Welcome to Liz’s Lemonade Stand, where the lemons of life are twisted into the sweetest lemonade.
Since entering college three months ago, I’ve come to realize that one piece of advice I was given regarding college life has proved to hold true: first semester (or really, the first month) is the time of year that relationships form and dissolve faster than you can microwave a Hot Pocket. Freshmen raised on a diet high in expectations for the magic that is college life flood campus, craving a fresh start and perhaps someone new to explore it with. Spoon-fed this dreamy college delight since high school started, it’s no wonder that the dating scene (or should I say hookup scene) goes haywire. Now over halfway through the term, those first-week-flings cause awkward run-ins on campus, but the “I must find a boyfriend/girlfriend” frenzy is over. However, reverberations from initial relationships and those that have formed- and ended- since then still make waves in this gray area. Today, hypothetical Allison* is stuck in a place that for many, is all too familiar.
The Lemon: Okay, so there’s this guy, Will*, that I’ve known for a little while and I kind of like him, but he just got out of a pretty serious relationship that ended badly (they really should’ve tried these Skype dates) and I don’t want to be his rebound, for obvious reasons. I don’t want to be “that girl” and have his ex hate me. Also, I’m afraid that maybe he isn’t over her and he’ll drop me once he does get over his last relationship.
The Lemonade: Proceeding with caution here is a really good call. The mind games that go on in this situation are enough to drive you crazy and there’s no clear way to navigate. In all honesty, you’ve got to play it by ear. If Will seems to start responding to Allison as more that “just a friend,” you could call it a classic case of rebound. From an optimistically romantic standpoint, it’s fantastic timing and the Disney movie happily ever after music can start playing.
In a rebound relationship situation like this, Allison questions if Will actually has genuine feelings for her or not. She also can’t help but wonder if Will compares her to what his last relationship was like. She knows that Will and his ex had a messy break-up, so he’s got to be feeling that still. It takes time to get over someone, and it’s not fair to expect them to bounce back in a matter of days or even a few weeks.
The possibility of a rebound breeds thoughts of doubt, and that’s not a good way to start a relationship. Allison’s best bet would be to not push things. She’s already friends with Will, so the best thing she can do is continue to be his friend, particularly if the break-up was rough. Maybe things will work out so that happily ever after music does start playing. But, in the event that Allison views this as an opportunity to swoop in and take the girlfriend title, and this does turn into a rebound relationship, she’s probably the one who will feel most hurt.
On the other hand, another possible outcome is that Will will get the short end of the rebound stick and fall into the dreaded friend zone. If he and Allison start to get more serious but haven’t mutually agreed on exclusivity, their “It’s Complicated” relationship status explanation might actually be their demise. It’s fair to expect Will to be hesitant about starting something with Allison, but it’s not fair to either of them to string each other along. Allison may realize that she just wants to stay friends after all, either irritated with Will’s handling of the situation or figuring out that they’re not as compatible as she had imagined.
There’s no straight answer to the rebound. There are other scenarios that could arise that I didn’t delve in to, because let’s face it: love, especially young love, is terribly confusing. If anything, err on the side of caution and enjoy the single life while you can!
*These people are imaginary and used (and named) in a completely hypothetical sense.