Online Dating and Rebound Relationships

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Published: 17th November 2010
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Copyright (c) 2010 Dirk Sayers

AOL recently posted an article written by Redacted Guy, writing for Lemon Drop online. In it, he took exception to the conventional wisdom that rebound relationships are always bad. He suggests that rebound relationships may just be a relationship like any other, not to be avoided simply because one of you is recently out of a relationship.

In the world of online dating/meeting, this is a particularly relevant issue. Many of us using online dating do so because our lives are approaching red line, anyway. Redacted Guy's observations are the online equivalent of saying speed doesn't necessarily kill. The problem lies, he suggests, in the definition. As he states:

"What is a rebound? This seems like an easy question to answer until you actually stop and think about it. The strictest interpretation of the term states that rebounding is dating after a significant relationship has been over for less than six months (or longer in the case of a dissolved marriage, which requires additional time). Another commonly accepted fact: One or both of the parties involved in this rebound relationship is/are delusional,on some level."

Seems pretty cut and dried. But those who know me well can tell you I'm among the first to applaud anyone taking a swing at conventional wisdom. True to form, I found myself nodding in agreement, in places...okay, lots of places; especially at Redacted Guy's observation that a static definition was misleading. So I kept waiting for him to offer some truly practical, actionable advice as a counter-point to the conventional wisdom. I was disappointed. He never went there. Well, I never could leave well enough alone, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

The problem with the definition of "rebound relationships" is that most are time-bound. I'm of the belief that time is itself an anachronism. The effects we're trying to avoid "on the rebound" aren't always a function of time alone. What matters is what we've done with that time and how our use of it affects our readiness for a healthy relationship.

So a more useful indicator of "on the rebound" (or not) is where the head and heart are. The real problem is objectivity...or the absence of it...which I suspect gave rise to the six month rule of thumb in the first place; now hallowed in tribal knowledge and tradition. For online dating...and especially online dating in an up-tempo environments like major metropolitan areas, I have a different model which I'd like to propose now.

Let's imagine that you've been out of a relationship, for about three months. You established an online profile because you told yourself you're not getting any younger and you want...(eventually) be in an enduring relationship. You haven't been actively looking, or the looking you've done resembles the kind of agonized longing you rarely act know what I mean. Then it happens. An unexpected alert from your online dating/meeting service that you have received new email.

When you check it out, his email has an appealing, lighthearted lilt to it. His profile reveals a nice-looking man with a lot to offer. Your open-ended answer receives a prompt response. One thing leads to another and you meet and find yourself liking him immensely; but dread creeps in. "I'm just out of a relationship. Why couldn't this happen three or four months from now?" You ask yourself: "Am I on the rebound or am I really ready to consider working with this man on a potentially enduring relationship?" How do we answer this? Let's start with practicalities.

1. Does his life content match up well with yours? Is it reasonable to imagine there's enough in common for it to work over time?

2.What contextual realities would go along with a relationship with him? Would it be a serious fight to make it work, because (for example) work realities are at odds? Or would it be reasonably easy to get together often enough to see how it's working for both of us?

3.What about the comfort component? What does being with him feel like? Setting aside lust for a moment, do I genuinely enjoy who he is and does he seem to feel the same way?

If these questions sound like the same questions you'd ask anyway, help yourself a well-earned cookie. They are. They're also the questions we're inclined to overlook when we're still "on the rebound," in the pejorative sense, whether it's been three months or three years. If you're asking questions like this, you're (probably) on the right track, if not already recovered. It's your call, but because you don't get a vote when love comes walking in, I'd go ahead, all other things being equal.

Another thing you may wish to consider. "Is there even a whisper of I'll show your thinking (him being your ex)?" If the answer is yes, think twice. There's a twinge of revenge in there, somewhere, indicating you may not have moved on, yet. If you genuinely don't care what "the ex" thinks, then you're probably not operating from an unhealthy paradigm.

If there's no revenge ask a final question. "Are you using him as a substitution for something else missing in your life...or as merely a means to an end?" If the answer to these questions are also no, you're probably as safe as you'll ever be pursuing a potential relationship.

As always, life and love do not come with a warranty, rebound or not. But by asking the questions healthy minds tend to ask, you improve dramatically your chances of avoiding the negative impact of rebound relationships. What if you discover one or more answers to the questions above are unfavorable? Does that mean you should pass on the relationship? Not necessarily. Just be honest with yourself and him on your motives.


Wondering if you're on the rebound? Click through to and check out the free download on Dirk's 3 "Cs" and how to use them in relationships. Get more information on Dirk's book, The Woman's No-Fear Guide to Online Dating and his Companion Guide to Profile Development.

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