Published on February 19, 2014 | by Sean McKee0
Breaking up? It’s hard
Is rebound sex ever a good idea? ALN’s Sean McKee investigates how we cope when that all important spark fizzles out.
Break-ups are hideous. They always seem to happen around the worst times – Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day. Even an upcoming birthday.
So where exactly do people find the hope of being able to mend their heartbreak?
According to the latest research studies, the old rebound myths appear to be truer than ever.
A study by the University of Missouri looked into the lives of 170 undergraduates who experienced break-ups within the last eight months.
Following their experiences through a written diary, researchers found 35 per cent of participants ‘had sex to get over their ex-partner’, with a quarter using sex as a form of revenge.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who had been ‘dumped’ were more likely to have ‘rebound’ or ‘revenge’ sex than those who left their partners, particularly in the first six months after the break-up.
The study concluded: “People are more likely to have sex for a variety of maladaptive reasons in the aftermath of a romantic relationship break-up. especially if they were ‘dumped’ or were in a highly committed or long-standing relationship.
“These data provide clear support for common rebound lore, suggesting that people do indeed use sex in the aftermath of a break-up to help them cope with their feelings of distress and to get over or get back at their ex-partners.”
“Women tend to be more sensitive, and though they may be able to go and meet someone else for sex, many would feel regret a lot more than men.” Christine Webber
However, experts on sexual behaviour have mixed thoughts about encouraging us to actively look for a ‘rebound.’
Christine Webber, a leading Harley Street psychotherapist who has appeared on TV shows such as The Good Sex Guide, thinks that there are good and bad sides to ‘going on the rebound’: “I think in terms of wanting to get out there to feel confident again, it is sometimes good to sleep with someone else in order to help with the heartbreak. However, this type of behaviour is often negative as well; it leaves us feeling lonely and might even make our confidence issues worse.”
Webber also thinks that our gender makes us react differently to heartbreaks as well: “Men tend not to talk about their feelings, we know that, so rather than open up to someone they’ll go out with their male friends and detach themselves from their agony.
“Women tend to be more sensitive, and though they may be able to go and meet someone else for sex, many would feel regret a lot more than men. Some female clients of mine have even told me of how they have kicked a random lover out of bed half-way through as it’s just dawned on them that they’re not the person they want to be with.”
Although the heartbreak seems like it is never going to end at first, Webber has some words of encouragement that may help find an alternative way to deal with our break-ups
In her book How to Mend a Broken Heart, she shows that there are three stages to help get over a loved one: “You must accept it, get over it and move on from it. I must stress that stage two is the most important – until you help yourself by accepting that it is definitely over, you will never be able to progress onto stage three.”
Webber has also found that men can move into new relationships much quicker than women, but when it comes to being jilted we are all the same when it comes to regret.
“I’ve had clients, both men and women, who come to me saying they think about their exes while with their new lovers, and the answer for this is simple: they never admitted that their last relationship was definitely over and there was no way of ‘rekindling the flame’. In the back of their mind they are still thinking ‘what if?’”
“Through stage two – getting over it – you are enabling yourself to bury it away and move on with someone else and give them a chance.”
In terms of help with heartbreak, Webber also has some more valuable alternative advice: “I’d also recommend that you listen to advice from friends and family, who are there to protect you after all; they will assure you that the break-up was not your fault and may help with confidence issues.”
Students at UAL appear to have mixed emotions about ‘going on the rebound’ as well. Zoe Ayre, a photography student at LCC, has experienced it: “About a year ago, I had my first one night stand. I had come out of a long-term relationship about six months before and I think I just did it as an act of realising my freedom because I’d felt so trapped for a long time. It was embarrassing, messy, and I was blind drunk – but it was exactly what I needed! I still laugh about it now.
“I think everyone is different, but I don’t see how having sex as revenge could ever work. I think it just shows you are hurting more than the other person that hurt you. But sometimes getting drunk and having a laugh with someone does no harm.”
Another student from UAL’s Chelsea campus, who did not wish to be named, has had an unhappier experience with break-up sex: “I got stuck in this cycle of hating myself for not keeping a boyfriend, then thinking it was okay to use men for sex, and would sleep with a couple a week, then regret it all and try and start fresh again at the start of a new week. But it didn’t work because all I could think about was the intimacy of being with someone that I missed having with my boyfriend.
“It was only when I realised that I had to be drunk to sleep with all those guys that made me realise I wasn’t over my ex, he probably wasn’t missing all this, and I had to move on if I wanted to be happy ever again. Going on the rebound may sound like fun, but I felt worse in the long run. It’s best to get over your ex first before you get involved with someone else.”