Trading Up: The Rebound Men of Jen Aniston, Natalie Portman, and More

Relationship upgrade or good old fashioned rebound?

By , Columnist

There’s an interesting trend emerging in Hollywood that I’m going to dub the “relationship upgrade.” It occurs when a little-known actor/dancer/C-lister in a long-term, seemingly solid relationship drops his non-famous partner for a mega-famous star. It can also take place when a famous star drops their not-quite-as-famous half for a much more famous individual.

Observe: In November 2009, obscure dancer Benjamin Millepied meets Natalie Portman on the set of Black Swan while still with live-in girlfriend of three years and fellow dancer Isabella Boylston. Flash forward exactly a year later: Benjamin has left Isabella, is engaged to Natalie, and expecting his first child with the Oscar-winning actress.

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In a twist, Darren Aronofsky, director of Black Swan, was also recently traded in for a more famous partner. Darren and long-time fiancée Rachel Weisz announced their split in November, 2010 after nearly ten years of dating and engagement. One month later, Rachel began dating James Bond star Daniel Craig. Meanwhile, Daniel Craig is reported to have left girlfriend of seven years Satsuki Mitchell for Rachel Weisz without so much as a word to his live-in partner. The new pair was married six months later in June, 2011.

In an even more scandalous event, little-known actor Justin Theroux meets Jennifer Aniston in the fall of 2010 on the set of Wanderlust. By June of 2011, it was rumored the pair was dating even though Justin was still with girlfriend of 14 years, Hollywood costume designer Heidi Bivens. Though sources, including Heidi’s own mother, denied the allegations that Justin was cheating with Jennifer Aniston, the last two months have obviously proved otherwise. Not only are Justin and Jennifer a couple, they’re rumored to be moving in together, have “pre-engagement” rings, and are reportedly planning for a baby.

Maybe they just got tired of the old model after three, five, ten or 15 years and decided it was time for an upgrade. Not just an upgrade, mind you. The upgrade with the works: fame, fortune, style, beauty, and international acclaim.

We’ll never know the real reasoning, but here’s what I do know: There is no such thing as a “relationship upgrade.” In everyday life, we call that a “rebound.” And a rebound is dangerous territory, my friends. Every one of the stories just mentioned contains the ingredients for the ultimate rebound, and you should be careful to avoid them all if you desire something lasting.

Relationship Quicksand

I’m a firm believer that you can’t really be tempted to drop a partner of years or even decades if you weren’t already thinking about it first. It’s pretty unlikely that Justin Theroux and Benjamin Millepied were perfectly happy and in love with their respective partners before the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Natalie Portman came along.

The biggest sign of this? Though in relationships for years upon years, not one of the couples mentioned ever got married. Yet, a few months later, all were married, engaged, or talking marriage with someone new. This means that these people were all capable of and wanted marriage, but perhaps not with their long-term partner. They may not have even realized this until something happened to make them see it.

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Jen and Natalie probably served as catalysts for a decision that had been brewing under the surface for quite some time, but that there was no real reason to act upon. This, by definition, is relationship complacency. Nothing’s exactly bad, but it’s not amazing either. There’s no good reason to end it, because there’s nothing really going wrong. It’s chugging along at a steady pace, but it’s probably not inducing true happiness anymore. It’s easy and it’s routine, and somewhere deep down boredom or resentment has set in.

Cue mega-hot, ridiculously famous actresses/actors, and suddenly those feelings aren’t so deep down anymore. In fact, they bubble right on up to the surface. Now, not only can they admit to themselves the problems they’ve been ruminating on for some time, they don’t even have to talk about it with their partner. They can dump them, then blame it on being unable to resist Jennifer Aniston. Problem solved!

The point: complacency in a relationship is like quicksand. It won’t kill your relationship right away, but it will guarantee a slow, suffocating death. If you get to this point and know it’s time for a break-up, have the balls to do it. Don’t drag it out unnecessarily, hurting your partner more along the way.

No Down Time

I don’t care if Natalie Portman or Daniel Craig is trying to get in your pants. After a relationship ends, there’s a period in which you must be single. A relationship’s death requires mourning, which can’t be sped up or faked. Starting to date someone else while you should still be overcoming and processing the emotions of your break-up means this: you’re never really going to heal from your break-up, and you’re going to drag baggage into the new relationship. Consider the down time as a life cleanse. You’re slowly but surely getting yourself back to a completely healthy state before dedicating yourself to a new relationship.

What Is This I’m Smoking?

What happens if you fail to take this advice and jump into a new relationship too soon? Well, you end up pre-engaged or married or moving in or planning to have babies with Jennifer Aniston or Rachel Weisz. Or, you know, someone else you don’t know very well.

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If you haven’t been on the dating market in years, the first relationship after a break-up is going to feel out-of-this-world. In a rush of emotions, you’ll experience all of the relationship highs almost as if it were the first time, which it kind of is; it’s the first time in a very long time. You’ll be so giddy, so punch-drunk that your judgment will likely be impaired as if you were actually drunk. This is where the super-fast engagement/wedding/moving in/having babies comes in.

Many people say, “No, it wasn’t fast. I just knew after two weeks!” or “But it was all so romantic, I got swept away in it all.” But in a brand new relationship, especially one right after the end of a long-term partnership, it’s hard to tell whether the person is giving you those love-drunk feelings, or whether you’re more in love with the feeling of new love. Time is the only thing that can discern the difference, and you owe it to yourself to let time do its job.

There’s nothing wrong with being cautious, responsible, and taking your time. If you’re smart enough not to drive a car under the influence of alcohol, you’re smart enough not to jump head first into a relationship while under the influence of feel-good brain chemicals. And honestly, can you imagine a more toxic cocktail than experiencing a break-up and a new relationship at the same time? Slow it down, and allow yourself to move through your life at a healthy pace.

What’s your take? Ever done the “relationship upgrade” or been someone’s rebound? I’d love to read your stories in the comments section below!

Each week in “Relationships by Rachel,” TMR columnist Rachel East tackles relationships in all their blissful, heartbreaking and mind-boggling glory.

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Rachel East is a freelance writer specializing in relationships and relationship advice. In addition to her regular column on TMR, Rachel contributes relationship content to the Levo League, formerly known as Pretty Young Professional, a website for young, professional and ambitious women. Her writing…

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