After my first love broke up with me, I asked my roommate for advice on when to date again. “When you’re not going home from the date and crying because he’s not your ex,” she said. Another friend had a different philosophy: “If you need to cry after a date, just cry. It’s OK.”
I ended up taking the second friend’s advice and meeting my next partner about two months after my breakup, while I was indeed still crying over it. And I’m glad I did. That relationship — and the dates with other people I went on before it — finally allowed me to get over my ex. It brought happiness into my life and let me see that there really were others out there for me. By the time we became serious, I wasn’t pining for my ex anymore because my new boyfriend was taking up my attention.
Some experts agree that rebound relationships are not necessarily a bad thing. “You might assume that you need a specific amount of time to elapse before moving on from a past relationship, but a 2014 study found that allowing less time to span between your last breakup and current relationship is positively correlated with higher self-esteem, [greater] well-being, and more respect for your new partner,” says Astroglide’s resident sexologist Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D. “Studies also suggest that starting a new relationship can help you to get over a breakup and boost your confidence as a dater.”
Rebound relationships can be rocky territory, though, so tread carefully. Here are some tips for making them last.
But first, how to know you’re in a rebound relationship.
According to intimacy and relationship expert Ken Blackman, checking in with yourself about your feelings toward your most recent relationship is the best way to see where you stand. And if you suspect your partner may have lingering feelings toward an ex, don’t be afraid to ask them about it.
“A rebound relationship is motivated by a desire to fill the gap left by an ex,” says Blackman. “If you or your partner is still secretly hung up on an ex, [it’s] more likely your relationship is a rebound.”
That’s different than being lonely and eager to date someone new — in a rebound relationship, someone isn’t getting a fair short.
1. Make sure you’re not dating someone just to get over the breakup.
“In the immediate aftermath of a breakup, we tend to want to make the pain go away,” says Gary Brown, Ph.D., a dating and couples therapist in Los Angeles. “Our need to avoid or at least lessen the pain can impact our ability to make good judgments — and that is why many rebound relationships don’t work.”
Before you decide to get into a rebound relationship, make sure it’s with someone you actually want to date — and would want to date even if you weren’t rebounding. If you lower your standards just so that you’re not thinking about your ex, you may soon have yet another ex to think about.
2. View your new partner as an individual, not a replacement.
You don’t want to do the exact same things you did with your ex with your new partner or compare them to each other. “Create new rituals and explore activities you enjoy in your new relationship without the need to compare, contrast, or replace the ones from your past,” O’Reilly suggests. “If you approach your new relationship with an open mind — as opposed to a replacement for what you once have — you can lay the foundation for a lasting, meaningful connection.”
3. Let go of expectations.
Different relationships fulfill different roles in our lives, so don’t expect your new partner to give you everything your old partner did. They may do some things better and some things less well, and that’s perfectly OK.
“If you’ve just come out of a relationship, chances are that you’ve got some expectations,” says Adina Mahalli, MSW, a certified relationship expert and mental health consultant for Maple Holistics. “Whether they’re good or bad, it’s important to put them aside if you want your rebound relationship to be more than just a rebound. Try to keep an open mind and appreciate this new person and romance for what they are and just be present in your current relationship.”
4. Be vulnerable.
If you’ve just gone through a breakup, opening up can be scary. However, it’s the only way you’re going to get close to someone again. Mahalli recommends being honest about any emotions you’re feeling about the relationship, including fears you may have because of your past relationship.
“Vulnerability is an essential component of any relationship, but it can be the hardest part when you’re still getting over someone else,” she says. “This doesn’t mean you should reveal your deepest darkest secrets, but if you’re comfortable opening up, don’t hold back.”
5. Process your breakup.
While you don’t have to be 100% over your ex to move on, you should be actively working to get through the breakup. This means allowing yourself to feel all the emotions it’s brought up rather than trying to suppress them.
“Be honest about your thoughts and feelings,” says David Bennett, certified counselor and owner of Double Trust Dating and Relationships. “Usually people simply say ‘I’m fine’ and then hold in all of their feelings.” Discussing your feelings with friends or even a therapist could help in this situation.
6. Forget about your ex.
Even if you still have feelings for your ex, it’s important not to act on them by staying in contact (beyond a possible friendship, but that’s tricky territory as well) or stalking them on social media. “Seeing what your ex is up to constantly just brings back the old feelings and restarts the healing process,” says Bennett. “I’m not a big fan of blocking people on social media, but if it’s for your own mental health (verses for spite), then blocking them is a good idea.”
7. Don’t think of it as a rebound relationship.
Even if you got into the relationship soon after your last, the goal of it shouldn’t be to get over your ex. Clinical psychologist Carissa Coulston, Ph.D., cautions against calling a relationship a “rebound relationship” or letting others lead you to see it that way.
“If your friends and family members think you’ve taken up with your new partner too hastily and are not hesitating about making their thoughts known, it can be difficult to avoid the label from affecting your mindset,” she says. “Labels of many kinds are destructive, and the ‘rebound’ type can be one of the most devastating of all. It implies that you aren’t taking your partnership seriously and that you’re only viewing it as a short-term affair. Leaving behind this label with those around you and in your own mind is the first step towards aiding this new relationship in the long-term.”
8. Make plans for the future.
You don’t need to get serious right away, but having some plans for the future, even if it’s just a few months down the line, can help you view your relationship as something that could, if you choose, be long-term, rather than just a distraction from your last one. “One of the most constructive steps towards making a commitment is to start making plans for the future and laying down memories together,” says Coulston.
9. Learn from your past relationship.
If your ex is still on your mind, you don’t have to fight it. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn from your last relationship. Avoiding mistakes you made with your ex will help give your new relationship the best possible shot.
“If you’re always thinking about your ex, this isn’t a healthy way to live your life or pursue your new partnership,” says Coulston. “However, if you draw upon those memories to figure out how you can improve things this time around, that can be beneficial. If you’re still revisiting a past relationship, don’t waste time on regrets. Instead of ruminating over what went wrong, examine the reasons why, and then decide how you can avoid the same thing happening with your new partner. Whether there is something you need to stop or something you need to start doing, build on this knowledge and put it into practice with your newfound love.”