First relationship after divorce – Rebound or Real Thing?


How do you know if the new relationship you’re in is real or rebound? We’re all for getting out there and living and loving life… but keep a handle on reality too. Julie Wein is here to help us figure out how to detect the rebound.


  • Rebound or the real thing? Love or lust? There really isn’t a straightforward answer for everyone, since we all progress at different rates.
  • More often than not, your first relationship after a divorce is a rebound relationship.
  • A rebound relationship tends to be intense since you could be “starving” for those feelings of acceptance, attraction, desire, love.

OUR GUEST – Julie Wein, Licensed Clinical Social Worker


Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.

T.H.: On today’s podcast, I am really happy to have my friend Julie Wein here. She is a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey. She and I’ve spoken a lot about divorce. She is not divorced, she is happily married, but she works with a lot of women who are going through a divorce and growing and trying to figure themselves out. We have spoken a lot about different topics and different things that come our way good, bad, and ugly. Welcome to divorce etc today.

Jessica: Thanks for being here, Julie.

Julie: Thank you for having me.

T.H.: In our last conversation, we were talking about rebound relationships. What really is that because I definitely had one? Jessica can tell her stories. I’m sure it’s very common, but once you’re separated because you’re not even divorced, the minute you’ve got your ticket to head out to ride, you do. But sometimes you get so caught up and you’re like, oh my god, I love this person. I love him. He’s the greatest in the whole world. Meanwhile, everyone else is looking at it like, are you kidding me right now? Let’s talk about love and lust because there’s definitely a difference. Side note, you should totally enjoy the ride. I am not taking you away from that. I just want you to know that it’s just a ride. Let’s talk about it.

Julie: Yes. Okay. What would you like to…?

T.H.: Okay, I separated from my ex-husband. I had many years of loneliness, misery, a lot of other bad things, and no intimacy at all. In fact, the opposite, just not even feeling desired. I went on a blind date and then it was somebody who I knew and blah blah blah. It was like a rapid rush and I was like, oh my God, I found the love of my life. Clearly, it wasn’t.

Julie: You’re like the racehorse out of the gate. You had to just run to it.

T.H.: Why is that? Why do we do that?

Jessica: I think it’s also how do we differentiate within ourselves whether or not it’s something that actually could be serious, or whether it’s more of a reactionary measure to kind of where we’re coming from?

Julie: I think that at the beginning after you’re in that separation phase, it seems to me that it is more of a reaction, an impulsive response than perhaps on a more lust type of a basis than necessarily this love connection. Could it happen? Sure, anything can happen in life. But I do believe, at least for the women that I work with, and have worked with, there has been so much physical, emotional, verbal, mental cruelty and deprivation throughout their years, that they are longing so much, that they will put up with other things that they wouldn’t in their normal life, but because they are so lonely, and so empty, and so hungry, which I use that term quite a bit because they are starving, they’re like a shell of a person. I think that probably you both can identify with that in some way. It’s a very traumatic experience. And so when we meet someone else, it might not be the person, but it feels like the person because we want that to be the person. We want to erase, or just get rid of, or undo all of that ugliness that we experienced.

Jessica: It’s so nice to meet someone and feel, oh, they’re actually interested in me and they’re attracted to me, and they desire me, and all of those things. I think what I probably struggled with and what a lot of people struggle with is, you get to a point where you do feel like you’re okay. You’re not necessarily feeling like you’re a shell of yourself anymore, and you might be feeling like you’re ready to meet someone, and then you do. Then I think, in retrospect, you might look back months or years later and think, you know what, that actually was a rebound and I didn’t realize it at the time. Is there a way for us to be more aware of it in the moment? Are there specific signs or tips that you would give to say, look, if you’re thinking this, or you’re doing this, or you’re feeling this, you might want to be a little bit more aware of the fact that it could be a rebound relationship versus it could be something more substantial?

Julie: Absolutely. First of all, I think that, at least in the women that I have worked with, they suffer a lot of trauma. When you’re dealing with that, and you’re dealing with all of that hyper-vigilance and the startled response and all of that, you’re not thinking clearly. I am always doing so much reality testing and trying to bring them back and reframing their thoughts to what reality is versus what this fantasy may be. I say things like “true, false, somewhere in the middle”, balance the scales, is this really what you think? Tell me why you think that. I do a lot of problem-solving. Tell me is this– explain to me why? Break that down for me. What does that look like? What does it mean exactly? I, personally, I’m very hands-on. I am very direct. I am very upfront. The way you see me now is the way I am in the room. There is no change. I think that directness allows them to see a real human side to make them feel okay and normalize it rather than [soft voice] oh, let’s look at this. This is really terrible.

T.H.: Right, because then you feel like it’s another thing that’s wrong with me.

