A rebound relationship refers to a relationship that someone jumped into right after or soon after their breakup with the intent to suppress or escape their pain and feel less lonely. For this reason, it’s not hard to assume that most rebounds are shallow and short-lasting. However, despite that being the prevailing cultural notion, it’s always not the case. Most rebounds actually help rather than hinder you, whether they last or not.
And while that is a topic I deconstructed in this article, for this one, I intend to bring a different misconception to light — one on how most people think that rebounds go through stages far different than other non-rebounds. This, as you’ll find out, is false.
But let’s not get carried away and start from the beginning.
the stages of a rebound relationship
When I typed “stages of a rebound” into Google, I was inundated with a torrential downpour of content — videos, articles, podcasts, you name it! After digesting most of it, I could barely stay awake. Virtually all of it expressed the same ideas. It’s like each piece of content was a carbon copy of the next.
I assume you don’t want to go through the same dull and repetitive content-digestion binge that I went through. Well, you don’t have to. I’ve summarized everything you need to know about the stages of a rebound relationship below. Thank me later.
Stage 1: Dinfatiuation
The first stage of rebounds begins when one partner gets pushed into the vast freedom due to the other’s absence. And as a result, they start seeing other people that they lust over. Some people start dating out of excitement, and others out of anxiety, neediness, and the fear of missing out on new experiences. As you’ve could’ve guessed, the former leads to a non-rebound relationship, while the latter leads to a rebound relationship.
It’s also worth noting that the dumpee and the dumper have somewhat different reactions during this stage. For one, the dumpee has a much harder time coping with the breakup compared to the dumper. They grieve longer and more intensely. On the flip side, the dumper reaches the end of their grieving much faster, and the overall process is far less intense. There’s even a chance that the dumper will actually feel relieved when their relationship is over.
Stage 2: The honeymoon stage
After a person dates around for a while, they usually settle down with someone. When that happens, they reach stage two of their rebound relationship, coined The Honeymoon Stage or The Attraction Stage according to Helen Fisher, a renowned love researcher that we’ll be referencing a lot throughout this article. (1)
The Honeymoon Stage lasts anywhere from 6 months to one year, and during it, two people can’t get enough of each other. This is due to three chemicals shooting off in their brains: norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin.
Norepinephrine takes away your appetite, gives you an extra boost in energy, the surging heart, and the inability to sleep. Dopamine boosts your overall happiness and motivation. And serotonin increases the amount of obsessive and intrusive thoughts you have about your new partner.
Though these tendencies sound normal on paper, in real life, they quickly become toxic. They can trick a person into thinking their partner is far better and more compatible than they actually are. After this happens, most relationships go downhill. Disagreements bubble up. Arguments arise. And the couple ends up in the next stage.
Stage 3: reality and conflicts
Experts often portrayed stage three of rebound relationships as the pivotal one. According to Helen Fisher, it refers to the transitional period between the Attraction and Attachment stages.
In it, you begin to see your partner’s flaws and imperfections. So, judging whether they’re a good fit or not becomes much easier. And as the name implies, stage three is filled with arguments. These arguments usually play out in two very different ways. A couple can either resolve them or amplify them.
If you resolve them, learn to accept your differences, and make healthy compromises, then their relationship may last. However, if they fail to do that, they’ll enviably move on to stage four.
Stage 4: Nostalgia and comparison
Stage four marks the point where people begin to compare their new partners to their previous one. A hallmark of it are thoughts like:
- “OHMYGOD, my ex was also a loud chewer.”
- “My ex was never so ill-tempered. Maybe I’m with the wrong person…?”
- “He walks and talks like my ex. I don’t like that.”
- “She has the same body shape as my ex. I love that!”
- “My ex would react in the same way in this scenario.”
While there’s nothing wrong with comparing your new partner to your ex, and while everyone does that from time to time, it is wrong to keep doing it until you begin to reminisce and miss your ex frequently.
If that happens, the intrusive thoughts that keep swirling around your mind often get infused with growing resentment toward your current partner. People begin to think, “Why can’t you be more/less like my ex!” If you’re going through something remotely similar, it is undoubtedly a bad sign for your relationship and its future.
Another trait of The Nostalgia/Comparison Stage is that the more disagreements you have with your partner, the more you’ll contemplate leaving them and getting your ex back. At that point, you’ll move to the last stage of a rebound relationship.
Stage 5: The epiphany
The final rebound relationship stage is equivalent to the Attachment Stage of Helen Fisher’s research. It plays out in two radically different ways.
You can conclude that your relationship is fake, that you’ve committed to your partner only because you were afraid of being alone, and that you’ve settled, or you can conclude that it’s real, healthy, and can potentially last. Depending on your conclusion, you can either break up with your partner or you stay and double down on building a relationship with them that can stand the test of time.
What Everyone Gets Wrong About The Stages Of A Rebound
Most assume that a rebound’s stages are different from those of a non-rebound, that each unfolds sequentially, and that they all have a pre-defined period for how long they last. These three assumptions, or in some cases, claims, are major blemishes on the rebound relationship research. And as you’ll find out below, they are wrong and only complicate what is essentially a very simple matter.
