Haven’t we all been there? That strange, occasionally awkward and sometimes delicate balance after a breakup where we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Am I ready to be dating someone again or is this person part of a phase I’m going through while residual emotions from my last relationship are still being sorted out?”
It’s a tricky thing, because there will always be elements of your old relationship stirred up a little by a new one. It’s a good thing to examine yourself and be honest, so you can be real with the new person you’re seeing about your intentions. (A casual rebound is perfectly OK, as long as you aren’t promising big future serious relationship stuff to your new date.) Plus, knowing what you personally can handle is a huge part of taking care of your own emotional well-being.
You might be rebounding if:
You’re still obsessively checking your ex’s social media, even after some great dates with another person
Confession? I’m guilty of this. I realized t I was still in rebound territory one night when I was so distracted scrolling through the Instagram of my ex that I forgot to text (as promised) the new guy that I had arrived safely home after our date. A date that consisted of an amazing dinner, perfect sunset stroll and surprise bouquet of flowers from an incredibly romantic and sweet guy. My need to still retrieve some kind of information about my past love was overpowering the focus I should have had on being present with someone new, proving to me I wasn’t quite ready to appreciate the emotional availability of this new dude.
You fantasize about running into your ex with your new date a lot
Everyone has had this fantasy at some point: You show up with a wonderful new partner to your ex’s chagrin. But if you’re entertaining the idea so often that you even start thinking of ways to make the dream a reality or actually attempt to, I’m afraid to tell you that you are still firmly in rebound territory, and worse? Your fantasy includes using someone without regard to their feelings in order to rub another person’s nose in something you’re not that into in the first place all for an intended brief moment of satisfaction. I know we can all be better than that.
Case in point: There’s an episode of “Sex and the City” where Carrie starts to cry when the hot Yankee player kisses her right after they run into Big. The small burst of satisfaction Carrie obviously felt running into her ex while in the company of such an impressive new guy was immediately squashed. It’s not great for your emotional wellbeing, either.
You think about one-upping your ex with your new dates more than the dates themselves
I was once very close friends with a couple who, after breaking up would constantly ask me if I had seen the other. I would tell them both that if they spent half as much time paying attention to the new person they wanted me to name drop, then there might actually be someone worth mentioning. A genuine new relationship will never be based on one-upping the old one.
You’re always talking about your ex to your new partner. No, always
Talking a little about your ex is totally OK. They were a part of your life, and you should acknowledge that. But It’s never cool to make your date feel like they should be charging you for a therapy session. Often we don’t know what we’re ready for anyway until we try going out with someone new. But after three dates once with a guy (whom I really liked!) who could not go two sentences without saying something about his ex-girlfriend, I finally turned to him and said, “you my friend are not ready to be doing this.” To which he sheepishly replied, “maybe you’re right. I know that relationship is definitely over, but maybe I’m not quite ready for a new one just yet.” I was disappointed but my gut was telling me that being the rebound for a guy who I was feeling incredibly into was not the right move.
But you’re probably ready for a relationship if…
You’re feeling prepared but nervous about being vulnerable with someone
In my experience this has been a clear sign that I have left the land of rebound and am now dipping my toe back into the world of a potential relationship. When things are rolling along with someone, somewhere during late night talks, dinner dates, spontaneous kisses I’ll pause for a moment and think “if he were to wake up tomorrow and tell me he didn’t want to see me anymore, I would definitely feel hurt about it.” This to me means I’ve reached the point where the ex is the past, because I’m trusting someone new is worth all these exciting and burgeoning feelings.
A song that reminded you of your ex is now just one you like again
For me this has been “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles, “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan and countless other. Every relationship comes with musical accompaniment! Hearing the songs post break-up can induce crying, the urge to text and say “how are you” or in more extreme cases throw your iPad out the window. (I didn’t do that I swear, but it seemed tempting once). But somehow when enough time passes, these songs were able to work their way back into my Top 25 Most Played instead of being given the thumbs down over and over on Pandora after occasional emotional meltdowns.
You’re more interested in spending time with a new date than advertising that you’re goign on dates
Meeting someone new and fun has almost always made me want to immediately tell the world, “HEY! Look what I found!” Because it’s an adrenaline rush and sometimes we want our friends and family to share in our enthusiasm. I’ve noticed that when I’m unsure of how I’m feeling, I’ve sprung a new guy on my friends quickly in order to get opinions and almost convince myself how I feel. But when I know I’m feeling something deeper, I tend to keep him to myself for awhile and really connect one on one, so when I do reveal him to my family and friends, I’m not looking for reassurances. I don’t need them.
You’re no longer mentally comparing your new partner to your ex in every situation
It’s so difficult for me sometimes to not have the immediate knee jerk reaction of “my ex wouldn’t say that” or “he wouldn’t do that” because no matter what there is comfort in the familiar. But if you’ve gotten to the point where you are instead saying to yourself “it’s good that this is different because my ex and I broke up for a reason” it’s likely that you’ve mended enough that you’re open to the possibility of developing something with this new person. Every relationship is going to be different, but if you’re harboring the need to reject anything remotely foreign you’re probably only ready for some casual dating.
The craziest part about this post break-up/pre-relationship phase is that there is no standard for time. I have had instances where I believed I would never date again. And times when mere weeks after a break-up I fell hard for someone new who I assumed because of the time frame would turn out to be a rebound fling and instead became my boyfriend for two years. There’s no easy solution to navigating through the murkiness of when we are each individually ready to embark on a new romantic adventure, but it is ok to admit to ourselves when we are, just as equally as it is ok to admit when we are not.
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