Julie: Uh-huh.

T.H.: Right. I mean, I definitely was thrilled to have a breadcrumb. I thought the breadcrumb was like the dream.

Julie: It was like a Godiva chocolate.

T.H.: Totally. I will tell you and to anybody listening, if you’re able to have someone like Julie or some type of therapist supporting you, and guiding you, and calling you out on things, it’s really important because then you’re going to learn how to call yourself out on things. I remember I went to her and I was telling her this whole story, and for dinner, I got an English muffin. He’s like, well, I’ve got English muffins. And so he’s referred to as the English muffin guy. All I got was an English muffin and I was elated. It was like the greatest thing in the world. That kind of makes you realize where you’re coming from.

Jessica: How do we differentiate, though, between something that could be, I don’t know, a bagel versus the English muffin? I don’t know what the ideal–the croissant? I mean, whatever the analogy is for the good bread–like the donut. But in all seriousness, I think that that’s kind of what a lot of people are struggling with, because you are going to therapy and you’re doing the work on yourself, and you’re moving forward. You’re redefining who you are and you feel like you’re doing the things that you should be doing.

Julie: You feel like you’re putting in the work and the–

Jessica: Correct.

Julie: Number one, I feel like if you’re getting repeat performances on the English muffin, then you know that that’s the top line. You’re not going to get–

Jessica: What do you mean by repeat performances?

Julie: Meaning that you’re not going to get much more than the English muffin.

T.H.: If I settle for an English muffin?

Julie: Exactly. That’s the bar that we set.

Jessica: I think part of the challenge though when you’re in a certain place is that you don’t necessarily realize that you’re settling. You’re already getting so much more than where you came from that you don’t think that you’re settling. How do you determine that that’s what’s happening?

Julie: Because if I’m hearing the same story week after week, I do call the person out and say, I’m noticing that we’re hearing the same English muffin week after week. Can you tell me about that because it really seems odd to me? Isn’t there more than just the English muffin for you in your life? Didn’t we already have these experiences? Would you not want more because that’s why you came to see me in the first place because you were so lonely and hungry? Scraps, I don’t think you were really interested in. I thought you wanted the whole plate, not just an English muffin.

T.H.: I think also it’s a matter of realizing that you deserve–

Julie: Absolutely.

T.H.: I settled for a lot because I thought maybe that’s all I should get.

Julie: And that’s what women think all the time. This is all I deserve. This is all I’m good enough for. I am forever reframing, recreating, re-identifying, and literally making them also say mantras to themselves, I am good enough, I am so and so, in order to reframe their thoughts because they have been so emotionally beaten down, whether it’s by their partner or by proxy by themselves.

Jessica: You go out and you meet–we’re just going to use the example since we’re women, you meet a guy and he seems like the full package. He treats you so well, he takes you out. He cares about you, he seems thoughtful and generous, and he’s nice to your kids, if you have kids, like all of the things that would be on your ideal list [that checks the box]. That’s correct. I’m still struggling with if it seems so good, how would I know that it’s not really real and that it’s more of a rebound situation? What should be the inner cues if these things are so good? Is there a certain amount of time, a minimum that someone needs to wait before they can really allow themselves to consider the idea that it could be a serious relationship? Or what are those types of tips?

Julie: Well, it’s really hard to say because every relationship develops at a different time. I will say that as grown women and adults, they certainly I would say grow faster than when we were like 16-18 years old. Things move at a much faster pace. But just because they move faster sexually doesn’t mean that they move faster emotionally. That’s the difference between love and lust.

Jessica: Sorry to interrupt, I have a question because I think that everybody who’s been divorced and starts dating again has had circumstances wherein some relationships, if you can even call it that, they’ll meet someone, and like you said, things may move fast sexually, but you still may not have a real emotional bond or connection yet because that part is still growing. Then there are people that you meet where you’re going out repeatedly and you’re getting to know each other, and maybe the sexual part of the relationship is moving significantly slower. Is that the key? Or does that still not prevent that from potentially also still being a rebound because now you could be having an emotional relationship in your head?

Julie: There’s no right or wrong. There’s no guideline. Every person is different, every human being is different. But if we’re seeing certain signs, what I tried to do with my patients is look at our own emotional barometer and try to get in touch with that. How are we feeling about things and to really understand is this something that is working for us or is it not working for us, and why is it or isn’t it, and what is going on for us, and what is it bringing up for us?

T.H.: So there’s no straight answer if you’re–

Julie: No, it’s not linear.

T.H.: –real substance and a good thing in your life. I also think that you, unfortunately, have to live through some of this stuff maybe a few times. It took me a few times. I needed it a few times.

Julie: You have to get back on the horse or on the bike and ride it a little bit.

T.H.: Yeah, I couldn’t even hear what was being told to me.

