How Long Is the Average Rebound Relationship?

By Joel Balsam | | Dating
How Long Is the Average Rebound Relationship?
Nutlegal Photographer/Shutterstock

You just had a messy breakup, but you or your ex has moved on quickly and found someone new. Is this considered a rebound relationship, and how long do rebound relationships last?

What is a rebound relationship?

Rebound relationships are hastily-entered unions quickly following a breakup. They can be born out of convenience, emotional distress or desperation on the part of the recently single person. Not all subsequent relationships are necessarily rebounds—rebounds have distinct characteristics and often follow a predictable pattern.

“You haven’t had that time to process your last relationship, so you’re essentially bringing in all your patterns, beliefs and issues from that previous relationship to your rebound relationship,” said Julianne McGowan, a relationship manager and dating coach with Kelleher International. “How sustainable is that? Not very sustainable.”

How long do rebound relationships last?

Because rebound relationships often start quickly in the aftermath of a breakup, they’re best charted in terms of weeks and maybe months, but definitely not years. One reason rebounds typically don’t last may be because at least one person probably isn’t in it for the right reasons.

“That person rebounding is attracted to what was missing in the last relationship,” McGowan said. “They’re seeking some element that was not fulfilled in their previous relationship.”

Rebound relationship stages

Most rebound relationships are unpredictable. Because the person who just had a breakup hasn’t come to terms with their previous relationship, they tend to follow a familiar pattern with their rebound.

Lust

The new person in the mix will usually fulfill a certain missing aspect from the previous relationship, but there’s little substance—they suddenly find themselves with a deep emotional hole, and they’re open to, even obsessed with, anyone who may be able to fill it.

“It’s based on the lust, the desire,” McGowan said. “It’s like hiding from the truth.”

Getting physical

Because intimacy tends to go out the window before a breakup, rebound relationships can get hot and heavy fast because the person has a lot of pent-up sexual energy that wasn’t necessarily fulfilled in the last relationship.

“You’re lit up,” McGowan said. “It’s almost like a selfish purpose if you’re seeking something that was unfulfilled or you really haven’t tapped into within yourself.”

Intimacy in a relationship typically comes after you’ve spent some time building trust and connection with your partner. But because the timeline is sped up in a rebound relationship—and is often a hallmark of these types of relationships—there’s no barrier to becoming intimate quickly.

Going public

If it’s your ex who’s in a new relationship, seeing them move on so quickly can be awkward and emotional—and that might be the intended effect. They’re trying to make you jealous, be it with public displays of affection or by posting their new relationship status on social media. The true intention is to hurt you or gain your approval, depending on the circumstances of your relationship and the breakup.

McGowan said this is common behavior and your ex is probably thinking, “Look what I’m doing. I’m gonna be OK. I’m fine without you.”

Cracks in the facade

At some point, rebound relationships may fail when the person with complicated feelings about their ex realizes they got into a relationship with a new partner for all the wrong reasons.

“It’s realizing that they’re in this relationship for selfish reasons,” McGowan said. “They projected their old patterns and they need to work through their previous relationships before they get into another one.”

Lacking any introspection about the issues that plagued your last relationship and projecting the same behaviors or attitudes in the new relationship will likely spell trouble. People at this stage commonly compare their rebound to their ex, and comparing your partner to someone else is never a sign of a healthy relationship.

Reality sets in

It could be a week or a month, but the rebound relationship will probably come to an end sooner rather than later. Rebounds aren’t anything to be ashamed of—they may be messy, but they aren’t necessarily bad.

“Hopefully, you move on peacefully and with integrity and honesty,” said McGowan, “and also looking at that rebound relationship as instrumental to your growth.”

Can a rebound relationship turn into more?

Usually rebound relationships happen between two people who aren’t exactly the right fit or are at different stages of what they want out of a relationship, so they typically don’t last.

“It’s a vibrational match,” McGowan said. “You’re usually going to attract somebody who’s not necessarily ready for a serious, vulnerable relationship.”

That said, rebounds can and do work out, McGowan said, if “the person has really evaluated who they are, what’s important—really the core values—and not just getting their (immediate) needs met.”

“If they come together and there’s a lot of compatibility and alignment, it can potentially work,” McGowan said. “It takes two to really communicate their needs.”

Even if it doesn’t work out, the relationship might not have been for nothing—one study found that rebounds can actually help people get over their previous relationships.

How to tell if it’s no longer a rebound

If you’re in a rebound relationship, and have finally come to terms with your breakup, how do you know if this new relationship could turn into something more? McGowan said to look out for these signs.

Communication

Have you talked honestly about your feelings and shared that you’re ready to move on from your previous relationship? If your new partner responded receptively and shared what they want from the relationship, that could be a great sign.

Chemistry

Ask yourself if there is compatibility in terms of chemistry, which includes not only physical chemistry but communication, spiritual, family and financial chemistry. If your values are aligned, this might turn into a great relationship.

Commitment

Once you establish both people in the relationship are ready to take the next step, do it.

“It takes two to mutually want the same thing,” McGowan said.

What to do if your ex is in a rebound relationship

If you see your ex is in a rebound relationship, first and foremost, do not get involved.

“Create some healthy boundaries rather than getting entangled in that drama,” McGowan said.

If you’re having trouble doing that, try following these six steps.

  1. Step back. Give your ex space and don’t react with jealous behavior.
  2. Let go of what you had. Your ex may be trying to get a response from you . You can show emotional maturity by moving on with your own life.
  3. Let your ex learn on their own. Recovering from a breakup is often compared to grieving. Let your ex do what they need to do to get over your relationship and to learn from this rebound.
  4. Say yes to yourself. Do something for yourself so you’re not focused on your ex’s relationship.
  5. Have an accountability partner. If you’re thinking about approaching your ex about their rebound, talk to a friend, coach or another confidant—they’ll probably tell you to stay out of it, McGowan said. Or at least they should.
  6. Take empowered action. Permit yourself to heal from your previous relationship by truly reflecting on it. But whatever you do, “really work on yourself,” McGowan said.

Conclusion

How long do rebound relationships last? Not long. Maybe a few months, tops.

“The chances of a rebound relationship really turning into a healthy long-term relationship are slim,” McGowan said.

But that doesn’t mean rebound relationships aren’t necessarily a bad thing. And if the stars align, your rebound can turn into your next relationship. But it isn’t easy.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.