The Rebound Relationship: Deep Dive

Updated April 8, 2024by 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?”

Rebound relationships are coping mechanisms

What is a rebound relationship?

In basketball, a rebound occurs when a player recovers the ball after a missed shot. Based on this alone, you may already be able to assume what a rebound relationship is all about – for whatever reason, a person’s relationship “bricks” or “airballs” (i.e., they get broken up with or they break up with someone) and they move quickly into a relationship with a new partner. While rebounding in basketball is a good thing, that’s not necessarily the case in relationships.

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." Simply stated, a rebound 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 grapple 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 invest themselves in building a healthy emotional relationship. In other words, the chances of this relationship going the long-haul are 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 coping 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. According to the article cited above, 90% of rebound relationships fail within the first three months.


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 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 signs that you're about to enter or are already in the middle of a rebound relationship:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 

The stage of a rebound relationship

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 stages that couples tend to cycle through during a rebound relationship.

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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 can 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.

Getty/Halfpoint Images
Rebound relationships are coping mechanisms

The professional counselors at online therapy platforms like MyTherapist 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 an uncertain relationship – it is both common and okay to find yourself in this situation! Counseling and support services are there to help you learn new coping strategies and acquire new life and relationship skills that can help you improve the quality of your life going forward. 

Many people may like online therapy because of its flexibility – MyTherapist enables users to schedule virtual therapy sessions at convenient times and from any location with a stable internet connection. You can even text your therapist directly, perhaps before or after you engage in a challenging conversation with someone who has initiated a rebound relationship with you.

Perhaps it is the case that you have found yourself in several rebound relationships, either as the pursuer or pursued. You may be wondering if there is something about your behavior or beliefs that attracts a specific type of personality. These are all questions you can ask your therapist in online therapy, and they will work with you in a nonjudgmental manner to explore possibilities. 

For example, an online therapist may use iCBT (internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy) to help you reframe negative thought processes into empowered versions. These negative thought patterns, such as “I’m not worthy of love,” “I’m unlovable,” or “No one will ever love me like my ex did,” can certainly come into play when attraction is involved. Online CBT has been shown to be just as effective as in-person therapy, with participants experiencing reductions in symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.


Now that you know what a rebound relationship looks like, do you feel like you are in one? If so, be kind to yourself, and understand that it may be time for you to decide what next steps you're going to take to improve your situation. If you feel that you could benefit from some relationship advice or assistance in getting over a difficult break-up, you can reach out to a licensed counselor at MyTherapist today. 

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