A rebound relationship can probably be best defined as a relationship one enters into shortly after the ending of a previous one. Rebound relationships have a notoriously bad reputation, and understandably so. It seems like they rarely work long term, tend to be all-consuming and create a distraction from the healing of the previous relationship. However, reputations don't always present the full picture. Before you reject a new relationship possibility, or cast judgement on someone else, consider these six points.
1. Rebound relationships can be incredibly healing. While it's true that emotional recovery from the end of a relationship is high on the priority list, it isn't always accomplished by being alone and lonely. The best balm for a broken heart is love and acceptance from another human being. Whether that approval comes from family, close friends or a romantic interest, the end result is the same. There is even evidence to support the idea that rebound relationships can help a person get over their ex-partner more quickly (1).
2. New relationships, even rebounds, make you feel hopeful. Anything is possible and everything is beautiful. Instead of sitting around, wallowing in the feelings of failure, a new partner can revive hope that there are good things in life and that your previous partner wasn't your last chance for love and happiness. One study even discovered that the hope of a new romantic relationship helped ease anxious feelings and emotional attachment to ex-partners (2).
3. You don't have to 'get over' your ex before you can move on. In fact, there is research that will suggest the opposite (3). Putting your attention and emotions into a new relationship can be the very path you need to put more distance between yourself and your previous partner. The faster you are able to find satisfaction with a new partner the faster you may be able to find closure in regards to your previous relationship.
4. While it may or may not result in a legitimate relationship, rebound sex has it's merits. Assuming it's consensual and both partners are respecting each other on an emotional level, sex can be a safe way to self-medicate. A Cornell University study (4) found that casual sex can boost self-esteem and lower stress; two much needed ingredients for recovering from heartbreak.
5. It's right after the falling apart of a relationship that you are most observant about your wants and needs... ie. the perfect time to choose a new partner. There is nothing like being dumped or making the painful choice to move on to cause you to analyze every thought that floats through your head. Why did you choose your ex in the first place? What did you love about your relationship? What drove you nuts? Choosing someone new with all that extra clarity about your personal likes and dislikes puts you at a great advantage for finding compatible love.
6. A new relationship can ward off that classic break-up-depression. A San Diego School of Medicine study (5) revealed that the chemical that is released in the body, oxytocin, when bonding with a loved one is strong enough to actually change signals in the brain. There is such a significant biological response that this hormone is sometimes called the 'love hormone'. Their study suggests that simply looking into the eyes of your lover can literally ease the symptoms of depression and sadness.
The next time you hear the term 'rebound relationship' remember to consider all of these things. While there are most certainly times when such a union can be unwise, the time span between the end of one romantic connection and the beginning of another shouldn't be the only factor considered.
(3) Spielmann, S., Macdonald, G., & Wilson, A. (2009). On the rebound: focusing on someone new helps anxiously attached individuals let go of ex-partners. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1382-1394.