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What Is Rebound Sex?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Whether you do the breaking up or get dumped, ending a relationship is difficult. It can bring up many challenging emotions -- feelings you aren't always equipped to handle. 

There aren't any specific rules to help you recover after a breakup. Rebound sex, or having sex with one or several new partners, is one way some people choose to deal with it. The excitement of meeting and getting physical with someone new can distract you from feelings of sadness, loss, and rejection.

What's the Difference Between Rebound Sex and Revenge Sex?

When a relationship ends, you may feel a deep sense of loss. Engaging in rebound sex with a new partner is one way to enjoy physical affection. 

Rebound Sex versus Revenge Sex 

While rebound sex is a way to ease your pain, revenge sex has a different goal. One partner may be angry and feel the need to "get back" at a former lover. This is referred to as revenge sex. You may want your ex-partner to find out \you have someone new as a way to hurt their feelings or show them what they lost. 

A 2013 study of 170 undergraduate students revealed that the "dumped" person was more likely to engage in revenge sex to help manage negative feelings like anger and distress. The act's timing was also a factor: Those who had rebound or revenge sex right away said they felt better, but that relief didn't really help them handle the breakup better over the long term.

Why People Have Rebound Sex

People choose to have rebound sex for different reasons. Perhaps you need a distraction, and a new partner creates a sense of excitement and makes you feel better. Others report using rebound sex to ease feelings of stress or depression after a breakup.

How Rebound Sex Works in Relationships

Rebound sex typically happens after a committed relationship ends. A new partner may be a one-night stand you see only once. This type of rebound sex may be planned or unplanned. Some people find comfort in having casual sex with people they already know. This is often called "friends with benefits." These sexual arrangements are usually temporary. 

Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety, can increase after a breakup. Casual sex or one-night stands might make you feel better for a short period of time. But you need to think about how these activities may affect your feelings of self-worth, recovery process, or future committed relationships.

What to Consider Before You Have Rebound Sex

There are both emotional and physical aspects of rebound sex. Let the people you’re sleeping with know if you aren’t looking for a new relationship. Be sure to tell them if you have several partners. These conversations can prevent hurt feelings on both sides and set expectations for the rebound relationship. 

Practicing Safe Sex

When you meet someone new, you don't always know their sexual history. Make sure you protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Both STDs and STIs are spread through bodily fluids like semen, blood, and vaginal fluids. It’s important to understand that people who may seem healthy could have an STD but not have any symptoms.

Taking these steps to help prevent STDs:

  • Use a barrier method, like a latex condom.
  • Use water-based lubricants that won’t damage or break condoms.
  • Take a shower before and after sex to get rid of bacteria.
  • Don't share towels or underwear.
  • Get tested regularly, especially if you have more than one partner.

If you’re sexually active and think you may have a sexually transmitted disease or infection, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Archives of Sexual Behavior: "Rebound sex: Sexual motives and behaviors following a relationship breakup."

Archives of Sexual Behavior: "Psychological Well-Being as a Predictor of Casual Sex Relationships and Experiences among Adolescents: A Short-Term Prospective Study."

Mayo Clinic: "Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)." 

PLoS One: "Romantic relationship breakup: an experimental model to study the effects of stress on depression (-like) symptoms."

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