One After The Other: How Long Do Rebound Relationships Last?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated February 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether you were a part of the decision to end a relationship or not, a breakup involves loss and a need for grieving. Many people grieve for their partners and the connection they once had just as someone would if a loved one died or some other tragedy struck. In this cycle of grief, we feel a plethora of emotions: hurt, anger, shame, relief, guilt, embarrassment, and eventually, acceptance. 

Having A Tough Time Getting Past An Old Relationship?

But the only way we arrive at our final destination - acceptance - is if we work through each stage in a healthy way and give ourselves the chance to feel our negative emotions truthfully. When we fail to do that, we sometimes enter what’s called a “rebound relationship” (sometimes also called a “reactionary relationship”).

What is a Rebound Relationship?

Rebound relationships are when you seek out a new partner soon after a breakup, not because you truly desire a long-term commitment from them, but because you want to feel the comfort of being in a relationship again. Though rebound relationships feel comforting, these situations can also cause damage to your healing process. A rebound relationship usually lasts between 6 to 12 months,

The Science Behind Breakup Pain

When we are in close, intimate relationships, we tend to enjoy and rely on the presence of our partners. 

So, when a relationship ends, especially unexpectedly or unwantedly, it isn't uncommon to find yourself in a state that is unlike yourself. Even if you know that ending the relationship was the right thing to do, it can be challenging to accept the sudden lifestyle change and loss of emotional connection. It’s not uncommon for mental health issues to occur.

Have you ever heard of someone not eating for weeks after a breakup? Or maybe not being able to pull themselves out of bed even to take a shower? Scientists are now saying that this heartache causes significant shifts in our thinking, and the loss of a partner can cause our brains to respond similarly to the way they react when trying to withdraw from drugs or alcohol. 

Just like a smoker with a nicotine patch, or someone withdrawing from heroin, we crave the feel-good, in-love feelings we once had. In their place are more negative feelings: hurt, anger, shame, relief, guilt, and embarrassment, among others.

Know that these feelings are a normal part of the healing process. It's important to know that even if you experience moments of longing or regret, it doesn't mean that ending the relationship wasn't the right decision.

Although you might think that getting involved in a rebound relationship is a healthy way to transition into being single, that isn't always the case. Though seeking comfort from a new relationship can ease some of the negative thoughts and feelings you're having for a certain period, it's important to understand that rushing your grieving process can lead to issues in the future. Some people find that dating after a relationship helps them feel less alone, but it's important to be aware of your feelings for the past relationship.

How Long Do Rebound Relationships Last?

According to James Nelmondo, rebound relationships can last anywhere from a few months to a year. Still, it is all dependent on whether the rebounder feels comfortable enough to be on their own again. There's also the 'healthiness' factor that varies with each partnership.

The main problem with most rebound relationships is that we 'jump right in,' so to speak. To escape the loneliness and pain that comes with losing the one we love, we may seek a partnership with someone who isn't a good fit for us. 

Though it can be a distraction from our thoughts and feelings from the relationship, it's important to only commit to a new relationship when you're emotionally available to do so, not only for your healing but for the person that you're engaging with intimately.

Relationships take time, effort, and continued patience and compromise. When you're in a heightened state of emotion after a breakup, you may not have the ability to offer that. Engaging in a new partnership before you've grieved your previous relationship may also cause you to feel doubtful about how things will be moving forward, and you may find yourself comparing your current partner to your ex.

By maintaining open communication 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 can both be on the same page, ensuring respect for that person and their feelings.

More About These Kind Of Relationships

Some rebound relationships work out. There is a chance that the rebound relationship turns out to be a successful and long-term relationship. If you meet someone special soon after a relationship ends, take your time getting to know them. You don't have to rule out a future relationship entirely, but you may need to take things slow as you let go of your breakup. Being communicative with anyone you're in a relationship with can make all the difference in preventing unnecessary hardship.

Preventing Damage From These Relationships

First things first - focus on letting go of your previous relationship before actively seeking a new partner. Take time to heal yourself, work through the hurt, and prepare for your next, best partnership. 

Though people in your life may encourage you to start dating again, make sure you wait until you feel ready and comfortable to do so. The energy you spend looking for a new person may better serve you if it's used to spend time with your loved ones, learn more about yourself, and focus on enjoying time on your own.

