What’s New in Relationship Research: Rebounding May be Good for the Brokenhearted

October 23, 2009

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Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, new research shows that a rebound relationship—or even just the promise of one—might be helpful in alleviating the attachment to a former relationship.

Are you the type that often has trouble “letting go” of a partner?  Do you wonder if you should just return to a failed relationship?  Have you ruminated over certain aspects of your past love over and over, straining the patience of your friends and family?  It’s possible that the best thing to do in order to get over an ex- partner might not be spending time “self-reflecting” on the death of the relationship, but imagining yourself with someone new—and fast.  New research shows that for those who are “anxiously attached,” simply feeling optimistic about finding a new partner may engender a release of feelings over an ex-partner.    Researchers at the University of Toronto had individuals recovering from a breakup read optimistically-themed articles about finding a new romantic partner, and this strategy proved effective in enervating feelings of attachment to an ex.

It’s a fairly radical notion, since most self-help books, therapists, and concerned friends would probably state that fully processing a relationship in order to release yourself from the pain is the better way to go.  This research shows that another way is possible—or at least helpful—in getting rid of some of the angst.  Instead of meditating on your present singlehood or replaying the greatest hits of your relationship in your mind, the best way to move on may be to just to be forcefully optimistic about your relationship prospects or opportunities for intimacy.  The researchers also found the best way to cure the pain of an old relationship is (of course) a new one.  That’s right: a rebound could be good for you.

There are, of course, limitations to this idea, since you don’t want to fixate on someone who isn’t available (like a married co-worker) or not realistic (a celebrity).  And the researchers limit themselves by not having a control group that focused on processing their unresolved feelings instead of focusing on a new relationship.  But the point is that staying home because it’s “too soon” after a break up, or worrying that a rebound relationship keeps you from really getting over someone, just may not be true.   In fact, the rebound may be just the bounce you need to get over a past love.

For further reading:

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 (10), 1382-1394 DOI: 10.1177/0146167209341580

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