On the Rebound

"Do you know what rebound is? Trying to get over one love by bouncing into love with somebody else. It's fine, except the rebound is rarely the real thing. In fact, it's the bunk. There's the first bounce, the second, and ... well, look at me. You wind up like an old tennis ball."
Aunt Patsy, The Awful Truth

After going through a bad breakup, a character very quickly jumps into a new relationship. Often they're not emotionally prepared for the new relationship, but go into one because they're hurting. The rebound lover is thus usually a Romantic False Lead. Oftentimes they are a Suspiciously Similar Substitute or a Replacement Goldfish.

There are two common ways that characters deal with being a rebound relationship. Either they are actively pursuing their Love Interest during a vulnerable time, or they are actively trying not to pursue the interest out of fear of being the rebound. The latter is often used to maintain UST when there is no other reason to keep the two from getting together.

Note that this does NOT cover instances where a person leaves their significant other for someone new. They have to break up, then leap into the new relationship. Additionally, it's not just "the relationship after a big breakup." The emotional vulnerability is a large part of the trope.

Sister trope to Comforting the Widow, which is about entering a relationship after a loved one dies. Often a large overlap with Sex for Solace.


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     Comic Books  

  • In Scott Pilgrim, after being dumped by Scott, Knives throws herself at Young Neil, on the basis that he kind of looks like Scott. They don't last. (It doesn't help that she's also going for Young Neil on the grounds that since he's around Scott a lot this lets her continue to hang around him; her not-quite-thing with Stephen Stills works the same way.)


  • In the movie Swingers, Mike is assured by a friend that his ex's current relationship won't last because it's a rebound relationship. But her relationship with Mike was also a rebound.
  • In Drinking Buddies, after Kate gets dumped by Chris, she hooks up with a coworker that she doesn't even like that much. When a friend calls her out on it, she says she doesn't love him or anything, and just acted.
  • In The Awful Truth, the aunt tries to warn the freshly separated female lead about going down this path.
  • Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie. After Jake breaks up with Priscilla, his dad (who wants his son to emulate him in every way) approaches him with the "perfect rebound girl", which turns out to be his willing mother. No wonder Jake considers himself the Only Sane Man in the family.


     Live Action TV  

  • Occurs a few times in How I Met Your Mother.
    • Gael, Robin's Latin Lover whom she picked up on a trip to Argentina. The relationship explicitly happened because Robin was so torn up by her breakup with Ted that she needed something.
    • In response to Gael, Ted rebounds with a Hard-Drinking Party Girl named Amy, which results in him getting a butterfly trampstamp.
    • Several of Barney's plays to pick up women involve targeting vulnerable women who have just broken up.
    • Ted actively didn't pursue a girl until some time had passed after her breakup so that he wouldn't be the rebound guy.
    • Parodied in the episode "Rebound Bro" where, after "breaking up" with Ted, Barney latches onto a new bro, only to break up eventually.
  • Dexter.
    • Lila is explicitly referred to as a rebound for Dexter after Rita dumps Dexter (ironically, because Rita falsely believed Dexter had slept with Lila).
    • Lumen is a Replacement Goldfish for Rita after she dies, being a blonde Broken Bird herself.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: After Angel leaves the show for LA Buffy falls for Parker, another student at her university, who promptly dumps her after a one night stand.
    • When Buffy breaks up with her next boyfriend Riley Finn, Xander accuses her of treating him like the rebound guy from Angel, rather than a proper Love Interest. The fact that Riley looks a little like Angel and the fact that they had little to no chemistry makes you wonder if he has a point.
  • Invoked and lampshaded in The Office (US). After breaking up with Carol, Micheal hooks up with a young waitress from a Japanese restaurant and brings her to the Christmas party, only for her to leave an hour later. Jim explained to Michael that he was having a rebound and should not feel disappointed. Michael realizes that was what he was doing and even admits he couldn't tell his date apart from the other Asian waitress that had attended the party.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Leonard's attempt at a "serious" relationship with Leslie was this, after his first time attempting to date Penny went south. At one point he and Penny run into each other across and the hall with their new romantic partners. They swoop their respective into a passionate kiss and try not to stop until the other does (which goes on for at least a few minutes) in an effort to show just how "fine" they're doing without each other.
    • After Leonard and Penny tried dating the second time Penny gets together with Zach. She admits that while he's a nice guy, he's dumb as a sack of hammers and the only reason she bothered to give him the time of day was so she wouldn't be lonely and to take her mind off of Leonard.
  • On Zoey101 Zoey begins dating Chase's Suspiciously Similar Substitute James more or less right after she and Chase have to put their Relationship Upgrade on hold because of distance.The finale dealt with the fact she was never in love with James, and that Chase was always her first choice.
  • In New Girl, Jess tries to have a rebound fling, but she has issues with getting attached. After another relationship, she has a rebound backslide where she hooks up with an old exboyfriend.
  • Parks and Recreation: After breaking up with Mark, Ann kisses Andy in a moment of vulnerability and later discusses starting a relationship with Chris Traeger, but she doesn't want to rebound.


  • In the They Might Be Giants song "Contrecoup", the explicit phrase "on the rebound" makes sure you won't miss that they're relating this trope to secondary brain damage from a head injury.
  • In The Beatles song "You're Gonna Lose That Girl", the singer is warning the singee that if he doesn't treat his girlfriend better, she'll leave him, and the singer will grab her on the rebound.


  • In El Goonish Shive, Diane tries to take advantage of this trope (warning: link contains some spoilers) to enter a relationship with Elliot after she overhears his girlfriend at the time planning to break up with him. However, this plan ends up failing after, among other things, the breakup doesn't go quite the way Diane expected, resulting in our spoilered male character not actually being left in the expected emotionally vulnerable state.

     Western Animation  

  • In The Venture Bros., after being dumped by The Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend then goes to Phantom Limb and begins dating him. She never seems to actually care for him that much, and comes across as distant to the audience.
  • Young Justice. Poor, poor La'gann was Miss Martian's "rebound guy" during her Offscreen Breakup with Superboy during the Time Skip. He even gets called such on the series. She eventually dumps La'gann because she realizes that he's just a rebound guy to her.
  • The Simpsons: After Edna breaks up with Skinner, she then hooks up with Comic Book Guy on the Rebound. Lampshaded by Marge:
    Marge: You meet the worst people on the rebound.
  • Legend of Korra: Mako gets back together with his ex-girlfriend Asami after he breaks up with Korra. It doesn't last.