How To Tell A Rebound Romance From A Healthy Relationship

Convinced you’ve found a lasting relationship because your new dating partner is everything your ex is not? Or so it seems? Take off your rose-colored glasses before planning a future together, and certainly before introducing your romantic partner to your children. When we’re in a state of infatuation, we tend to project what we want to see on to our object of our desire. But all too often, we just end up creating the same toxic dynamic that existed in previous relationships.

Here are six ways to tell if your new relationship is more than an ill-fated rebound romance.

1. Recognize that infatuation distorts reality.

Dopamine and other feel-good chemicals hijack your brain during infatuation. When a garden-variety crush morphs into limerence — obsessive thoughts and fantasies and an overwhelming desire to have one’s feelings reciprocated — you can convince yourself that you MUST have someone who may not be good for you. You are temporarily insane while infatuated, so understand that the way you perceive your dream person isn’t accurate. Wait till the smokescreen of infatuation clears so you can spot red flags worth heeding.

2. Just because your new partner seems to have the qualities your ex lacked doesn’t mean they actually do.

In his book Getting The Love You Want, therapist Harville Hendrix explains how we seek out partners who have qualities our parents lacked so we can finally have the love we want. However, we often end up attracting someone who possesses the same undesirable qualities we don’t want because we only see the desirable ones. We do this subconsciously in an attempt to to heal our childhood wounds. The same process applies to  exes: if you pick a new person to help you recover from the trauma of a previous relationship — in order to “prove” you’re worthy — you may find you’ve simply recycled your ex.

3. Just because your partner actually does have the qualities your ex lacked doesn’t mean they’re right for you.

If your ex was manipulative and grandiose, it’s understandable that you’d be drawn to someone who’s honest and humble. While those are admirable traits, they won’t make up for a lack of physical attraction or crippling low self-esteem. Don’t pick a partner because they appear to be the opposite of your ex; pick someone who makes you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilled.

4. Are you truly ready for a relationship, or are you just looking for an escape from loneliness?

Yes, it’s nice to have a plus-one to socialize and spend weekends with, but do you love this person enough to take on their baggage? Including relatives, pets, and bad habits you don’t like? Don’t try to manufacture a serious relationship out of one that exists primarily to keep you from feeling alone, or from facing personal growth work you’ve been avoiding.

5. Do you have a good relationship with yourself?

People who feel they’re inherently defective depend on externals for validation. But no one, no matter how sparkly and fabulous they are, can fix you. Nor will you find your self-worth by shacking up with a human home improvement project. If you desire genuine intimacy with a partner, fix your relationship with yourself first. Having self-respect and healthy boundaries will enable you to ask for what you want in appropriate ways, resolve conflict, and be genuine. Having a good relationship with yourself will also give you the courage to walk away from someone who’s superficially desirable but terminally toxic.

6. Do you share common values?

No amount of great sex, scintillating conversations, or fun-filled weekends will compensate for a lack of shared values. And just because you like the same things — reading, entertaining, long walks on the beach — doesn’t mean you’re fundamentally compatible. Values include core beliefs such as honesty, helping those in need, religion, financial literacy, and sexual preferences. For instance: if you value monogamy, and your partner does not, or if after a few years you learn that their idea of monogamy includes sexting people they don’t know because you didn’t take the time to define monogamy, your relationship is doomed. Or at least doomed to be miserable.

Listen to your intuition.

Those niggling feelings that tell you something is not quite right usually prove to be true. People can say anything, but what matters is what they do. If their actions are not lining up with their words, dial down the velocity of your new romance. Remember that people are always on their best behavior during the courtship phase. Wait at least a year before making future plans. You’ll know your relationship is a healthy one when the object of your desire has earned your trust and respect. Repeatedly.

(Photo by Clem Onojeugho via unsplash)

Virginia Gilbert

Virginia Gilbert

I live in Los Angeles, where I specialize in helping people going through high-conflict divorce. On this blog, you'll find insights to help people who are considering divorce, are going through divorce, or have a high-conflict divorce that never seems to get any better.


  1. Bridget on October 4, 2017 at 7:04 am

    All I can say is “wow”… this is the first thing I read on your blog after having found you in a random google search in a Huffington Post article you wrote! I’m on the brink of my now second divorce, and I can definitely see that I was guilty of many of the things you listed here when I met my second husband. I was 18 when I got married the FIRST time-just a child, really. When I left him, I was so scared – financially, emotionally, just all the uncertainty and unknowns. This time, I can hold my own financially-I’m on the other end-scared of being lonely, feeling too old (I’m 40-I know, I know.. It’s not that old but still) I have 2 kids (one’s 22 and the other is 11-one from each marriage) and I’m thinking, what kind of nice man would want me.. TWO divorces, kids-what BAGGAGE! … and THEN I think.. why am I already thinking about ‘some nice guy’ when I’m not even divorced yet?! Bc inherent in all this is, I need to work on me *a whole lot* before I even think about dating. I think I’ll be ready (and that could be years) when I no longer feel unworthy or inadequate. But honestly I’m putting the cart before the horse! Anyway, thank you for this… I really love your insight and it has already gotten me to rethink a lot of things! I sure wish you were in the Houston area!

    • Virginia Gilbert on October 4, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Bridget, that’s awesome that you are at a place where you’re ready to put yourself first and commit to personal growth so you can bring into your life someone who will treat you like you matter — because you do. Thanks for your kind words about my piece, I’m glad what I wrote helped you. And, I wish I were in Houston too, I’d love the opportunity to work with you. Take care and just know, that from my 55-year-old perspective, 40 is YOUNG!!

  2. Alex on February 22, 2018 at 12:24 am

    Wow reading this, it makes me feel good…. while I wish my ex happiness i can see that it’s not going to be a lasting relationship.

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