How Long Do Rebound Relationships Last?

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether mutual or one-sided, a breakup can be challenging for most people to cope with. Many people grieve after losing a relationship, and several emotions can arise, including hurt, anger, shame, relief, guilt, embarrassment, and acceptance. 

Dating someone else before you've processed your emotions about your recent breakup could lead to more complex feelings or the worry that your new relationship might end. These types of quick relationships after a split may be referred to as "rebounds." Knowing how long a rebound might last or what it could mean for you can help you make healthy choices in your romantic life.

Having a hard time after a breakup?

What is a rebound relationship?

The term "rebound" is often used in pop culture to describe a relationship that someone enters quickly after a breakup. It may be that you jump into the relationship not because you desire a serious relationship or long-term commitment but because you want to feel the comfort of being in a relationship after losing one. Though rebound relationships may feel comforting in the moment, these situations may also delay healing from the emotional needs you might have after a breakup.

How does grief work after a breakup?

In a close, intimate relationship, you may enjoy and rely on the presence of your partner. If your relationship ends, whether unexpectedly or amicably, you might feel emotionally distraught or confused. Even if you know that ending the relationship was healthy, accepting the sudden lifestyle differences and loss of emotional connection can be challenging. You might experience mental health challenges as well. 

Many people may report struggling to eat, care for themselves, or focus on socializing after a split from a long-term relationship. Scientists have found that heartache causes significant shifts in thinking, and losing a partner can cause the brain to respond similarly to withdrawing from a substance. After a loss, you may crave the love, affection, or attraction you felt with your ex. You might experience hurt, anger, shame, relief, guilt, or embarrassment without that feeling. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Although these feelings can be a normal part of the healing process, they may be challenging to cope with. You might feel moments of longing or regret, but these feelings may be signs of your desire to retain what you once had with someone you cared about. Many people take this period after a breakup to process their emotions and start learning to live without their ex-partner, typically leading to some level of personal growth

Other people may respond to these urges by getting into a rebound relationship to rekindle a sense of spark with someone else. Though seeking comfort from a new relationship may ease your negative thoughts and feelings, it often serves as just a distraction, and rushing your grieving process may lead to complicated emotions in the future. Some people find that dating after a relationship helps them feel less alone. However, it can be beneficial to consider all angles before entering a new relationship.

How long do rebound relationships last? Insights and expectations

According to research, rebound relationships may or may not last as long as other relationships. There is no definite period outlined in any study. However, the researchers in the study found that people who stayed single longer after a breakup were generally happier and more psychologically well than those who entered a rebound relationship. These results may indicate a psychological benefit to giving yourself time to process your emotions after a breakup. However, you may be able to form a serious connection, and your new relationship may be successful. 

The above study also discovered that individuals with an anxious or insecure attachment style were more likely to enter a relationship quickly after a breakup, potentially suggesting that difficulty being alone can be a motivator to date someone new. Those with an avoidant attachment style were also more likely to feel less distress over the end of their previous relationship, potentially causing them to enter a new one quickly. 

Entering a rebound relationship may come with a few benefits, but it can also be a method of coping with difficult emotions associated with anxiety or fear. Though being with a new person might be exciting and distract you from your thoughts and feelings after losing a partner, you might try to begin a new relationship when you're emotionally available to do so. 

Relationships take time, effort, continued patience, and compromise. When you're in a heightened state of emotion after a breakup, you may struggle to offer that. In addition, if you have an avoidant attachment style and don't feel much about the ending of your relationship, you might be suppressing your emotions, which could have mental and physical consequences. Beginning a new partnership before you've grieved your previous relationship may also cause you to feel doubtful about the future or draw comparisons between your new relationship and your ex. 

By maintaining an open conversation with anyone you're interested in about how ready you are to be committed and being honest with yourself about whether you're ready to date at all, you may ensure you aren’t looking for different things, leading to respect and healthy communication. 

Do rebound relationships work out?

Some rebound relationships work out long-term. There is a chance that the rebound relationship will turn out to be successful. However, if you meet someone special soon after a relationship ends, consider taking time to get to know them. You could take the new relationship slow or be friends while you get to know them. Being communicative with anyone you're in a relationship with can allow you to better understand your current partner and their boundaries. 

How to prevent adverse effects from a rebound relationship

Below are a few steps you can take to attempt to prevent the adverse impacts you might experience from a rebound relationship.                 

