By Nathan Feiles, LMSW
Rebound relationships can be quite intense. It’s often the case that the longer the previous relationship, the more intense the rebound. Why does this happen?
Rebounds have a lot to do with our attachment makeup (based on early life development). To create a visual, imagine for a second that you have a bunch of strings coming out of you — each string representing a type of need based on our attachment type. When in a relationship, most or all of these strings are attached to our significant others (like a plug into an outlet). When we make this connection, our partner essentially soothes our attachment needs by being the recipient of these strings.
When going through a breakup, it’s a form of emotional crisis. Even if we weren’t happy in our relationship, there’s an overarching feeling of being grounded in the sense that our attachment needs are being soothed. The longer the relationship, the stronger the “strings” become, and the more unconsciously dependent they become on this other “object” (our partner) to maintain this connection. So, when the strings are suddenly pulled away from our mate, we suddenly end up with these emotional strings aimlessly flying around in the wind waiting to attach to someone. It can feel similar to breaking a long-term addiction all at once — there’s generally no weaning process in a breakup. (It has been said that love is a form of addiction).
What ends up happening is that we end up looking for somebody who can be the recipient of our attachment strings in order to soothe our emotional crisis. When this happens, we end up in a rebound relationship, with pre-strenthened attachment strings, with an increased sense of urgency to re-connect, from the reaction of the sudden detachment. This paves the way for a fast and intense connection.
This leads to a combination of problematic issues that often present in a rebound relationship:
- The previous relationship hasn’t been resolved. Rebounds are generally reactive. These relationships start out as an emotional response to a removal from emotional security and stability (whether or not the relationship was healthy). Therefore, the previous relationship as a whole, and the accompanying emotions from the breakup have not been processed or resolved. A rebound relationship is a subconscious way of trying to avoid feeling the hurt, sadness, disappointment, and other emotions from the relationship that didn’t work. The euphoria drowns the sorrow. But only temporarily. Eventually, these emotions surface and often cause confusion within the rebound relationship.
- The rebound partner is often idealized. In a rebound relationship, it’s common that the new partner is viewed as perfect — the person that we always wished we’d found first, and were so lucky to find this time. It’s euphoric. This response has a lot to do with our attachment needs seeking a state of stability to resolve the emotional crisis we experience in a breakup. In a metaphoric sense, we end up plugging all of our emotional strings deeply into a new partner all at once, in order to emotionally stabilize ourselves. They aren’t slowly worked in, such as with most non-rebound relationships. Eventually, the idealization (and euphoria) goes away, and this is when rebounds often hit a well.
- Our own role in the previous relationship has not been explored. People often find they deal with similar types of struggles from one relationship to the next. This is because we have a role, based on our developmental history, in the formation and dynamic of our relationships. Simply said, if we don’t work to understand how our previous relationships went wrong, and what we can do to learn and grow from the experience, there’s a significant chance we will end up dealing with similar issues, only with a different person.
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