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Sex + Relationships

How to Know If You’re Just a Rebound

I can’t say that I’m too familiar with the technicalities of actual sports, but that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t apply some of those rules to the life of a collegiette.  I mean, didn’t we all classify our high school hook-ups using the “bases” method?  And because I’m athletically disinclined, for me the word “rebound” doesn’t apply to basketball – it’s basketball, right? – but rather to those tortured souls who get used and abused by others who have experienced recent heartbreak.

The rebound is the perfect pick-me-up from a not-so-perfect ending of a previous relationship.  A rebounder enjoys the thrill of freedom, the overwhelming number of opposite sex options, the excitement of a new prospect.  Naturally, guys (and collegiettes) in this situation are all too inclined to get back into the game – fast.  And while that’s great for them, it kind of sucks to be the rebound-ee.  But sure enough, Her Campus has a little something to say about being “that girl” (or guy?), and how to play the game right.

Filling a Gap

While being a rebound doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, what isbad is the tendency to not even realize that you are one.  It’s easy to get swept up in whatever you have going on with a guy, but dangerous when there’s a relationship in his very recent past.  If he just broke up with a girlfriend, chances are he’s still in “girlfriend mode” and might be tempted to treat this new relationship similarly to the one he just ended.  One student, Anne* from the University of New Hampshire, recalls getting involved with this kind of guy and falling hard, only to learn that he wasn’t over his ex.  After she realized she liked Matt, he and his ex got back together. 

These guys are definitely looking to fill a void, and probably not for very long.  If you can handle “temporary,” then being the rebound girl to a guy like this shouldn’t be a problem at all.  But, of course, when is it really that simple?  Collegiette Mackenzie points out, “The hardest thing about being a rebound is often times you’re unaware that you’re filling the gap of a prior relationship.”  If he’s acting relationship-y, be wary that it might just be a kind of love-drunk hangover.  Before you know it, you’ll be head-over-heels for the guy who treats you like a princess even though he claims that he has no romantic interest in you.  To him, unfortunately, you’re kind of a stand-in for the girlfriend that he’s trying desperately to get over (if he doesn’t ultimately go crawling back to her). If you’re not okay with that, it’d be best to keep your distance to avoid getting hurt.

Falling… and Getting Back Up

Of course, falling for a guy who’s not interested can just happen and isn’t something you can always control.  For Anne, getting over her rebound-inflicted heartbreak involved understanding where Matt was coming from in terms of his past relationship.  Looking back, she was able to rationalize Matt’s having treated her as a rebound: “Rebounds are a natural part of bouncing back and hopefully moving on and becoming a better person.”  Being someone’s rebound shouldn’t be something to take offense to – if nothing else, it signifies that he’d be interested in you if he wasn’t emotionally occupied by someone he was previously involved with.  While that might not make falling for him any easier to deal with, it might help rebounded collegiettes consider their experiences the way Anne was ultimately able to, without resenting him for hurting you.  Everyone has a past, but not all are trying to heal fresh wounds – look for a guy who is more available instead of waiting around to see if your rebounder changes his mind and gives you the relationship you’re after.

What They Have to Say for Themselves…

Max, a student at Union College, believes that rebounds are “merely distractions, or a way to cover up sadness if a guy gets dumped.”  And Brian, a student at Emory University treated rebound girls exactly as such: after ending a long-term relationship and trying to get back into the game, “I realized that I was just trying to replace my girlfriend and that the expectations I had for these girls were unattainable.”

Well, that’s true, Max and fair enough, Brian – we sympathize, but what do collegiettes make of a “sad” guy who is just using her to fill that emptiness?  It doesn’t seem fair, but there are ways to avoid being mistreated as a rebound girl.  Brian suggests trying to be open with him and figure out what he really is after.  “If you’re starting to have feelings for the guy, don’t beat around the bush – ask him what’s up, what he wants and how he feels.”  If his response is not what you want to hear, you’ll know it’s time to end things, however casual they might be.  On the other hand, if you’re satisfied and not looking for anything more than just a simple hook-up, proceed as the “rebound.”  As far as they’re concerned, they really just need someone to spend time with – make out with – and talk to, and maybe that’s okay with you.  For him, though, all that matters is that the rebound girls won’t be as good as her.  Guys like this are un-invested, but many make it known at the outset that all they want is a fun night. Heed those warnings, collegiettes… if they’re not calling/texting, they’re just not that interested.

The Female Rebounder

Of course, we shouldn’t always leave it up to – or place blame on – the male gender to commit these rebounding offenses.  We collegiettes are just as likely as guys to seek post-relationship refuge in a more temporary figure.  After a tough break-up, girls are just as likely to get involved with another guy – and perhaps even view him as a boyfriend substitute.  Though a rebound guy might be less tempted to fall for the rebound-er than a rebound girl, there’s still the same potential to treat the new guy as a fill-in.  Treating him like you did your boyfriend probably isn’t the best move; it plays with your mind as well as his.  But at the same time, it helps to get back on the saddle after experiencing heartbreak.  A rebound guy can help any collegiette get over an ex, and it’s a necessary step to take in moving on.  Just be careful not to carry over your relationship-y feelings that make things complicated and less casual.


While being a “rebound” might not seem like the most glorious of roles, it’s nothing to be ashamed of – and certainly not a negative comment on your personality.  All that needs to be considered in a situation involving a rebounding guy is just how much you’re allowing yourself to put into the relationship versus how much you think you’ll be getting from him in return.  If one heavily outweighs the other, rethink the relationship, because it may not be worth your time or effort.  There are other guys out there to “play sports” with.

*Name has been changed.

Lauren Kaplan is a senior majoring in English and Dance at Emory University. She is originally from New Jersey, and has loved living in Atlanta for the past three years. Lauren thinks most fondly of her two favorite places - her childhood camp, Camp Wayne for Girls, and Margate on the Jersey shore - from which she has derived a love of friends, family, and the beach.
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