Focus on grieving 

Before attempting to date, consider allowing yourself to grieve your past relationship. Even if you often like to bottle up your emotions and move forward, try to spend time reflecting on what you need. Cry if needed, ask people for help, and give yourself as long as you need to stay single. Some people find journaling helpful, and studies have found it can improve mental health.  

Get to know yourself and your social circle again

Though people in your life may encourage you to start dating again, consider focusing your energy on getting to know yourself and the people you love again. While in a relationship, you might have been more isolated from friends and family or put off a few of your dreams. A breakup can be a chance to focus on what you want to do without outside influence. If you get into a new relationship quickly, you might find that the infatuation stage of love causes you to put these areas in the back of your mind again.  

Communicate openly with those you’re interested in

In some cases, people aren't looking for a new partner and find someone they're interested in at an inconvenient time. If you know you haven't fully processed your breakup, but you're genuinely interested in another person, keep an open line of communication regarding your expectations. It's possible the person may not be interested in dating you while you grieve your last partnership. They may also be willing to date casually while you move forward. 

Reflect on what went wrong

The end of a romantic relationship may allow you to learn, grow and understand what you want from your future partners. By taking the time to reflect on what went wrong in your last relationship, you might prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. 

Why do rebound relationships end?

There may be a few reasons rebound relationships end, and they aren't necessarily all related to the relationship being a rebound. However, potential causes for why rebound relationships typically end could include the following: 

  • You're not over your ex 
  • You rushed into the relationship and realized you don't want to commit anymore 
  • You're not attracted to your new partner
  • You were caught up in the infatuation stage and no longer want the relationship after it ends
  • You aren't ready to date 

If you have ended a rebound relationship, you may have a hard time processing those emotions, but try to give yourself time and self-care. Even if it's uncomfortable sometimes, letting yourself feel your emotions fully may allow you to move forward. Give yourself time after the end of your rebound relationship to process what occurred, and be gentle with yourself if you feel shame or embarrassment.  

What are the stages of a rebound relationship?

Rebound relationships may have stages, potentially including the following. 

The pre-rebound stage 

The pre-rebound stage occurs directly after your breakup. You may feel the urge to be intimate with others, flirt, or make new connections. This stage is also when you start a rebound relationship with a new person. It may occur a few days, weeks, or months after your breakup. 

The infatuation stage 

In the first few months of your relationship with the new person, you might feel euphoric and intense attraction. The relationship may feel fun and physical. With the intensity of the infatuation stage, you might throw yourself into the relationship, feeling obsessed with your new partner. In this stage, you might experience codependency, sleep difficulties, sexual dysfunction, or mental health symptoms. Many people experience the infatuation stage for a few months to a year. 

The conflict and reality stage 

After the infatuation wears off, reality may set in. The person who initiated the rebound relationship may start wondering if they want to stay in the relationship. They might start to feel residual emotions from their breakup or start to see their new partner's flaws in a different light. In some cases, these feelings may be apparent or lead to conflict. 

The nostalgia and comparison stage 

If you are still in the relationship and feel nostalgic about your ex, you might begin comparing your new partner to your ex, mentally or out loud. You may also start processing the emotions from your past relationship, listening to songs you used to listen to, or feeling that you miss your ex. These feelings could be the residual emotions you didn't process from your breakup. 

The epiphany stage 

At the epiphany stage, the rebound relationship may end or continue. If you and your partner come to an understanding or you feel you've grieved your last breakup, you might feel ready to continue in your new relationship. One or both parties might also decide that it's the healthiest decision to break up. 

Counseling options 

Even if a breakup makes you feel alone, you don't have to go through it alone. You can discuss the grief or other emotions you experience after losing a partner with a therapist. In addition, if you are in a rebound relationship after a breakup, you and your new partner might benefit from couples therapy. Many people appreciate the convenience of online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. 

Through an online platform, you can stay at home and meet with a licensed therapist from any location with an internet connection. In addition, if you're attending a couples session, you and your partner can attend from two separate locations, which may ease conflict if it is occurring. You can also look for specialists in specific areas of mental health, such as couples' conflict, attachment, or difficulty being alone. 

Studies have also backed up the effectiveness of both forms of therapy. Researchers have found that both couples and single clients find online therapy more effective and preferable to in-person options due to its convenience, comfort, and low-cost options.

Takeaway

If you're considering a relationship after a breakup or have already entered one, you might wonder whether it will last. "Rebound" relationships can last long-term and may be healthy, like any relationship. However, ask yourself what caused you to want to rebound and whether you might feel healthier staying single for a while. Regardless of your choice, you can contact a therapist anytime for further guidance and support. 

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