Behind the barricaded doors of a study room in our dorm, The Hippie Pre-med Guitarist (HPG) and I were locked in a frenzied embrace. I’m not sure either of us would have predicted that this moment would happen when we each woke up that morning, but it was becoming more and more apparent over the increasing time we’d been spending together that our friendship was becoming more electric.
At that moment, cradled in his arms, I pulled away and breathlessly confessed:
I may be using you as a rebound from my ex.
I had been in a relationship with a guy from home for almost three years, but we’d been rocky for at least the last six months of it. Our breakup had been imminent for a while before I finally pulled the trigger. But it was crazy to think I could so quickly just jump into another relationship. Wasn’t it?
“You can use me as much as you want,” HPG said with a mischievous grin, before leaning in again to kiss me.
He knew sooner than I did that this was no run-of-the-mill rebound. As much as I still cared for my ex, I had been out of love with him for many months. While I wasn’t sure I was ready for any serious commitment again so soon, HPG wooed me gently and patiently.
Our rebound relationship ended four years later.
True, we weren’t the typical rebound relationship. I have been the new girlfriend who finds out the man she’s dating is still emotionally trying to get over his ex. I’ve endured the endless comparisons, which, on the surface, usually come out in my favor.
“She never really sat down and listened to me and wanted to know what I thought and felt about things,” one rebounder said about his ex-wife, “but you do. You don’t know how refreshing and amazing that is.”
I’ve been the creative and passionate lover to the cold and frigid ex-wife. I’ve been the woman of my word, when the “other woman” canceled and bailed at the last minute all the time. I’ve been the one committed to the relationship, when the ex-wife cheated with every man who paid her a compliment.
In the shadow of the “other woman”
And yet, the “other woman” was always lingering in the air. She was always the third wheel on a bicycle built for two. While eventually I usually nestled into the man’s heart enough to extinguish the other woman’s fire, often the damage was done. So used to hearing about the ex, I was never truly convinced that this man was fully invested in me.
I can’t pretend that I haven’t put any man in that rebound position also. After an emotionally abusive relationship and a string of messy dating, a new boyfriend played therapist and friend before I finally let him into my heart as a valid partner himself.
After the European, the much older, Renaissance Man was a gentle salve to my splintered heart. He was emotionally present, he called and emailed daily and I saw him during the week, as well as entire weekends. He wooed me, took me on both romantic and adventurous day trips, and we had a interesting conversations. Yet eventually, after the initial rush of excitement wore off, I found myself still thinking of the European constantly. I was getting ready to call things off when the Renaissance Man began drifting on his own.
It’s funny because most of us recognize that rebound relationships are meant to be temporary. I’ve read statistics that show rebound relationships fail 90 percent of the time. So I’ve come to think of them as therapeutic stopovers. We may get into them to rebuild our self-esteem, to prove that we’re still desirable. We may get it them because we’re lonely and fear being alone.
Often we get in new relationships so soon after a break-up because we genuinely find something unique and great about a new person and want to get to know them better. They are exciting—and so different from our ex in all those ways we used to harp about. Before we know it, we get sucked into the comfort of an instant relationship because that’s what we most miss from the past. Even when we’re not yet ready for it again.
A rebound relationship allows for temporary amnesia—it allows us to get caught up in the thrill of being with someone new and foreign. Subconsciously—or not—the intent of this behavior is to try to forget about the hurt or disappointment of our last relationship, as if spending as much time as possible with a new person will completely fill in and erase all the holes and fractures our old love left behind.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can learn to not take advantage in rebound relationships and simply enjoy them for what they are. If we’re honest with the people we date, we have a chance to cut out drama and unnecessarily heartache and just be content with having a bit of fun without putting any pressure or expectation on time spent together.
HPG and I had built a lovely friendship before our four years of a truly great relationship together, but most rebounds will not wind up with happy-ever-after stories. But I can actually look back now without much bitterness on the love and kindness I have shown and shared in rebound relationships of the past—some I knew were temporary and others in which I had hoped for much more. I know that I had a part in the healing that allowed these men to go onto form strong and healthy long-term relationships, to truly love again. I know because some of them have actually been sweet enough to tell me so.
And I know that some men have had a part in helping me find my own healing and eventual bliss. Without my experiences with the Renaissance Man, I don’t know if the confusion and bitterness left by The European would have begun to heal as quickly or as completely as they eventually did. I don’t know that I would have had my eyes and heart open enough to let The Warrior Poet in now. To have missed this bliss because of poorly timed romantic recovery truly would have been a heart-breaker!