On the rebound

Sometimes our use of metaphorical language is uncomfortably close to the bone and nowhere is this better evidenced than in the case of romantic rejection. If your relationship comes to an end we say you have “broken up” just in case you didn’t realise that something which had once been lovely and served a purpose is now in pieces on the floor. When someone ends a relationship with you, for instance, we say that you have been “dumped”…ouch! So not only has your relationship ended but you are invited to think of yourself as akin to a scrappy piece of used up refuse that has no future purpose other than as landfill or composting. Further, we say that you are “on the rebound” implying that the force of the relationship ending has sent you bouncing off in uncontrolled directions to end up who knows where. According to a new study though, the “rebound” may not be exactly as we thought.

For the study researchers told heterosexual females that they would have the opportunity to meet two male participants after the women had evaluated the men’s dating profiles. The women first wrote profiles about themselves and then viewed the profiles of the men. One of the men had previously been rated as “attractive” while the other as rated as less attractive. The researchers used attractiveness as a measure of value based on the large volume of research telling us that physical attractiveness is a highly valued attribute.

The women were randomly assigned to either acceptance or rejection from the attractive man as well as acceptance or rejection from the unattractive man. The women then indicated if they wanted to meet each man and also rated them.

The popular notion of rejection and being on the rebound is that people go for people they would not otherwise go for when on the rebound. This is behind the “rebound theory” that implies that when “one the rebound” people will go for someone they would not usually have time for, simply to feel better about themselves. That is what these researchers were testing.

The results showed that women who were rejected by attractive men were derogatory about those attractive men but they were also eager to distance themselves from the unattractive man, even if that unattractive man offered acceptance. The researchers say that this is probably because being associated with an unattractive man would put a woman’s larger social goals at risk when those goals had already been set back a little by the rejection.

It’s a cold thought that our romantic interactions may at some level be brought back to “social goals” but at least you don’t have to worry so much about what you will do on the rebound…should anyone be so foolish as not to recognise your special gifts, that is.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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