Even if you aren't looking, sometimes life may present someone at a time that feels inconvenient. 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, and that's completely understandable. They may also be willing to date casually while you move forward from the recent breakup.

All romantic relationships allow us to learn, grow and have a deeper understanding of what we want from our future partner. By taking the time to reflect on what went wrong in your last relationship, you can prevent similar issues from occurring in your future one. Without taking the time to understand your own emotional needs and wants in a relationship, you will likely find yourself in similar circumstances in the future.

When They Do Not Work

There are two main reasons rebound relationships end: 

1) The one person is not fully over the person from your previous relationship, making them unable to meet their new partner’s emotional needs 

2) The person rushed into this new relationship, only to realize later they don’t actually desire  a long-term commitment with the new person. 

Unfortunately, the only thing that can help you heal is time and self-care. Even if it's uncomfortable sometimes, letting yourself feel your emotions fully will allow you to move forward in life. Only once you’ve fully repaired the emotional trauma you feel will you be ready for a real commitment, not a rebound relationship. 

Stages Of Rebound Romance

Like non-rebound relationships, rebound relationships typically go through stages:

  • Pre-rebound – This is right after the end of the most recent relationship. The person in this stage is going through lots of different emotions - but is also somewhat exhilarated by their newfound freedom to date again. 
  • Honeymoon – After dating for a while, the person settles into a serious relationship with their new partner. Riding high off the euphoria, they tend to throw themselves into the relationship, becoming obsessed with it and their partner. This can sometimes lead to codependency, sleep issues, sexual dysfunction, and mental health issues. This phase of the rebound relationship usually lasts 6 to 12 months.
  • Conflicts and Reality – After the honeymoon inevitably wears off, reality sets in. The person who initiated the rebound relationship starts wondering if it's really right for them, realizing that, perhaps, they had not adequately gotten over their last breakup. They start to see their new partner’s flaws in a less charitable light, and think seriously about if they can live with them. This, naturally, leads to conflict. Sometimes, these conflicts can be resolved, leading to a more committed relationship for the long term. But sometimes they aren’t.
  • Nostalgia and Comparison – If the conflict isn’t resolved, the person will start comparing their new partner to the one from their past relationship. These comparisons often don’t reflect well on the new person, and usually spell the end of the rebound relationship.
  • Epiphany – This is where the rebound relationship will either end or turn into a real relationship. If the two partners are able to come to an understanding, the relationship will deepen. If not, the two sides will go their separate ways.

The end of a rebound relationship puts you back at square one - dealing with the emotional trauma you failed to deal with before. Except only now, you’re dealing with having possibly hurt this new person as well. This time, don’t put off truly dealing with your feelings.

Even if a breakup feels isolating, you don't have to go through it alone. By talking through what you're going through, you can find ways to heal and learn for the better.

Below are some more frequently asked questions on rebound relationships:

Can rebound relationships last for years?

Usually rebound relationships last between 6 to 12 months. If they last years, it's usually because the two partners have come to an understanding, turning what was once a rebound relationship into something more long-term and committed.

What is the success rate of rebound relationships?

Do rebound relationships move fast?

A rebound relationship usually moves relatively fast, since, by definition, it's a relationship another person enters in order to avoid properly processing the emotional trauma from the end of their previous relationship.

What are the stages of a rebound relationship?

The stages of a rebound relationship are as follows:

  • Pre-rebound
  • Honeymoon
  • Conflicts and Reality
  • Nostalgia and Comparison
  • Epiphany

Can a rebound be true love?

A rebound relationship can, sometimes, be based on real romantic interest. Sometimes the person coming out of their previous relationship may genuinely be attracted to their new partner, but because they haven’t fully gotten over the one from their previous relationship, they can’t give their current one the emotional attention it needs.

Do rebounds get a second chance?

Do rebounds usually work out?

Rebound relationships usually don’t turn into truly committed, long-term relationships. But there can be exceptions. It all depends on if both partners are able to come to a mutual understanding of each other’s emotional needs.

What happens when a rebound relationship ends?

How long did your ex's rebound last?

Is 2 months after a breakup a rebound?

Everyone processes trauma at different rates, but pursuing a new relationship just 2 months after the end of your previous, long-term relationship would be considered a rebound relationship by most people. 

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