When you’re the rebound guy

woman-rebound

Hey John,

I recently read your article What Does a Woman Mean When She Says, “I Need Space”?  It really made me want to reach out and contact you, to see what kind of advice of you would give me.

I am now twenty-six. I met this girl at my job, where she was an intern, about three years ago. She is now twenty-three. When I met her she was in a relationship with a guy about ten years older than her; they were together for three years.

During their three-year relationship, she and I flirted; we both knew we that liked each other, and I was, I know, the topic of several fights between her and her older boyfriend. She and I never got past flirting, because she was committed to him, and is a very genuine and good person.

Anyway, they broke up, and a week later she contacted me.

We hit the ground running—and John, it was, hands-down, the best three months of my life. Everything felt amazing for the both of us; she said I was so different than her ex, and that she didn’t think anybody could be so good to her. I completely fell for her, and from what she was saying, and how she was acting, she felt the same toward me. I made sure not to slip and make any references to relationships, or to boyfriends and/or girlfriends, or any of that kind of stuff, because I knew it was too soon. So I really don’t think I could of done things differently short of being an asshole to her.

As we were approaching our fourth month together she spent four nights at my apartment, where, she pretty much introduced me to her friends as her boyfriend when she had been drinking. After that she got real weird for no reason. That Monday we were having a routine text conversation, where I asked her to hang-out, and she answered that she needed space, because, she said, she didn’t expect to like me so much so quickly, and was just confused.

At first I thought it was no big deal, but now I don’t know anymore. So for the last month now our conversations have been okay: sometimes really good, sometimes really … nothing there. It’s tough for me to just not talk or act how I was talking and acting when things were so good between me and her. She reassures and tells me that I did nothing wrong, which never helps.

So in this last month we have hung out only three times—about once a week. And I know that during that time she saw her ex, which I am sure is part of the reason that she says she is confused and needs space to figure it all out. I have tried to stop talking to her; if I manage to go a couple of days without contacting her, she contacts me.

John, I am in love with this girl—and I guess I just wanna know: Is there anything left? Or do I really have to just stop talking to her, and move on? I have so many different emotions running through my head, and they each make me want to act differently. I just don’t how to go about it. She is definitely worth fighting for, and that is what I have been doing this last month. I was the one who initiated our hanging out, but I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.

Thank you for your time.

Oh, gosh. Young love! It’s just like old love … except everybody looks better naked.

So lemme just rerun this letter, with the thoughts that I had in my head as I read it the first time inserted a lovely blue hue, Lou.

I am now twenty-six [awesome age!]. About three years ago I met this girl at my job, where she was an intern. [Oh, no: this opening is way too much like my 100% unacceptable post, True Sex Story, or Normal Guy Lying Like a Dog?] She is now twenty-three. When I met her she was in a relationship with a guy about ten years older than her [ding ding ding goes the alarm bell]; they were together for three years. [Thirty-year-old man in a three-year relationship with a girl who's twenty-three. Got it. Not lovin' it, but got it.]

During their three-year relationship, she and I flirted; we both knew we that liked each other—and I was, I know, the topic of several fights between her and her older boyfriend. [So she flirted with you, let her boyfriend know enough about that flirting that it made him jealous—and then made sure to let you know that he had gotten jealous. Okay.] She and I never got past flirting, because she was committed to him, and is a very genuine and good person. [Well, she wasn't that committed to her boyfriend, or she wouldn't have spent three years flirting with you. Ah, love. It's such a complete brain short-circuiter. (Tweet this.)]

Anyway, they broke up, and a week later she contacted me. [What's up with the time delay? Did she respond to the break-up by going on vacation? Awesome life choice if she did. Carnival Cruise. Because nothing says "I'm over you" like snorkeling. Okay, don't tweet that.]

