The Rebound Effect
I have observed a particular painful relationship dynamic. By addressing this dynamic, I hope to prevent it from happening in your current or future relationships. I call this dynamic “the rebound effect.”
Let’s observe this dynamic in action by looking at a love relationship in progress.
Having been together for a while, a couple is having problems. The woman finds herself getting less of what she wants and needs from her partner. She starts to harbor resentment. The man finds himself more criticized and distances from the woman. The partners seemingly cannot hear one another. They are in the middle of a communication breakdown. Both feel unheard or misunderstood.
Because the woman has been unhappy, she has not been acknowledging her partner. There is not much he can do to please her now, and she tends to criticize him a lot.
The man makes an effort to do some of the things she has been asking of him. She notices the change, is pleased about the change, but feels angry and resentful instead of being thankful for his efforts. After all, why has it taken him so long to start giving her what she has been asking for?
From the man’s perspective, not only is he not getting approval or acknowledgement for his efforts, but he is being criticized even more. He becomes confused, frustrated and angry because the finish line has moved. Eventually he gives up and reverts back to his original behavior. He dreads being around his partner and having to deal with her criticism. Both end up hurt, frustrated, angry and wanting to create distance instead of closeness.
This dynamic is not gender based. The above example could easily be reversed, the genders substituted and it would still be valid. Moreover, the rebound effect is not limited to intimate relationships. It could happen at work, with friends and with family. The rebound effect is the resentment felt by people who finally get what they’ve been requesting for a long period of time. Rather than having feelings of gratitude for getting what they want, they rebound to resentment over why it wasn’t done sooner.
Both the receiver and the giver obviously suffer greatly during the rebound effect. Many of you have experienced this type of frustration and hurt, whether on the receiving or the giving end. It’s a horrible place to be. You have probably sworn this kind of thing would never happen again in any of your relationships. But unless you understand this dynamic and know how to deal with it, it most definitely will happen again.
Below are some strategies to deal with the rebound effect.
If you have finally gotten what you have been asking for:
- Be aware that as you start to get what you have been asking for, the rebound effect will likely kick in. Instead of feeling grateful, you may start to feel angry and resentful because it has taken so long to get what you wanted. Accept your feelings of anger and resentment. But rather than overwhelming the giver with your emotions, talk them out with your friends or journal.
- Express gratitude for whatever it is you have finally gotten. Realize the giver needs acknowledgment, approval that he or she is doing something right, is doing something good and significant for you. If you do not thank and acknowledge the good, the person will have no reason to do anything good for you again.
- If you must share some of the rebound emotions you are experiencing, share them in the past tense, always using “I” statements. “When my needs were not getting met, I felt very hurt/unloved/neglected/unappreciated, etc.”
If you have finally given what has been requested:
- If you have tried unsuccessfully to meet someone’s needs, or have not tried at all, expect the rebound effect when you finally do meet his or her needs. Expect the person to feel angry and resentful toward you for a while, instead of feeling gratitude. Meet his or her needs without looking for acknowledgement or approval. Approve of yourself, know you did good without external validation.
- Allow anger and resentment, expressed appropriately. Let the person speak these feelings until she or he is done. Acknowledge the feelings, which means listening and sympathizing without excuses or explanations. She or he is trying to get complete about the past. Reassure her or him that you would not allow the past to repeat itself in this relationship. If you let her or him get complete, and anger and resentment will turn into appreciation.
If you are in a relationship that is actively in this dynamic, please start using this information now. And remember, the rebound effect does not have to destroy your relationship. It can be temporary if you follow the above suggestions.