After my last breakup, I was lucky. I already had another love waiting for me, so I didn’t really experience the hurt and heartbreak of separation. But it wasn’t always like that. Having been dumped quite a few times myself, I can recall the utter hopelessness, the physical pain that comes with being rejected.
Scientists and social psychologists know very well how rejection activates the same parts of the brain that physical pain does. From an evolutionary point of view, it makes sense. Being exiled from the tribe meant certain death. However, our brains did not evolve as fast as our civilization, and so here we are, without need for a tribe per se, but still feeling as if we’re going to die from rejection.
So, I get it. I really do. Rejection hurts.
But how do you soothe that pain? You could swallow a bunch of Tylenols — apparently, painkillers can reduce the pain of heartbreak. But I think it’s more effective to find soothing of a more social nature. If rejection is a social hurt, then reconnection is a social balm.
I’ve found that rebound sex, when it remains casual and unburdened by illusions and desires to form a new long-term relationship, is actually helpful in easing the pain of heartbreak and preparing you for your next relationship and comes with some unexpected health benefits.
Connect with someone
One of the benefits of rebound sex is that it allows us to connect with someone again. For a lot of people, even casual sex involves some sort of connection, whether you have the same favorite book or enjoy drinking wine together. That kind of connection is essential after a breakup; that’s why a lot of us take refuge in friendship during a breakup or divorce.
But sometimes, we need more than friendship. In a culture where nonsexual touch is almost inexistent, it’s difficult to get that skin-to-skin contact that’s so beneficial to our health outside of a sexual relationship. So even though you’re probably not ready for another long-term relationship, that longing for touch remains. And how do you get it? Well, finding a rebound sex partner is one of many possible ways.
Essentially, rebound sex is about using a connection with someone to get over rejection. An online acquaintance of mine once said that they prefer rebound relationships. They do a lot of good to the other person, and it keeps them free and unengaged long-term, which they prefer.
Of course, it takes an interesting kind of person to be a rebound provider, but even people interested in more casual relationships might take up the offer of a short-term sexual connection. All you need is to be clear about your situation and intentions.
Sex is really good for you
I don’t have to talk about all the benefits of regular sex — you probably know all about them. But if you’re just out of a long-term relationship, especially one that was sexless, you might want to get back on the sex ride, if only to help your body and brain cope with the rejection.
Sex makes your body stronger and healthier in all kinds of ways. It improves your immune system, and it kills pain (another reason to go for this instead of painkillers!). It also activates all kinds of feel-good hormones in your body and helps ground you in your body.
That’s why when it comes to rebound sex, I advocate a casual-but-regular partner rather than one-night stands. Maybe there’s this single friend you’ve always wanted to bang who is open to something casual. But if you prefer hookups, all the power to you: just be safe.
In short, having sex after a breakup is a great way to forget about that breakup.
Stay open but independent
The best choice I have ever made for my love life is to remain independent when it comes to my living and dating arrangements. I am deeply in love with a person, but I’m never going to live with him or be exclusive to him. Although that may not be a lifetime choice, it’s what works for me right now, and I find that this agreement fulfills all my needs.
It would be easy to just fall back into an interdependent relationship right after a breakup, but in my experience, it would be a mistake. You’re still fresh from the wounds of recent rejection, and it takes time to heal and to really find out what you need in your relationship. Take this time to explore new ideas and relationships with new people in a quest to find out what you really want for the next phase of your life.
I’ve always wondered why rebound sex has such a bad reputation. It’s healthy, it helps us reconnect, and it’s great for exploring new possibilities. If everyone agrees to the terms of the relationship (honesty is the best policy!), then there is no reason to fear one person “using” the other person for sex.
The time after a breakup should be a time of healing, exploration and honesty. Have fun, but don’t shy away from working through what you need to work through. Maybe your rebound sex companion can help with that.