The Lessons of a Rebound Romance



Have you ever had a rebound romance?

If you have, you’re not alone. The term is often credited to Mary Russell Mitford. Back in 1830, she wrote that there is “nothing so easy as catching a heart on the rebound.” The term typically refers to a love affair that follows close on the heels of the break-up of a long- term relationship.

Not surprisingly, many therapists and family counselors advise against a rebound romance.  Common sense would tell you much the same thing. At a point when a failed relationship causes you to doubt yourself—your judgment, your attractiveness, your ability to sustain an intimate relationship—you’re vulnerable to the blandishments of anyone who offers sympathy and support.

In that state of mind, the character and values of your new lover may be far less important than having someone to distract you from the pain of your loss. In that state of mind, you may experience an unusual but ultimately false intimacy, one that stems more from your need to work out painful emotions than from an underlying trust or honesty. There is a considerable risk that, as you begin to heal from the original loss, you’ll find that the rebound lover is not quite you’d hoped for, and perhaps altogether inappropriate for the person you really are and the lifestyle you want to lead. 

This, of course, means that there are significant risks for your new love interest as well. To the extent you’re still emotionally bound to the last love, you’re also emotionally unavailable. In other words, you may be unable to consider the needs of your new lover. You may be unwilling to take the necessary steps to build a grounded, sustainable relationship. Particularly if the rebound romance is short-lived, your new partner may feel, with some justification, that he or she has been used or mislead.

Rebound relationships are a popular theme of romantic fiction, Chick Lit and celebrity news media. While A Fitting Place doesn’t fit into any of those genres, my novel takes advantage of the dramatic possibilities of a rebound relationship with its heightened emotional intensity in the early stages and its potential for conflict once the initial euphoria wears off.

But a rebound romance with a woman offers another more substantial benefit. Like so many women (myself included), my protagonist Lindsey brought a host of gender-based assumptions into her marriage, socially accepted notions about the respective roles of husband and wife. Lindsey begins to accept responsibility for the failure of her marriage only when her rebound love affair begins to crumble for many of the same reasons her marriage fell apart. 

For Lindsey, a rebound romance opens the door to a new understanding of herself and her own value system. 

Have you had a rebound relationship? What did you learn from it?


This blog continues the discussion on themes in my novel.  I welcome comments and guest blogs from my readers based on their own experiences.  Let me know if you’d like to do a guest blog on one or more of the issues relevant to A Fitting Place.  



  1. Dear Mary, This is a very insightful post about rebound romances. I wrote about one such romance – if you could even call it that, since he was so controlling and abusive! – in my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat. Much of the second part of that story was about the desperation after loss to move beyond the pain and find a “replacement” for my husband, who had died at the age of 47 of cancer. Until I wrote the memoir, I was virtually unaware that I had not “moved on” as everyone kept insisting I do because I had failed in the hard work of dealing with the loss on a very intimate level and the underlying fear that I could not manage on my own. Your novel sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading it. If you are interested in writing about the move from memoir to fiction and what you have learned in the process, as well as tips you might provide other writers, I would love to feature you as a guest blogger on the Women’s Writing Circle. Looking forward to hearing from you about that. Susan

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Susan … Thanks. I thought that Again in a Heartbeat was a powerful portrait of someone trying to mask the pain of loss, and the difficult process of confronting what was good and bad about the relationship you were trying to replace.
      It’s interesting that so much of your struggle was dealing with the fear that you couldn’t manage on your own. John must have made you feel very safe if you didn’t realize that until after he died. But that, of course, would not have made the struggle any easier.
      And yes, I would love to do a piece for you on moving from memoir to fiction. Will contact you by email.

  2. Mary, my memoir – Out of Sync – is in part about the rebound quality of my marriage. I think a rebound relationship can be as clear-cut as being the ‘replacement’ that helps you get over the pain of a break-up, but in my case it’s been more complicated than that: while there’s always been a real, deep love for one another, and we’re still together after 12 years and lots of hardship, we definitely moved too fast in tying the knot, and all because of the pressure of expatriation. The result was difficult circumstances turning the marriage into a troubled partnership just about overnight, and having to deal with that on top of discovering that we really didn’t know each other as well as we’d thought. I hope that helps. I’d be happy to do an extended guest post on this topic in future; let me know. Best, Belinda.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Belinda … As you know from my review, I found your story both moving and insightful in so many ways, not the least of which was recognizing the “rebound” character of your relationship. I would love to have you do a guest post on this. I’ll contact you by email.!

  3. Mary Van Heukelom says

    During vulnerable moments (of grief, loss, fear, rejections, etc) we can be so desperate to fulfill a need that our potential to seeing the whole is fuzzy. Growth comes from recognizing what we need from others and what our ability is to fulfill needs more independently. Striking a healthy balance is a reflective journey.

    “In Rebound” we are called more than ever for self reflection… otherwise perhaps doomed to repeat similar relationship pitfalls.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Mary .. thanks so much for dropping in. Your point about self-reflection is so important … it’s amazing how many people never realize that they have fallen into a rebound relationship, and don’t learn why they keep failing.

  4. What a great subject. You say that rebound relationships can open doors to a new self-understanding as in the case of your protagonist. I may be less of an optimist or just see the other side, the one where, as you say, there is considerable risk in rebound relationships. These relationships that spring from a negative – breakup of former relationship – are hampered from the start. Revenge, anger, irrational thinking, frustration, comparisons, neediness are only a few of the many negative emotions that form a base for the rebound relationship. In effect, the one on the rebound may make, consciously or unconsciously, a new partner pay for another man’s/woman’s wrongs – perceived or real. The rebound may have a chain reaction with the person rebounding from one relationship to another. In the 1992 film “Damage” Juliette Binoche tells Jeremy Irons, “Damaged people are dangerous.” So are people on the rebound who often leave a string of damaged souls in their wake.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Hi Pennie
      I agree with every word you’ve said here … I think we’ re in furious agreement here. I did not mean to suggest that rebound relationships are a “good” thing for either party. My only point, as it relates to my novel, that a rebound relationship, like any other relationship, CAN BE a vehicle for growth if the individual is ready and willing to face the issues. In the novel, all the emotional patterns from a bad marriage continued, but because it was a same sex relationship, Lindsey could no longer cast blame based on gender stereotypes. When she began to look in her own mirror, Lindsey began to grow.