How can I take it easy?
February 10, 2009 9:46 AM   Subscribe

He is possibly ‘the one’, but as it stands he would be the “rebound” if we ended up together now. How can I slow things down and keep him interested?

A few weeks ago, I have ended a year-long relationship with someone I was previously friends with for about four years. We mutually agreed on that and will probably remain good friends once the dust settles and we have time to breathe.
Before I get to my question, perhaps is worth mentioning that the reasons for that split ranged from different ambitions in life to simple incompatibility as a couple, mainly due to the fact that he is was unwilling to move to my home country from the UK for a couple of years (and was also unwilling to work out a plan we could divide time between the two countries, that is work related, which is understandable) and his priorities did not include marriage and planning family in the future. Whilst I am not desperate to marry, I’d like to feel that my partner is willing to get closer and naturally drift towards that direction, which unfortunately did not happen in this last relationship.
So I have met someone a few months ago, a contributor to the business I work for, and we have developed a friendship, although it was clear that he was interested in something extra. After the end of my relationship, we started seeing each other more often and we seem t have a lot in common. He has always respected the fact I was in a relationship before though and it was a simple friendship before, with that extra in the air.
This guy is very intelligent, a real personality in the area he works for, sociable and sorted out when it comes to his professional life. He makes me laugh, is caring and I am attracted to him. He has mentioned (it came from him) that he would be interested in moving to my home country if he had the chance too. And lately, he seems to be really keen to take things further and even suggested he may be falling in love.
Whilst he already gave me evidence of his integrity, intentions and that he may tick a fair amount of boxes, I don’t want him to be the ‘rebound’. I also don’t want to let the opportunity pass.
At the same time, I am looking forward to some time on my own, to rediscover myself and really think about what I want and don’t want from a relationship before jumping into what could be a long lasting thing. I would like to book a holiday on my own, take up meditation, do a spring clean, that kind of thing – I am sure I will be in a better place in two or three months’ time.
All things considered, the question to the hive mind is, put bluntly, how to ‘keep him keen’? I wouldn’t like to break contact with the new guy but don’t really want to see him as we would get closer and closer and when we least realise it, we’ll be already an item.
How shall I deal with this? Thanks in advance for reading my question!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Does he know you ended your previous relationship? Have you mentioned that you're probably going to take a couple of months before you date again? Two to three months is not a long time for either of you to wait after a relationship has just ended. Continue communicating with him and consider occasionally doing something with him.

As for the rebound thing, don't let that prevent you from going out with him. By all definitions, my husband was my rebound relationship. We've now been married 15 years and he continues to amaze and delight me.
posted by onhazier at 9:59 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

As with most relationship problems this one can be addressed by communicating honestly. Tell him "Not right now, but let's make a date three months from now." (This assumes that you'll still be in the same country three months from now.) And keep up the friend thing. If he has mentioned thinking about moving to your home country then he's very keen on you, and three months isn't that long at all for a nice, interested guy. Just let him know that you're very interested and planning to make a go of it and I bet he'll be there in three months. (And if he's not, he's not the guy you think.)

But if you simply keep shooting him down with no expectation that will change then he'll probably be gone by the time you get there.
posted by Ookseer at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2009

Ask him out on a date. When he asks when you want to make the reservations for, tell him May.

Seriously, I don't think there's anything wrong with telling him 'I am interested, but as you know I just got out of another relationship and I need a couple months to re-center myself.' he will get that and probably be relieved not to be the obvious rebound. alternatively, i think you could also just say something like 'im interested but lets take it slow.' you dont have to see him ever day. you can be casually dating him and still leave to go on a vacation, spend a week cleaning, whatever.

that said, rebounds aren't the worst! one guy i dated for two years was a rebound. the guy i'm with now was a rebound. the good ones stick, regardless of how you got together.

good luck, dont stress too much, and by all means let him know you're interested. before he gets snatched up by some other chick :-)
posted by lblair at 10:01 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Easiest question ever: you don't have to do anything.

