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Rebound Relationships: Signs, Downsides, And Advice If You’re In One

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The rebound phase is a tricky thing to handle, for everyone involved.

Relationships that form at this time are complicated, many-layered things. No two rebound relationships are ever the same.

For some people they can just be a bit of fun and the boost to their self-esteem that they need to get over a breakup (with the other person being fully aware of and okay with that).

In other circumstances, both parties can end up getting hurt.

There are mixed messages regarding rebound relationships.

On the one hand, we’re told that they’ll never work and that they’re a terrible idea.

On the other, we’re given the impression that they’re pretty much essential for getting over a broken heart.

What is truth and what is fiction?

If you suspect you might be in one, or if you ever find yourself in one in the future, the advice that follows will enable you to handle the situation, ensuring that nobody gets hurt.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you if you think you’re in a rebound relationship. You may want to try speaking to someone via for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

What is a rebound relationship?

Psychology researchers Brumbaugh and Fraley define a rebound relationship as “A relationship that is initiated shortly after a romantic breakup – before the feelings about the former relationship have been resolved.”

The key part of this definition is the latter half.

Although a ‘shortly after’ time frame is mentioned, that’s all relative. It really comes down to how a person feels about their ex and their past relationship.

For some, a short time might mean a month. But others might not have resolved those feelings six months, or even years later.

So, you may think that enough time has passed for you or someone you’re interested in to no longer be considered on the rebound…

…but you should be aware that it’s impossible to put a strict time limit on these things.

Also, bear in mind that it is possible to have more than one rebound relationship.

Just because you’ve already been romantically involved with someone since your initial breakup, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically over it and that further new relationships can’t also count.

Some people jump from one such relationship to the next, frustrated that they can’t replicate the deep connection they had with their ex.

Why do we get into rebound relationships?

If you look at them on paper, rebound relationships seem like a pretty terrible idea.

Perhaps it’s obvious when we look at these things objectively that we should give ourselves time to fully process the ending of one relationship before entering another.

But when have human beings as a race ever been particularly rational or sensible?

These relationships are extremely common for some fairly obvious reasons.

1. We might be looking to forget. A new relationship can soothe the pain of heartbreak, and be a great distraction.

Whilst it’s healthy to take the time to feel all the feelings and process what’s happened, it’s not exactly easy, and a lot of us will do anything to avoid it.

A new relationship is an effective way of putting those feelings in a box and pretending they don’t exist, even though they’re bound to come back to haunt you later.

2. Breakups can also be a real knock to one’s ego. We often look for someone new soon after breaking up to reassure ourselves that we’re desirable, and lovable.

3. Sometimes, it’s only after a breakup that we realize how much we’ve neglected our friendships and our social lives in general whilst in a relationship.

So we try to find someone new as a way of filling the lonely void that’s opened up in our lives.

4. Of course, sometimes the motivation is a little different, with people jumping into a new relationship as a way of consciously or unconsciously getting revenge on an ex who they feel has treated them badly.

The next two sections address the relationship from both perspectives.

The first section is for those of you who are the rebound (i.e. you have NOT just got out of a relationship).

The second is for the rebounder (i.e. you HAVE recently got out of a relationship). If you want to skip to this second section, click here.

8 Signs That You’re In A Rebound Relationship As The Rebound

1. It’s all very recent.

As mentioned, there’s no hard and fast rule about how soon after a breakup is too soon to get into a new relationship, but there are still some vague guidelines you can follow.

If they’ve broken up with a long-term partner within the last three months, or have separated from a spouse, or someone they’ve had children with, within the last six months, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date them, but you’d do well to be on your guard.

2. They’ve fallen head over heels in love with you in two seconds flat.

You’re charming and all, but you’ve only just met and hardly know each other, and they’re already totally besotted with you.

Have their feelings gone from 0 to 10 in no time at all? It’s always wonderful to be adored, but it might be making you feel a bit uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and skeptical.

3. They act super long-term-coupley.

New couples tend to go out on dates. Have a few drinks. Do fun activities together.

But, as we all know, once we’ve settled into a relationship, nights in with Netflix become more of a regular fixture.

If they’re providing you with the full-on boyfriend/girlfriend experience, acting like you’ve been together for years when you’ve only known them for five minutes, that’s a big red flag.

4. They blow hot and cold.

They might have been obsessed with you one minute, but the next they’re suddenly cold and distant.

And then they switch right back.

Or they might be moody for no explicable reason.

That’s probably because they’re going through ups and downs whilst getting over their ex.

One minute they’re focusing on how wonderful you are; the next they’re having a flashback to their ex.

They have no idea what they want out of life, let alone this relationship with you.

5. You feel like you’re being assessed.

There’s some kind of invisible yardstick that you have a feeling you’re being measured against.

They might come out and tell you that you’re better than their ex, or you might just suspect that they’re watching your every move and giving you gold stars or black marks depending on how you behave.

