After a Breakup, How Do I Know If It’s Just a Rebound Relationship?

So my partner of two years left me without warning for a mutual friend three months ago. He is a typical alpha with a lot of …erm…challenges…but I loved him deeply and completely and was planning a future with him.

Since the breakup we had zero contact and in this time I have become friends with another guy. Only friends, only platonic, and I’ve been really upfront about my emotional position. But as the weeks have passed, although I continue to feel strong and lingering feelings for my ex, my feelings for the new (beta, completely out of my usual range of attraction) guy have started growing. He’s keen to progress things but I’ve kept him at arms-length (with honesty and openness about why). The new guy is so very different to anyone I’ve ever dated before, and I know this is a good thing, on so many levels. But my question is this – firstly, how can I really uncover whether this is a rebound thing, or if the feelings might be genuine, and secondly, because I am so aware that I really needed to ‘break the mold’, how do I evaluate if this is not just the motivation for something new. I have had a conversation with the new guy, and he is understanding and patient – but I also don’t want to keep him hanging on. I find myself doubting all my feelings, not least because of the betrayal that I am still processing. Look forward to your perspective.

Thanks, Susan

Dear Susan,

Thanks for the smart and self-aware email. You deserve credit for trying to turn over a new leaf and open up to different (read: less challenging) men.

It’s only been three months and you have every right to still be reeling from your situation. Should you be dating now? Are you emotionally available? Still scarred by the last guy?

Only you can know that. But I applaud you for getting out there instead of pining away for a guy who demonstrated his lack of integrity by going straight into the arms of your friend.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

There are two issues here that I want to address separately:

    1. You want to know something that is impossible to know.

I take a pretty cerebral approach to dating, but ultimately, relationships are about what’s in your heart. There are lots of people — men and women alike — who are eager to find love again directly after their painful breakup. They think they’re over it. They want to be ready. They dive into a new relationship. And then, when it comes time to step things up, they bail because they weren’t “really” ready to be committed for life. Not yet. These are not bad people; they are driven by their emotions and are doing the best they can. Is it generally a risky bet to date someone on the rebound? Sure. But do people on the rebound fall in love every day? You betcha.

I applaud you for getting out there instead of pining away for a guy who demonstrated his lack of integrity by going straight into the arms of your friend.

Ultimately, you will never know what kind of relationship you have on your hands until you let down your guard and stop keeping him at arm’s length. The beta guy may put up with it for awhile because he likes you, but he deserves to show you what it’s like to BE with him. Not for him to have an unrequited crush on you, but to be there for you — calling you every day after work, listening to you vent about your boss, cooking dinner together, planning weekends away together, meeting each others’ friends and family members.

These are things that happen in a relationship that don’t happen when you’re just platonic.

This doesn’t mean you have to have sex with him tomorrow and get a ring on Friday. It just means that to really see if there is something there, you have to allow your guy to be more alpha with you — plan dates, make the first move, and follow up to see you again.

Is it POSSIBLE that you determine after a week, a month, or a year, that you were on the rebound and misjudged things?

Of course.

Is it POSSIBLE that he IS the one and you’d never know it as “just friends”?

Sure is.

So let down your guard. See what its like to be treated well. Try a new relationship on for size and see if it fits. You are under no obligation to date him if he doesn’t make you happy. But it would be hard for him to make you happy unless you let him.

    2. The other point that I want to bring up — and it’s an important one — is what I call “overcorrection”. What is overcorrection?

You were in a relationship with no spark. The next time out, you want PASSION.

You were in a relationship with a poor slacker. Next time out, you want MONEY.


You were in a relationship with a person who was uptight. Next time out, you want FUN.

You are under no obligation to date him if he doesn’t make you happy. But it would be hard for him to make you happy unless you let him.

My mom married a man who was an overcorrection from her deceased husband. My dad, son of Russian immigrant parents, was not the most chivalrous guy. So when she found a guy who doted upon her, opening the car door, carrying the heavy grocery bag, lavishing her with gifts, she tied the knot, because he was everything my Dad wasn’t.

But to get chivalry, my Mom gave up attraction, humor, respect, and financial stability.

This was not her intention. This was the byproduct of her overcorrection.

So, Susan, just because you were with an uber-alpha and need to detox from him does NOT mean you have to go way down the beta scale. You can be with a nice guy who also has opinions, makes decisions, and makes you feel feminine.

Regardless, I don’t want you to overthink things.

Do you FEEL good with this guy? Yes? Then spend more time with him and give him the feedback that you’re open to a romantic relationship. The rest will be written over time.

And please come back and let us know how it goes, okay?