What Is a Rebound Relationship?

A woman lying/sleeping on her back on the bed with her hand/arm over her head

Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images

Rebound Relationship

A rebound relationship is defined by being in a relationship based on a reaction to a previous relationship, where one or both members are still contending with issues raised by the past breakup, says Micaela Stein, LCSW at Humantold.

Being in a new relationship can be exciting. However, if someone has recently been through a breakup and isn't over their ex yet, it may be a rebound relationship. 

“A rebound is often brief, and can be emotionally confusing, as members can be unsure of what they want and are still heavily emotionally engaged with the past. Most people find themselves in rebound relationships unconsciously, but sometimes it is very intentional,” says Stein.

This article explores the characteristics of rebound relationships and how they can impact you.

Characteristics of a Rebound Relationship

These are some of the signs of rebound relationships, according to Stein:

  • Recent breakup: The surest sign of a rebound relationship is that the person has recently come out of a serious relationship. 
  • Comparisons to an ex: Another sign of a rebound relationship might include comparing a current partner to an ex—even favorably—as it is a sign that that relationship is still being worked through.
  • Fear of commitment: Someone in a rebound relationship may want to avoid commitment.
  • Rapid pace: On the other hand, someone in a rebound relationship may want to speed up the dating process to get back to the intimate and entwined state of their previous relationship.

Micaela Stein, LCSW

Rebound relationships can look like a lot of different things, but if you feel like there is a third person in the room with you—your partner’s ex or your own—that is something to address.

— Micaela Stein, LCSW

Why People Seek Rebound Relationships

Stein lists some of the reasons why people might seek rebound relationships below.

To Get Over a Breakup

Breakups can be very painful and difficult, and it can be a time of great loneliness, confusion, and insecurity. A person having these feelings might seek validation, company, and distraction through a new relationship. 

Often, rebound relationships are about the person who has been through a difficult breakup trying to meet their social, physical, and emotional needs. Sometimes this is at the expense of their new partner, who they might struggle to see fully with all the emotional turmoil they are experiencing.

To Form an Emotional Connection

A person might also seek out a rebound relationship to playfully begin to connect with others, and when there is open communication about their emotional capacity, sometimes this can be healing.

It can work to affirm their identity and make them feel excited about life again after a difficult breakup. 

Having conscious awareness about your emotional needs and limitations following a breakup is very important for maintaining mental well-being, and can help prevent unhealthy behaviors to cover up or avoid negative emotions.

Impact of a Rebound Relationship

Rebound relationships can affect the mental health of both partners. Stein outlines some of the effects below.

Impact on Your Mental Health

If you have entered into a rebound relationship after a breakup, it's important to check in with yourself to make sure there isn't any emotional work you're avoiding.

Rebounds can be a useful and fun way to affirm a new beginning, but can also be destructive if you are using it to avoid the painful emotions that come with a breakup, including being alone and learning to be independent again.

Breakups can be amazing learning opportunities, and sometimes rebound relationships can actually prevent growth and lead to stagnation. You might not truly process your past relationship or breakup, and miss the opportunity for personal growth that is tied to experiencing those negative emotions.

Impact on Your Partner’s Mental Health 

Rebound relationships can be nurturing and healthy, if they are what both parties want and need at a particular moment in their lives.

However, if both parties are not on the same page about where they are emotionally, and one member is fully present in the relationship while the other is reacting to the past, it can be a challenge to both people's well-being. 

Micaela Stein, LCSW

Feeling rejected, unseen, and confused are common reactions to being in a relationship with someone who is not ready. It is normal for this to activate anxious attachment and feelings of insecurity.

— Micaela Stein, LCSW

If a relationship is making you feel less secure in yourself, it is worth exploring why you are in that relationship, and if it is really worth your time and energy.

Can Rebound Relationships Last?

“Rebound relationships typically last between one month and a year, and commonly struggle to last past the initial infatuation period. They are often not based on deep compatibility, so differences can start to strain the connection,” says Stein.

According to Stein, one or both members might also need to be single for a time, to actually perform the work for personal growth that should have occurred after their last breakup.

That said, Stein adds that rebound relationships can certainly turn into long-term, committed relationships. She explains how below.

Rebounds Can Turn Into Committed Relationships

In these scenarios, the relationship grows past its "rebound" status by no longer being a reactionary relationship, but instead evolving into a serious connection that is about the joyful present and building a future together.

These relationships, like any healthy relationship, are based on mutual respect, trust, support for each other’s growth, and compassion.

What to Do If You’re in a Rebound Relationship

If you find yourself in a rebound relationship, Stein recommends asking yourself whether this is a healthy situation for you. 

If you have begun a new relationship shortly after a breakup, Stein says to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I processing the past relationship? 
  • Have I learned from it? 
  • Am I uncomfortable being alone? 
  • Am I relying on someone else to validate my worth? 

If you are in a relationship with someone who is on the rebound, Stein says to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my needs being met in this dynamic? 
  • Does this person have the capacity for the kind of connection I want? 
  • Do I feel lonely in this relationship? 
  • Is there a third person in this relationship?

Stein recommends seeing a therapist if you're having a hard time exploring any issues that come up.

A Word From Verywell

Breakups can be hard and may cause people to jump into a new relationship in order to try and meet their emotional needs. However, if they haven’t processed their emotions and are not over their previous relationship yet, it can make it difficult for them to fully participate in a new relationship. 

Rebound relationships are therefore typically short-lived. In some cases however, if both partners are able to let go of the past and focus on each other, a rebound can turn into a serious, long-term relationship.

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.