7 Rebound Relationship Stages People Don’t Tell You About

The label “on the rebound” is a warning about dating someone fresh off of a big breakup. 

People generally see rebound relationships as likely to fail.

Whether the person was the dumper or dumpee, the new connection is often a way to purge the old relationship. 

If you're dating someone on the rebound or you're on the rebound yourself, chances are the partnership will loosely follow what is known as a rebound relationship timeline.

What Is a Rebound Relationship?

You are technically in a rebound relationship when you start a new relationship shortly after ending one.

The previous relationship was either somewhat or quite serious, even including marriage.

Many factors can motivate you to enter a new relationship quickly. After being dumped, you might want to prove you can get a new lover.

Or, if you ended the old relationship, you might be eager to experience new things.

Either way, these issues make you vulnerable to more pain and undermine your ability to cultivate a genuine relationship.

Common Characteristics of a Rebound Relationship

Identifying the signs of a rebound relationship can help you make better decisions and protect your emotional well-being. Here are some key indicators to watch for:

  • Starting the new romance soon after a breakup, showing a lack of time to heal.
  • Not putting much thought into compatibility.
  • Wanting to “get over” your ex too quickly.
  • Hoping the new relationship bothers your ex.
  • Having emotional baggage from a previous relationship that shows up in the new one.
  • Finding a new partner who is eerily similar to the ex, like you're trying to recreate the past.
  • Experiencing an intense, whirlwind romance that seems to be moving too fast.
  • Constantly talking about or comparing your ex with the new person.
  • Having commitment issues and being hesitant to take the relationship to the next level.
  • Experiencing communication gaps and a lack of deep emotional connection are common.
  • Seeing the new relationship as a distraction from the pain of the breakup rather than fostering growth and love.
  • Having a pattern of jumping from one relationship to another without any downtime.
  • Friends and family expressing concerns about the nature and pace of the new relationship.

7 Rebound Relationship Stages You Need to Know

The ability to recognize what is happening gives you an advantage compared to being left to react impulsively as things happen to you.

As your rebound relationship moves in and out of these stages, you can assess your feelings and make decisions that best align with what you really want.

1. Exploration of New Options

You'll also see this called the pre-rebound stage. It covers the period when you realize that the end of a relationship means that you are free to start a new relationship. You might embrace this opportunity because you see it as a chance to find someone new and be happy. Sometimes people are genuinely enthusiastic about meeting new people.

Alternatively, you might feel like you have to find someone new as soon as possible to prove your self-worth and fill the void left by the loss of your previous partner. You might fear being alone or believe that you are incomplete without a partner.

Whether you navigate this stage with a sense of excitement or anxiety, you'll definitely be putting yourself out there. Your friends might even be trying to match you up with someone.

2. The Partnering “Honeymoon”

You've found someone, and you're having a good time. You place the relationship at the center of your life. You want to spend as much time with the new person as possible. You want to talk and cuddle and make love.

woman looking at old photo rebound relationship stages

Everything feels good with your new lover, which blinds you to that person's flaws at this stage. You're simply not interested in uncovering what might be incompatible between you.

The honeymoon stage might be entirely fun and slowly fade into becoming comfortable or bored with each other after about six months to a year. However, this stage also can potentially shift a person into a negative space defined by codependency or jealousy. 

Related: Red Alert! 13 Red Flags When Dating in Your 50s

You might have to be with the person to avoid hurt feelings about your breakup or fear that your new partner wants to spend time with other people.

3. Visibility of Flaws and Red Flags

The party of the honeymoon stage inevitably comes to an end, and problems become impossible to ignore. Your emotional and physical desires begin to give way to a rational assessment of the relationship. You ask yourself if this is actually a good match or not.

These internal questions bring the other person's flaws into view. You begin to notice things that turn you off, such as bad money habits, rudeness to service workers, or throwing dirty clothes on the floor. Aside from annoying personal habits, you might detect red flags, like manipulative behavior or gaslighting. 

You could also realize that you're falling into old behavior patterns that undermined your previous relationship, like the inability to trust or dating someone who is not a good personality match.

4. Complaints and Conflicts

As flaws or red flags enter your perception, you'll eventually voice your concerns. This starts as complaints. You might call the person out for bad behavior that you previously ignored. This action will probably lead to conflicts.

Although any relationship could enter a complaints and conflicts stage, a rebound relationship is more vulnerable to conflicts flaring up because it was built on shakier ground.

It is not a relationship that emerged organically when two compatible people met and felt ready for commitment. One or both parties were driven by needs not supportive of building a functional relationship.

As conflicts erupt, you and your lover might resolve them and move forward with a better understanding of each other's needs. Fixing your problems might not last, though. You might continue to drift back into complaints and conflicts unless both of you really are a good match.

5. Fresh Comparisons to Ex

If an undercurrent of complaints and conflicts continues to rock your rebound relationship, your thoughts will turn to your ex. Because that relationship didn't last, you'll start comparing your new lover to your ex to see if there are any similarities.

When you detect similarities, you'll wonder if the relationship is doomed. Will you get dumped again? Will you have to call it off?

