Watch out for the ones who are fresh out of their last relationship.

The other day I got a text from a number I didn’t have saved in my phone. He said he had my number but didn’t recognize my name, then gave me his. I had absolutely no clue who he was, but being the curious cat that I am, I egged the conversation on to see if I could conjure up a memory. I couldn’t, but the guy claimed that he had gotten my number some months ago but never asked me out. 

So . . . why was he texting me now?

I bet you can guess where I’m going with this. Since he gave me his first and last name, I looked the guy up on Instagram. As recently as three weeks back, he was posting cozy photos with a very stylish brunette. A quick jaunt over to her account showed much of the same. (God bless public profiles!) I immediately texted this guy and asked if he had just gone through a breakup and if that was why he had “randomly” decided to text me. Ding ding ding—mystery solved.

I fired off a quick and deliberate text stating that I had no interest in being a rebound, and the conversation quickly fell off from there. I already knew how this story would end—with me feeling like a brokenhearted, unpaid therapist. 

The text might have been a touch extreme given that I didn’t even know this guy, but I do know myself. To perhaps stop you from making the same mistake(s), allow me to share some of the tough truths I’ve learned from finding myself over the moon with the totally appealing—and totally dangerous—Rebound Guy . . . more than once.

He’s appealing because:

He misses the intimacy of a relationship and wants it back, immediately.

A couple of months ago I wrote about my experience with a total communication stop after a breakup. What I didn’t mention then was when we met, he was just six weeks out from a relationship that had lasted four years. (I know you guys, I know.) I fell for him hard and fast. He eagerly brought me into his life—his apartment, his friends, his job—I thought I had hit the jackpot. I had never felt such a strong connection in such a short amount of time. In a matter of weeks I felt like his confidant, his partner-in-crime, his love and his friend—and he was all of that to me, too.

It felt so good to be close to him I didn’t stop to consider that he wasn’t as “completely over” his ex as he claimed to be. “Guys just get over things fast,” I told myself. “He’d tell me if he wasn’t ready for this.” I won’t write off our connection completely, but in hindsight it’s clear that much of his desire to share everything with me came from a need to fill the void she left. He had just gone through a jarring and traumatic loss, and like a bandaid on a bullet wound, I was there to minimize the damage.

He activates your urge to nurture and “fix.”

My first “real” relationship was with a guy on the rebound. I had no idea what a nurturing, patient, understanding girlfriend I could be until I found myself consoling my brokenhearted boyfriend. He constantly told me stories of how evil his ex girlfriend was, and thought it was normal. “Consoling him is how we’ll get closer,” I thought. It felt like he was telling me secrets; like he was opening up his very soul to me, and I was the only one listening, the only one who understood. I felt so needed. I felt like I was helping him cope, and my reward would be the whole and healed guy who came out on the other side.

What I didn’t realize in the midst of that first heady brush with love was that this guy wasn’t mine to “fix.” I was basically drunk on how good it felt to be both desired and trusted in this way, and I didn’t stop to think for one second that perhaps (since I was not a therapist nor a psychologist) I could not be everything he needed.

He’s dangerous because:

He hasn’t taken the time to process his breakup.

Men process big emotions differently than women, especially around breakups. While women retreat to their girlfriends for consolation and comfort, men tend to retreat into themselves, making them feel isolated and as one Glamour article put it, “emotionally homeless.” This offers one explanation for why Rebound Guy is so common—he’s psychologically driven to find emotional solid ground as soon as possible, which means he can avoid loneliness and the painful self-reflection it inspires.

The introduction of app dating has made it even easier for men to instantly back-burner their feelings of hurt and sadness and distract themselves with something shiny and new. (That’s you, by the way.) They can create and activate a profile in a matter of minutes and before you know it there are literally thousands of opportunities to find temporary companionship as soon as happy hour tonight. It looks like “moving on,” but take it from me, he can’t swipe the emotions away. They always come back. (And neither can you, by the way—we women go through weird rebound stuff that needs to be dealt with, too.)

Most of his emotions aren’t tied up in you. They’re tied up in her.

This might be the toughest pill to swallow when it comes to getting tangled up with Rebound Guy. He pulls you in deep with dependance masquerading as intimacy. He wants to connect with someone, he wants to feel good—he connects with you, you feel good.

The thing is, this good feeling and this connection cannot sustain unless Rebound Guy gets real with himself. I don’t think every rebound relationship is doomed to fail, but I do think you’re up against some tough odds. Without taking time to grieve and grow from his last relationship, you can’t expect Rebound Guy—or yourself—to be anything more than a placeholder.

My best advice, should you find yourself falling for Rebound Guy? Tell him to call you in six months. Seriously. Anything worth pursuing can be shelved for a few months to allow everyone to sort themselves out. You’re not a placeholder or a bandaid or a therapist. Unless of course you are a therapist, in which case just be sure you bill him hourly for your time.

Photo Credit: Tina Sosna