6. They’re a serial monogamist.

From what you can tell, he or she has been jumping from relationship to relationship throughout their adult life and hasn’t ever taken any time to be by his or herself.

That’s a sign that rebounding is their tactic for getting over (or avoiding getting over) breakups.

They might not be in this relationship because they really want to be with you, but rather be in it for the sake of being with someone.

7. They act like their previous relationship wasn’t a big deal.

They find it hard to admit to you that their previous relationship was important or significant.

If someone’s trying to convince you that their ten-year marriage or five-year relationship didn’t mean anything to them, you should be wary.

8. It’s all physical.

In search of a connection of some kind, but unable to replicate the deep connection they had with their ex, they will often want little more than sex.

The sex might be incredible, but if they’re not showing a desire to get to know you beyond that, they could be a rebounder.

What are the downsides to being the rebound?

We’ve already touched upon some of the downsides in the ‘signs’ section above, but let’s summarize those and some others.

The other person can be very clingy. Because they’ve recently been in a couple, they are still in that headspace of being very committed, whereas you might want a bit of space whilst you’re getting to know each other.

They might be overly emotional. Breakups are painful things and that pain doesn’t suddenly disappear just because they’ve gotten into a new relationship with you. It can make them suddenly sad, angry, or otherwise emotional and this can be confusing for you and them.

They might be using you. Whether for financial support, for physical and sexual gratification, or even to get back at their ex, it might not be so much you that they’re interested in, but what you can give them.

They may bring past relationship issues with them. Perhaps they felt the need to point out their ex’s flaws toward the end, maybe they got very defensive during conflict, or perhaps they struggled to trust their ex because they lied or cheated. These are the types of things they may carry with them into your relationship.

They might discuss their ex with you. It’s normal for talk of exes to come up at some point, but not straightaway. But if your new partner is on the rebound, you might have to listen to them talk about their ex at great length, which is neither enjoyable for you or respectful of you. In fact, it can be the source of tension between a new couple.

They might have unrealistic expectations of you. After a breakup, some people focus on everything that was wrong about their ex and that relationship. When they get into a rebound relationship, they suddenly expect you, their new partner, to be better than their ex and your relationship to be perfectly happy. But there’s no way you can live up to their vision, and this can cause problems.

How To Protect Yourself From A Rebounder

Just because you’ve realized that you’re someone’s rebound, doesn’t mean you necessarily need to break up with them.

You just need to be sensible about things, and adapt your expectations accordingly.

You need to give them space to process events and their feelings about them. And you need to let the relationship flourish in its own time.

You shouldn’t invest too much in the relationship, emotionally-speaking, and you should keep your guard up until it becomes clear that they have come out the other side and are ready to build a true, committed relationship with you.

In an ideal world, the person you’re seeing will be able to accept that they’re not quite over their ex and that they still have some processing to do.

They might find that they need a break from your blossoming relationship, or they might ask you to be patient and take things slowly.

On the other hand, if you’re not okay with the idea of being someone’s rebound, then you need to accept that, and put an end to things.

Similarly, if they’re in denial and insist that they’re completely over their ex when it’s clear to you that they’re not, you might want to rethink the relationship.

6 Signs That You’re In A Rebound Relationship As The Rebounder

It’s important to be self-aware and be able to identify if you’re rebounding, so you can keep your head on straight and make sure that this new relationship is a healthy one for both of you.

Here are the things to look out for in your own behavior if you’ve recently been through a breakup and are now getting to know someone new.

1. You find you’re not particularly picky.

If you’re looking to patch up your broken heart with a rebound relationship, chances are you won’t be as choosy as usual.

This is particularly true if your self-esteem has taken a big hit as part of the breakup.

Anyone that shows interest in you will do, even if they wouldn’t normally be your type, or you have nothing in common.

2. You’re head over heels.

You’re pretty infatuated with this new person in your life. You feel like you’re falling in love with them, but, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re not really sure why.

You haven’t spent enough time with them yet to get to know them properly, so you should be skeptical of the overwhelming feelings toward them that you’re experiencing.

3. You’re moving fast.

You might be keen to make things work with this new person as a way of proving to yourself and the world that you’re capable of maintaining a successful relationship.

That could translate into you pushing the relationship forward faster than you should, getting serious and taking big steps before you’re truly ready.

If other people have expressed surprise at how quickly you’ve put a label on things or even moved in together, then it’s time for some self-reflection.

4. You have a lot of sex.

If the majority of the time you spend with your new partner is time spent between the sheets, ask yourself if you’re using sex as a way of avoiding actually talking to this person and getting to know them.

5. You never had a mourning period.

You can’t control when a new person is going to come into your life, but just because you’ve met someone new, doesn’t mean you need to take your new relationship into overdrive and pretend to yourself that you’re completely over your ex.

If you can’t remember having taken any time to actively grieve your old relationship, you’re probably not magically over the whole thing, but in denial.

6. You still fantasize about your ex.

If you catch yourself daydreaming about running into your ex when you’re looking your best and out with your new guy or girl, then you’re not over them.