1. The stages of a rebound relationship are no different than the stages of a non-rebound
There are five stages when it comes to rebound relationships: Defatiuation, Honeymoon, Conflicts And Reality, Nostalgia And Comparison, and The Epiphany. Now, when it comes to none rebounds, there are three stages (Again, using Helen Fisher research): Lust, Attraction, and Attachment.
(Optional) Helen Fisher’s stages of a non-rebound relationship
If you’d like to dig deep into this topic, I encourage you to read this article from Harvard. But for those short on time, here’s the gist.
Lust is our primordial sex drive. It’s the feeling you get when you seen a hot girl or guy walk by and they immediately turn you on. It’s the feeling of “I want to fuck him/her right here and now.” And beleive it or not, lust is also a form of love to which anyone who meets our minimal psychical standards is subjected — your hot tutor, your boss, your mailman, even your dog, you sick fuck.
And lust doesn’t give a shit whether you love your ex or not. It affects you regardless. You can’t control or contain or subdue it, nor should you try to.
Attraction is closely related to lust and similar in many ways. However, the most contrasting difference is its length — it lasts much longer than lust (three weeks to one year, on average).
During the attraction stage, two people can’t have enough of each other. They will ponder on each other. They will want to talk, kiss, turn each other’s intestines to mush, all the time. Their hours spent together will feel like minutes. They’ll minimize each other’s flaws and exaggerate each other’s strengths. They’ll quite literally become obsessed with each other.
Yet, despite all the butterflies this stage cages a couple in, there’s a dark underbelly to attraction. Many people, especially those with lower self-esteem, are prone to develop codependency during this time. And codependency then further acts as the catalyst to neediness, jealousy, controlling behavior, and neurotic preoccupation with one’s partner, all of which kill interest, and ultimately, bury relationships.
Most relationships fall apart during the transition from Attraction to Attachment because the newness of their partner wears off, and their true flaws start to shine through. During this stage, the love between two lovers often becomes unconditional — at least with couples who develop a sufficient supply of emotional maturity.
Attachment also facilitates a far stronger emotional bond that hardens the previous strung together during Attraction, making it often so powerful it keeps a relationship intact in the direst circumstances: wars, mental illnesses, long-distance, addictions, and so forth. In fact, those in the Attachment stage begin to undergo one of the most deep-felt and meaningful experiences of romantic relationships: the fusion of a couple’s identities — the primary reasons why dissolution of a relationship hurts so much.
At a glance, one could easily conclude that non-rebound and rebound stages are not alike. However, when you observe the chemicals our brains releases in each stage and the behaviors we display due to that release, you’d quickly see the similarities.
During The Honeymoon Stage, the chemicals released in our brains are mainly dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. The resulting tendencies they make us do are obsessive happiness, constant rumination of the relationship, and a naive disregard for our partner’s incompatibilities. These are the same attributes one experiences during The Attraction Stage. (2)
During The Epiphany Stage, the chemicals released in our brains are mainly oxytocin and vasopressin. The resulting tendencies they make us do are forming an intense friendship with our partner, putting an end to high-school-like obsessive love, and the awakening of unconditional adult love. Again, these are the same attributes one experiences during The Attachment Stage. (3)
During The Reality And Conflict Stage and The Nostalgia And Comparison Stage, things get a bit messy. To my knowledge, these two stages are a transitional period to the final one: Attachment when it comes to non-rebounds and Epiphany when it comes to rebounds. The way you look at it doesn’t really matter. Every couple will have fights at some point. Every couple will compare their partner to their ex at some point. (4)
As you can see, the stages of a rebound and a non-rebound aren’t so different, apart from the first one. And even then, one could argue that it’s up for debate. For sexual arousal or lust caused by sex hormones is the common denominator at that point, no matter the type of relationship we’re discussing. (5)
2. The stages of a rebound relationship don’t occur in the order presented
Similar to stages of a breakup, rebound alternatives don’t unfold linearly. You don’t suddenly go from The Honeymoon Stage to The Conflicts And Reality Stage. You shift between the two for weeks or even months until you eventually settle down in the subsequent one.
Likewise, you can also revert to any previous stage at random. Meaning you can quickly go from The Epiphany Stage to the Comparison Stage and then back to Epiphany.
You can even be in two stages of a rebound relationship at once or adopt elements from two or more of them! For instance, you could be in The Honeymoon Stage, but still find yourself in countless conflicts and bickerings with your partner.
3. The stages of a rebound relationship don’t have a time period next to them
I know everyone is obsessed with tracking how long rebounds will last or whether your relationship is a rebound or not, but can you just shut the fuck up for a second. No one knows the answer. Every study I read and every reader and client I talked to got wildly different results.
Stop approaching relationships as a science project to which you have to figure out the nuts and bolts too. Relationships don’t work that way. And realistically speaking, nobody has the stages of a rebound figured out, so don’t take them so damn seriously.
If you’re suddenly bickering with your new partner, it doesn’t mean that you’re in stage three or that your relationship won’t work out. The whole thing could mean absolutely nothing. And if you’re someone who wants their ex back, but are worried that that’s going to be impossible because they’re at a certain stage with their new rebound, know that it may not be as big of a deal as you think.
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