What I wish I knew before becoming someone’s rebound girlfriend

I’ll admit I have never been great with sports analogies, but I always thought a rebound was supposed to be a good thing. You missed the mark the first time, you picked yourself up, took another shot, and landed the basket. Swish. A rebound is something to be cheered. A relief. A great metaphor for the classic American pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps dream. Yet in relationships, this is not nearly the case.

Being someone else’s rebound is confusing, and exhilarating, and messy. Sometimes you move into the relationship unwittingly—you like someone, and are blissfully unaware of their previous relationship baggage. Other times, you are fully informed, and still make the leap. The heart wants what it wants, no? But being someone else’s rebound, someone else’s blind throw away from a broken heart, is complicated. Here’s what I wish I knew before I took the shot, and allowed myself to be someone else’s distraction:

Your heart may want it, but the other person’s has to as well.

When Taylor (not his real name) and I met at a social event my first year in college, I was the platonic date of one of our mutual friends, and he was still with his then girlfriend. We all had fun, and each walked away with new friends to wave hello to in the courtyard between classes. Cut-to the summer, when a heartbroken boy (Taylor) found solace on a friendly shoulder (me). I listened as he sadly came to grips with the sudden end to his relationship. Oblivious to what was developing, I continued to sign-in to AIM (such a throwback now!) and listened. What started as an innocent way to pass the time between shifts at my hometown drugstore soon developed into counting the minutes until I could get to my keyboard. I am not quite sure when it turned, but before I knew it, I was excited to get back to school and Taylor. I thought he felt the same way. Maybe he thought he did, too.

Sure, you could be the one. But a lot of the time, you’re just someone.

Taylor and embarked on a quasi-relationship. We’d go on dates, spend hours on Gchat, and he even introduced me to all of his friends, whom I immediately loved. I thought things were going well, and I fell. Hard. Yet, I was always kept at arm’s length. I see us being in a relationship together…someday, he’d say. Sure, we’d go to parties, but so would his ex. And the worst part? She was a pretty cool chick—a girl I’d probably be friends with, had the situation been different. After a few months, she changed her mind, and the next thing I knew, they were back together.

It’s hard to let go of someone who hasn’t let go of someone else.

He never really broke it off with me, but the Facebook pictures tore me apart. We had never been “official,” I’d remind myself. Still, I was in a fog—sad the point past being sad, where the tears just wouldn’t come. Without closure, I found it difficult to move on. Instead of coming to terms with the reality that he was always going to go back to his ex if she changed her mind, I looked inward. What was wrong with me? What had I done that had made me so easily tossed aside?

Listen to your gut—it only has your interests at heart.

Even though you know it’s a bad idea and that you should have learned your lesson before, you can’t help how you feel. It is so much easier to lie to yourself (especially when you don’t even know that you are doing it) than to not get what you want.

A month or so after they got back together, I heard she dumped him again. And I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. The friend in me, who knew how badly she had hurt him the first time, worried about how he was doing. I extended an invitation for coffee, and next thing I knew, I was back on the court, yet again the rebound (a re-rebound?)

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice, and expecting a different result. I shouldn’t have been surprised that our second time around followed the same trajectory: whirlwind, full-force happiness, followed by a painful, yet quick unraveling that left me just as hurt as the first time. That day at the coffee house, I took my own rebound shot, and missed. But it was also my greatest lesson: it’s OK to follow your heart, even if it’s not always lined up perfectly with what you know you should do. In the end, I have no regrets—at least I took the shot.

(Image via Universal Pictures)

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