The Rebound Relationship: Deep Dive

Updated February 8, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Have you recently entered into a relationship that you're starting to suspect is on the rebound? Finding out you're in a rebound relationship isn't the worst thing in the world. It can happen to any 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 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. Let's start with a rebound relationship definition.

Entering A Rebound Relationship & Have Questions?

What Is A Rebound Relationship?

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 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.
People who knowingly enter into rebound relationships typically know that they aren't fully invested in their new relationships and that the relationship is likely to be temporary. 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. In other cases, it may be established beforehand among both parties that the relationship will not be long-term, or the person on the “rebound” may not yet fully realize that they are in a rebound relationship and not truly ready to date. 

Does A Rebound Relationship Last?

People may enter into rebound relationships too quickly to avoid feeling the pain and loss of their recent breakup. 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 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.
Rebound relationships are typically emotionally imbalanced. What this means is that while one partner may be completely invested in building a long-lasting relationship, the other party typically is not, either because they are not interested in doing so or they are unable to do so while old wounds are still healing. They may have no intention of doing the work to build a lasting relationship with someone new because they haven't finished dealing with their issues, concerns, or grief over the old relationship. 
On the other hand, they may try to do the work to make the rebound relationship last, but to little avail as they haven’t given themselves the time and space to properly get over their last relationship. Either way, there's not much hope for a relationship that starts with this kind of imbalance to blossom into anything more.

Rebound Relationship Signs

Before you found yourself 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.
  2. You never have conversations about your 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 often don't expect the relationship to last. As a result, people in these types of relationships don't typically introduce their partner to anyone important in their life like families or close friends.

  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.

  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. 

4 Rebound: TheStages

While the path of all rebounded relationships isn't always the same, these short-term relationships often follow a pattern. 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 rebound relationship. The following are four stages that couples tend to cycle through during a rebound relationship, though there can be as many as five stages.

1. The Honeymoon Stage - When people first enter into a rebound relationship, they may 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 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 are meeting each other's needs, and outside of just "hanging out" this doesn't feel like a relationship at all. This is the point at which you may recognize that you’re in a rebound relationship.

4. Action Or Decision Stage - Now that you've figured out why you've been feeling like a third wheel in your relationship, it's time to decide what you're going to do about it. This is the stage when most rebound relationships end, as one of the people 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 relationship.

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, this can be a good time to seek professional advice.

Rebound Relationship Counseling

Whether you are the person who was/is on the rebound in your relationship, or you're the other half, speaking with a counselor or licensed mental health professional will help you understand what's behind the behavior that helped lead to this unhealthy relationship. Relationship counselors are unbiased third parties that are highly educated and trained in the area of marriage, family, and relationships.

Entering A Rebound Relationship & Have Questions?

These professional counselors can help individuals and couples discover unhealthy relationship patterns, while helping to determine an appropriate course of action to resolve them. 

You're not the first person to find themselves in the midst of a uncertain relationship; it’s ok! Counseling and support services 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, or individual counselor, can help you find your way.


Now that you know what a rebound relationship looks like, do you still feel like you're in one? I 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, you can easily contact a relationship expert at BetterHelp 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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