You’ve probably heard it many times before: If you want to get over someone, you need to get under someone. But even if a rebound hookup feels good in the moment, does it really mend a broken heart? According to Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Lovehoney relationship expert and sexologist, it depends on the individual and how they interpret sex.
“If you associate sex with comfort, affection, stress relief, connection, intimacy and other positive experiences, you may find that fulfilling sex can help you to move on,” she says. “If you find yourself craving the novelty of a hookup, the excitement of a new relationship or simply the pleasure of sex itself, rebound sex might be a good fit for you.”
Even if you’re not someone who typically engages in casual sex, O’Reilly says there’s a reason why rebound sex sounds so appealing post-breakup.
“We’re programmed to seek connections of all sorts—emotional, romantic, social, and (for most) sexual,” she says. “After a breakup, connections can be soothing and when the interactions are positive and supportive, they can temporarily assuage some of the pain.”
So how do you know if getting under someone is the best option for your broken heart? And how do you manage a casual hookup post-breakup?
Is rebound sex ever a good idea after a breakup?
Like all things related to relating, it really depends. If sex is a source of discomfort, shame, stress, or negativity, “it may not be a good option for you,” O’Reilly says. Furthermore, if friends are encouraging you to get out or get laid, but it doesn’t feel right for you, she recommends trusting your instincts. “There is no right way to heal after a breakup and even if one approach works for many, it may not be applicable to you.”
However, O’Reilly points out that research does suggest that distraction can help after a breakup.
“Distraction is often considered a form of avoidance, but you don’t have to feel, lean into, and process every negative emotion at every moment in time,” she says. “It’s OK to avoid sadness, pain, loss, grief, and other negative emotions for periods of time. Eventually, you’ll need to grieve in your own way, but every person’s path is unique. Theories and models of grief can be helpful for some people, but they’re not universal. If part of dealing with loss involves seeking pleasure and erotic connection, so be it.”
So if you want to try to get over someone by getting under someone, don’t shame yourself for it. It might be the thing you need to detach and grieve your relationship in your own way.
How to engage in a rebound hookup in a safe and healthy way
Hookup culture is alive and well, but because casual sex can be so delicate both emotionally and physically, O’Reilly recommends the following:
- Know what you want going in (e.g., you may want to decide what you’re up for before you head to the bar and start drinking)
- Be honest with yourself (i.e., don’t feel pressured into doing something because you’re friends are into it, as it may not work for you)
- Enjoy yourself! Practice safer sex and indulge.
How do you know you’re really ready to have sex with someone new?
Rebound or not, in terms of knowing when you’re ready to have sex again, O’Reilly says it’s not so much about timing, or the amount of time post-breakup, but rather the quality of the connection and sex—even if casual—that’s more important to consider.
“If you’re with someone with whom you feel good—safe, connected, desired, playful or another feeling you seek—you’re on the right track,” she says.
However, she adds healing after a breakup “isn’t a one-shot deal.”
“A one night-stand or a meaningful connection may not be all it takes to get over hurt, loss, betrayal and other specific feelings,” she says. “In fact, you can get into a happy relationship without getting over some of the wounds from a previous relationship, so don’t assume that a new connection will offer a quick fix. Two things can exist at once: You can be in a new happy relationship (casual or serious), and you can still struggle with the hurt from a previous relationship.”
Ultimately, do what feels right to you in the safest and most responsible way possible—and allow yourself to have some fun if that’s what you want.