We hit the ground running—and John, it was, hands-down, the best three months of my life. [Why? Oh: "running" is a euphemism. I hope everybody got an STD check before ... putting on their jogging shoes.] Everything felt amazing for the both of us [TMI]; she said I was so different from her ex  [TMI!! TMI!!], and that she didn’t think anybody could be so good to her. [Annnnd enter the snake.] I completely fell for her, and from what she was saying, and how she was acting, she felt the same toward me. [I'm gonna go out on a limb, and guess that she didn't, actually.] I made sure not to slip and make any references to relationships [what?], or to boyfriends and/or girlfriends, or any of that kind of stuff, because I knew it was too soon. [Too soon to ... have a normal conversation with her? This won't end well. He's not being honest/normal with her. Now she likes his pliant recessiveness, because safe to say her last boyfriend was a dominating jag. But that'll pass.] So I really don’t think I could of done things differently short of being an asshole to her. [But ... there's a whole world of options between treating someone like an invaluable glass doll you're terrified of breaking, and treating them like an asshole.]

As we were approaching our fourth month together she spent four nights at my apartment [oh: maybe they were jogging before! excellent! fitness rocks.], where, she pretty much introduced me to her friends as her boyfriend when she had been drinking. [Pretty much? When she was drinking? This poor guy.] After that she got real weird for no reason. [Really? No reason occurs to you?] That Monday we were having a routine text conversation, where I asked her to hang-out, and she answered that she needed space, because, she said, she didn’t expect to like me so much so quickly [pffft: right. plus, hasn't it been three years and four months? Not exactly breaking the sound barrier.], and was just confused. [Boy's bein played.]

At first I thought it was no big deal [?? Aren't you crazy in love with her?], but now I don’t know anymore. So for the last month now our conversations have been okay: sometimes really good, sometimes really … nothing there. It’s tough for me to just not talk or act how I was talking and acting when things were so good between me and her. [So ... then ... you're now trying not to carefully monitor/pre-vet everything you say to her? Go with that!] She reassures and tells me that I did nothing wrong, which never helps. [No, I would think it does, since what she's telling you is that she doesn't like you the way you wish that she did. That's never good news.]

So in this last month we have hung out only three times—about once a week. [It's over.] And I know that during that time she saw her ex [it's over], which I am sure is part of the reason that she says she is confused and needs space to figure it all out. I have tried to stop talking to her; if I manage to go a couple of days without contacting her, she contacts me. [Wow. I am so beginning to not be a fan of this girl.]

John, I am in love with this girl—and I guess I just wanna know: Is there anything left? [Yeah. Your heart. On the floor. Get a squeegee and a mop.] Or do I really have to just stop talking to her [no], and move on [yes]? I have so many different emotions running through my head, and they each make me want to act differently. [Find the one that makes you want to give up on your relationship with this girl. That's your winner.] I just don’t how to go about it. She is definitely worth fighting for [no, she's not], and that is what I have been doing this last month. [Stop doing that now. It's like putting on a Broadway production in an empty theater.] I was the one who initiated our hanging out [no: she flirted with you for three years], but I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. [I do: for exactly as long as you want to.]

Thank you for your time.

Dude: You were her rebound guy, the Band-Aide she used on her wounds before she went back to the man who hurts her. That’s awful; clearly, she (like all of us) has some deep stuff she needs to work out. The only way you’re ever going to help her with that—the only way you’re ever going to play any real role in her life at all—is for you to stop letting her hurt you. And there’s only two ways for that to happen: let so much time go by that you just naturally get over her (yay for time!), or get really, really serious about figuring out what exactly it was about this girl that hooked you, reeled you in, and left you flopping around on the bottom of her canoe. Answer that question, and I guarantee you that, if nothing else, the girl who once felt that you weren’t enough for her will then find you very attractive indeed.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • KC

    Find a hot girl who will pose for a picture with you. Post it on your Facebook page, but just casually – don’t make a big share about it – just let it show up in your pictures. You’ll have more contact from her than you want.

    I guess I’m not really helping.

    • Jill

      But you’re damn entertaining. ;)

    • harrisco

      Snort… I like your devious mind, KC. Now what can we do about this other guy–the older guy who goes after twenty-year-old interns and gets kinda jealous? What have you got for a winner like him?

  • Kathy in KC

    Great take on the poor guy’s letter. When we are in our twenties it’s so easy to be besotted with the wrong person. I was and stayed for TWELVE YEARS. I think we typically meet the good one in our thirties or at least late twenties-thirty when we are more mature.

