What Is A Rebound Relationship? The Signs Of A Rebound Relationship To Watch Out For

Updated February 3, 2023by Regain Editorial Team
Healing after a breakup can be hard and definitely takes time. Try to be honest with yourself about where you are in that journey and when you are ready to connect with someone else.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC


Have you recently entered into a relationship that you’re starting to suspect on the rebound? Finding out you’re in a rebound relationship isn’t the worst thing in the world. It happens to the best of us. If you feel like you’re in a rebound relationship (and you’re looking for answers and next steps), keep reading to learn the definition of a rebound relationship, rebound relationship stages, and to answer the burning questions like – “Does a rebound relationship last” and “What is a rebound relationship.”

In this article, we provide insight into how people find themselves entangled in rebound relationships, and what steps to take when you find yourself on the rebound even if you have started to form an emotional connection. You'll also learn about how online therapy can support you if you find yourself in this situation. Let’s start with a rebound relationship definition.

What Is A Rebound Relationship?

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An empirical research study conducted by Brumbaugh and Fraley defines a rebound relationship as – “A relationship initiated shortly after a romantic breakup – before the feelings about the former relationship have been resolved.” We’ll discuss rebound relationship signs later in the article.

Simply stated, a rebound relationship definition – is one that isn’t expected to last or grow beyond its current state. In most cases of rebound relationships, one partner is clear that the relationship isn’t ever going to go anywhere – yet they participate in the relationship anyway to avoid feeling the pain of grief and loss from their recent breakup. A rebound relationship is a reactionary relationship, and often the person is emotionally unavailable because of the last breakup. It can happen whether the person came from a 6 month relationship or more.

People who knowingly enter into rebound relationships know that they aren’t invested in their new relationships and that the relationship is likely to be temporary and short lived. This is because they haven’t healed over their previous relationship and may even secretly desire to be back in the old situation. The new partner may be completely unaware of the rebounder’s intentions and can enter a relationship expecting to build a lasting and healthy relationship with their new partner – completely missing the fact that their new partner has other intentions.

Increases physical and emotional vulnerability where both parties are more likely to engage in damaging behaviors that can lead to placing themselves in dangerous physical situations or suffering severe emotional damage due to compounding these symptoms.

Some of the commonly asked questions about this situation are:

Does A Rebound Relationship Last?

People may enter into rebound relationships too quickly to avoid being emotionally vulnerable and feeling the pain and loss of their recent breakup in the last few months. This can lead to compounding emotional issues as the person now has to deal with lingering feelings from their past relationships and issues that are likely evolving in their current relationship.

The rebound relationship is an emotionally convenient relationship that is superficial as the primary goal of the rebounding partner is to escape negative feelings of grief and loss rather than investing themselves in building a healthy emotional relationship. In other words, the chances of this relationship going the long-haul – are very slim. Most people that enter rebound relationships avoid talking about their emotions and emotional needs, and aren't fully present in the relationship. 

Rebound relationships are emotionally imbalanced at best. What this means is that while the current partner may be completely invested in building a long-lasting relationship, the other party is not because the last relationship ended. They have no intention of doing the work to build a lasting relationship with someone new because they haven’t finished dealing with their issues, negative emotions, concerns, or grief over the old relationship. There’s not much hope for a relationship that starts with this kind of imbalance to blossom into anything more. It's important to be on the same page with your partner if you are in a rebound relationship to set expectations.

Rebound Relationship Signs

Before you found yourself entrenched in a rebound relationship, there may have been a few key signs that you missed. Oftentimes, at the beginning of a new relationship, we’re all on our best behavior, so we don’t see (or acknowledge) glaring red-flags that are indicating that our relationship is heading in the wrong direction. The following are four signs that you’re about to enter or are already in the middle of – a rebound relationship.