Julie: I think that that’s part of it that you are so shell-shocked that when you come out of the gate like a horse, whatever, and you’re just running, you’re not hearing. Your body and your mind are so disconnected. You just need to be loved and heard and validated by the same sex, opposite sex, whatever you choose. That is where your first line of defense is and that need, that primary need is what is really something that needs to be fulfilled more than anything. And so even though it’s skewed because it’s not 100% accurate at that particular time, that’s what you are requiring because of the deprivation.

Jessica: Are there questions we can be asking ourselves, or signs that we can be looking out for that would maybe say this is a little bit more of a red flag, or that we can be a little bit more aware of as our own kind of personal emotional check ends over the course of a relationship? Maybe it’s been a couple of dates, like, how am I feeling about these specific things?

Julie: Oh, of course. How often are they contacting you? How attentive are they to you? Are you liking their attentiveness? Would you like it more? All of this is sort of your own, again, emotional barometer. Do you feel comfortable when you’re with this person? When you’re not with this person, how do you feel? Would you like to be with this person more often? Are you getting out what you would like to get out of it? What would you like to get more out of it? What is missing? Those are the little in the back of our head, as we’re trying to think about things. In terms of everything else, I wouldn’t be like did he check this box or that box exactly, because not everybody is going to fit everybody’s box. Things grow when they develop and they change and we evolve. We’re all learning, thinking, feeling human beings, so we change and we grow. But we want to know certainly if there are signs that are alarming. Then we need to pay attention to them early on and negate them, despite our feelings of loneliness, which happens. And also, listen to our other side, our emotional side, and say, well, I may not like so and so, but I’m really liking so and so. What are acceptable and not acceptable types of things, if that makes sense?

Jessica: Do you feel you hear a lot or interpret a lot that someone may be seeing someone and their sexual chemistry could be off the charts, and that is totally making them think it’s more than it is? And how does someone pull back from that and reanalyze what’s going on?

Julie: 100% Absolutely. And I would say that happens more often than not at the beginning phase when you separate or after the divorce, an early on type of thing when you’re first very, very vulnerable. It may happen several times, and it sort of ebbs and flows. But you have to know and respect yourself and give yourself permission to allow yourself to say, I’m okay. I realize I’m lonely. I’m in a vulnerable state right now. I may not be 100% where I want to be, but I know I’m going to be getting where I need to be.

T.H.: I think it’s really a quandary because you’re bringing up so many things. For me, I was in a marriage where I was afraid to voice the things that made me uncomfortable, that I didn’t like. It took a little while–well, my gut is the loudest thing ever since the last day of my marriage, in my mind. In the relationships I’ve been in, I would feel that gut creeping up on me again, but in my head, I’d be like, but it’s so nice and whatever. I would shove it away like, shush, shush. I wouldn’t hear it.

Julie: Yeah, you’d push it down.

T.H.: Yeah, I’m having a good time. Don’t mess with me. I’m not going to let that bother me. And also, as you’re growing and discovering and learning again, you’re going to learn what’s okay and what’s not okay. I don’t think you really know what’s okay and what’s not okay. Coming from my position of very poor, if any, communication with my spouse and almost serious emotional stress, I had to be trained how to communicate. Even like, what is that feeling? How do I put a word to that? How would I tell Julie what that is? I mean, I could tell you how feels, like my stomach hurts, but that doesn’t tell you anything. And why does it hurt? Well, it hurts when he says, blah, blah, blah, because it reminds me of that time in band camp when whatever happened, but that really does happen. Even in a relationship that I was in a long time before my current relationship, I was like, I don’t have time for this shit, but he’s serving a purpose. I think it really is a growing time. I think that you are really instrumental and everybody in your field in terms of helping us figure out what that angst is to put it into words like language. Then when you say it out loud, then it’s like, phew, thank God, I’m free. You rip the band-aid off finally.

Julie: Yeah, it’s very relieving when once you’re putting those pieces of the puzzle together because there isn’t a lot of language. It’s just very primal, the feelings, and they’re very raw. It’s important to have those pieces put together so that you can come full circle in order to have a fuller life.

T.H.: Right, I mean, I think being able to voice and say whatever you’re capable of saying because you guys actually build the story. My therapist built my story. I couldn’t even remember what I said two minutes ago, let alone last week. I do remember one time she said something to me which I to this day do not remember. I went to the gym afterward, I did a workout class, and I had a complete breakdown. I had a holy shit moment and I had to leave the class. I was like, she said something that festered in my subconscious and screwed up my workout class! But she built the story because I feel like a lot of people–

Julie: She planted the seed.