    • Jill

      Then I still have some hope! :)

  • spinning2heads

    I’m sorta still stuck on the very first sentence: “I recently read your article What Does a Woman Mean When She Says, “I Need Space”?”

    Dude, did you read that article, really read it, and still not know what the answer from John would be? I’m going to, for the sake of being a nice person, assume you’re smarter than that. And then, because you’re smart and knew that John’s answer would be “let her go” , and because you really needed someone to tell you to let go, you went ahead and asked.

    I hope you follow the advice that you knew you needed and now have gotten.

  • Jill

    Oh letter writer, please do yourself the *biggest* favor and listen to this man.

    A really good, but unsolicited quote as a small piece of advice: If you’re giving your all to someone and it’s not enough, you’re giving it to the wrong person.

  • Elizabeth

    Oh dear. There’s nothing I can add that’s NOT TMI. Amazing advice.

  • Remy Schrader

    Bravo!

    Bravo indeed!

  • InaCat

    Hm. Jill agrees. Kathy agrees. Elizabeth agrees…I see a trend of us ladies agreeing with John…

    This girl? isn’t the one you want to fight for…at least not until she’s mature enough to have a stray thought about anyone’s feelings but her own…now, out of my own flock of now-40 somethings? I can single out several who haven’t, and have ‘grown up’ to be serial heart-breakers, and two that added home-wrecking to their resume – get my point?

    • Jill

      Whoa. I’m actually glad I’m still naive enough for that to scare me.

      • Matt

        I’m pulling out my “girl card” and throwing it in with you all. High school is very fresh in my mind, and it’s sad that it apparently doesn’t change for some people.

  • Brian W

    Letter writer, you’re only 26, listen to John, you’re young, move on from this woman, if you fell in love once, you can again. This one sounds like trouble young man.

  • LVZ

    That happened to me at that age. I fell head over heels for someone who, well, really liked flirting with me. Really really liked it. But she never wanted a relationship.

    My parents and friends from church gave me the right advice (forget her), but they gave it for the wrong reason — they told me that dating was sin and any relationship other than marriage is adultery. So, I didn’t take their advice seriously, because two single people having dinner together clearly isn’t adultery!

    I wish someone had given me the right advice (forget her) for the *right* reason — the reason I went on to learn the hard way. If someone breaks your heart, and you go back to them, they will break your heart again. Every time. Guaranteed. I tried to take Jesus’ advice (forgive seventy times seven) and realized that I should have taken his other advice (shake the dust off your feet.)

    If someone screws you, forget them and move on. It’s tough, but if you keep on going back to someone who hurts you, you’re just prolonging your misery.

  • Tim Northrup

    Ok, John, I have very little to say here about the letter or the core response. However, this line:”Carnival Cruise. Because nothing says “I’m over you” like snorkeling.” — You know, that has the ring of “cheeky super-bowl commercial” all over it. Just imagine the ad campaign–”Carnival Cruise. Because nothing says “Happy Fathers Day” Like Body Surfing.” “Carnival Cruise. Because Nothing Says “I’ll Love You Forever” Like Island Sunsets.” “Carnival Cruise. Because Nothing Says Family Like Exploring the Agean.” The possibilities are endless.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg L. DesElms

    JOHN SHORE WROTE: [...or she wouldn't have spent three years flirting with you. Ah, love. It's such a complete brain short-circuiter. (Tweet this.)]

    MY RESPONSE: Tweet that? Hell, I’m still back on “Oh, gosh. Young love! It’s just like old love … except everybody looks better naked.”

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot ccom

    • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg L. DesElms

      Okay, okay… it’s “dot com” not “dot ccom.” But ever since the keyboard on this notebook started very occasionally doubling lettters, I’ve been rootin’ for ICANN to create the typo version as a gTLD. Hell, if “.museum” can have one, then why can’t my keyboard?

      Gregg L. DesElms

      Napa, California USA

      gregg at greggdeselms DOT COM

    • http://Fordswords.net David S.

      In the immortal words of Laurie Anderson:

      Paradise is exactly like where you are right now only much, much better.

