In the aftermath of a break-up, there often comes a point — usually somewhere between the "weeping while driving past a Target that you and your ex once went into together" phase, and the "I am once more a sane, sensible human being who wears things besides stained sweatpants" phase — when you begin to hear the call of the rebound relationship. Though you've surely had that one friend who tells you that "the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else," traditionally, both therapists and your concerned friend who thinks that your other friend gives TERRIBLE advice have maintained that a rebound relationship is self-destructive.
The casual rebound fling, embarked upon before all your feelings about your old partner have settled, is generally considered yet another bad post-break-up decision, on par with maxing out your credit card to go on an "important, soul-searching" trip abroad, or maxing out your credit card to go on an "important, soul-searching" trip to J. Crew.
But, interestingly, a 2014 study by researchers at Queens College and the University of Illinois found that those casual rebound relationships actually serve a crucial psychological purpose; they help the recently broken-hearted move on and heal more quickly than those who try to deal with their break-up all by their lonesome. Take that, caring therapists and concerned friends who only want the best for you!
So as we head towards March, the most break-up-filled month of the year, it might help to keep in mind that there are a few different tactics one can take while handling a break-up — and a few reasons that banging a near-stranger who understands that you're just having a casual relationship might bring you more peace than watching The Notebook alone in the dark (...for the twelfth time this week).
1. They Keep You From Obsessing Over Your Ex
Do you have a tendency to stay a little, ah, fixated on your ex? Do you constantly monitor their social media to see if they're talking to anyone new? Did you make their Instagram your home page, because what if they want to get back together, but they only say it on Instagram, and if you're not monitoring their account at all hours of the day, you might miss your chance?
Well, researchers at the University of Toronto have some helpful news for you: they found that hooking up with a new partner helped the recently broken-up-with feel less attached to their former partner, allowing them to move on more easily.
But the study found that the subjects didn't actually need to jump into bed with anyone new to derive these psychological benefits — they just had to believe that a new relationship was possible in their near future. So getting on Tinder, or actually going out and talking to new people on a Friday night, might be enough to remind you that there are, you know, new people you can talk to on a Friday night.
2. They Help You Remember That Nothing's Hopeless
Right after a break-up, it's hard to not feel like you're going to die alone, possibly without even any cats who care enough to eat you. After all, if this relationship that you felt so right about didn't work out, what could? Rebound relationships can remind you that whatever happened in your last relationship isn't the final word on you, your character, or your ability to find love/like/friendly genitals.
Contrary to the traditional line of thinking that says you should be fully over your previous partner before you pursue any new relationships, that same University of Toronto study found that a rebound relationship helped subjects become less anxious about the potential availability of new partners, and more hopeful about their overall romantic futures (i.e. ones that do not revolve around burial-by-cat).
3. They Can Help You See The Value In a Non-Serious Relationship
Lots of us — and lots of conventional wisdom about rebounds — see no value in relationships that definitely don't offer a possibility of a long-term future. But short-term rebound relationships can offer the recently heartbroken unique benefits — benefits specific to their short-term nature. Rebound relationships (ones where everyone is clear about the level of seriousness) can provide emotional support to the recently dumped without being too emotionally taxing, and can be a fun distraction from negative feeling that overwhelm some of us after break-ups.
Plus, sex can provide physical and emotional benefits that other kinds of socially approved post-break-up self-care — exercise, eating right, getting a massage just to feel another human being touch you — can't always match.
And if you've always been an extreme serial monogamist, and spend a lot of time at the end of each break-up wondering how you'll ever find a new person to love, hooking up with a person that you know won't be part of your long-term future can help keep you from making long-term mistakes — like rushing into a too-serious relationship with someone not well-suited to you, out of fear and apprehension.
4. They Can Help You Feel More Confident
Going through a break-up — especially if you're the dumpee — can make your confidence take a hit. In fact, I know it's a little taboo to admit that our self-confidence can be tied to relationship success, but let's be honest — a bad break-up can drag your self-image so far down, it's basically at the bottom of the sea, watching friendly flounders and sassy crabs cavort around the ocean floor, while pondering if anyone will ever want to see you naked again.
The Queens College and University of Illinois study found that a rebound relationship can restore your self-confidence, by helping you realize that yes, you are the same awesome, appealing person you were before your break-up, and plenty of people are still interested in getting to know you (you know, because of the part where you're still awesome).
5. They Help Prevent A Reunion With Your Ex
You know what's worse than the silliest, most shallow rebound relationship? When two people who broke up get back together a few weeks after splitting, without resolving any of their issues, simply because they're lonely. This coupling functions like a ghost of your once-great relationship, comprised entirely of two fearful people going through the motions and pretending as if things are fine — and it'll end the second whichever one of you is less invested finds someone else, making the entire break-up more drawn out and painful, and the aftermath more damaging.
Even if it feels like you and your rebounder have nothing in common (you're into classic literature; he's more into the pretty flashing lights on your DVR), a rebound relationship that keeps you out of the break-up/make-up cycle can be a valuable thing. Life is a bold adventure, and a rebound relationship can be the oar that helps you paddle back into it.
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