How not to be a rebound girl

You’ve met the man of your dreams – but he is fresh out of relationship. Should you go ahead and date him? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • According to Maryanne Njaga, a clinical psychologist, it is quite possible that the rebounding partner could be clutching onto a new partner as a distraction from rejection and loneliness, or as a substitute.
  • “Losing someone we love causes certain degrees of grief,” says Njaga. “The more significant the loss (for example the end of a long-term relationship) the more the grief.

  • Trying to ignore it (by getting into a new relationship) prolongs the healing process.”

Three weeks following the end of a five-year relationship, 30-year-old Judy*, a sales rep at a manufacturing company, says her biggest surprise was to walk into a mutual friend’s party and see her ex-boyfriend with another woman. She admits that seeing him cozy up with her so soon after their breakup rubbed her the wrong way, but she adds that a part of her pitied the new girl. “Did she know that he was still begging me to get back with him?”

Enquiring on the thought process following a breakup and of the women who come immediately after, John*, a 33-year-old radio producer in Nairobi, says, “You know ‘rebound’ is a sports term, right? Contrary to popular belief, men get injured by breakups.

When I hook-up with a woman after that, she is helping me ease the bruises. Just like in sports therapy, once I get better I will get back to the field and start playing again.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Catherine says she connected with her ‘friend with benefits’ because both their hearts were broken. “His fiancée had just dumped him. I had just been rejected by someone who told me he wasn’t ready to date.

“We were ‘helping’ each other forget.” Catherine reckons rebounds can be helpful as a coping mechanism. “However, both of you have to be on the same page – that there are no-strings attached. Bring in lies and expectations and someone will get hurt.”

Ndegwa, a 38-year-old auto engineer, has a different perspective. “I started seeing someone a month after I officially separated from my wife of six years.

I wouldn’t call her a rebound; she had been my friend. After I was officially single, I didn’t see any harm in getting to know her better and see where it led.” Ndegwa says he really liked her and had no ill intentions.

“She was everything I like in a woman. But she kept bringing up my ex, asking if I still loved her.

I didn’t know how to answer that. I suppose that scared her. I would have loved to stay in that relationship and work on my issues as it evolved, but she wanted me to be where she wanted me to be. So we ended it.” Ndegwa concludes by calling it ‘a case of bad timing’.

 RIGHT TIMING

According to Maryanne Njaga, a clinical psychologist, it is quite possible that the rebounding partner could be clutching onto a new partner as a distraction from rejection and loneliness, or as a substitute.

“Losing someone we love causes certain degrees of grief,” says Njaga. “The more significant the loss (for example the end of a long-term relationship) the more the grief.

Trying to ignore it (by getting into a new relationship) prolongs the healing process.”

Njaga states that the length of the grieving/healing process differs. “Some people take a week, and others take years. Only the rebounding partner’s emotional state, not the time, will determine whether they are escaping or have a genuine interest.”

Even though the new relationship isn’t necessarily doomed, being with the rebounding partner when they in the healing process will pollute the new relationship with baggage.

“A lot of energy will be used trying to ignore his recent past (denial), trying to cope with it (compromising), or trying to help him so that he can be a better partner (dependency).

“This will strain any new relationship.”

 ***

Read his emotional cues

 

The five stages of grief can help you determine where the rebounding partner is regarding their recently past relationship. This will in turn help you gauge where they stand with you.

Not everyone goes through all these stages in this order. However, most people do. If your new man is anywhere before the fifth stage, and a fulfilling stable relationship is what you want, it is advisable to rein in your expectations or move on to someone who is ready. This might save you your own grief.

 

Stage 1 – Denial: He is still not sure whether they have broken up. He is still trying or hoping to get back with her.

 

Stage 2 –Anger: He speaks about his ex with bitterness, tries to get even with her (perhaps by parading you). He may lash out at himself, you or at the world in general.

 

Stage 3 – Bargaining: He expresses regret and guilt over his circumstances – perhaps stating things he should have done to prevent it. As the pain sets in, he might try to mask it with destructive behaviour such as excessive drinking or casual relationships (i.e. you).

 

Stage 4 – Depression: The reality of the breakup has just settled in. He will often reflect on it and mostly prefer solitude. You might be the occasional relief to his loneliness. This stage takes the longest. You might be fooled to thinking you are in an actual long-term relationship. 

 

Stage 5 – Acceptance: He is slowly adjusting to losing his ex, the pain subsides and the depression lifts. This does not mean he is ready to date seriously – it just means he has released his emotional baggage and is gearing up to start reconnecting.

If your ‘relationship’ has lasted this far, it might survive. Nevertheless, now that the fog has cleared, don’t be surprised if he breaks up with you and starts seeing other people.

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