  • Susie

    Girls can be cads too. This is how they do it. I can’t tell you how many male friends of mine have been strung along by women who are basically using them as a cuddle buddy, booty call, escort, handyman, etc. because she doesn’t want to be alone.

    My advice to all guys to avoid this: If you want her to be your girlfriend, tell her the moment you feel that way. Don’t skirt around it, act like you don’t care, etc. That way there’s no question and if she continues to you use you, at least you maintain a shred of dignity while being used. Worst case/Best case scenario, she finds another sucker.

    • Susie

      BTW, here’s the key to not being creepy about telling her how you feel– tell her immediately, don’t hem and haw. Don’t presume how she will react, either positively or negatively. Share how you feel in a direct way. When you say, I

      1) Oh, how sweet…(crickets)

      2) I’ve been feeling the same way. Let’s give it a shot!

      3) Wow. I really don’t see us that way/I need to be single now/Get away from me.

      More than likely it will be #1 because few young women or old have the balls to give a direct answer. Still, know that #1 and #3 are virtually the same answer except #1 allows her to continue getting all of the benefits of having you around without offering anything in return. She’ll tell her friends she doesn’t want to “hurt your feelings,” but in the end she might as well run over your feelings with a lawn mower.

      • Susie

        In paragraph one the last sentence should say, When you say, I want to be date you, her response will either be:

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg L. DesElms

    JOHN SHORE WROTE: [Wow. I am so beginning to not be a fan of this girl.]

    MY RESPONSE: Beginning? (In what color can my comments to your comments be? And since you called the square brackets, can I have the {curly} ones?)

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Well, I was trying to be … you know. Normal.

      • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg L. DesElms

        Hasn’t the ship alrea… er… never mind. [grin]

        Gregg L. DesElms

        Napa, California USA

        gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Lymis

    Minor typo in your 6th paragraph, or I’m way out of touch. “SDT check?”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Oh, gosh. That’s really something. I had no idea you were dyslexic, Lymis.

      • Lymis

        I have more fnu that way.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          SNREK!

    • Jill

      Or my 8th grade health class teacher didn’t know what she was talking about…

  • FishFinger

    “let so much time go by that you just naturally get over her”

    D-does that happen?

  • KC

    Er, I probably am him (or was) so, no real suggestions there.

  • textjunkie

    Heh–I got to “I am now 26″ and my first thought “awwww, how cute…” John’s comment re: young love was much better. :) But yeah–she’s 23, dating a guy in his 30s, and they’ve been together since she was 20. Flirting for 3 years and going back and forth between her older guy and the flirtee. Not promising! I hope the letter writer had some other girlfriend during that 3 year period and wasn’t just living on the flirting…

  • Sommer Brigman

    “Oh. Maybe they were jogging” ……I am laughing so hard.

  • Lisa Noelle Weigand

    “It’s like putting on a Broadway production in an empty theater.” Bravo, John!

  • Kevin Crothers

    Jogging – so that’s what the kids are calling it these days.

  • Allie

    Am I the only person here who finds flirting not that big a honking deal? On the other hand, if her flirting with B caused a huge fight with A, then continuing to flirt after that point was a huge deal, to poor B at the least.

    In defense of older guy/younger girl: I had a thing with a 32-year-old man when I was 20. The sex was great, if anything I was the one calling the shots in the relationship, and everything about him was wonderful. Only problem was we were in completely different places in our life story. He was at the “finally got a good enough job to finance building my dream house, settle down and have kids” place and I was at the “stay up until dawn then drag yourself to class” stage. But I don’t regret it in the least. Not all relationships between people of different ages are predatory.

    Regardless, sounds like this girl doesn’t want to be alone while she looks for something better. And that’s not a happy place for this guy to be.

    • harrisco

      Flirting in itself is not the problem. Context matters. As you point out in your last two sentences, the context here is not good. B is getting treated like cannon fodder.

      One question: What is this about one person calling the shots in relationships? If this guy you were in a relationship with was wonderful, and if you were solid yourself, why not call the shots together?

  • Blind Boy Belvedere

    “Flopping around on the bottom of her canoe ” is my new favorite double entendre.


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