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. They might not even realize that they’re rebounding. So how do you know if you’re in a rebound situation? We talked with sex therapist Vanessa Marin and Sadie Allison, PhD, a sexologist and relationship expert, to determine eight signs 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.”
They’re keeping it casual.
“Many rebound relationships start with the very intention of not being permanent,” Allison says. 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 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.
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 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 a 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 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 themselves 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.