Can You Find Love in a Rebound Relationship?

Love and Sex

Can You Find Love in a Rebound Relationship?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Acouple of years ago, I got dumped by Zeba, who I believed was my soulmate, life-long paramour, and other words I learnt from Pablo Neruda. You can go ahead and brand me a schmaltzy romantic but we had been together for close to five years and were pretty damn close to getting engaged until it all blew up in my face. (If you want to read more about the nuances and contours of my mourning period, here I am pouring my heart onto a page.)

I naturally did what everyone explicitly told me not to do: Plunge head first into Tinder and Bumble. After umpteen one-night stands with septum-pierced anarchists, morally depraved PhD candidates, and alcoholic cabin-crew personnel, I realised what everyone was trying to tell me: You can go all-in with promiscuity, but low self-esteem will always call your bluff.

Just as I was about to hang my head shamefully to a chorus of I TOLD YOU SOs,  I matched with Trishala.

The lights at Bandra’s Su Casa might have been brighter on that breezy March night we met or maybe I’m just imagining things. Either way, her face lit up as the wind made her soft curls brush against her pink cheeks and her sharp Iranian nose. (Yes, ok maybe I am a schmaltzy romantic.)

But Trishala did seem really cool. She sipped on an overpriced nariyal pani cocktail spiked with Old Monk and told me about her job as an art curator. Between poking fun at my spoken-word career and discussing our mutual disdain for board games in bars, Trish and I hit it off well. Two dates later, we were on the brink of couplehood.

The rituals of entering couplehood are familiar – deleting our dating app profiles, posting mushy Instagram stories from our Woodside Inn brunches, lots of weekends spent indoors, and copious Netflix-ing. There was also that thrilling aspect of being introduced to new things by virtue of being in a new relationship. In my case, it was pumice stone-based bath salts and the wonderous world of old Bombay’s little Irani cafes, one of which was established by Trish’s great-grandfather. I knew our honeymoon phase was peaking when her address began popping up in my Uber destination suggestions and everything seemed dandy.

Except, I was still struggling to get over Zeba.

Finding a relationship before you’ve found closure, induces an eerie sort of guilt – the kind you feel when cheating on a partner. It envelopes you slyly, when every act of affection from the new love makes you inadvertently wonder what life would have been if only your old lover could have been like this. Then this feeling intensifies and your top-searched story on Instagram features the name of your ex. And there comes a day when you are unable to respond to any breathless declarations of love from your current love. There are only so many kiss smileys and “okay babys” that you can send in response to “I Love You”, before they call you out.

Your rebound love could be the messiah who held your trembling hand and mangled heart when you needed it the most, unknowingly reminding you that love is pretty rad if you let yourself feel it.

Trish did just that. Ten months into our relationship, we sat in a dimly lit corner of another fancy restaurant, where the cold vibes between us made the crushed ice in our margaritas seem toasty. I tried offering her some bruschetta but she simply shook her head. She didn’t waste time bringing out the heavy artillery. She made it clear that she knew full well about my emotional baggage when she got into this, but she’d hoped that one day I’d stop saying Zeba’s name in my sleep.

To her eternal credit, she didn’t seem angry. Just disappointed. She made it clear she understood that healing takes time, but could not, in good faith, agree to be my crutch as I limped onto the path of forgetting my ex. Little did I know that, “I love you too much to watch you suffer”, would be the last time I’d hear Trish say I love you to me.

She and I didn’t speak after that but I stopped hunting for other women to fill the void Zeba left in my life. Though I still type in my ex’s handle on Instagram search, the ex in question is now Trish and there’s less rage and more remorse as I scroll through her tagged pics.

Trishala taught me that closure doesn’t merely mean getting over your ex. And a “rebound” doesn’t always involve a fuck buddy or facilitator of closure.

Sometimes, they are a person you might have, under kinder circumstances, fallen hopelessly in love with. Your rebound love could be the messiah who held your trembling hand and mangled heart when you needed it the most, unknowingly reminding you that love is pretty rad if you let yourself feel it. They could be absolute strangers who temporarily became your safe place and ensured your faith in love is left stronger than before they met you.

Rebounds, as I can now testify, are sometimes the people who risk losing part of themselves just to make you whole again.