This myTake is about people becoming involved in rebound relationships after a break up of a long term relationship. It is the second rewrite of a myTake I have previously posted and hopefully it is "new and improved." The following example talks about a married couple but the lessons to be learned can be applied to all break ups and not just divorces.
We all know somebody like Bob. He's 32 years old now. Bob is a reasonably handsome and successful guy. He met Amber when they were both juniors in college and they lived together during their senior year. Amber is an attractive girl who always had a date for Friday and Saturday night until she met Bob; that’s when she finished her tour of duty in the dating wars.
Bob and Amber married one year after they graduated college. They enjoyed the first few years of married life. Then, because everything seemed wonderful, they began their family. Their two children are now 7 and 5. Things weren’t so good after the first child was born but they just thought they were going through a rough patch. After the second child, things got even worse.
Amber was so busy with the babies that she never had time for Bob. She was too tired for sex when Bob made advances and soon he stopped trying. He wasn't unfaithful to her because he took his wedding vows seriously, but he started devoting himself to his work, spending more hours at the office and less time at home. Time at home was aversive. When Bob came home, all he heard was complaints and nagging. Amber felt unappreciated for the job she did as a stay-at-home mom and she resented the fact that Bob got to have social interactions every day with people who didn't wear diapers.
The two of them simply "grew apart" and became more like roommates than friends and lovers. When Bob's office had a weekend retreat, spouses were expected to join the group but Amber refused to leave the children with Bob's parents for a long weekend. This was the final straw for Bob. He felt that Amber had abandoned the marriage and he divorced her.
Within a few months of the divorce becoming final, Bob started dating and soon met Cindy. She was a secretary in the office of one of the vendors which works with Bob's company. She was very pretty - just like Amber - and seemed to be devoted to Bob. She did the things that he had hoped Amber would do again, and the relationship with Cindy felt energetic and passionate.
Bob and Cindy talked about marriage and having children and they seemed to have the same goals. Ten months after his divorce was final, Bob and Cindy got married and Cindy got pregnant within the first year of their marriage. Now that baby is here, things are not as rosy as they once were. The frequent, hot, steamy sex has become a once a week routine and Cindy seems to love being a mother more than she loves being a wife. Now, Bob is wondering if he made a mistake.
Yes, Bob made a big mistake! He married on the rebound. Don't judge Bob too harshly; many, many people, both men and women, make the same mistake. As an attorney who handles divorces, this is good for business . . . but I hate to see people make this mistake. I see intelligent people - the people who generally don't make really stupid mistakes – jumping on the rebound wagon headed for disaster.
Why do they do it? Obviously, no one says, "Well, I just got divorced, so let's see if I can do something really stupid!" No, this behavior is not driven by any conscious rational process; it is motivated by emotions and accomplished by subconscious behavior.
One of the hallmarks of almost all divorces is blame. "Someone else hurt me and this is their fault!" All of our family and friends help to reinforce this idea. Your friends tell you, "I can't believe she did this to you. That little bitch!" Question: How many friends say to you, "So, what role did you have in the problems?" Answer: None. Your friends don’t ask you this because they want to be sympathetic and supportive.
Of course, when a marriage falls apart, it is usually (not always) the result of two people both contributing some fault, but blaming out partner shifts the focus away from our individual responsibility. Where did we go wrong so that we can avoid making the same mistake again? That is the question you should be asking after every break up.
When we come out of a relationship, we have some lingering doubts about what happened. All but the most simpleminded person will spend some time thinking about what happened and why it happened. I think most of us ask ourselves some of these questions and reach some of these conclusions:
1. How can someone be that cruel to me?
2. I didn’t do anything to deserve being treated so badly.
3. Why didn’t he or she try harder? I’m still physically attracted to her and if she had just made the effort, I would really be happy with her.
4. When I get in another relationship and it is successful, I’ll be happy and she will see that it must have been her fault.
5. Damn, I was accustomed to having someone at home every night and this living alone routine is rather lonely.
6. If I wasn’t feeling so lonely, I could get over this break up much, much quicker.
These potential factors are complicated by well-intentioned friends telling us that, if you fall off of a horse, the only smart thing to do is to immediately get back on that horse. We know, don't we, where the road leads when it has been paved with good intentions?
What is the “logical” solution to this problem? It's simple: get into another relationship and show that
we can make it work. So, without pausing sufficiently to learn the lessons from our recent failure, we get into another relationship. That is particularly unfortunate, because quite often, one of the lessons that we need to learn involves how we go about choosing our partners.
Even if our partner became a drug addict, cheated, got arrested several times, gambled away their paycheck and we were sitting at home being "good," we still bear some fault because this is the person who we selected as our mate. Without the benefit of any new insights, we tend to choose our next partner in the same manner, and according to the same criteria, as we chose our last partner.
Of course, everyone doesn’t do this every time they go through a break up. However, I think most of us have done this at least once. Some of us have done it more than once. Some of us have married on the rebound.
When we rebound, it is not surprising that our choice tends to be someone who is remarkably similar to our last choice. The similarities are not just physical similarities. In fact, sometimes, rebound partners look vastly different than our last partner. But . . . their personalities and behaviors are sometimes strikingly similar to the disaster we just survived. That means that we should probably prepare to encounter the same problems that we had in the first marriage. Unfortunately, the ultimate outcome is usually the same, although the rebound relationship probably won't last as long as the previous relationship.
Learning our lessons is not as simple as memorizing the state capitals or memorizing words for a spelling test. It takes periods of introspection, tears, and some courageous and brutal honesty to accept responsibility for our failures. This can take months or even a year or longer. And some people never learn their lessons!
I advise all of my divorce clients to follow a simple rule: don’t consider marriage for a full two years following a divorce. It is fine to date, even to date exclusively and monogamously, but you should advise your partner that you need two years before that that subject can be considered. If you are on the rebound from a relationship other than a marriage, date but don’t consider making the new relationship permanent until you have dated at least as long as the previous relationship lasted. For example, if you broke up after 9 months, give yourself another 9 months to recover and be seeing things free of the influence of the past relationship.
What happens if my divorce client doesn't follow this excellent advice? I threaten them. If I hear that they have violated this rule, I promise that a friend and I will kidnap them and drag them out into the woods, tie their face to a goat's ass, and beat the hell out of them. :) The threat is made facetiously, of course, and they laugh . . . but they get the point of what I am saying . . . sometimes. I have had a few clients come to me to handle a second divorce within a few years of the first divorce.
Why do I bother with this? Certainly, it is outside the realm of legal advice. I "bother" because I don't want them to make the same mistake that I made ten years ago . . . and I don't want you to make that same mistake, either.