Alternate Title: Your Friend Is An Asshole Who Has a Hidden Agenda Based on Their Own Fear. Alternate Title: I'm Tired of Writing Blog Posts About People Who Are Bad Friends
Last night a friend texted me about my new relationship. Under the guise of friendly concern she commented that she was worried about me and my children because I'd "moved into a relationship too soon" after separating from my husband. The end of her message read: " Feels to me like you're rebounding. Make of it what you will." Her confrontation came on the heels of her frustration with me over a comment I left on her social media account, so the intention of her "confrontation" seemed pretty unloving. Her use of concern for my children was also highly laughable since she has spend zero time with them. Don't let people use your children as emotional bargaining chips to incite shame, friends.
So what about rebound relationships? Conventional "wisdom" encourages people to work out their new identity in their single state. Figure out who you are now. Invest in yourself. Romance yourself. Become whole. The problem I've always had with this line of thinking is that 1. it subsumes the belief that you weren't whole in your previous partnership and didn't know who you were or that separating from your previous partner fractured you in some way. 2. it isn't based on the needs of an individual, but rather a normalized cultural phrase. Some people spout off the encouragement without ever even asking the individual they are giving advice to what they need. Not everyone is co-dependent in their attachment to their significant others and fall to pieces upon separation. Many people, like myself, spend years in relationships establishing their individual identity and slowly separating their life out in preparation for the final fracture.
My new relationship isn't a rebound. I've known her for 9 months, and my separation and divorce from my husband was intentionally guided by a therapist, my family, and my very close friends. It is a process that has been happening over the last three years, regardless of how new it seems to those who are on the outside. But what if my new relationships were a rebound? Would that be so bad? The evidence seems to suggest that rebound relationships, depending up their level of healthy attachment, can be and are good things. Sometimes a new partner who is healthy, an open communicator, and deeply loving can, not only help you move on from your ex-partner, help you realize what you want and need in a partner.
Recent evidence suggests, in fact, that people who dive into rebound relationships get over their ex-partner more quickly and feel more confident in their date-ability (Brumbaugh & Fraley, 2014). This evidence builds nicely on research showing that individuals with high attachment anxiety are better able to sever their emotional attachment to an ex-partner when they start a new relationship (Spielmann, MacDonald, & Wilson, 2009)
Brumbaugh and Fraley (2014) also discovered that less time between a break-up and a new relationship generally predicts greater well-being, higher self-esteem, and more respect for a new partner. Further, contrary to what many people might predict, having less time between a break-up and a new relationship is linked to attachment security—which refers to habits of trusting, comfort with intimacy, and feelings of safety in relationships. In other words, individuals who tend to be emotionally stable were actually more likely to have a shorter amount of time between a relationship’s end and a new one’s beginning.
Rebound relationships have the potential to turn into life-long relationships. Regardless of empirical studies, conscious uncoupling, or any other factor there is one questions remains. Who gets to decide when you get to move on or when you are ready?
Here is a little hint: YOU.
Don't buckle under conventional "wisdom." Do the hard work of asking yourself what you need, what you want, and what will help you have the kind of life you want to live. Refuse to succumb to shame messages based on the values others are putting on you. You have to live through the consequences of your life choices, and if a friend is offering advice without ever asking you what you need... I'd challenge how friendly they actually are. Embrace your power to build the kind of life that you want. Our loved ones are not allowed to inject their ethics or how they would proceed in similar circumstances onto our situations without permission. This is called relational consent.
Don't allow the insecurity, hidden motives, or ignorance of poor advice givers to derail your joy and hope of a new life; rebound or not.
*Brumbaugh, C. C., & Fraley, R. C. (2014). Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
*Spielmann, S. S., MacDonald, G., & Wilson, A. E. (2009). On the rebound: Focusing on someone new helps anxiously attached individuals let go of ex-partners. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(10), 1382-1394.