What is a Rebound Relationship


Last Updated: May 3, 2024

Relationship Advice

If you’re asking yourself, “What is a rebound relationship?” we can bet that it’s because you are dating again after a breakup. Or perhaps you’re dating someone who just got out of a relationship! Either way, you’re wondering whether this new fling is the real deal or going to go down in flames.

In this article, we’ll talk about what rebounds are, what makes them so common, and what you should do if you find yourself in one.

What is a rebound relationship?

The word “rebound” refers to the action of bouncing back after a collision with another object. Early definitions include strong, active verbs like “spring back,” “recoil,” “repulse,” or “leap back.”

If that sounds a little chaotic, well, that’s what makes it such a good term for the period after a breakup! The rebound period is when someone is recovering after the emotional turmoil of ending a serious relationship. Like a basketball careening off the backboard, someone in rebound may feel out of control and unpredictable.

A rebound relationship, then, is any kind of partnership that begins during this post-collision period.

Are all post-breakup relationships rebound relationships?

No! The good news is, even if you are the first person your partner has dated since their last breakup or vice versa, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in a rebound relationship. The key, though, is whether there’s been enough emotional healing for both people to enter into the new relationship on good footing.

To tell the difference, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the common elements of a rebound relationship.

Signs that you’re rebounding

Not sure whether you’re still processing your last relationship while entering into a new one? Here are a few questions to ask yourself. If you say yes to many or all of these questions, it’s a compelling sign that you’re in a rebound phase:

  • Are you still in contact with your ex?
  • Are you still mourning your last relationship?
  • Do you still “check-in” on your ex through their social media?
  • Do you still envision yourself with your ex or have hopes of getting back together?
  • Do you think about “winning” the break-up by finding someone new?
  • Do you fantasize about what your last partner would think about you being with someone new?
  • Do you compare your new partner (either positively or negatively) with your ex?
  • Do you talk about your past relationship to your new partner frequently? To be sure, how much is too much will vary depending on the situation, but if you find yourself bringing up your ex on multiple occasions, it could be a sign that you’re still processing your feelings for them
  • Do the things that are attractive to you in your new partner remind you of your ex?
  • Are you struggling to spend time alone?
  • Does it make you feel anxious or bad about yourself when there are gaps in communication with your new partner?
  • Do you have unrealistic expectations of the new relationship that are stemming from your last relationship? For instance, in an attempt to recreate the stability that you had in your last relationship, you may expect your new partner to spend every night with you.

Some of these questions are difficult to sit with. And, if you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place, they might even make you feel uncomfortable and defensive. If this is the case, consider talking through them with a professional therapist or someone you really trust.

Signs that your partner is rebounding

Now, let’s say that your new partner recently got out of a relationship. While you can’t know exactly what’s going on in their head, these signs could suggest that they’re in the rebound stage:

  • Not much time has passed since the breakup. Everyone heals on their own timeline, but if it’s only been a few weeks or months since the breakup, the risk that they’re still dealing with it is pretty high.
  • Their ex is still in their lives. Maybe they’re still figuring out how to divide up their belongings. Maybe they’re trying to be just friends. Regardless, if they’re still in contact, there could still be a connection. Of course, situations involving kids will mean that they always have some contact with their ex, but you’ll know whether it feels off.
  • They compare you to their ex or their past relationship
  • They talk about their past relationship a lot. And, usually, what they say will be disparaging about their ex or the relationship. This is a strong indication that they have unresolved feelings.
  • They’re emotionally unpredictable. The healing process after a breakup includes many ups and downs. You may find them to be joyful and connected one day, and totally withdrawn the next.
  • They may get upset with you for things that seem unreasonable. For instance, they may not be able to tell you that they’re frustrated with you for not making the bed the same way their ex did, but it’s bothering them all the same. If you feel like you’re constantly being compared to some unachievable standard, it could mean that they’re rebounding.
  • They don’t seem genuinely interested in you as a person.
  • You feel that they may only be using you for sex.

In general, if you’re wondering whether someone is in a rebound relationship with you because you feel like something is off, your intuition is probably right.

Why do people seek out rebound relationships?


