4 Red Flags You’re Just a Rebound, According to Experts
We’ve all been there. Rather than taking the time to heal after a relationship ends, we immediately hop into another without much thought behind our actions. Why? Because sometimes, dating someone new feels like the easiest way to distract yourself from all the confusion and heartbreak. And while this is a super understandable (and relatively common) phenomenon, what you’re doing is finding yourself a rebound — and no one really wants to be the rebound. In actuality, being a rebound means dating someone who’s likely not emotionally available, or even or over their ex yet.
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That’s not the only reason you want to avoid being labeled as a rebound. A 2015 study found that people who enter into rebound relationships compared their new partner to their ex more than people who took longer to get into a new relationship. And who wants to compete with someone from the past? Not only that, but if your partner is still secretly pining after their ex, they probably won’t be able to invest as much into the relationship as you are.
That’s why Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Dating.com, notes that it’s crucial to figure out if you’re someone’s rebound in order to determine if they’re capable of meeting your needs.
But how do you know if you’ve fallen into this situation, exactly? For one, Sullivan says if they’ve only been single for a hot minute, there’s a good chance you’re just filling the void. That, or they might bring up their ex in almost every conversation. Not every sign is so obvious, however. To help you figure it out, here are some far more subtle red flags to look out for to figure out if you’re someone’s rebound.
Things Are Moving Super Fast
When someone is recovering from a breakup, they may be so eager to fill that hole in their love life that they’re unable to take it slow — as in, saying those three little words after two or three dates, or posting #couplegoals Instagram photos just a few weeks into dating. For them, that’s the easiest way to re-harness all those romantic feelings that they once had.
“You find yourself acting like a couple almost right away instead of it feeling like it grows gradually over time,” explains Nicole Richardson, a licensed marriage and family therapist. If you feel like your relationship went from zero to 60 at warp speed, that could be a sign that your partner is trying to escape from pre-existing negative emotions by replacing their ex with … well, you.
Another red flag to look out for? If they’re sending you mixed signals. Someone who’s coming on strong one minute and seems super distant the next may still be dealing with lingering feelings from their last relationship.
You Haven’t Met Their Inner Circle
Has your new partner been shady about introducing you to their family and close friends? There are lots of potential reasons for this, with one of them being that you’re unknowingly in a rebound situation. Think about it this way: Their loved ones all know they’re fresh off a breakup. Meaning, if they introduce you as their new partner, they may very well face judgment for jumping back into dating so quickly.
“They know it’s too soon to bring a new person around so they avoid it,” says Richardson.
Also, if they don’t see a future with you, they may be wary of bringing their rebound into immediate circle.
They Avoid Making Plans Far Into the Future
Dealing with a breakup usually entails a rollercoaster of unpredictable emotions that can change by the day (or even hour). Naturally, that explains why your partner might have difficulty committing to plans past just a few days.
According to Sullivan, if you notice that they’re noncommittal when it comes to putting things on the calendar — say, a few weeks or a few months down the line — that’s a red flag. While there are many possible explanations for this behavior, it could mean that they’re not sure they foresee anything long-term for this relationship.
It could be because they’re still hung up on their ex, or they simply haven’t fully healed from the split. If they’re super flaky, or fail to follow through on plans by going MIA with no warning, that could mean they’re struggling with the past more than you initially thought.
There’s Zero Conflict
Every couple has their own unique “norm” when it comes to conflict, but if you and your partner never seem to fight about anything, that’s usually a red flag. According to Richardson, if it seems like your arguments are being avoided entirely, that may signal that your partner’s unable or unwilling to connect on a deeper level. They’re still so wound up in the trauma from their last relationship that they can’t imagine going that far down the rabbit hole with you, even if they wanted to.
If you suspect that you’re in a rebound relationship, how you move forward depends on your own needs, wants and intentions. Are you OK with keeping it casual? Sure, in that case, you may be cool with the fact that your new partner is non-commital. On the other hand, if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s definitely worth sparking an honest discussion with them. The key, says Richardson, is bringing the issue to their attention without being judgemental or accusatory.
“Your partner may not even be aware that they’re rebounding yet,” she explains.
And rather than using the word “rebound,” which could cause them to get defensive, try focusing on the specific behaviors that are concerning you. The idea is to come from a place of wanting to understand, rather than attacking them. For example, you might say, “I’ve noticed that you seem a little hot and cold, and it’s been confusing for me. How have you been feeling about our relationship lately?” Or, you could say, “Is there a reason why you’ve been hesitant to buy those concert tickets with me next month? I’d love to understand your concerns.”
Opening up this kind of conversation gives your partner a chance to clear up any misunderstandings. Even if they exhibit some of these aforementioned red flags, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a rebound. Remember to focus on listening to them when they share their feelings and concerns with you, as this will help you to figure out how to proceed in your relationship. And even if you do suspect you’re in a rebound situation, there’s no need to hit the panic button and run — after all, a genuine, lasting connection can still grow out of uncertain circumstances.
However, Richardson advises remaining as independent as possible, continuing to do all the things that make you happy, in order to stay level-headed. It’ll also help cushion the blow in case things don’t work out.
There’s no reason why a rebound relationship can’t survive (and even thrive). But in order for that to happen, both people need to be in it with their eyes wide open. The rebound role isn’t the kiss of death for your relationship, but it does mean you’ll need to proceed with caution. As long as you can remain realistic about what your partner is capable of bringing to the table, you’ll be able to continue dating with an open mind — and an open heart.
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