Rita Watson MPH

With Love and Gratitude


Rebound Love: 10 Tips for Healing a Heart After a Breakup

Falling in love again may be the panacea for a broken heart.

Posted May 28, 2015

Yale Digital Commons, Robert Indiana
Source: Yale Digital Commons, Robert Indiana

In looking at the number of people reading a recent post of mine, “35 Ways to Tell if It’s Over” and in talking through the years with those who uncouple, it is understandable that emotions can range from relief to second-guessing sadness.  Is there any panacea for recovery after a breakup?  In fact new research indicates that perhaps rebound love might be more helpful than harmful, as had been previously thought.  Does this mean “love at first sight” dreamy infatuation or actually falling into the arms of new love?

Whether infatuation, when one person has that walking on air feeling, or love at first sight, the instant romantic attraction between two people—love can bring on a cocaine-like high in a  fifth of a second.  Brain wave studies in 2000 reported by Stephanic Ortigue, Ph.D., identified “the cortical networks associated with passionate love.” (1)

With this awareness, it is not surprising that when love is lost, a love affair ends, or a couple ends their relationship, the emotional distress and risk for depression can be significant and may require professional help.  However, in some cases rebound love may bring relief. Long before research studies, authors and poets talked of the effects of rebound love.  From “The Works of Mary Russell Mitford” in 1830, she tells of the19-year-old whose love affair had ended and gives us her often quoted words on rebound love:

“He walked around the parish and fell in love again, or thought he fell in love, before noon on the same day.  Nothing so easy as catching a heart on the rebound.”

While Mitford’s words are a lively depiction of rebound love, perhaps the most dramatic comes from  T. S.  Eliot’s “The Wasteland” following his marriage to a woman on the rebound.

Can rebound love be beneficial?

We have often read that the rebound relationships rarely last. Shimek and Bello (2014) tell us that after a serious romantic relationship ends, “some individuals employ and find relief in superficial or noncommittal rebound relationships, which act as a means for coping with the loss of the previous relationship and the severed emotional attachment to an ex-partner. . ..” (2)

However, going into a rebound relationship may not necessarily indicate superficiality.  Before doing so it is advisable to sift through and resolve issues from the previous relationship, access the factors leading up to a breakup, and acknowledging the positive aspects shared.

Brumbaugh and Farley (2015) determined from two studies that there may be some benefit in rebound love:

 “Analyses indicated that people in new relationships were more confident in their desirability and had more resolution over their ex-partner. Among those in new relationships, the speed with which they began their relationship was associated with greater psychological and relational health. Overall, these findings suggest that rebound relationships may be more beneficial than typically believed.” (3)

10 thoughts on healing and rebound love

After a breakup, even if you initiated the good-bye, you may find yourself crying more than usual and wishing you could crawl under the covers and stay there.  On the other hand, you may want to reach out to your friends and complain bitterly.  You may feel that you can never love again.  But love is always possible.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Start your days with gratitude:  By expressing gratitude you remind yourself of the good times you shared and how you have been freed to find a love who values you, a love whom you value.
  2. Resist the temptation to talk unkindly about your ex-love: Speaking kindly will encourage you to maintain a positive focus.
  3. Practice image replacement: If you find yourself feeling alone and falling into a dark hole, find a photo of yourself when you were happy and in love.  Focus on the inner you who is lovable and deserving of new love.
  4. Remain open to infatuation or even love at first sight with a careful eye: Keep in mind that you want a new friend or a new relationship rather than becoming what one friend refers to as “another notch on the bedpost of life.”
  5. Consider social media: If you go to a social media site and see someone who interests you, connect and be positive rather than recounting all the reasons for your recent break-up. Smile broadly and flirt.
  6. Try using a gratitude journal:  Research from Gary Lewandowski (2009) has found that writing about positive aspects of a break-up increases feelings such as comfort, confidence, empowerment, energy, happiness, optimism, relief, satisfaction, thankfulness, and wisdom. (4)
  7. Guard against expectations: When you meet someone new, be careful that you do not impose expectations upon the person. For example, if you wanted a more loving relationship because your previous relationship lacked warmth, do not see a romantic in someone who simply squeezes your hand.  And also watch for too much by way of public displays of affection.
  8. Make a new relationship checklist:  Know the qualities you would like in a new partner. Think in terms of weighted averages.  If you find a new person who has everything you ever wanted on your wish list, but he/she is married for example, that one factor outweighs all the positives and that person should come off the list.
  9. Guard against repeating the past:  A new person may have a different profession or different looks, but still have certain traits or characteristics of your past love, traits that precipitated a break-up. Look beyond  the looks.
  10. Hug and be hugged:  Research has shown the value of hugs. If you have a friend in your life who gives good hugs -- extend your arms, reach out, and ask.  That person may not be “the one” for you, or even “the one for now.”  However, the warm and loving arms of someone who is sensitive and caring by nature is like the sunshine – a little goes a long way.

In essence, rebound love may be just what the doctor ordered. Keep yourself open to infatuation and love at first sight.  And if it is too soon for another love relationship, be open to the friendly hug of someone whose warm and loving personality should be on  your “must-have” checklist. The tenderness of touch is healing.

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson


1) Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta‐Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine,  Stephanie Ortigue PhD1,, Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli MD2, Nisa Patel MS1, Chris Frum MS3 and James W. Lewis PhD3  Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010

2) Coping with Break-Ups: Rebound Relationships and Gender Socialization, Cassie Shimek and Richard Bello,  Social Sciences, Special Editioin, January 2014

3) Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships, Claudia C. Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley, “Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships, The Journal of Social Relationships. March 5, 2014

4) Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing. Gary Lewandowski, The Journal of Positive Psychology, January 2009