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Why Rebound Relationships Can Be Really Bad For You?

It takes time and healing to move on in a healthy way

If and when a relationship ends, my advice is to allow sufficient time after the breakup of the old relationship to heal and put things back in perspective before starting a new one. This gives you time to decide on what you want in your future. Ideally, people do not move on to new relationships until they have had emotional closure on their former ones.

I have to say that "real life" does not always work this way. Let's face it, most people don't like to be alone. The analogy I often use is Tarzan swinging through the jungle; before he lets go of one vine, he's grabbing onto another. Following this metaphor, some people are able to successfully move on to new relationships, and can grow in a short amount of time, from the mistakes of former ones.

Yet there are a lot of people who move on from one relationship to another with firmly entrenched destructive patterns of relating to themselves and intimate others. This all can happen out of awareness, especially when romantic desire is added to the mix. While this may not necessarily predict the demise of the next relationship, it does present some significant challenges--and potentially make things really messy!

Even if you have taken the time to get closure, realize that no matter how much healing time you allow, old feelings and reactions can still intrude on a new relationship. Be prepared for this, and be willing to discuss it with your new partner and ask for her or his support and understanding.

A client of mine, Elaine, for example, can opt to tell her new intimate partner, Steve, her feelings about drinking and where they come from (her father died from alcoholism and her ex-husband still struggles with it) rather than just blindly overreacting to her understandable concerns about drinking. The bottom line is that if your old, unresolved feelings are running the show instead of you in your new relationship, seek some counseling to help you complete the old relationship. You'll carry your emotional ghosts from past relationships to the grave unless you confront and resolve them.


Spielmann, S., Macdonald, G., & Wilson, A. (2009). On the rebound: focusing on someone new helps anxiously attached individuals let go of ex-partners. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1382-1

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist with over 23 years of experience specializing in child, adolescent, couples, and family therapy. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his post-doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. He has appeared on the Today Show, Court TV as an expert advisor, CBS Eyewitness News Philadelphia, 10! Philadelphia—NBC, and public radio. Dr. Bernstein has authored four books, including the highly popular 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (Perseus Books, 2006), 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child (Perseus Books 2007), and Why Can't You Read My Mind? You can follow Dr. Jeff on Twitter.

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