8 Signs You're In A Rebound Relationship & What To Do So You Don't Wind Up Heartbroken

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Brunette couple in their 20s lies back on an outdoor couch laughing and flirting
Heartbreak

Your first date was amazing... until you find out they just got out of a long-term relationship — and you're their first date after their breakup.

If red flags go up for you upon learning this, you're on the right track. You don't want to be the rebound relationship, no matter how much you like that person. Rebounds just don't tend to be healthy.

What is a rebound relationship?

Rebound relationships are relationships in which one partner is still in the process of healing after the breakup of a prior, usually recently ended, relationship. "Rebounds," as they are casually called, serve to distract people while they take time to get over their lost love — and they often end in heartbreak. That's because the rebound period should be spent healing, sorting through what went wrong, and figuring out what you really want and need in your next relationship.

Wikipedia explains it well: "Rebound relationships are believed to be short-lived due to one partner's emotional instability and desire to distract themselves from a painful break up."

RELATED: 6 Reasons Rebound Relationships Are A Terrible Idea

The problem with rebound relationships.

The problem that many people have with rebound relationships is that they feel people would heal and recover from a breakup better on their own. People often report that with rebounds, emotions quickly grow intense, and they often become attached in an unnatural fashion — often placing the intimacy of the past relationship into the rebound.

It can feel thrilling, because not only is it a crush (which is always fun), but it also helps alleviate the pain of the previous loss which means your new crush may be self-medicating ... and you're more of a "treatment" than a romantic partner.

The problem is, reality almost always comes crashing down.

You certainly don't want to to be used as a replacement only to be discarded a few months down the road, so you really do need to keep an eye out that someone you're dating is on the rebound, and maybe not ready for the type of relationship you're looking for.

To help you out, I've made a list of 8 things to watch out for when dating someone fresh from a breakup.

8 signs you're in a rebound relationship — and what to do.

1. They literally just broke up.

This may seem like an obvious one, but when you're head over heels for someone new, it's not always so clear.

Falling in love takes time but so does falling out of love. If they're moving on too quickly and trying to speed up this process, they're only fooling themselves — and taking you along for a bumpy ride to heartbreak city.

What to do: Take a step back. When, exactly did they break up? Get the details.

If it really was recent — or if they've been hooking up or hanging out recently — end it.

You can consider keeping in touch with this person and maintaining a friendship or casual texting/DM relationship. And tell them why you're setting the boundary. You aren't playing a game here, you're trying to make a healthy choice and set a healthy boundary.

When they seem like they've had enough time to recover, suggest going out again and give it another try.

2. You're dealing with a serial monogamist.

Think of George Clooney. Yes, he’s married now, but we all remember the string of monogamous relationships he had for years — one right after the other. If the person you're out with seems to have an extreme number of "serious" relationships, you may just have a serial monogamist on your hands.

That means you may not be as special as they're telling you, you may just be "next."

What to do: If your new relationship is with a high-quality former George Clooney-type, I say roll the dice and hope you’re the lucky one who gets the ring and the commitment. But if they're more of a regular Jane or Joe Schmo (maybe not quite Clooney caliber), let them wait until you know each other better.

3. They demand exclusivity right away.

If your new relationship goes from one or two dates straight to the “Are we exclusive?” talk, things are moving way too fast. This is too fast even if it isn’t a rebound relationship!

What to do: This can be a serious red flag, so watch out for desperation or a controlling personality.

4. They love (duh) or hate their ex.

Obviously, if they still say they love their ex, then you have a problem. But watch for hate too — extreme emotions toward an ex can sign that your new crush is still heavily emotionally invested in a past relationship.

Intense anger or bitterness (or feeling all lovey-dovey) are signs that they haven’t emotionally moved on.

What to do: Expect to see shades of gray with all these emotions, but look for the predominant sentiment of "I don’t care what they’re doing anymore" — that's a good sign. What you want to see is indifference.

RELATED: The Brutal Truth About Jumping Into A Rebound Right Away

5. The ex's stuff is still in your new crush's apartment.

Don't be fooled — if you walk in and see the ex’s picture still prominently displayed on the bedside nightstand, they’re still in the picture.

What to do: If you find the ex's clothes, toothbrushes and toiletries in his apartment, just get out while you can. It's either a super-fresh breakup or they are still together.