  1. You or your partner only contact each other when you’re feeling down and don’t seem to have anything in common outside of your mutual gripes. Most or all of your dates are spent – at home, which is not a great sign.
  2. You never have conversations about yours or your partner’s likes, dislikes, goals, plans, or future. When you do have conversations if you or your partner is mostly speaking in terms of “I” instead of “we” this is a sign that they may not see you as an equal partner in the relationship
  3. People in rebound relationships don’t expect the relationship to last. 
  4. Projecting how your partner “should be” and comparing your new partner to how your ex “used to be” are clear signs that you’re in a rebound relationship. The emotional attachment to the previous partner is still strong and they still talk about their ex. 
  5. If your new partner still has contact with their ex, this is a sign that they aren’t fully available to be in a relationship. When your partner is still reaching out to their ex, and it doesn’t have anything to do with responsibilities like children – they are making it clear that your relationship isn’t their priority.

Rebound Relationship Stages

Is a rebound relationship healthy? While the path of all rebound relationships isn’t always the same, these short-lived relationships normally follow a pattern, and often hurt one person in the end. People who are in rebound relationships can be in them for varying lengths of time. While one couple may go through the rebound relationship stages in a matter of days or weeks – it may take others months or even years to realize that they’ve been in a relationship. The following are four stages that couples cycle through during a rebound relationship.

  1. The Honeymoon Stage – Not seeing things, when people first enter into a rebound relationship, they will find themselves in the “honeymoon stage” where everything seems perfect, and there aren’t any arguments or disagreements. In this stage, both parties in the relationship are seeing their new partner as they want them to be, rather than as they are. This is especially true in the case of the rebounding party whose ultimate goal at this point is to escape the pain of their recent breakup.
  2. Discontentment Or Confusion Stage – Your rose-colored glasses may have slipped off, and you’re starting to realize that something with your new relationship is a bit “off.” Maybe you’ve begun to notice that after a few weeks of dating that your relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. You and your partner don’t go out on real dates, and you haven’t met any of the “friends” and family you keep hearing about. You’re starting to feel uncomfortable and ready to get to the bottom of what’s causing you to feel this way.
  3. Discovery Or Realization Stage – You’ve stepped back and taken an honest look at your relationship. You realize that neither you nor your partner isn’t meeting any of each other’s emotional needs, and outside of just “hanging out,” this doesn’t feel like a relationship at all. Then it dawns on you. You realize that you’re in a rebound relationship.
  4. Action Or Decision Stage – This is the stage where most rebound relationships end as one or the other party realizes that there was never a real investment into the relationship in the first place. Some brave couples continue beyond this point and try to resolve the issues to “save” their new relationships.

While it’s not unheard of for people in rebound relationships to end up in long-term relationships or marriages, in many cases, one partner or the other isn’t invested enough in the relationship to do the work that it takes to make it successful. Whatever you and your partner decide once you’ve entered the action stage – it’s a good time to seek professional advice.

Rebound Relationship Counseling

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Don't let a rebound relationship impact your self confidence. Whether you are the person who was on the rebound in your relationship, or you’re the unwitting another half, speaking with a counselor or licensed mental health professional will help you understand what’s behind the behavior that landed you in this unhealthy relationship.

These professional counselors can help individuals and couples discover unhealthy relationship patterns, deal with issues of childhood trauma, abuse, and sexual abuse, and provide educated advice on how to get beyond the issues that have caused you to make unhealthy choices in relationships. The good news is that today’s relationship counselors are available online and clients can have sessions without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Seek professional help. You’re not the first person to find themselves unwittingly in the midst of a rebound relationship, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Counseling, support services, and self help books are there to help you learn new coping strategies and acquire new life and relationship skills that will help you improve the quality of your life going forward. A relationship counselor can help you find your way.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what a rebound relationship looks like, do you still feel like you’re in a rebound relationship? If so, it’s time for you to decide what next steps you’re going to take to improve your situation. If you’re ready to take the next step and get started with a relationship counselor – good for you! Getting started is easy. Contact a relationship expert (such as a licensed marriage counselor or family therapist) at BetterHelp.com to get started on the road to relationship recovery and learn how to have healthier and longer-lasting relationships today! You’ll be glad you did.

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