Rebound or Real Love? Relationship After Divorce


Why do we get into rebound relationships? An Interview with Julie Wein

The rebound relationship. We know it when we see it, but do we really understand it when we’re in it? Julie Wein is a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey who works with women going through divorce. Through her experience in helping these women figure out their situations, Julie has sifted through the gossip that surrounds a rebound and has some insightful information on the nature of this temporary relationship. 

What leads you to rebound? 

Once you’re separated, the minute you’ve got your ticket to head out to ride, you do. It’s exciting. It’s liberating. It’s your first time seeing someone new. But sometimes you get so caught up and you’re like “oh my god, I love this person. I love him/her. They’re the greatest in the whole world.” Meanwhile, from the outside, the relationship makes no sense. You can enjoy the ride but know that it’s just a ride. It’s temporary and destined to be short-lived. Julie explains that after the separation phase, dating takes on an impulsive response. It becomes a reflex reaction based on lust rather than genuine connection. Could an actual connection happen? Sure, anything can happen in life. But Julie believes immediate relationships are only ever temporary because you’re still dealing with so much physical and emotional turmoil post-divorce. The deprivation of attachment you feel will lead you to put up with other things that you wouldn’t in your normal life. Divorce is a very traumatic experience and so when we meet someone else, it might not be the right person, but it feels like the right person because we want that to be the person. We want to erase, or just undo all that ugliness that we experienced with our ex.

When you’re coming out of a traumatic event like a divorce or separation, you’re dealing with all that hyper-vigilance and you’re naturally not thinking clearly. During these times it’s important to do a lot of reality testing. Julie advises that you try to distinguish reality from fantasy. Try to reframe your thoughts to a neutral standpoint. Think about the situation and do some mental problem solving. When you’re really at a loss it’s important to seek the outside and unbiased perspective of a therapist. They can bring you back to reality and help you figure out what’s helping you versus what’s hurting you. Julie is very direct with her clients, and she’ll ask questions that get to the core of the issue at hand and break through the fantasy that an individual may have built. It’s important to have a therapist guiding you, and calling you out on things, so that you can learn how to call yourself out on things. 

How can you tell if you’re in a rebound?

Let’s say you are going to therapy and you’re doing the work on yourself, and you’re moving forward. You are redefining who you are, and you feel like you’re doing the things that you should be doing, but you’re just lost in your relationship(s). 

The number one sign is if you’re not getting much more than the bare minimum. Basically, if you’re settling. 

Part of the challenge 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. To break through, you must reflect and see if there’s a recurring pattern. If you feel something is just not right, then give that feeling a voice. Ask yourself, “did I already have these experiences?” 

It’s all about realizing that you deserve better than what you tell yourself to settle for. You don’t have to settle. 

And that’s what many women think a lot of the time. They think this is all they deserve. This is all they’re good enough for. It’s important to reframe that mindset by acknowledging that you are worthy. You are good enough. 

The second thing to look out for is the pace of the relationship. If there seems to be a prolonged unbalance in how things are moving sexually and emotionally than it may be a rebound. 

A lot of people who date post-divorce, may find themselves in relationships that move fast sexually, but still may not have a real emotional bond or connection 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, but maybe the sexual part of the relationship is moving significantly slower. There’s just no right or wrong. There’s no guideline. Every person is different, every human being is different. What Julie likes to do with her patients to decipher their relationship status is by getting them in touch with their own emotional barometer. Julie will help them understand how they exactly feel about their relationship by asking them if it is working for them and fulfilling what they need. 

Julie believes that part of the confusion comes from the shell shock of dating after getting separated. When you come out of the gate like a horse, and you’re just running, you’re not hearing. Your body and your mind are disconnected. You just need to be loved, heard, and validated by someone. That is where your first line of defense is, and that primary need is what needs to be fulfilled more than anything. And so even though it’s skewed, that’s what you are requiring at that moment because of the deprivation.

What are some rebound red flags that trigger our emotional barometer? 

It all starts with determining what are acceptable and not acceptable types of things. How often are they contacting you? How attentive are they to you? Do you like their attentiveness? Would you like it more? 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 tohave more from it? What is missing? All of this is sort of your own emotional barometer. These are the little questions that come up in the back of your mind as you’re trying to think between right and wrong. No one will ever check off all your boxes. Things grow in their own time; things change and evolve. We’re all learning, thinking, feeling human beings, so we change, and we grow. But, if we want to know 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. 

Is sexual chemistry leading you to think the relationship is more than it is? 

This happens often at the beginning phase when you separate or after the divorce. It’s an early-on type of thing when you’re first very vulnerable. It may happen several times, and it sort of ebbs and flows. But you need to know and respect yourself, you have to give yourself permission 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.”

If you’re uncertain, it’s important to give a voice to that gut feeling that may be telling you that everything isn’t all that it seems. If you’re coming out of a marriage where you had minimal voice in the relationship, it may be challenging to allow yourself to acknowledge and communicate those uncertainties. Once you put those pieces of the puzzle together, it’s very relieving because there isn’t a lot of language. The feelings are very raw. It’s important to have those pieces put together so that you can come full circle to have a fuller life.

When it comes to understanding your relationship, like any good self-work it’s all about giving your thoughts and feelings a voice. 

It is a nuanced process that is best nurtured when guided by a professional like Julie. When you work with someone like Julie, they’ll help you see patterns you may not have realized. 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 might be helpful for you might not be helpful to someone else. It is tailor made per the individual. It’s not cookie cutter. 

Everyone is worried they are never going to find love. But the goal in life is not necessarily to find somebody. The goal in life is to be close with ourselves; to know who we are by recognizing our downfalls, our weaknesses, our strengths. The goal is to be good to you and to be honest with yourself.

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