6. They're still good friends.

If they just broke up, your new crush should not still be hanging out with their ex. There are rules for staying friends with your ex, and most of the time it doesn't happen right away.

These rules also hold true for texting, Snapchatting and other various ways of connecting with exes.

It's not that exes can't (eventually) be "just friends", but if you’re the new person in the picture, you need reassurances that the old relationship is over.

What to do: When the relationship is over, the relationship status needs to change and the ex needs to be dropped (temporarily at least) from being their friend. If they can't do that, you should be on your way until they've truly moved on or at least has some distance.

7. You sense you're just a hookup.

If your relationship is more about they physical and less about getting to know each other on a deeper, more emotional level, you’re probably just the convenient rebound hookup.

What to do: A real relationship requires both parties to open up to their deeper emotions and show vulnerability. And the vulnerable feeling I'm talking about here isn't about being available for any late-night "U up?" texts.

You don't have to be a prude, you just need healthy boundaries that set you up for a real relationship.

8. All their friends are giving you the shifty-eye or seem to be trying to warn you.

If, when you meet their friends, you can feel the tension and sense their discomfort, take that as a sign they're either still involved with their ex, or that the relationship isn't truly over. Friends know the history of his past relationship, and they know the relationship patterns that their friend usually defaults to. You can learn a lot from a person's friends!

What to do: Keep an eye on how they interact with you around him to make sure you're making the right move. If you hear something said in a "joking" tone about the recent breakup or your new crush's habit of rushing into things, take what they're saying seriously.

RELATED: The Real Reason Guys Rebound So Fast

How long do rebound relationships last?

Every relationship — and every couple — is different, so it's hard to say exactly how long your rebound will last. There are definitely examples of rebound relationships that turn into marriage, but they seem to be relatively rare.

And any relationship you enter into has a risk of ending sooner than you'd hoped!

But how long is normal?

Generally, if the rebound relationship was initiated because the heartbroken partner just wanted to "use" someone to get through their pain, it won't last long — basically, until that person is ready to move on without the soothing balm that is you, the rebound. And, yeah, that means you will be left behind.

That's the big risk with dating someone on the rebound. They may discover, as they heal, that they'd rather be alone — or, worse, that they'd rather get back together with their ex.

So while the timeline is different for every rebound relationship, that's the pattern to look out for. Also, remember that not all rebound relationships are doomed.

Why do rebound relationships fail?

Here's the reality: most of your romantic relationships are going to "fail" at some point, otherwise you'd marry the first or second person you dated, right?

A Stanford researcher set out to study the factors that lead some relationships to last a long time, while others do not.

The longitudinal study follows more than 3000 people, and began in 2009. What's really interesting, is that time seems to be the thing that determines any relationship's risk of ending. As in, the longer you're together, the less likely you are to break up.

In 2014, the researcher noted, "the longer a couple stays together, the more hurdles they cross together, the more time and effort they have jointly invested into the relationship, and the more bound together they are."

Rebound or not, if you're already a year into your rebound, you're much less likely to break up than if you were just a few weeks or months in, so don't let all this rebound relationship doom and gloom scare you off too much!

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships followed people who had recently broken up, tracking those who got into new relationships quickly — the ones we could call rebound relationships.

The study found that those in rebound relationships reported that people who were single a shorter amount of time after a breakup reported higher levels of well-being, self-esteem, and trust. That all seems good, right?

They also reported feeling more vengeful toward their ex, and compared their new relationship with the old one more than people who were single for a longer amount of time (a.k.a. the non-rebounders). But, overall, the study found that rebound relationships weren't necessarily bad, and there were even good aspects to them.

Granted, their sample sizes were quite small, but it's worth taking note that not all rebound relationships are doomed.

It's always worth paying attention to the signs and red flags that show up in a new relationship — and being on the rebound is just one of those. So open your eyes, be realistic, and set healthy boundaries. That's really the best you can do, no matter what.

RELATED: If These 7 Things Describe Him, He's Nowhere Near Ready To Be In A Relationship

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Joan Jerkovich is a Board Certified Coach at the McLean Hospital Institute of Coaching, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Learn more about her on the IOC website or check out her book series, Life Coaching Insights.

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