The Truth About Rebound Relationships—and the 9 Signs You're in One

Updated 10/10/17
rebound relationships
Chris Craymer / Trunk Archive

“Oh no—I’m their rebound.” It’s no denying that most of us have come to this conclusion while dating someone new at one point or another—after all, rebound relationships are quite common. According to researchers C.C. Brumbaugh and R.C. Fraley, a rebound relationship is defined as “a relationship that is initiated shortly after a romantic breakup before the feelings about a former relationship have been resolved.”

But should you automatically discount a connection with someone just because they didn’t date a few people before you after getting out of a long-term relationship? Not necessarily, says Mary Lamia, PhD, a clinical psychologist and a psychoanalyst. “Time between relationships is not necessary for psychological well-being,” she says. “People need connection, and moving on can help you get over what has to be left behind.” In some instances, not only will you help this person move on, but you’ll also fall love with each other in the process.

Since that’s not always the case, we’ve outlined the nine telltale signs you’re in a rebound relationship that isn’t going anywhere. Learn how to spot the signals and protect yourself.

1. The pace of the relationship is fast… or slow

Rebound relationships usually happen at two different speeds—super slow, as in you’re almost moving backward, or at warp speed, as in they’re telling you they love you after five dates. In the first instance, it’s apparent that the person you’re seeing has been hurt or just isn’t quite ready to put themselves out there again. The second case means that they so badly miss being in a relationship that they are skipping important parts in the process of dating like getting to know you first.

2. The conversation is surface-level

Sure, you’re having plenty of conversation, but it’s always on the surface. You discuss what you did this weekend—you even ask them about how they grew up—but it never veers toward you and how you’re fitting into the picture. You see, this is how they make sure you’re entertained but keep you at arms’ length in the process.

3. They use sex as a distraction

Physical attraction is normal, but if conversation starts veering into the “serious” category, do they start putting the moves on you? Often that person is using sex to distract you from realizing that they’re not letting you in emotionally. Snap out of it a bit, if so, because the hormones released during sex may have you falling hard for someone who isn’t available right now.

4. You’re not like anyone they’ve dated before

Come on—you’ve done it too. Most of us have a “type,” but after a breakup, sometimes you go for someone who doesn’t have any long-term potential in your eyes (this way you can’t get hurt, right?). Make sure you’re cautious because you don’t want to be their “in between.”

5. They’re flaky

Do they mention plans and then fail to follow through? Sometimes everything is fine, and then a few weeks go by, and they’ve fallen off the face of the earth. This may be because they were into the idea of a relationship, but they just weren’t ready. And hint: When they’re not ready, you can’t change their mind.

6. They don’t want to commit

Rebound relationships can sometimes veer toward the “when it’s convenient for them” situation. If you’re constantly only working around their schedule or only hear from them on their terms, get out now. Secondly, if you bring up the idea of defining the relationship and they freak out, find the door and move on.

7. The relationship climate is hot and cold

When someone’s not over a past relationship or fling, they can feel conflicted. This bubbles over to your connection, which means when they feel needy, they’re all about holding your hand, and when they’re unsure, they start acting standoffish. This constant toeing the line and not knowing where you stand is just not fair to you. You should be with someone who wants to be with you—and feels good about your coupledom—100% of the time.

8. They talk about their ex

Do they talk about their ex a lot (or ignore the topic completely)? If they’re constantly bringing up their ex and things they used to do (or you find out that they’re taking you to some of their old haunts), it’s time to say goodbye. The other type decides to ignore their breakup completely (as in, they never bring it up). They often never say how they’re feeling and don’t address when they need some space. (Hint: Now’s the time to get yours.)

9. They're in contact with their ex

Unless it’s to coordinate exchanging their things, this just isn’t a good sign. The third stage of grief is bargaining, and a lot of times people coming out of a long-term relationship will reach out to their ex with hopes of getting back together. You don’t want to be part of a love triangle.

So what do you think of these signs of rebound relationships? Tell us in the comments if there’s any you think we should add to our list.

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