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After the Break Up: Beware of the Rapid Rebound

“What do you do when a horse throws you off?” “You get right back in the saddle, of course!” If you are tempted to apply this common maxim to your love life, we’ve got one thing to say: “Whoa there, pardner! Not so fast.”

That sort of dogged determination may work well for a lot of things in life—but romance isn’t one of them. Your heart isn’t an unruly beast that has to be shown who is boss. Finding a life partner is a subtle dance full of setbacks and successes. It requires as much patience as persistence.

Granted, “one step forward, two steps back” sounds like failure to most people. But when you’ve been hurt by someone, taking a step back—in order to clear your mind and heal your heart—is actually the quickest way to get on your feet again. Here are three reasons why:

Your relationship ended for a reason—it takes time to discover and understand why. When a promising romance has ended, it is tempting to quickly “put it all behind you” and distract yourself with somebody new. This strategy may make you feel better, but it ignores the golden opportunity that lies within every so-called “failure”—the chance to learn from it.

Albert Einstein once remarked that a good definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In other words, if a snake bites you once, it’s the snake’s fault. After that … well, you know the rest. Hang on to your romantic sanity, and patiently analyze what went wrong and why. The more you know about yourself and how you relate to lovers in your life, the less likely you are to suffer the same injuries twice.

Healing can’t be hurried.
There is no point denying it: Breaking up hurts! Just because emotional bruises aren’t visible doesn’t mean they aren’t real or that they will heal overnight. Your body and mind know how to mend broken bones and broken hearts, but the essential elixir is something you must supply–time. If a real horse were to throw you off and give you whiplash, you’d be a fool to get back on before you are strong enough. To do so would run the risk of a repeat disaster that could leave you in even worse shape. Same goes for dating.

A new partner deserves a clean slate from you.
Nothing handicaps a fledgling relationship faster than having to trudge through wreckage left over from the last one. If you jump into serious dating again too quickly, you may inadvertently—and unfairly—pressure your new partner to “compensate” you for wounds he didn’t inflict and to “prove” he is worthy of your trust.

But why should a new partner have to spend precious time clearing away someone else’s rubble? Better to do that work yourself, and lay a solid foundation for a fulfilling future relationship.

Never fear, your patience will pay off. When the time is right to saddle up and hit the trail again, you’ll be ready and even better prepared for a smooth, successful journey.