What Is a Rebound Relationship? Plus, the #1 Sign You're in One

Two therapists weigh in

what is a rebound relationship photo of a young couple on a date
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Allow me to describe a scene you might find familiar: You’re at drinks with a friend and she’s gushing about a new guy she’s gone on a couple dates with. He sounds like the full package—nice, funny, handsome—there’s just one little thing: He just got out of a long-term relationship, and now you’re concerned he’s coping with the sting by wooing your friend. It sounds a hell of a lot like a rebound relationship, or a relationship that begins after one party (or both) has recently gone through a breakup. But is their partnership doomed to end in failure (and tears) just because it’s coming on the heels of a breakup? I was curious, so I spoke with two licensed marriage and family therapists for their take on rebound relationships—including whether or not they can actually last in the long run.  

Meet the Experts

  • Kevin Belcastro, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist at The Mental Health Center of San Diego, California. He has more than two decades of experience working in the mental health field with a majority of those years spent working in residential programs for youth. His approach to treatment is through a trauma informed lens, using clinical interventions to address maladies of the mind, body and soul associated with traumatic experiences throughout life. 
  • Jeff Yoo, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Moment of Clarity Health Center in Orange County, California. He specializes in adults struggling with addiction, anxiety, depression, ADHD and stress from relationships and work.

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What Is a Rebound Relationship?

A rebound relationship is a relationship that begins after one or both partners have recently gone through a breakup. Belcastro tells me, “These relationships tend to begin before an individual has healed from or processed the ending of the previous relationship.”

Signs You might Be in a Rebound Relationship

  • They compare you to their ex frequently
  • They bring up their ex continuously
  • They continue to talk about the breakup
  • They made changes in their appearance to attract a new relationship
  • It feels like they’re using the new relationship to help with heartache from the breakup

Why Do People Seek Rebound Relationships?

There are many reasons an individual may enter a rebound relationship. One, Yoo tells me, is that a rebound relationship is a confirmation that you are still desirable, and proof that it’s not you, it was your ex that made the mistake of letting you go. Belcastro adds the following reasons some people seek out rebound relationships:

  • They struggle to be alone because of codependency
  • They want to get revenge on the ex by showing how happy they are and how easily they can start a new relationship
  • They’re looking for a distraction from the grief they may be experiencing around the ending of their previous relationship. 

“Rebound relationships can provide a pleasant distraction from working through the uncomfortable feelings associated with breaking up,” Belcastro notes. “These relationships can also provide an individual with validation and worth in a space where their ego may be injured from the ending of their previous relationship.”

what is a rebound relationship photo of a couple in an argument
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How Long Do Rebound Relationships Typically Last?

Both experts agree that rebound relationships are typically short-term relationships (though there are certainly exceptions—more on that below). Belcastro says, “These types of relationships are generally short-lived, ranging from a month to less than a year, with their endings being derived out of incompatibilities that may have been overlooked in the beginning because the positive emotions and feelings that are usually associated with budding relationships outweighed the negative.” Yoo concurs, adding that while some rebound relationships last, most start fast and hot, advance quickly and fizzle out just as fast.

Can Rebound Relationships Turn Into Love?

While most rebound relationships are fleeting, that’s not to say every single one of them is doomed to end in failure. Belcastro tells me that those rebound relationships that do work out are able to do so because the individual who entered the relationship after a breakup is able to work through the breakup in a healthy manner. “They are able to engage in behaviors and thought processes that allow them to work through their emotional baggage without using their current relationship to do so,” he explains.  

What to Do If You're in a Rebound Relationship

So you’ve found yourself in a rebound relationship, huh? As noted above, it’s not necessarily going to be short-lived, but there are some things to keep in mind as you embark on this kind of relationship. First and foremost, boundaries are your best friend. Belcastro elaborates, “If you find yourself in a rebound relationship, establishing healthy boundaries and utilizing positive communication skills will be important. It may be important to identify that the other person may need space to heal from the previous relationship and encourage them to take this space to work on themselves.” If there is a genuine connection, he says that setting certain boundaries and respecting them may allow the other individual to work through their emotions associated with the previous relationship while working on a new relationship. Belcastro also recommends seeking guidance from a therapist. “One thing that may come up for the individual who is not on the rebound is that it is their fault they ended up in a rebound relationship, this is not true,” he stresses. “It is not your fault that you ended up in a rebound relationship.”

On the other hand, if you’ve recently been through a breakup and are tempted to rush into a rebound, Yoo says it’s crucial to be introspective. He says, “My suggestion would be to work on self, focus on healing the hurts and allow a professional to help guide you through building your self-worth before you step into another relationship romantically.”

The Bottom Line

Rebound relationships happen, it’s just a fact of life. People are drawn to rebound relationships for different reasons, from wanting to make their ex jealous to being scared to be alone. And while most rebound relationships, according to the experts I consulted, are fairly short-lived, that’s not to say they can’t be lasting and mutually beneficial.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...