When you drop a basketball onto a hard surface, the ball obviously doesn’t just hit the ground and start rolling, or bounce back to your grasp and stay there. The ball bounces once, then again a bit lower, and again, and again, until it starts rolling away from you, onto the next person or next location. I never gave this phenomenon much thought, because let’s be real, why would I, but it popped into my mind recently as an interesting allegory to other aspects in life. More specifically, it came up as I was thinking about everyone’s favorite post-relationship phase: the rebound.
For a long time, I assumed this phase was something tangible and noticeable, an actual relationship of sorts that can be defined as the official “Rebound” from a heartbreak. But rebounds are less concrete, happening in waves, much like the basketball bounces that get lower and lower. The first one is bigger than you’re expecting: it’s sooner than you thought possible and also more intense, pushing out memories of the broken relationship by forming new ones, first time you meet, first kiss, first sleepover. It’s seeing the person every weekend, twice per weekend, while thoughts of “what is this?” permeate your life, raising all sorts of questions: is this really happening? is this even real? But what goes up must come down, and eventually the rebound is just that: after the initial excitement of Someone New wears off, the flaws come out. Sure, he’s successful and smart, the views from his TriBeCa apartment are amazing and you get along really well. But it’s not the right thing and it never will be, and that’s okay. So you move on.
The next bounce is smaller and fades faster, fueled by great chemistry and hindered by timing. It carries through to the next few mini-bounces, hope goes up when you go on that date, laughing and joking and enjoying yourself the whole time, but back to bouncing when it’s another week, another week, another week where you just can’t seem to get the timing right. It might happen again, another bounce, another date, but eventually it’s time to take a step back and consider how much effort you want to put into something that maybe isn’t working out. It’s a rebound from the rebound: taking a step out of your comfort zone yet again, finding just a little more about yourself, and figuring out just a little more where you want the ball to roll next.
Personally, I think the rebound phase is important to the healing process, a way to lick the wounds from a broken relationship and learn about yourself and your needs so you can move on. It’s easy to forge an emotional connection with someone when you know all the wonderful things that come with a committed relationship, but it’s difficult to form any real attachment when half the time you’re comparing him to your ex, and the other half you’re trying to figure out what it is you really want. Rebounds make it easier to get used to the tangled world of dating as a 20-whatever, the emotional highs of a new connection, the lows when you realize there’s no expiration date on being single, and the confusing middle ground when you’re just not interested someone and you don’t know why.
Eventually the momentum fades and the ball stops rolling, no longer bouncing, bouncing, bouncing into the confusing world of the not-relationship. There’s a settled feeling as you wait in the wings, you cease craving the emotional connection you lost in the big break-up because you know what you want, deserve, and need for the next person that picks up the ball. Rebounds are that way to settle slowly into a single life, a way to confront what dissatisfied you about a previous relationship and walk away from it without becoming an emotional mess.
I don’t know if there’s a name for this next phase, the post-rebounding, where you’re waiting for someone special to surprise you, rather than looking for someone who will pay attention to you. Right now it’s nice to let events play out as they will – after all, once you’re done bouncing, you never know when it might happen that someone will pick up the ball again. It could take weeks; it could take months. It might even be sparked by something as simple and silly as a smile from a very cute stranger on your morning commute.