In this week’s advice column, we explore rebound relationships, and how to recognize when they’re keeping you from exploring your full self.
Welcome to Couldn’t Be Me, a weekly advice column where I solicit your personal dilemmas and help out as best as I can. Have something I can help you with? Find me @_Zeets.
This week we’re talking about the wide spectrum of rebounding. Sometimes you need help building the courage to put yourself back on the dating scene after being hurt by someone you had feelings for. Other times, your favorite team has found itself in the arms of a man you find safe but unstimulating, after almost 30 years with an inspirational and wise French professor. Now you’re wondering if you’ve made a grave mistake, or whether you should give someone new more time to prove that they are good enough for you.
Moving on is hard, but we can help you find the best path forward.
Anonymous from North London:
For almost 30 years, our team was led by one man. In that time, we had the most successful period in our history
But it was more than the things that we won at the time, our team came to be defined by the man. He was lovely: a wise, intelligent, and compassionate person. But towards the end of his reign, the team began to struggle in what seemed to be an indefensible way. We were routinely embarrassed in big competitions, and then eventually, we stopped even qualifying for those tournaments. We were out of the conversation of winning the league as well.
A year ago, we decided to part ways with him. It seemed like the best decision for both sides. He could go find new adventures after almost three decades, and we could find another leader to take us to the next level.
The problem is that in choosing that next leader, we might have made a mistake. It’s still early in the relationship, but the signs are worrying. This new man seems to be unsuited for way that we want to play. He often chooses a safe and bland approach, even against opponents who we’re much stronger than. We’ve struggled to win and lost against teams that we should beat as a result. Recently, we were embarrassed in a big tournament, and the defeat showcased all of his faults in such stark light that it’s impossible not to feel like we’ve made a grave mistake in appointing him.
I don’t know what to do. Should we give our rebound boss more time, or move on as quickly as possible to avoid more damage?
It’s pretty normal to go find a safe option after separating from a long-term partner. The idea isn’t misguided: a transition period is always tough, and it seems wise to go after someone who you know you can trust to keep things steady as you work on your new identity. And maybe what you’re going through right now is that rough transition period that everyone has to deal with. Though you knew it was coming, you’re finding out that the lived reality is much more uncomfortable than you imagined.
But it can also be true that your new guy isn’t right for you. Sometimes the safe option is the wrong one. If you want to carve out a new identity, sometimes it’s better to do something radical — to be adventurous, rather than stale — so that even in failure, you can see the promise of something greater.
This happens to so many others who, in fear of crashing and burning, choose mediocrity because of its stability. At least the mediocrity is a known element, the thinking goes, and in an arena where money matters, the fear of failure is exacerbated by that fear of missing out on the income that comes from staying at a certain level.
I don’t think progress can be made without taking some risks. That’s not to say that the risks need to be extreme. They can be calculated risks. Consequences can be mitigated by some good self-care: building a good team foundation with talented players and smart management. These things would make sure that no matter how radical a partner may be, a certain level of expectations can still be maintained.
You should probably give your new partner some time to show that he’s capable of more. But if he’s not, if the next year starts and ends in similar fashion, and if you’re not actually enjoying watching your team play, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting rid of him as quickly as possible. There is no shame in flings, even with people who have the personality of a 60-hour work week.
I’m a year removed from college. In my last semester I told one of my close friends I had feelings for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t feel the same way. We agreed to still be really good friends, but after a few weeks she told me that was no longer possible for her and she cut me off. For a long time I thought it was something I did and I couldn’t forgive myself for it. Turns out she was hooking up with one of my friends behind my back (they’re dating now). The whole thing put me a dark place for a while. I’ve moved on and grown from the whole thing, but part of me is still afraid of getting burned again. How do I put myself else out there?
This may be the most universal feeling when it comes to dating, relationships, and love. Everyone has been hurt before and no one wants to be hurt again. The problem is, it’s impossible to date or love anyone else without opening yourself up to the possibility of pain. By virtue of only being able to control your own existence, other people are unknown qualities.
Even if you meet someone who you think you know very well, and who has assured you that you’re safe with them, there’s still a chance that they hurt you. What people want can change, and, generally speaking, people tend to do what’s most in their benefit, even if it hurts others. They’re not necessarily being malicious. It’s simply a fact that we’re all trying to make our individual lives as great as possible. In that journey, others will inevitably be hurt by some of our decisions.
Because of that, you shouldn’t take the decisions of others as indicative of who you are and your worth. It seems that it would have been hard for her to be friends with you while also being with your friend, and she made the decision that would make her relationship work. She took what she likely felt was the the most reasonable option for her life.
If you don’t want to get hurt again, the solution is obvious: don’t go out into the world. Don’t open yourself up to anyone or anything. That’s the only way to truly be protected. The best way to control the world is by shunning it completely and closing off your heart. But that’s no way to live.
Unfortunately, only a masochist could skate through life and love unscarred. You have to be brave to know that you will get hurt, but you can’t let that knowledge stop you from sharing yourself with others. What they do, or probably will do, to you doesn’t reduce you. You just have to lick your wounds, accept that sometimes people hurt others unknowingly while trying to do what’s best for their own lives.
And yes, in some cases, people are malicious asshole. You should care even less about the things that the malicious people do. They’re usually dealing with worse pain than the one they inflict on you.
My advice is to go back out and try again. Be like Captain America in Avengers: Endgame. When he gets knocked down, he gets back up, and tells his opponent that he could do this all day. If you want to find someone, you have to be willing to deal with the possible hurt that being open to love invites. But there’s really no other way to be alive.