Illustration: Sam Woolley (GMG)

I hooked up with him shortly after my relationship with my high school sweetheart ended. I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be permanent. I just wanted someone to give me the kind of constant adoration and physical intimacy that I had been receiving for the previous three years.

I remember him the way I remember summer breaks during elementary school: a blur of memories strung together on the thinnest fiber, not necessarily connected but related to the same type of experience in totality.

We were there together in spirit but mostly only physically. My proximity to him bonded me to him more than any emotion, feigned or otherwise.

The fact that he was a rebound fling was unspoken but always there, and when the relationship ended, we both knew why. He never even questioned it, and I never explained it. It is, as they say, what it is.

My sister-friend Maya Francis would say that I used him as a lily pad. He and I weren’t invested in anything long-term or meaningful; we were just looking for a soft place to land after our last relationship—or situationship—ended.

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Lily pads. Rebound relationships. Situationships. Mr. or Mrs. “In the Meantime.” Whatever you call it, it is the same thing over and over again: people using other people to fill an emotional, physical or other void.

It may not always be malicious, but it is usually entirely selfish.

Your impetus for the relationship is specifically tied up in your need for some type of fulfillment that you crave. Maybe you need your ego stroked. Maybe you need physical intimacy. Maybe you just need to know that someone desires you, whether the feeling is mutual or not.

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No matter the driving motivation, it is an unfair situation to put someone in if they are not aware—and I say this as someone who has knowingly put more than one person in that position. They were all unaware.

I have also been on the receiving end of this proposition, and that is where I learned my most valuable lessons. It was painful to be on the heartbroken side of the fence, and I learned that things left unsaid hurt the most.

Had I known that the person was just looking for something to hold them over, I might have chosen differently.

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Or would I?

Openly choosing to accept a dead-end situationship just for the sake of not being alone and lonely is a real thing. We know they don’t want us, but we allow them to rest on us anyway, because having someone is better than having no one at all.

Or so we’ve been told.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we learn the most about ourselves when we take the time to be still and take personal inventory.

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The end of a relationship is not the end of the world; we don’t necessarily need another relationship to fill the void. Maybe we just need the time to reflect.

But for the people who, after reading this, still think they need a rebound relationship, I ask that you follow a few simple rules:

Be honest about your intentions, and take the other person’s feelings into perspective. Knowingly leading someone on or wasting their time in the interest of self is not OK. No one wants or deserves to be on the receiving end of that kind of treatment. You wouldn’t if it were you.

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Remember that being open and honest about what you want could very possibly lead to your getting exactly that anyway, so it’s always the best option.

Don’t use people as lily pads if you would object to being a jump-off.