Posted in Everyday Musings, Love Life

Rebounders (aka, can guys and girls be friends?)

Hmmm…sounds like it might be the title of a great sitcom, right?

So, how many times have you had or been the rebound relationship? I guess a better question is “what is a rebound relationship”? I mean, what function is it supposed to serve versus what actually happens?

Caveat: I am a classical economist, a political centrist, so in my mind there is only “what is” and almost never “what should be,” mainly because no one has let me be in charge of the universe yet. Then I’ll (or you’ll) get to decide “what should be” and then make it happen.

That said, what is the function of the rebound relationship? Technically, a rebound only follows a relationship that made it into the serious, big “L” love, on the way to marriage and kids and til death do us part level. Doesn’t have to have gotten than far for both parties, and generally that’s why the pre-rebound relationship ends. So you, assuming you are the one who believed in the happily ever after-ness and still in that mindset, find a lovely person to whom you can transfer those feelings. Rarely are they real, but they are so strong that you can’t just stop on a dime. It’s all bottled up inside you and you need somewhere to stow them. So you meet and date a fun, fantastic person; you might even meet his/her friends and family on some group dates.

Thing is, that love really belongs to someone else, not your rebound.

I mean, think of the word itself, re-bound. The primary definition of “to bound” is bounce. Add the prefix “re” and you’ve got a fancy way of saying “bounce back,” as if you’ve just fallen down and you are bouncing back up. Another way to use it is straight out of basketball…means exactly the same thing…ball is thrown for the basket and misses (relationship #1) and someone else catches it and tries to score. Yes, sometimes the person who threw it also catches the rebound; that’s the relationship we’ve all seen at least one of our friends in, where the pair break up and reunite over and over again, rebounding with each other.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, my rebound and I just “broke up.” But first, the man I love and I had to break up. Before that we had to be in a relationship that included the connections that lead up to love.

And that’s precisely what happened. The thing is, I knew I was in a position to be a great rebound girl for someone else, but I never considered how much having a rebound guy would benefit me.

And boy, did I get lucky. My rebound guy had his messy, nasty, self-esteem shattering break-up about six months after I had mine. Okay, I admit, that’s not really how mine happened; we loved each other but had very different expectations about how things could or would happen to move us toward something more than just loving each other…that life together. I spent about four days crying and not eating over mine, but an amazing snuggle of friends supported me through that. My rebound guy wasn’t so lucky; that is, his ex spent about two months viciously shredding him to pieces, everything from how he looked to his career choices to his age, even hitting so low as to suggest he was a shame to his family. I know this because he and I were friends, just friends, through all of this. I even took care of him a couple of times when he was so busted up that he needed help.

But earlier this year, we were talking about our relationships with others and our relationship with each other. He and I share an intimacy that is uncommon among men and women, that rare “best friends” intimacy between a man and a woman. We wondered if there was something more, so we consciously decided to take some time to see if there might be something more there.

I still had my love for another man bottled up, nowhere to put it, but had been meeting up with this friend for “date-like” occasions.

He had several years worth of love for a women who now hated him, and nowhere to put it. I even met her a month or so before the 2-month-long break up began.

Might as well see if we fit. So we had dates. For events and especially family occasions, we attended as an unspoken couple. In fact, that was key for us; we never declared to anyone that we were a couple. But we are both guilty of not correcting what we knew was their assumption.

So for the past five months, we’ve spent about two weekends a month together, usually one with his family and one with mine (we live in different areas of the state). And it’s been rare that a day goes by that we don’t talk, even if just a little. We do little special things for each other.

But the fact is, we did all of this as friends, when we were each seeing other people, in love with them, in fact.

I’ll admit, I’m less guarded than he with my feelings and let myself enjoy and show my joy in spending time with him and loving him; I even told him that I love him a few weeks ago. That’s the tricky part. I do love him, and I know he loves me. But it’s easy to mistake our intimacy with the kind of love that makes people want to make a life together.

So last week, my rebound guy and I “broke up.” I have to put it in quotation marks because we were always just seeing where our special, rare intimacy boundaries were.

And the best part is, there is no one else for either of us right now. We “broke up” because we simply aren’t into each other that way. I love knowing that we simply aren’t “the one” for each other rather than came in second place to someone else.

And I have to admit, I was worried about the conflict that would flare up inside of me if I really loved two men with the same intensity. Because I do still love my ex, in a way that makes me want to make a life with him.

So what did I get out of this rebound relationship? That’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure I know all of the answers to it yet. But I learned to have fun with a man, just fun, no expectations. To open myself up to new experiences, not just the ones that we share but the ones that could become important parts of my life. To share myself openly with someone else, knowing that I could be hurt but trusting his care for me and that his honesty is something I can trust. Perhaps I learned that the kind of man that I’ve always dreamed of finding and loving really does exist, isn’t just a figment of my imagination.

It would have been so nice and easy if he and I could have fallen in love with each other…the marriage kind of love. It’s certainly what both of our families and friends were rooting for. But it’s not what happened.

The Moral of the Story: the rebound doesn’t have to be a bad or dangerous relationship to be in. I still think I make a great rebound girl, as long as I know I’m in that role. I’ve dated and stayed friends with many men who found me just as their marriage was busting up. Being honest with each other about having a good time and enjoying the companionship can make a rebound relationship fun!


If you've had my cooking or heard me sing, you've shared some of the happiest and most memorable moments of my life. But if you've been lucky enough to listen to me sing while I cook, well, then you've seen the real me. And if you've sung and cooked with me, you know what being loved by me is!

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