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On the Rebound

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"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.

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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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Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 

  • Implied with Griffith from Berserk towards Guts. He was distraught after Guts left the Band of the Hawks, so distraught he immediately sought out Princess Charlotte for sex in a desperate attempt to make himself feel better and regain control of the situation. It didn’t work, if anything it made everything worse for him. Made even more of an example in the movie where he is shown thinking of Guts the entire time he is having sex with Charlotte.

     Comic Books 

  • Scott Pilgrim has a triple threat:
    • After the devastating break-up with Envy, Scott briefly gets with Knives at the first chance, before becoming obsessed with Ramona (at least he didn't take advantage of her). While a year has passed from the break-up, Scott is still hurting so much that a phone call from Envy left him near-comatose.
    • 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, so this lets her continue to hang around him; her not-quite-thing with Stephen Stills works the same way.
    • Once the whole truth about the break-up between Scott and Envy comes out, it becomes clear that Envy's relationship with Todd was this. She's still hurting out of the break-up and finding out Todd had been cheating on her with their band's drummer, had punched a hole in the moon for Ramona before doing the same for her and calling it a unique act, and was cheating on his Vegan diet, among other things when she throws herself at Gideon, and doesn't find closure until after Gideon's death.

     Fan Works 

  • Deconstructed in the Frozen fanfic The Torn Prince, which serves as a sequel to the original film. Kristoff discusses with Elsa en route to the Southern Isles how he feels like Anna only ended up with him as an afterthought after things went wrong with Hans and how he doubts she actually feels anything for him. His fears are actually quite justified. The chemistry between Anna and Hans never truly died, and while Anna does love Kristoff in her own way, she can't force herself to love him romantically no matter how much she wants. In the end, Anna chooses Hans over Kristoff, who is devastated but receives a Bittersweet Ending.
  • In Sparkling Shimmer, Twilight worries that this might be the only reason she's attracted to Sunset. Despite this, she agrees to a few test dates after Sunset confesses.
  • After finally realizing what a jerk Gendo is in Doing It Right This Time, Ritsuko swears off men and asks Maya if she wants to be her "torrid lesbian rebound fling". Maya immediately agrees and the following relationship actually works out pretty well. It helps that Maya convinced Ritsuko to make an effort in a genuine relationship rather just make it a one-and-done thing.

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     Film — Live-Action 

  • 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.

     Literature  

     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 tramp stamp.
    • 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.
  • Friends: Rachel tries to meet Ross at the terminal after he returns from his trip to China, but is dismayed to discover he has brought home a new girlfriend. Her response is to seek out her own ex-boyfriend Paolo and impulsively have a one-night stand with him. Granted, Ross and Rachel hadn't yet formally gotten together before this point, but...
    • When Joey moves out of his apartment, Chandler very quickly gets a new roommate, Eddie. Rachel comments that it will never last and Eddie is a just a "rebound roommate".
  • 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.
  • In The Good Place, Janet is upset after Jason starts dating Tahani, she having subconsciously remained in love with him even after she and the four humans had their memories wiped hundreds of times. Eleanor suggests that to cope she find a rebound guy, though admits her options are pretty thin. So Janet creates a boyfriend for herself, Derek. At the end of the episode, Eleanor admits that she gave Janet bad advice and tells her the only way to get over genuine heartbreak is to allow herself a mourning period instead of taking the easy route and ignoring her feelings.
    Eleanor: Talking about your feelings is the worst. It's so much easier just to find a rebound guy and have sex about your feelings.
  • 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 ex-boyfriend.
  • 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.
  • NUMB3RS: Don with Liz after he and Robin break up, implied to be less than a week in between. The speed combined with the fact that he doesn't tell anyone about the breakup causes a lot of the people closest to him to believe it's something else entirely.

     Music  

  • 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.
  • An unreleased song by Melanie Martinez sometimes called "Blue Knees" or "Bandaid" is about this, wherein she warns her rebound lover not to get too close to her because she's just using them to make herself feel better.
    You're just a bandaid on my knees
    You're just a bandaid, recovery
    I'll rip you off when I please

     Video Games 

  • After breaking up with Isaac Clarke before the events of Dead Space 3, Ellie has taken up with Captain Robert Norton of the (remaining) military because unlike the traumatized Isaac Norton still wants to fight the Markers and save humanity. At first he does, anyway, later changing to protecting Ellie at the cost of his people's lives and trying to Murder the Hypotenuse, possibly under the Marker's influence but still. Norton is such a Jerkass, though, and his interactions with Ellie so emotionally lopsided that it's less What Does She See in Him? and more like he's Any Port In Storm due to her breakup with Isaac; at one point Norton sincerely tells Ellie that he loves her and Ellie's response is basically, "Oh, I'm aware of that" without any off the charm and affection that Han Solo used in The Empire Strikes Back. When Isaac has to kill Norton in self-defense, Ellie is naturally upset but rants mainly that Norton still believed in their cause as opposed to Isaac instead of, y'know, berating him for killing someone she loved.

     Webcomics  

  • 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.
  • Kevin & Kell has a surprisingly literal example (lampshaded in the punchline). George Fennec's girlfriend, Zerdra Zenith, decides to break up with him, having gotten over her disdain for her fellow fennec foxes. Since George had been seeing her while disguised as a rabbit, he takes the opportunity to reveal himself as a fennec fox, ignoring Danielle Kindle (who's posing as his daughter)'s warnings. Zerdra punches George so hard he lands in Danielle's arms. Before long, George and Danielle get into a relationship.

     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.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: The episode "The Secret Origin of Denzel Crocker" shows this is how Timmy's parents got together. Timmy's mom and Dinkleburg were dating at first, only for Dinkleburg to dump her when he got government funding and apparently decided to trade up. Timmy's dad was there for her in that moment and a genuine relationship formed from that. It helps that it was shown that Timmy's dad genuinely had feelings for her before then.


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