What Are the Rules of the Rebound?

Dear Em & Lo,

I just got out of a long-term relationship. I’m just wondering how long one should wait before dating or hooking up or whatever it’s called these days again…? Is there a “right” amount of time? How can you tell if you’re rebounding? Is that a bad thing or is a rebound relationship something that’s got to be had before one can move on?

— Free Agent


Dear F.A.,

There’s no hard and fast rule about when you should get out there again, it really depends on so many factors. For example, what would you be hitting the market for? If you just want to go on a few blind dates to remind yourself that there are other single people out there, and to get back into the habit of making small talk with strangers, then this might be only a matter of a weeks (or days if it was a mini relationship!).

A good rule of thumb is this: If your best friend thinks you’re ready, then go for it.

If you’re worried it might be too early but you could really use the distraction of a few dates, then set some ground rules for yourself, e.g. no more than one  date a week, or, no more than kiss, or, no overnight stays, etc.

Another thing to bear in mind is your ex: If you just broke someone’s heart after five years of cohabitation, then you might want to stay away from the market for a respectable mourning period — unless you’re 100 percent sure your ex won’t find out. But dates in another county or — better yet –another country? Go for it!

If you’re the one who got dumped, then there’s no need to worry about that respectful mourning period — hit Tinder whenever you’re ready, even if it’s only a day later.

You definitely don’t want to try to leap into a long-term relationship while you’re on the rebound. This is a time for you to focus on you: your career, your hobbies,  your self-improvement. Be independent for a while. You don’t have to constantly be defined in relation to another person. Also, if you try to get too serious too quickly after a breakup, you run the risk of being distracted by the fallout from your earlier relationship, constantly comparing your new partner to your ex, not being able to be fully in the moment of this new relationship. Give yourself some time to heal. Even if you don’t think anything got broken because you did the dumping, there’s still some emotional processing you could probably benefit from.

Now a brief hookup, or even mini relationship, on the other hand, can be the perfect “palate cleanser.” Especially before moving onto something more serious. Think of it a a sexual sorbet! If you’re coming out of a long-term, serious relationship, it can be incredibly intimidating to imagine ever being with someone again. You might think you’ve forgotten how to act on a date, or how to kiss someone for the first time, or how to have sex with someone besides the former love of your life. So sometimes a quickie relationship or even just a one-night stand is the best way to get back on the horse, as it were. You’re not getting into anything emotionally heavy that you’re not ready for yet, you’re just testing the waters.

Again, a good rule of thumb is to ask your best friend if they think you can handle it. It’s only fair — after all, they’re the one who’ll have to pick up the pieces if you’re a muddle of self-doubt and self-hatred at the end of it!

And just make sure in your attempt to mend a broken (or simply lonely) heart with casual sex that you don’t accidentally leave someone else with one.

— Em & Lo

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