If you know, deep down, that you’d go back to your ex if they asked you, you shouldn’t be playing with someone else’s feelings…

…unless you’ve made it very clear that you want to keep things casual, and you’re sure they’re okay with that.

How long after a breakup does it no longer count as a rebound?

As mentioned above, there isn’t a specific timeframe after which a new relationship doesn’t count as a rebound.

It’s more to do with how your feelings have changed toward your ex and how you are feeling in and about yourself.

If you no longer really think about your ex and, when you do, it doesn’t hit you in the pit of your stomach, chances are you have reached a point where a new relationship can no longer be counted as such.

If, on the other hand, you still long for your ex to come back into your life so that you can be together again – even it that’s a year or more after you broke up – you’re still not over them and any new romance is probably a rebound.

Will a rebound relationship help me move on after a breakup?

It depends. It might help you to take your mind off your past relationship which can then give your emotions a chance to cool. If your mind is busy thinking about this new person, it won’t stew on your ex.

On the other hand, no new relationship cannot give you closure on your past relationship or breakup. That’s something you either need to work on yourself or with the help of your ex (e.g. by talking it out with them).

What are the cons of getting into a rebound relationship?

It’s not easy to go straight from one relationship to another without facing some issues along the way. Those may include:

Your feelings will be confused. It’s impossible to flick a switch and turn off your feelings for your ex. But at the same time, you may start developing feelings for this new person. Those feelings can easily get mistaken for one another and you may think you feel something more strongly for this new person than you really do underneath it all.

You don’t appreciate the single life. It’s only once you have grieved a relationship and somewhat moved on from it that you really start to see and feel the benefits of being single. If you don’t give yourself this time, you may not realize that a period of single life is what’s best for you right now.

You may ruin the chance of a happy relationship with this person. These types of relationship are more challenging. Period. You might be really well suited to this other person but mess things up with them by not being ready for a new relationship. And you might never get another chance. The better option might be to wait a bit and start the relationship when you’ve had time to accept and process your breakup.

You may get involved with a toxic person. When you’re feeling low and lonely, you are more likely to ignore the red flags of toxic, manipulative, or abusive people. Before you know it, you may find yourself in a relationship that is very unhealthy and potentially damaging to your well-being.

Other FAQs

How long do rebound relationships last?

There is no set amount of time. They may last a lifetime if the two of you are compatible and are able to work through the challenges of a relationship that begins this way.

They may last a matter of weeks if you realize you’ve jumped head first into a something new before you were ready, or if the other person isn’t prepared to form a partnership with you so freshly out of your previous relationship.

Why do rebound relationships fail?

Aside from the standard reasons why relationships fail, these types of relationship face their own challenges in order to survive and thrive.

For one, the person who is on the rebound might have confused feelings in a number of ways. They may still be grieving their past relationship whilst simultaneously trying to be happy about this new connection they have made.

That can be a difficult thing to do as feelings aren’t easily separated from one another and their grief can spill over into how they behave in the new relationship.

They may project the feelings they have for their ex onto their new partner, perhaps by punishing this new person for their hurt their ex caused them, or even by taking the love and affection they still have for their ex and simply redirecting it to this new person.

The former is a problem for obvious reasons, but the latter is also an issue because if the feelings they have for this new person are not genuine, the relationship won’t last.  

Will my ex come back after their rebound?

There’s no way to tell how your ex might behave if they jump straight into a new relationship after breaking up with you.

Assuming their new relationship doesn’t last (which it might), it depends how their feelings for you have changed.

They may have come to realize how great they had it with you if their next relationship wasn’t a particularly happy one.

On the other hand, it might just prove to them that they need to take a break from relationships for a while and just be single. They may decide to work on themselves before even considering dating again.

Can rebound relationships ever work in the long term?

The short answer here is yes, they can, but they definitely don’t always.

They will only ever work if both people in the new relationship are entirely honest about their situation and their feelings from day one.

The person who is on the rebound needs to be honest with his or herself and with the person that they’re seeing.

At the same time, the other party needs to be realistic about whether they’re truly happy with the situation, and whether they are willing to be patient and give their new romantic interest the time they’re going to need to properly process their breakup.

People that completely write off all rebound relationships don’t consider the fact that we can’t predict when we’ll meet the right person.

It might be the day after a breakup. Or it might be five years later.

We can’t control when someone is going to walk into our lives unannounced.

We need to hang on to special people when we meet them, but we also need to be careful not to rush into things and, by doing so, ruin a relationship that’s full of promise.

Just remember that, when it comes to rebounds, slow and steady always wins the race.

If given time and space, they can grow into wonderful things, but they might just become fond memories.

You can never predict the future, so just to be kind to yourself and to them, and enjoy it while it lasts.

Not sure what to do about your rebound relationship? It doesn’t matter which party you are, getting advice from a trained relationship expert could be the difference between things working out and things ending horribly. So why not chat online to one of the experts from Relationship Hero who can help get your relationship off to a healthy start.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.