Sometimes, people enter into rebound relationships out of selfishness, spite, or to make their ex jealous. And that is a toxic behavior pattern that isn’t excusable. But, often, people make unconscious decisions in the wake of a breakup to make themselves feel better. That’s why even well-meaning, empathic people can hurt others by rushing into a relationship too soon after a breakup. Here are a few of the reasons why rebound relationships are so common:

  • They offer a distraction. Many people want to get their minds off of the pain of a breakup in any way they can.
  • They stem from social pressure. There’s a lot of pressure on newly single folks to “get back out there” and find someone new. Someone may wonder why it’s taking them so long to get over their ex, so they start dating before they’re truly ready.
  • They can serve as a way for the unconscious mind to try to make sense of the breakup. Breaking up can create psychological confusion, leading someone to wonder what they did wrong, how they could have fixed it, and whether they’ll ever find someone else. One way that the mind tries to resolve these issues is by playing out a new relationship.
  • New relationships quell loneliness. Plain and simple, being alone after being in a committed relationship is hard! Many people look for ways to avoid feeling lonely.
  • A new partner may bolster their self-esteem. Self-esteem is often at a low point post-breakup, which is why the attention of someone new can feel even more flattering and exciting than usual.
  • They can allow someone to explore parts of themselves that were not accepted within the relationship. Sometimes, people come out of relationships ready to explore the parts of themselves that they kept hidden with their ex. This kind of self-discovery process could be a way for them to navigate their new life without their ex.

As you can see, these are all fairly understandable reasons why someone would enter into a rebound relationship. Of course, it’s important not to think of these explanations as excuses. After all, it’s not ethical to hurt another person even if there’s a reasonable explanation for doing so. But, it is helpful to understand why rebound relationships are so common.

How long is a person typically “on the rebound?”

Unfortunately, there’s no universal timeline for getting over a break-up. Some people will recover emotionally and be ready for a healthy relationship within a few months. Others will take years before they’re finally ready to enter into a new relationship without exhibiting the behaviors of a person in the rebound phase.

That being said, there are a few things that can speed up the rebound phase, such as:

  • A strong support system. Someone who is being supported through a break-up may be less likely to look for consolation in the arms of a new partner.
  • Counseling or therapy
  • Physical and virtual space from the previous partner. Although it may seem drastic, cutting all connection with an ex can be a way to speed up the healing process.
  • Self-introspection.
  • Not bottling up emotions or trying to push through the break-up without processing emotions. Everyone processes the difficult emotions of a breakup differently. But someone who gives space to their feelings instead of ignoring them is likely to recover more quickly.
  • A positive change in lifestyle after the break-up. As we’ve mentioned, many of the root causes for rebound relationships have to do with insecurity, loneliness, and pain. Healthier remedies for these common responses to a breakup could be taking up a sport or hobby or making a fulfilling career change.

These elements won’t mean that someone can’t be susceptible to entering into a rebound relationship. But, they can encourage faster healing times post-breakup.

Are rebound relationships doomed to fail?

You probably know someone in your life whose rebound turned into their spouse, so you might be thinking: are all rebounds destined for failure?

Well, no. As we mentioned, many people enter into rebound relationships not because they’re bad people, but because they’re in pain. And, it is possible for them to find a compatible partner who will go through that process with them.

But, it’s important to acknowledge that many rebound relationships do end. And here’s why:

  • People in pain don’t make great partners. When someone is healing, they’re often unpredictable, a little selfish, and not able to show up for their partner fully. So, while they may be able to make an initial spark, it will be difficult for them to maintain that connection over time.
  • The new partner will never live up to the ex. Someone who is still emotionally entangled with their ex is not likely to feel satisfied with someone new.
  • Lessons weren’t likely learned from the previous relationship. The period after a break-up is an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong and, hopefully, acknowledge your own role in why the relationship didn’t work. Skipping over this part could mean that the same problems are doomed to be repeated.
  • Once the healing process is complete, the rebound relationship can become obsolete, too. Someone who is using their partner for validation, a remedy for loneliness or a distraction from pain may eventually outgrow the relationship once they don’t need those things anymore.

What should you do if you think you’re in a rebound relationship?


So, if you do find yourself in a relationship that could be a rebound, what should you do? Here are a few steps that can help you move forward in a healthier way.

If you are the person who recently went through a breakup:

  • Reflect honestly on whether you’re over your past relationship
  • Talk things through with a counselor, therapist, or someone you trust
  • Consider taking the time you need to focus on your own healing
  • Find outlets for self-esteem and mental health outside of your romantic interests

If you are dating someone who you feel may still be in the rebound phase:

  • Look out for signs of a rebound relationship
  • Listen to your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable in your relationship, don’t ignore it
  • Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling
  • Prioritize your own needs and mental wellness
  • Consider slowing down, pausing, or ending the relationship until you’re sure the other person has fully healed or is actively working towards healing from the past

Knowing “what is a rebound relationship” can prepare you for healthier partnerships!

In this article, we’ve talked about what rebound relationships look like, why they’re so common, and why they often don’t work out. But, at the end of the day, you are in the driver’s seat! You may decide to continue in a rebound relationship and hope that you can weather the storm, Or maybe you’d rather avoid the messiness altogether. Either way, knowing how to identify rebound relationships, as both the rebounder and the reboundee, is an important skill!

So, now that you’ve found the answer to “What is a rebound relationship,” how will you move forward?

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