Ask Lynn-My Dates Are Always On The Rebound

The last four guys she's dated have all been coming out of serious relationships. How can she get over her "guy on the rebound" curse? Lynn offers some insight that might help change her attitude.

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
When it comes to love, I was truly born under an unlucky star. The past three men I've dated have all, unbeknownst to me, been on the rebound. The first one broke my heart, and I ran as fast as I could from the next two after the rebound signs showed up early.

Now I've met someone new. We've really hit it off, and, like clockwork, I find out that he's four months out of a year-and-a-half long relationship.
Why are the only men who want to date me looking for a replacement?
What should I do? I like this guy a lot, and I want to give him a chance, but I don't want to get emotionally attached if it's going nowhere.

More importantly, why are the only men who want to date me looking for a replacement?
– Second Best

Dear Second Best,
I understand that you're frustrated, and I'm so sorry that the first guy broke your heart. I do want to thank you, though, for posing a great question, and not just because it allows me to quote The Princess Bride. As Inigo Montoya said, famously, to Vizzini, "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means." Vizzini's word was "inconceivable." Yours is "rebound."

Let's define this term correctly. Being "on the rebound" means seeking out a new relationship (including, say, the one-night-only variety) while still in the throes of the one that came — and went — before it, such that you are acting specifically on the pain and loneliness of missing that person. Or, more succinctly, going (usually too quickly) from one relationship to the next specifically in an attempt to avoid, dull, or distract from the pain of a breakup. Or, most succinctly, rebounds are chicken soup for the loins.

Something about your letter suggests to me that you are defining "rebounding" in a different way. Somehow, it seems that to you, that "on the rebound" means "had a previous relationship." Simply being four months out of a year-and-a-half relationship does, in and of itself, not mean someone is on the rebound. I mean, he might be, but he might also have had four solid months of healing and dealing and be ready to move on. He might even be totally primed to meet The One.

I'm not 110% sure of my diagnosis, because you don't offer specifics of how these guys acted or what these guys said to you. But it's precisely because you don't offer specifics that I wonder. You don't say, for example, that each guy confessed that he wasn't over his ex, or that each guy showed, in some
I went into it as a rebound, but then I really fell for this person.
concrete way, that (as in Hitchcock's Vertigo) he was looking for you in particular to "replace" his ex. Had that been the case, it would be a rare and, in fact, very intriguing coincidence. But if you think about it, almost everyone is coming off a previous relationship at some point. Almost everyone, in the broadest sense, is looking for a "replacement." You know? (Further, how much someone is or isn't over an ex is measured in emotional, not actual, time; you could be four months out of an 18-month relationship and not on the rebound, or you could be four years out of an 18-day relationship and still not be over your ex.) So my hunch is that — for whatever reason — none of these guys worked out, and that you (for some reason) blame it on "being on the rebound."

Why might you do that? Well, for one thing, that makes your issues all about him. He's not ready to connect, he's not ready to commit. Then, you see, it's not about you at all. The "rebound" narrative — even if it's accurate — protects you. You're always on guard, hesitant to jump in, and if you do and the guy bails, it's his issue, not yours.

Maybe you were, and still are, responding rightly to something squirrelly about this last bunch of guys. Maybe you have been unlucky so far. I'm just saying the "rebound" theory may not represent a real pattern, and is not a useful narrative for you to begin with. For one thing, what's the alternative? Dating only guys who have never dated anyone before? First of all, that obviously severely shrinks your pool of potential dates, and second, then you'd be wondering, "What's wrong with him? Why hasn't he dated anyone? Does he even know anything about having a relationship? Is he dating me just because he's desperate to date anyone at all?" (Note: These are just common assumptions, not actual truths about people who've never dated.)

Most importantly, if you go in with a misplaced fear of the word "rebound," then it's you who has one foot out, not him. So let down your guard and let yourself enjoy, explore, and even get a little bit smitten. (Even if he or the next guy IS on the rebound, I've heard plenty of people say, "I went into it as a rebound, but then I really fell for this person.") The notion that you won't find someone wonderful who's ready to fall for you? Frankly, it's inconceivable.

Lynn Harris ( is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (, of the award-winning website — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times,,, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via Your question may be answered in a future column.
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