If he's 'the one', it doesn't matter what you do or don't do, anyway. If he's not 'available' later, then he wasn't 'the one' to start with.
posted by rokusan at 10:10 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that "The One" and "The Rebound" are both artificial constructs manufactured and mass marketed by the self help industry.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2009 [17 favorites]

There is no such thing as a "rebound" except in women's magazines. I got together with my husband days after breaking up from a year long relationship that broke my heart. We're still together ten years later. If you're meant to be together, if you work, you'll work. If not, you will break up. End of story.
posted by threeturtles at 10:17 AM on February 10, 2009 [12 favorites]

Rebound is an imaginary status.

He's either compatible, or he's not. You'll never know this until you date him a while.

I would completely strike that notion from your dating handbook.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:21 AM on February 10, 2009

1. Make out with him, vigorously.
2. tell him about your misgivings about getting into a relationship after your breakup
3. more making out.
4. Tell him you'd like to take it slow in terms of real relationship stuff, but you'd be down to hang out sometime
5. Profit!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:24 AM on February 10, 2009

No offence to threeturtles, but I really hate the "if you're meant to be together..." line. There is such a thing as too soon for people who haven't finished dealing with the fallout of a relationship - the time-table is different for everyone. It's clear the OP wants to take some time for herself and I think it's admirable she's acknowledging that and looking for suggestions on how to do just that.

I think the recommendations to be honest, communicate and see where you are in a few months are good ideas. Making it clear that you do like him but would like to stay friends for a few months while you sort yourself out is the best you can do. Stay in contact but don't get over-involved. As others suggested, if you wanted, there's nothing to keep you from very casually dating him and still making all those plans for yourself alone.

This does however place the onus on you to let him know very clearly where you stand at the end of those few months.
posted by canine epigram at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the notion that "the rebound" is a construct with no inherent meaning.

Typically I hear it used as a reason (read: excuse) for people to get into short-term relationships with bad fits to keep them from being lonely. Dating someone immediately after breaking up with someone else is not a death knell.

Dating someone who is not compatible is the problem.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

He's interested in you, and you are interested in yourself right now. But you want to string him along, for when you are finished with spring cleaning, meditating, and taking vacations? Consider carefully if you want to be That Girl.

If you do, it would probably work like it always does: Give alternating hot and cold messages. Tell him you want him, but not now, but he should wait for you just in case. Have sex with him, then abruptly stop claiming it's too much, too soon. Be super-available for a week, then not available for the next.
posted by Houstonian at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agreeing that there is such a thing as not feeling ready, feeling it best to move slowly, things like spending time together for a while on a platonic level, seeing how it feels to hold hands... while, as people have said, letting him know where you stand.

At the risk of being depressing, I knew a woman in exactly this situation, she related her situation to the guy in question, her interest in him, a desire to give things a little time, move slowly--and it wasn't 100-percent, kissing-free chaste. He bailed (and started dating someone the woman in question thought was a good friend).

I abhor games, tests and such, but in this context, you're not going down that road. If the man's reaction is along the lines of "now" or "damn soon" or "sayanora," I'd contend that it casts some light on him and his interests.
posted by ambient2 at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2009

I'm going through something similar right now, but I'm in the role of your friend.

Were I he I would want you to come clean with me, and, if your friend feels the way I do, I would be more than willing to wait.

It's the not knowing that's killing me.
posted by crickets at 10:59 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don’t want him to be the ‘rebound’. I also don’t want to let the opportunity pass.

Bah. I married my rebound. In indecent haste, come to think of it. We've been happily married for five years. Sometimes you rebound to the right person. When that happens, there's little point in getting hung up on it and being all "Oh how tragic - you're completely perfect in every way except YOU'RE COVERED IN REBOUND COOTIES!"

I would like to book a holiday on my own, take up meditation, do a spring clean, that kind of thing – I am sure I will be in a better place in two or three months’ time.

