Break-ups are stressful. It is no surprise that they are associated with a decrease in psychological wellbeing. And your well-meaning friends – hoping to protect you from further heartbreak – will warn you not to rush into a new relationship, particularly if that person resembles your ex.
There is a stigma associated with moving on quickly. But the evidence suggests that this might actually be the best thing for us. So why does the stigma persist? How should we navigate a rebound relationship? And what are the risks of finding someone similar to a lost love?
“People who start new relationships quickly have better romantic life feelings,” says Claudia Brumbaugh, a psychologist who studies adult attachment at City University of New York, describing a study where she assessed the psychological well-being of people who had recently broken up. “They felt more confident, desirable, loveable. Possibly because they had proven it to themselves. They had more feelings of personal growth and independence. They were more over their ex, they felt more secure. There were no cases where people who were single were better off.”
Brumbaugh says on average people think you should wait five months before entering a new relationship and that rebound relationships will not last long – but this is just what people think, not what the data says is best for us. In a survey of people whose relationships had recently ended, people who quickly found new partners reported higher self-esteem and wellbeing, and feeling less anxious. Their relatively uninterrupted relationship status allows their lifestyle to flow smoothly as they transition from one partner to another.
However, quick rebounders also tend to be people who had issues with insecurity in their previous relationship. It might sound contradictory that people who feel insecure also have higher self-esteem. But it could be a result of measuring feelings of insecurity in a relationship which is coming to an end (which is logical if you can sense that things are not going well) and then measuring subsequent growth in self-esteem after finding a new partner.
Growing up after breaking up
One reason given for taking time to enter a new relationship is that we need to heal and grow before meeting someone new. There is some logic to this. After breaking up, on average people report five ways in which they have grown in some way. These are commonly things like “I feel more confident” or “I am more independent”.