If pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that rebound relationships are a common phenomenon in the dating world. Simply put, a rebound relationship is when you start dating someone new without being entirely over your previous relationship.
There are several reasons why someone might enter a rebound relationship, or jump from one partner to the next. In some cases, rebound relationships can be a helpful distraction from heartbreak, but in other cases, they can become a harmful form of avoidance.
Here’s what you should know about rebound relationships, including whether or not they’re always doomed to fail, and how to know if you’re in one.
There’s no official definition of what a rebound relationship is, but in general, a rebound relationship is when you rush into a new relationship, without having processed a recent breakup.
Instead of processing your emotions in a healthy way, rushing into a reactionary relationship can have significant repercussions on both parties, especially if the new person doesn’t realize they’re a rebound. While one person may be secretly yearning for their ex back, the other person may be thinking they’ve found the one!
In some cases, both parties may be on the rebound, but usually, there are too many negative emotions present in these unions to create a lasting partnership.
Rebound relationships are usually a coping mechanism to deal with recent heartbreak. Some people intentionally seek out a rebound relationship as a form of closure, while others fall into it without even realizing it.
Some people enter a rebound relationship as a harmless distraction from a recent breakup, to experience something that was missing from their last relationship, or as a way to spur self-discovery. In this case, rebound relationships can be a way to figure out your emotional needs and what you want from future partners.
In other cases, people enter a rebound relationship as an emotional crutch from the pain of break-ups — like a band-aid over a bullet wound. Someone with an anxious attachment style who has a hard time being alone is more likely to go on the rebound. After all, romantic relationships can offer comfort and safety, with your new partner soothing your self-esteem and making you feel better. Even though this may seem like an odd approach, it’s hard to readjust to sudden loneliness after forging an emotional connection with someone.
Another common reason might be that your ex-partner has moved on, and you want to make them jealous. As you struggle to come to terms with how your ex rebounded so quickly, you do the same to make it seem like you’re also coping fine.
It’s hard to say whether a rebound relationship is universally healthy or unhealthy. It depends on your reason for pursuing the new relationship in the first place, as well as when the last one ended, how long it lasted, who your new partner is, and whether you’ve done the emotional work of recovering from your breakup.
That being said, rebound relationships do come with risks. After all, creating a meaningful relationship with someone new is hard enough without having to process a breakup at the same time.
Rebound relationships can be unhealthy if the rebounding partner is using someone simply as a way of avoiding the pain and uncertainty of a breakup. As hard as it is to end a relationship, it’s important to take the time to grieve it before jumping into something new. You could end up hurting your partner’s feelings if you’re just using them as a stepping stone to get over your ex.
For many people, it can take some time to process all of these emotions, and as they jump into a new relationship it’s easy to get swept up by infatuation for a new romantic partner. However, when this honeymoon phase passes, all the emotions from the former relationship mingle with your new relationship — leaving you feeling even worse off than before!
It’s worth noting, though, that everyone moves on at a different pace. Dating someone who has recently gone through a breakup doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being used as a rebound. Or, even if that was the original intention behind your connection, there is no reason why this can’t evolve into something more over time.
And if we’re being honest, you don’t have to be 100% healed from a past relationship in order to start a new one — we all have some emotional baggage.
Equally, a rebound relationship can be perfectly healthy if you’ve both agreed to keep things casual. As long as you and your partner are both honest about what you’re looking for, there’s no reason why a rebound relationship can’t provide comfort and fun for both of you.
“Something you can ask yourself if you’re currently rebounding with a new relationship is, ‘Am I continuing to work on myself in this relationship?’,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and Paired’s In-House Relationship Expert.
“If the answer sounds like, ‘no, I can’t think about the hard stuff I need the distraction,’ you might want to reconsider,” she says. “Because all of that unprocessed emotion from your last relationship will probably start showing up pretty quickly in this one.”
If you feel that you’re in a rebound relationship, it can come with an onslaught of questions. “Does a rebound relationship last?” “How long do people stay with their rebound?” “What about my ex’s rebound?”
It’s normal to worry about your relationship status, with a lot of people fixating on the stages of a rebound relationship — worrying if they’re one step away from another unhappy ending. However, there is no clear formula for how rebounds work, with a myriad of factors affecting their overall longevity.
Therefore, there’s no real timeline for these kinds of relationships, but one study suggested that a rebound relationship (that starts within three months after the end of a significant past relationship) usually lasts between four months to a year.
It can be hard to recognize if you're in a rebound relationship — whether you’re the one freshly out of the relationship, or involved with someone who is on the rebound themselves.
Either option can inspire a variety of confusing emotions, especially if you’re seeing things through the rose-tinted glasses of a new romance — or are in denial about your breakup.
The general consensus is that all rebound relationships are destined to fail because one partner will realize they’re being used as a distraction, or because the relationship simply lacks a healthy emotional attachment.
But it never helps to be prescriptive about committed relationships, and it’s hard to predict whether a relationship will or won’t last. Rebound relationships can work out as long as both partners are committed to making them work.
It’s unlikely that the relationship will survive if one partner has no intention of sticking around long-term from the get-go. You’re not starting things off well if you’ve hastily entered a new relationship as a way to fill a void or side-step the very hard work of processing a breakup.
One of the risks of rebound relationships is that you’re not giving yourself time to process your last relationship, and therefore bring unhealthy dynamics or hangups into the next relationship. Since the foundations weren’t in place, it’s likely that these relationships end quite naturally, hopefully without too many feelings getting hurt.
But, on the flip side, with the right approach, a rebound could blossom into a real relationship — even when you least expect it.
It could be that you met someone fantastic while you were getting over your breakup, and you’ve been honest with them about the fact that you’ve just ended a major chapter of your life. Or maybe your old relationship wasn’t that important to you and there’s not much to get over. In these cases, even though the person started as a rebound, it could transform into a healthy relationship
It takes effort, empathy, and emotional availability from both sides for a relationship to work, and that includes rebound relationships.