Finding yourself in a rebound relationship supposedly spells doom for a budding romance. As popular opinion goes, rebounds reek of sadness and regret: One person has just gotten out of a long-term relationship, is likely still hurting from that breakup, and grabs onto another person to bury the pain. It’s not a great situation (though some research says that people who rebound may have better self-esteem than those who don’t).
And if you’re the reboundee, rather than the rebounder, you may be along for a confusing ride. Most people don’t just announce that they’re using you to rebound. Hell, they might not even realize that they’re rebounding. So how do you know if you’re in a rebound situation? We talked to four sex and relationship experts to determine 11 signs (or red flags) that your partner is rebounding with you.
If you read these signs and it sounds like your relationship, the most important thing you need to do is be very clear about what you’re looking for from the relationship, and then ask what your partner is looking for. “If you’re happy having a casual fling, then by all means, a rebound can be a lot of fun,” says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. “But if you’re looking for a relationship, it’s best for you to step away and let the person fully heal before starting something new with you.”
The person has no idea why their last relationship ended, and can’t tell you what they learned from it.
“This usually tells us that they haven’t done much reflection and lack some awareness,” says Vienna Pharaon, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “They don’t need to divulge the whole story right off the bat, but it’s a good sign when someone can tell you why something didn’t work, take ownership for what is theirs, and acknowledge what may have been going on for the other person.” If the person you’re dating isn’t able to that, odds are they haven’t fully processed their last relationship, and they might still be “stuck” on their ex.
They’re keeping it casual.
“Many rebound relationships start with the very intention of not being permanent,” says Sadie Allison, PhD, a sexologist and relationship expert. If your partner is being aloof, non-committal, or has straight-out said that they’re “not looking for anything serious,” then it’s possible they’re coming off of a bad breakup and don’t want to dive into a new romantic commitment until they’ve had time to heal. If that’s the case, it’s best to respect their boundaries—don’t push a monogamous relationship if they’re telling you they don’t want one. They’re doing the mature thing by being honest about what they can give. Take their words at face value.
You’re just getting to know each other, but it already feels like you’re in an established relationship.
Then there’s the opposite of keeping it casual: when after just a few weeks, it feels like you’re in a serious, committed relationship. “Does your partner already seem to know exactly what they need? Do they seem to just want to plug you in to their established routine?” asks sex therapist Stephen Snyder, MD, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. “Sometimes that can be a sign that they haven’t really come to terms with the loss of their last relationship, and they’re just trying to keep the old show going with a new cast.
They’re clearly not over their last relationship.
Maybe your partner has claimed over and over again that they no longer have feelings for their ex, but you’re just not buying it. “If she tells you her previous relationship ended recently and says she’s ‘over it’ and acting super happy, but seems like she’s covering hurt feelings, it’s possible you’re her rebound,” Allison says.
It’s also a red flag if the person presents as totally unaffected by their last relationship ending, Pharaon adds. “Endings usually bring something up for us, even if it’s relief,” she says. “If a person presents with not feeling a single thing, it may be an indicator that they’re disconnected from their emotions and disassociating from the experience.”
They talk about their ex all the time.
Sure, some people stay friends with their exes, and if your new bae has brunch with her (or his, or their) ex every Sunday, maybe it’s not so weird for her to talk about him. But if she’s talking about him all the time, without the friendship to back it up, then there’s a chance she’s still hung up on old feelings, Marin says.
They constantly compare you to their ex.
In a similar vein, if the person you’re dating is constantly comparing you to their ex—saying you’re so much better than (or worse than) their previous partner—then they’re likely not over their ex.
“It distracts from the two of you getting to know one another and write your own story,” Pharaon says. “If you’re feeling like it’s a competition, it may be because it’s how the person either validates that the ending was a good decision—because you’re better than the ex—or that they’re still worried that they made the wrong call—because they keep their ex on a pedestal.”
They deliberately avoid talking about their ex.
Then again, complete silence around the ex could also be a red flag. “It’s a sign if she avoids talking about her ex completely, and you sense she has a lingering resentment for him,” Allison says. Most people aren’t super chatty about their exes with new partners, but there’s a difference between not talking about an ex because they never come up and specifically avoiding any mention of an old fling. “If you know she’s had a recent break-up, and her ex is a non-topic, then that would be pretty good indicator that these are rebound-triggered issues,” Allison says.
They won’t open up.
New relationships are all about exploration—you’re learning as much as you can about this person who’s suddenly so important in your life. So, if your new partner is holding back, if they seem vulnerable and unsure, or you feel like they’re putting on a fake smile but not really letting you get to know them, then that could be a sign of rebound. “She’s not giving you deep, sincere eye-contact and feels like she’s not fully present,” Allison says. “She seems overly into you, spends a lot of time with you, but doesn’t seem to be her authentic self or ever ‘let you inside’, or go deep with you.”
They’re over-eager about advertising your new relationship.
Sure, we all get excited when we’re dating someone new, and while we may want shout our love from the rooftops, it’s not a great sign if your new partner is doing this shortly after meeting you. “It’s normal in a new relationship to want to show off your new partner to the world—but only once you’re sure the relationship is solid and secure,” says Synder. “Sometimes with a new partner who’s on the rebound, the sequence will feel out of whack. They’ll want to show you off first, before you’ve really gotten to know each other.”
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They’re using you for sex.
“The relationship may just be for the convenience of having sex and distracting herself from her emotions,” Allison says. “If you feel no emotional connection when intimate with her, that could be a sign.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with casual sex, if you and your partner are both upfront about wanting a purely physical relationship. But if you’re trying to make a relationship work and your partner is only in it for the sexual distraction, that could be a problem.
They’re leaning in too hard, and too fast.
You’ve been dating for six weeks, but it feels like it’s been a year. Maybe you’ve found that fairytale, love-at-first-sight kind of moment—or maybe you’re in a rebound. “People coming out of long-term relationships aren’t in the habit of interacting casually, so they may treat you as a partner rather than someone they’re getting to know,” Marin says. It’s possibly a bad sign if your new bae is treating you as if you’ve been in a relationship for a lot longer than you have.
They’re giving you mixed signals.
Because someone in a rebound is simultaneously trying to distract themself from thinking about their ex and likely still hurting from their breakup, they can easily give off mixed signals, Marin says. One moment it may feel as if they’re falling for you and the next they may brush you off. If you can’t get a sense of how your partner really feels, it may be time for a talk.
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