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Lithium Does break-up sex really help you forget your ex?

Oct. 23, 2020
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We’ve all been there: the first night out on the town, newly single and—dare I say—ready to mingle. Either you’re tingling with excitement and more than ready to utilize your newfound freedom, or you’re looking to fill the gaping void your partner has left behind. Chances are it’s a bit of both. Regardless of where you sit on the “so totally over it” spectrum, there’s often one common denominator that unites newly singles: the rebound.

The rebound (n.) can be best defined as someone (anyone—the point is it doesn’t matter) who conveniently arrives on the scene shortly after a break-up. They’re rarely around for very long; sometimes it’s just a night, sometimes even less than that. To rebound (v.) is to seek emotional and/or physical intimacy from anyone who isn’t the person with whom you recently ended things. Rebounding has become a rite of passage into the realm of singledom—a place where strings cease to be attached. There’s something lawless about it. At some point, we’ve all witnessed a friend enter her slutty phase having finally shed whatever dead weight she’d been carting around. If I’m honest, this is my favorite part of any break-up. It was certainly the most thrilling part of mine.

I distinctly remember walking home from my first one-night-stand after breaking up with my long-term boyfriend. I was, in a word, elated. I felt like this whole new world of chaos (the good kind) had opened up to me and I was more than ready to dive in. It was the perfect rebound. “Post Break-Up Sex” by The Vaccines blasted through my earphones while I devoured my post-coital cheese, chips, and gravy on my way back to college. There was something refreshing about getting into my own bed, having had some pretty good sex, to go to sleep and wake up alone. I felt truly single.

But can post break-up sex, as The Vaccines suggest, help you forget your ex? Does rebounding work, or does it only invite more trouble? In my case, post break-up sex proved to be pretty revolutionary. Like any other detox, the rebound enables a kind of reset—an emotional reconfiguration. Sometimes, a rebound is the best way to get over someone; it’s replacement, distraction, and potential orgasms all rolled into one glorious package. It’s the surest way to mark the break between you and your former partner, since guilt-free casual sex with a stranger would never have been possible in your presumably monogamous relationship. Best-case scenario is you leave feeling, as I did, liberated and ready to embrace single life.

Of course, where there’s a best-case scenario there must also be a worst-case scenario. Random sex with a random partner could put your ex out of your mind—but on the other hand, getting intimate with someone else could bring back painful memories about your ex. Plus, sex with someone who doesn’t know you is unlikely to be as good as the sex you had with your ex. Even if your rebound is good in bed, there’s always going to be one thing missing: emotional intimacy. Expecting fireworks from a one-night stand might leave you feeling empty, which definitely won’t help you to forget your ex. 

But what if there are fireworks? What if your rebound actually turns out to be your actual soulmate?

I’m no psychologist or relationship expert, but I have found that the period immediately following a break-up is one in which people are particularly susceptible to forming emotional attachments. It makes sense: unless you adapt super quickly, anyone’s first instinct is going to be to find someone and restore the status quo. I know I’ve haphazardly latched onto people following a break-up to, you know, soften the blow. As a rule, I don’t trust myself to make romantic choices during the first month after a break-up. I’m a big believer in giving it time. There’s nothing more humiliating than discovering you’re someone else’s rebound once you’re three months into what you thought was a serious relationship. To rebound into a full-blown relationship is not to rebound responsibly.

It could well be that The Rebound guy or girl is the one. If that’s the case, then there’s no harm in holding off for a moment just to let the dust from your previous relationship settle—so you can see clearly.

In answer to The Vaccines’ question “what did you expect from post break-up sex?”, I would have to say I expected a lot of fun without any of the emotional responsibility that comes with a relationship. In my case, post break-up sex delivered. It was the gateway into a lifestyle of (s)exploration; I learned a whole lot more about myself in the year that followed my break-up than I’d learned during the relationship. Perhaps it delivered a little too well, because I now wince at the idea of having an ex to forget in the first place. 

Whether you leave a rebound feeling euphoric or depressed, you’ll be feeling something as a result of an interaction with someone who isn’t your former partner. With that in mind, my verdict is that, for better or worse, post break-up sex really does help you forget your ex.