14 Signs Of A Rebound Relationship & Things To Know If You're In One

Couples Therapist By Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT
Couples Therapist
Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, TV personality, and author of 'Hard Work Or Harmony.' She has a master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Azusa Pacific University, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Essence, VICE, and elsewhere.
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Ending a relationship can be one of the hardest things to do, especially when you have devoted time, energy, effort, money, and other things you cannot get back. It can take a person some time to recover, heal, and get back on track with their lives. Since everyone is different, there is no concrete timeline for how long it takes to get over someone or when it is OK to start dating again. For some, it can take a few months, and for others, I have seen it take years. Healing is not linear.

But what happens when you move on too fast and do not take the necessary time to heal and unpack any issues from the previous relationship? You can end up in what's known as a rebound relationship.

What is a rebound relationship?

A rebound relationship is a relationship wherein an individual who just recently ended a romantic relationship gets involved with someone else despite not being emotionally healed from the breakup.

Jumping into a rebound relationship can happen quickly after a breakup. Some people may intentionally seek them out, while others happen to "fall" into one rather unknowingly.

People seek out rebound relationships for many reasons. No two people are the same. However, it is typically because the negative emotions of sadness, hurt, anger, guilt, and possibly shame related to the breakup are things they are not ready to deal with. In some cases, people never deal with them, and they take their unhealed selves from one relationship to another. Some people also get into rebound relationships for more petty reasons, such as to try to make their ex jealous.

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Signs of a rebound relationship.

Here are some signs that you may be in a rebound relationship. This list isn't exhaustive, but take notice if several fit your situation:

  1. They got out of a serious relationship very recently.
  2. They talk about their ex all the time or avoid talking about their ex completely.
  3. The relationship is moving fast or feels rushed.
  4. They won't open up emotionally.
  5. Most of your time together is oriented around sex.
  6. They are giving you mixed signals.
  7. It seems like they mostly like you for the attention you give them.
  8. They seem to want to show you off to others or even seem to want their ex to find out about you.
  9. They don't want to include you in their close inner circle of family and friends.
  10. They do not commit to any long-term plans with you.
  11. The relationship is short-lived.

How long does a rebound relationship usually last?

Rebound relationships tend to be quick and typically don't last long. This is because rebound relationships are usually not built on a solid foundation, and one person is entering the relationship in response to the feelings they have about their breakup rather than because of their interest in the new person.

The reason rebound relationships don't last long is actually related to the reasons heartbroken people seek them out in the first place—because breakups and the feelings that come with them can be hard and difficult to manage. Plainly put, breakups are no fun! They bring up emotions and feelings that can be too much to handle at once. It is not uncommon for people to cry, become depressed, replay the relationship over and over, and be angry, vindictive, and hurt. These behaviors, while valid, can make it hard for a new relationship to survive.

Is a rebound relationship healthy? 

No one is perfect, and not everyone has to be 100% healed in order to move on to the next relationship. And to be honest, it can make a person feel better to have sex, get attention from someone else, and temporarily fill any other voids that may be there. That said, someone who isn't over their ex can struggle to form new, healthy emotional attachments. That's why, as a therapist, I would generally advise against getting into rebound relationships.

It's important to remember that ending a relationship is still considered a loss. Many people go through the same thoughts and feelings as if someone passed away—therapists call this "the cycle of grief." Regardless of the circumstances as to why the relationship ended, it needs to be processed in a healthy manner. That often means taking some time and space to reflect on yourself after a relationship ends.

I often tell my clients that after a breakup there should be a "detox period," where it's all about them. Take as much time as you need to work on yourself: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Figure out who you want to be in the next relationship, and take responsibility for your own healing. This may even include getting professional help.

The goal is to make sure you do not bring any of the same baggage from your past relationships into your new one.

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The bottom line.

Rebound relationships tend to be short, temporary, and mainly entered into as a way for someone to cope with a recent breakup. There is no judgment here. You may be the one just freshly out of a breakup, or you may be on the receiving end of a rebound relationship, where the person you are with just got out of a breakup. Either way, it's important to recognize when you may be in a rebound relationship so you can decide whether this relationship will really be able to honor your needs. 

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