Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Survey the District: Should I Be a Rebound?

Dear Date the District,

Is it wrong to initiate with a guy who just broke up with his girlfriend of four years? Details are needed here I guess, he's given signs, very obvious signs. But he seems down about his breakup. I feel like I would totally be taking advantage of him...but is that technically wrong?

(Full disclosure: today’s question comes from one of our best and oldest friends.)

Is it wrong? Absolutely not.

When it comes to dating, you can take advantage of people sexually. You can take advantage of their emotional vulnerabilities.

But it’s not taking advantage if you’re trying to date him. Unless you intoxicate and/or drug a guy, it’s pretty hard to manipulate him into dating you. If he doesn’t want a relationship, he’s a guy—we’re sure he has plenty of moves in his repertoire to avoid a relationship.

The real question is, is the potential of this turning into a rebound relationship more of an issue for you than it is for him?

Four years is a long time. And regardless of who broke up with whom, he probably has a few symptoms of PBS (post breakup stress) that leave him less than primed for a relationship.

When two people are together for four years, they develop certain habits that begin to feel very comfortable. They sleep in the same bed every night, they serve as each other’s sounding boards for the most boring minutiae that no one else wants to listen to (OMG line at Potbelly’s out the door—should I try corner bakery?), and they always have someone to hang out with on an eventless Friday night.

After a breakup, both parties need something to fill that void. They could develop hobbies, make more of an effort to hang out with their friends, teach their parents how to use T9 word, or… find a replacement partner.

The replacement is obviously the easiest solution to the problem. At first, it feels like you just need a body to fill that space. One fix solves all problems. After all, your hobbies won’t take you to the E Street Cinema, and your parents won’t sleep in your bed every night.

But as a rebound relationship progresses, the rebounder usually starts to notice differences between the reboundee and his ex. The reboundee might not race to read the New Yorker review of the movie the second she leaves the theater. And maybe the rebounder hatedit when his ex did that. But now that the reboundee is trying to fill the ex’s shoes, every difference becomes an issue.

These feelings are rarely conscious and/or deliberate (especially if he was the one who called things off). But no matter how bad things were at the end, every relationship is made up of certain habits and routines. And routines tend to make us feel comfortable. They establish some measure of normalcy in our lives, no matter how destructive they are in the long run.

After the breakup, we lose that normalcy. And the easiest way to get it back is to recreate the relationship—fatal flaws and all.

That’s why you don’t want to be the rebound girl. You’re setting yourself up to recreate a relationship that failed.

But that’s not to say that you can’t have a relationship with a guy who’s on the rebound. You just have to make sure you aren’t playing the part of his ex-girlfriend.

This means taking things slowly. Don’t fall into couple-y habits too quickly. Don’t start spending every night at his place. Don’t accompany him to the farmer’s market every Sunday.

Don’t pry, but listen carefully when he talks about his ex. And then make a conscious effort to distinguish yourself. If he mentions that he and his ex used to go on runs together, don’t immediately offer to be his new jogging buddy.

When you’re pursing a guy that’s getting over a relationship, more than anything else, you need to make him feel like he’s becoming a part of your life, not the other way around. Make him adjust to your schedule and your needs. Don’t go out of your way to accommodate his.

1 comment:

  1. Aren't some people, though, just "relationship people"? Like, they all they do is just have one relationship after another? What happens if people WANT the couple-y stuff?