None of those are things you can't do in a relationship - I take holidays on my own, clean my brain and my space, and if I wanted to take up yoga my husband would be all "Woo hoo! Extra night for Top Gear and South Park!" but sure, it's OK to want your own time and space to do your own thing.

"I just broke up with someone, and I need a month or two to pull myself together" is perfectly understandable. So tell him that, send him an email or two, send him a post card from wherever you go, and then call him up and ask him out in a few weeks.

The last bit is key - if he's a good enough guy to give you some space, it's not fair to also expect him to be a mind reader and know when you're ready to hop back in the game.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:36 AM on February 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I almost lost Mrs. Silvertree because she scared me. She would have been the rebound. I am lucky she stuck around until I got my head out of my butt.
posted by Silvertree at 11:50 AM on February 10, 2009

Just chiming in with the "rebounds, pffft" brigade. My fiance fits the worst possible sort of rebound profile for on paper, Chick-mag-article definition purposes. He was my ex's close friend and my roommate (!) along with being my rebound guy. He is an incredible person and I'm luckier than I can comprehend I found him. Those definitions are meant to catalog common tendencies that go awry--being weakly needy and settling for anyone to avoid loneliness, etc--but if you're compatible, you're compatible. Just check yourself and trust your own judgment--are you just heeding the call to not be alone? If not, and it's just that he's that awesome, go for it, just be careful.
posted by ifjuly at 12:02 PM on February 10, 2009

"Rebound" should be applied to a relationship in hindsight after if fails. It's not a rebound relationship if it doesn't fail.

That's not to say that you may need some time before you're ready to date again. But don't not date someone you're interested just because you're worried about it being a rebound.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2009

I think that ethically you can't have your space and keep him too. If you want space, you have to give him freedom. From his point of view, he feels a strong connection but you don't want to connect. You say it's temporary, there are extenuating circumstances, etc., but he part of him probably feels insecure and rejected about it. You can't make someone insecure and ask them to keep the faith, too. That's just asking too much.
posted by conrad53 at 6:13 PM on February 10, 2009

I understand the need to have space. I dont understand why you call him "the one" when you havent even dated (in my point of view meeting the one absolves me from any responsibility...meaning I will leave whatever the fuck i am doing to be with this person, otherwise is he/she really the one?) aside from your usage of language I could tell that you have a stronger need to be on your own rather than with this i would just meet them for coffee explain the situation and say goodbye with the SWEETEST most PASSIONATE kiss ever....tell him....If you want more of that wait for me
posted by The1andonly at 6:32 PM on February 10, 2009

"the rebound" may be a construct, but what the OP said -- "I am looking forward to some time on my own, to rediscover myself and really think about what I want and don’t want from a relationship before jumping into what could be a long lasting thing" -- is an emotional fact. (I could also go into why I think there's some usefulness to the idea, but "do rebounds exist" is not the question.)
posted by salvia at 8:11 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Let him know you need a few months to regroup and be yourself for a while. Keep in touch, talk, do things together sometimes if possible. But be honest about your needs. Just to join in with the chorus of forget "rebound", I became friends with my current boyfriend while he was still with someone else. She ended the relationship a month or two afterward and it was tough for him. Two months later, he asked me if I wanted to date, but we didn't actually go forward with things until three months after that.

He wasn't ready, he needed time to heal and be, just like you. I was perfectly willing to wait. I'd fallen in love by then.

That all happened several years ago and we're still going. Listen to your heart. It's only a few months and from what you've said, it seems like he will wait. Good luck.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:34 PM on February 11, 2009

When I got out of my last relationship I was totally burned out and didn't think I'd be interested in dating anyone seriously for a long time. Three weeks later I went out on a date with a cute, fun girl. My relationship with her was similar to yours with the guy you mention. Neither of us wanted anything serious, but three weeks later we hadn't spent a night apart. We've been together a year and a half now and are very happy.

Love doesn't always show up when you expect it to and what your heart needs might not be what your brain thinks it needs.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 7:07 PM on February 11, 2009

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