a dinner companion, watching American Idol solo, sleeping alone in that big California King bed? None of these things sound appealing, and they’re a constant, nagging reminder that you could be single forever! The sooner you snag a new man (even if he’s ultimately not a good fit for your life) the sooner you won’t have to suffer the loneliness and humiliation of singlehood.
- Life feels empty without our old routine. You and your ex started the day with a kiss. His emails brightened your monotonous workday. Every Friday was Sushi and On Demand Movie Night. Without him, life can suddenly feel empty; your days long, blank stretches with nothing to do. The healthier choice is to create a new routine. But when you’re going through a heart-wrenching breakup, it can certainly feel easier to just find a new guy to plug into your old routine. Hence, Mr. Rebound.
- We crave affection and validation. Let’s face it: Getting dumped is a rejection. It makes you question your attractiveness, your ability to make someone happy, even your worthiness of love. Enter Mr. Rebound, who tells you that your ex was a fool to let you go, and lavishes you with affection, compliments and praise. What’s so bad about that? I’ll get to that in just a second…
Why it’s a Bad Idea to Rebound After a Breakup
- We’re not thinking clearly. The pain of a breakup leaves us emotionally vulnerable for a time. You know how your body is more susceptible to getting sick when your immune system is run down from fighting off a cold? Emotionally, we are run down after a relationship ends, which makes us more susceptible to making poor choices in men.
The dangers are two-fold: 1) Unfortunately, there are men out there with less than trustworthy motives. Don’t even get me started on the online predator creeps. Guys who want to take advantage of women (for money, sex, or whatever else) see rebounding women as easy targets. Protect your heart. 2) You simply do not have your own best interests at heart. You may choose a new guy based solely on the fact that he’s the polar opposite of your ex. Without some clarity — which only comes with time — you are not going to make a good choice in a partner. Speaking of which…
- Our standards are lowered. This goes with the point I just made, but it’s worth elaborating on. Remember above when we talked about how Mr. Rebound showers you with compliments and affection? Well of course it feels good! And you deserve to be cherished.
The problem is this: In the weeks or even months after a nasty breakup, your standards for a relationship are at an all-time low. (See my story “The Rebound Guy in Chapter 7 of Dating Without Drama where I talk about my chain-smoking, pot-head stand-up comedian Rebound who lived on a mattress on the floor of his friend’s studio apartment. ‘Nuff said.) In the moment it may seem like a great idea to allow Mr. Rebound into your life, your heart, or your bed, but it’s all but guaranteed that you will look back someday soon and cringe at that choice.
- Jumping right into a new relationship dooms us to repeat the mistakes of our past. The only way to truly gain perspective on your love life is to periodically take a step back and look at what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re always obsessing over Mr. Right Now, you’ll never have the time or opportunity to take a look at yourself.
Making Healthier Choices
With the exception of the ending of short-lived, casual dating relationships without much emotional investment, I usually recommend women take 30 days after a breakup to process their feelings, go through the grieving process (often it feels a lot like a death), and regroup.
It may sound like a long time but a month is nothing in the scheme of life, and you really do owe it to yourself to give your heart a proper chance to heal. Plus you’ll be in a much better place to find — and keep — a healthy relationship when you finally do put yourself out there again.
And hey, I get it. Taking time after a breakup to reflect on its lessons doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun as jetting off to St. Maarten and shacking up with a sexy island bartender for a month.
But here’s the thing about rebounds:
They don’t heal the emotional wounds from your breakup.
They can’t give you back your self-esteem (that comes from you and only you).
Often, you’ll look back and regret it.
It’s only a temporary distraction from real pain that needs to be addressed. If you don’t deal with the feelings now, they will come out later (in the form of anxiety, depression, or self-sabotage).
They usually don’t result in a healthy, committed relationship.
And since what you’re looking for, ultimately, is a healthy, committed, drama-free relationship, it’s best to leave Mr. Rebound at the bar and give yourself some time before you open your precious heart to someone new.
You’re worth it.