T.H.: Right, but how do you build a story for someone? I come to you and I’m like, help me. Help with what? I don’t know. I don’t even know. I just know that I had a bad marriage. I’m trying to get a relationship. I thought I found the love of my life. I’ve only known him for two weeks. That sounds ridiculous, but that’s how you feel sometimes.

Julie: Exactly.

T.H.: How do you help people identify this is what the love of your life should feel like and this is how it feels to you now? How do you help people really–I know every situation is different but just take mine for right now for what you know. What would you even say to me? How would you help me identify it so that I could learn, you know, what she said to me, I remember now, and that’s exactly what that looks like or feels like. How do you help people in general terms get in touch with themselves like that? It’s a lot of work.

Julie: It’s a lot of work, yes. But I do draw patterns like you were talking about with your therapist, who obviously, you had an ‘aha’ moment, even though you may not have realized it.

T.H.: I didn’t like it, but I needed it.

Julie: Yeah, and that’s what this is about. It’s about retraining your thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that you’re able to re-identify and reestablish your footing and yourself, your inner self. Each person is an individual, so what would be helpful for you might not be helpful for Jessica, and so on and so forth. It’s tailor-made per the individual. It’s not cookie-cutter. There is no prescription for this. It’s just very individualized.

T.H.: What would you say to somebody who’s newly separated whose emotions are–I think probably more often than not when you’re first separated, regardless of what side you’re on, is it fair to say that you are probably pretty vulnerable [absolutely] and maybe not making the best choices in general terms? Like, just be careful of your decisions, or not?

Julie: Yes, but there’s a way in which to say it. There’s a way in which to say it and approach it that could be taken in and heard and understood. And also, I think the repetition of how it is said and the reinforcement is also very important so that it’s layered on. Well, are you sure? Because remember, we were talking about so and so. I also hear a similar theme that you said last week when so and so. I always am referring back.

T.H.: So you’re connecting the dots?

Julie: Mhm.

Jessica: Yeah, and I do feel like it is a big challenge and a big struggle for a lot of us to find something meaningful and realize that it actually is meaningful and not just a rebound relationship. I think that’s one of the big fears when you meet someone is, is this just going to be a rebound and how to distinguish if it is or if it isn’t. I like your message of if you have something in your gut, or you’re thinking that there’s something that may not be 100%, but that same feeling keeps coming up repeatedly, you’ve got to listen to it. I’ve really struggled over the last several years with being able to trust my own instincts and being able to trust my own gut. That’s been a huge part of my personal process is relearning to listen to my inner voice and how I’m feeling inside and be honest about it. Yes, there may be all of these great things over here, but there are still these other things over here that really just aren’t going to work for me in the end, and figure out how to determine what weight to give to each thing to be able to know whether or not it can actually work.

Julie: Right.

T.H.: And then, of course, we all know that, and Jessica and I’ve certainly learned this hard knocks way, and I’m sure you’ve had plenty of patients come into your office, I hear so many times from other people, am I ever going to find love? Where is the man? You’re so lucky you have somebody. And that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal in life to find somebody. The goal in life is to be–[with oneself] very close to which is so good with ourselves. We are in a good place. We recognize our downfalls, our weaknesses, our strengths. Everybody’s always growing and evolving as you said, but the goal is not to find that guy. The goal is to be good to you, to be honest with yourself, and that’s probably the number one thing.

Julie: Absolutely.

T.H.: That has to be the number one message.

Julie: I just bent down because I do make my patients read certain things. Over the summer, there was this book that I made them read, it’s called 10% Happier by Dan Harris. He’s a publisher, I think. This was very useful.

T.H.: What does it say in front of it?

Julie: 10% Happier.

T.H.: And then what does it say below?

Julie: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story.

Jessica: I love that. That’s a great recommendation. [Yeah] thank you.

Julie: I do that all the time. I’m about a bag of tricks. We do this and we do that. I’m always trying to manage myself, my words, and then giving on top of that. This, I think can help with this, and this, outside of our work, let’s do this and come back and discuss it so that they’re also working on the outside. They don’t just leave the 45-50 minute session and say, okay, thank you till next week.

Jessica: Right.

T.H.: Right.

Jessica: It’s an ongoing process, I think, for all of us. Your insights are incredibly helpful and so useful, so thank you so much. Thank you so much for taking the time today. And everyone listening, Julie will have her own expert page on our website as everyone else, so you’ll be able to read more about her, connect with her, and schedule appointments if that’s what you’re looking for. Thank you so much, Julie, for taking the time to share all of that with us.

T.H.: Thanks, Julie.

Julie: Thank you. Okay, bye-bye.

Goodbye: For everyone out there listening, if you know anyone at all who would benefit from what we talked about today please share this episode and everything exExperts.  Be sure and click to subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and please follow us on social media @exEXPERTS Divorce etc… on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube and our website at  Thanks for listening!

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