Michele O'Mara

Rebound: Waiting to Date After a Break-Up

Filed By Michele O'Mara | September 22, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: lesbian relationship, new relationships, rebound relationship

My ex and I were together 13 years and we just broke up last month. Two-women-hugging-.jpgI have met someone new and while I'm not in love, I am enjoying the distraction and want to continue seeing her. My friends are encouraging me to be single longer - some say up to a year. What do you think I should do?

The answer is after the jump.

Typically when we end a serious, long-term relationship it takes at least three months after accepting that the relationship is over to regain a solid sense of your self. There is a period of natural grieving and heartache for both partners, even if you are the one who ended the relationship! If you move on too quickly with hopes of side-stepping the pain, this grief will find you later, somehow, often when you least expect it. We are creatures of habit and our routines bring us comfort - even if the routine is to be guessing what is going to happen next!

Contrary to popular opinion, when it comes to dating, opposites do not attract. Like attracts like. Sure, she may like to play football and you might like to shop - but I promise you this: you are both equally broken, and you are both equally healed. At least you start that way. I like to say, "You deserve every relationship you choose."

Your issues may not be the same, but they are disabling to the same degree. She may drink and yell too much, and to the same degree she is not taking care of herself, you are also not taking care of yourself by tolerating or enabling this. The focus of your issues may be different, but the degree is always the same.

Humans are like stock in the stock market. Sometimes our value is higher than others. When you are taking care of yourself, eating right, exercising, spiritually balanced, mentally stimulated, socially active, and feeling good - your stock values are at their peak. When you are heart broken, sleeping a lot, or not sleeping at all, eating poorly or not at all, crying, drinking, under-performing at work, and generally not on top of your game your stock values are low, low, low.

You are the very leverage that you can rely on to attract a partner. If you are not feeling good about yourself or about life, then work on getting your game back before you think about playing the field. When you feel good about yourself, genuinely good about yourself, get out there and start dating. Until then, do the next right thing that will lead you to feeling stronger, more interesting, more alive, and more loveable.

When you attract a partner at your lowest point, you are attracting a partner who finds your low-point desirable. This is not ideal. The risk is that your low-point is her high point. As you start to heal, she will become less appealing to you. This is what accounts for many "rebound" relationships. When you "rebound" the issue isn't the speed with which you move, it's where you are emotionally and what you have to offer when you start your relationship. When we are broken, we attract broken. And broken doesn't last as long as whole.

In a nutshell, when you feel good about who you are and what you have to offer get out there and date. Until then, don't worry about the amount of time it takes - focus on your next step to feeling better. When the time comes, you'll be oh so glad you waited to dip your toe into the pool of dating.


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"Typically when we end a serious, long-term relationship it takes at least three months after accepting that the relationship is over to regain a solid sense of your self.

Who made that up? I know people who take no time at all because towards the end of that relationship they were regaining their "sense of self" and independence until they had the strength to leave. Why wait?

Three months seems arbitrary.

Life is a buffet. Enjoy.

I think it was regaining my sense of self that ended my latest long-term relationship. For now though, I'm enjoying being myself and just having fun with others rather than looking for a partner.

That's great. Enjoy life. Have fun.

Andrew,

The 3 month observation is based solely on my experience with several hundreds of clients I have worked with in the last decade (seeking counseling with me because of a recent break up, a desire to break-up, or having attempted to repair a relationship that ultimately ends). So it's not an exact science. It's my observation of my clients. Which means that it's also specific to gay and lesbian folks mostly, and in particular those who seek counseling. Clearly these variables make my observations less generalizable than observations that would be made through formal scientific research of the general population at large.

Also important to note is that I'm talking about 3 months AFTER you ACCEPT the relationship ended. This CAN occur before your relationship is over and in fact complicates healing for the partner who didn't start grieving then, and doesn't perceive the relationship is actually over until long after the other has concluded that it is.

Obviously with all time lines there are folks that fall way under the 3 month range, and folks that grieve way beyond that time frame. I find it helpful to normalize a typical grief process for people who beat themselves up for not being able to move on sooner.

And ironically, the key message to my post is that moving on is not about time, it's about healing. The healthier you are, the healthier your next relationship will be. Like attracts like.


i don't know if you noticed, but if you view this story as a commentary on breaking up with a political party (some of you are unsure as to how to feel about democrats this year, eh?) it reads just as true as if you read it as a story about the ending of a more personal relationship.

Good call, Don.

I think Michele is spot on with this advice. I've seen so many people rush into other relationships right after a break up as a way to fill the suddenly empty spot in their lives without considering whether it's simply because they're lonely or because they actually have something more in common than pheromones.

Thank-you Michele. I understand your work and i'm sure you are very good at it, but welcome the possibility that we're all different (because of many factors) and there real aren't any time limits involved. Understanding takes different amounts of time based on both our ability and our willingness to grow. When we were young growing was easy. Life makes it harder. The problem is "life," not us. We need to remember what it's like to be young an full of curiosity and imagination.

Keep helping people grow.