On the other hand, you might find that your ex was more appealing than your new partner. Your new partner will start to look like a step-down, and you'll long for your old relationship.

man and woman hugging rebound relationship stages

If you're dating someone on the rebound, you might begin to hear about these comparisons. Your partner will start to mention the ex more often, and you might worry that you do not measure up somehow.

6. Soul Searching

Your growing focus on flaws and comparisons to the ex motivate you to think more about what you want. This stage is marked by spending less time with each other. One or both of you might make excuses to cancel activities with each other.

During your moments of solitude, you'll delve into what you're hoping for from this relationship. Are you looking for long-term love? If you are, do you want to commit to this person? Do you think this person wants to commit to you?

You'll also strive to answer questions about compatibility. Do you have enough values in common to build a strong relationship? Does this person bring out your best qualities?

The soul-searching stage is your chance to be honest with yourself. You've had some time and distance from the previous relationship that put you on the rebound, to begin with. Maybe you've healed and are truly ready to nurture a loving relationship with your new person. However, you might conclude that you need to focus on yourself more than a relationship.

7. Stay or Go

At this final stage, most rebound relationships have become rocky affairs. Conflicts, canceled plans, and disappointment occupy your thoughts more than the excitement of sexual attraction and new possibilities.

Both of you could be uncertain about what to do. You'll likely talk about your concerns and perhaps take breaks from each other. Both of you don't exactly like the idea of breaking up but also have trouble imagining things getting better.

At this critical point, most couples decide to part ways. A small minority will discover that they miss each other. If that happens, you can put in the work of building a meaningful bond and putting the rebound stages behind you as you move into a long-term partnership.

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The Psychology of Rebound Relationships

Research suggests that people often jump into these relationships to cope with the emotional distress caused by a breakup. It's like a band-aid for their bruised hearts, you know?

According to a study, rebounds can help people regain a sense of control and self-esteem that might have taken a hit during the split.

But here's the catch—rebound relationships can also be a double-edged sword. While they might provide temporary relief from the pain, they can also hinder the healing process. The person might avoid facing their feelings or processing the breakup, which can lead to unresolved issues that can potentially resurface in their new relationship.

On the bright side, though, not all rebound relationships are doomed. Some people actually find solace and even long-term happiness in them. It all depends on the individuals involved and their ability to grow from their past experiences.

FAQs About Rebound Relationships

A rebound relationship moves through several stages. This pattern happens as the “newness” of your new lover fades. You naturally become more sensitive to flaws and evaluate the situation more deeply.

How long after a breakup is considered a rebound?

​​There's no definitive timeline; it really depends on how quickly you bounce back emotionally. Some folks might need a couple of weeks, while others could take many months.

Your motivations and emotions are the key to whether or not a new relationship is a rebound. If you are still actively grieving your former relationship and looking to fill a void, then a new connection is likely a rebound if it happens a week or several months after a break-up.

Be honest with yourself and give yourself time to heal. After all, a healthy relationship is built on a solid foundation, not on the remnants of a past love. So, take it slow, and remember, it's all about finding balance.

How long do rebound relationships last on average?

The rebound relationship time frame generally covers a period of one month up to one year. The length of relationship duration varies because some people might intentionally seek out an exciting but short-lived fling to soothe the pain of a breakup.

However, other people might be trying to kindle a brand new love even when still emotionally preoccupied with the old relationship.

What usually happens in a rebound relationship?

The person in the relationship on the rebound will have emotional baggage that can steer behavior in a couple of different directions. Whether negative or positive, your feelings could remain attached to your ex. 

This attachment makes your new partner uncertain of your willingness to commit. Your partner might feel like a therapist listening to you talk about your ex. That situation gets old quickly.

However, a person might embrace a rebound relationship with enthusiasm and see the new lover as nearly perfect. You might idealize your new partner, which could be very flattering and exciting to that person. Your mutual pleasure in each other's company could lead to a great relationship or unravel once reality overtakes your initial surge of love.

Can a rebound be true love?

Rebound relationships tend to fail about 90% of the time. Although that figure is hardly encouraging, a minority of these relationships succeed. Even if your breakup caused you to seek new love recklessly, it does not mean you can't meet your true love. 

People jump into new relationships after a breakup because they are eager to get things right. They now know what doesn't work and want a second chance to play the game of love. 

Sometimes two people on the rebound make things work because they can relate to each other and heal together.

What Happens When a Rebound Relationship Ends?

Whether you were on the rebound or dating someone on the rebound, the end of the relationship could leave you feeling silly for trying. You knew that rebound relationships are fraught with problems. You might berate yourself for assuming you could make it work.

Common feelings at the end of rebound relationship:

  • Loneliness
  • Discouragement
  • Frustration
  • Used

On the other hand, the breakup might not feel as heartbreaking as other breakups. You may have had a good time with the new person, but you know deep down the connection was not sustainable. You feel able to move on as you are wiser in the ways of dating.

The truth is that most people need time to recover from the drama and feelings of their previous relationship. A rebound relationship usually is based on a desire for a quick fix for complex emotions, which isn't possible.