What Is A Rebound Relationship?

“Rebound relationship” is a term we all throw around, but have we ever really thought about what it means? Who’s rebounding from who, how long is it supposed to last, and do you have to date a specific person for it to be an actual rebound relationship? Is a rebound relationship a bad thing? Let’s cut through all of the questions and get down to the core of it.

Woman reading and thinking

First Things First: Defining the Term

A rebound relationship is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. One relationship ends, and one half of the couple immediately starts dating someone else. Beyond that, things like reasons, duration, and level of commitment vary quite a bit.

Here’s one thing a rebound relationship is not: It’s not a one-night stand. It’s also not a no strings attached regular hookup — at least, not as far as the person in the “relationship” knows. That’s a defining factor to rebound relationships, actually: they happen so quickly that both people may not be on the same page about what they’re there for. No matter how long they last, rebound relationships happen in a hurry.

How Is A Rebound Different Than A Hookup?

Hookups tend to be short and very casual—either one-nighters or nights that start with a “u up?” text. Someone who’s recently single (honestly, someone who’s recently been dumped) may be attracted to a hookup because there’s no commitment involved. With the expectation that you may never see one another again, hookups aren’t always as attentive, caring, and polite as they should be (manners are manners!).

Someone on the rebound may (with your consent!) get physical very quickly, but their intent is to tie you down quickly, before they have a good chance to get to know you. Steer clear of anyone who wants to get serious before getting to know you. It’s a huge red flag, no matter the context.

Why Do People Get Into Rebound Relationships?

Guess what? There are lots of different reasons people end up rebounding! While few of them are sins, most of them are hints that there are other issues that need to be addressed. Sounds a little serious? Not always, but self-awareness is key if you’re on the rebound or want to get involved with someone who is.

Some people are motivated by the desire to let their ex know that they’re moving on, perhaps with someone “better” (prettier, more successful) or with someone selected to make their ex angry or jealous (a frenemy, perhaps?). There will be copious social media posts, tagging, heart emoji, captions with in-jokes.

Others are so at sea without a partner that they don’t know how to avoid codependency and playhouse again with the very next person they meet — ever have a friend text you they’re “in love” with a new person, only to find they’re sort of boring and maybe not even particularly kind? Codependence is often to blame.

In both of those cases, it’s possible someone will choose not to take the high road and will make passive-aggressive comments in captions, saying they’ve never been happier in their life. No matter how great the relationship, these are almost always for show. They’re for the benefit of the ex or friends of the ex they hope will be scouring their social media.

Think about it: how many friends on the rebound do you know that keep their social media set to private?

If I’m His Rebound, How Do I Know He’s Serious?

There are no hard stats on this, but good, healthy, happy relationships do come out of rebounds. Just not often. It sounds like a joke, but warning signs are finding him looking at his ex’s social media, working a little too hard to get you to share interests that he and his ex had…or even accidentally calling you by his ex’s name. These seem to cartoonish to be true, but they’re real.

On the other hand, sometimes people just meet at inconvenient times in life — your new significant other may have found this out the hard way when their ex met someone else at an inconvenient time. This point is, life is messy. A team of psychologists and wellness gurus could come up with the definitive “right” way to meet and begin a relationship, but that’s just not how things go.

If you meet someone fresh out of a relationship and your own new romance escalates quickly, pump the breaks. No matter how much fun each of you is having, at least one of you has a little bit of healing to do first…maybe a lot of healing. But if you and this person are willing to stay in touch and not move too quickly, there’s room for a healthy relationship to blossom. Do you both have the interest and willpower to take it slow? Be honest with yourself and step away if the situation seems to be moving too quickly.

Don’t Rebound Before You’re Ready

You may be reading this because you’re newly single and wondering if you’re ready to date. That’s actually a great first step in the journey! It shows self-awareness and a willingness to analyze your current situation. You may still need a little time to heal—that’s up to you—but examining a situation without diving in headfirst is exactly the opposite of what a rebound mindset is.

If you’ve got that level of self-awareness, you’ll likely be able to start dating again and sense when things are moving too quickly—but that awareness also applies to when things move quickly while still feeling fun and flirty. The most intoxicating part of a rebound is that it often feels good right away, if only because you’re not on your own.

It can be tough to say no to something that feels good, but as you’re probably well aware, what feels good and what feels right aren’t always the same thing. Approaching rebound relationships is one of the few places where you should be thinking with your head before your heart.