NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, June 10, 2024

What Are the Pros and Cons of Rebound S£x After a Breakup?

According to Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., social psychologist and sex researcher, there are pros and cons to having rebound sex after a breakup (see my article:  The Problem With Rebound Relationships).

What is Rebound Sex?
Rebound sex is sexual activity with someone new to get over a breakup.  The objective is to get over an ex by having sex with someone else.

Rebound Sex

This can involve hooking up for a one-night stand with someone you have no intention of seeing again. It can be with someone you start dating after you go through a relationship breakup. It might also involve having casual sex with one of your ex-partners.

According to Dr. Lehmiller, rebound sex is more likely to occur, on average, about a month after the breakup.  He describes rebound sex as being a short term coping strategy.  

He also indicates that rebound sex is much more likely to occur if you were the one who was left behind (i.e., your partner broke up with you).

What Are the Pros and Cons of Rebound Sex?
According to Dr. Lehmiller's article in Psychology Today, while there is nothing inherently right or wrong about rebound sex, there are pros and cons depending upon the circumstances and context which can make a big difference about whether it's a positive or negative experience for you.

  • Under the right circumstances and in the right context, rebound sex can be a confidence booster.
  • Similarly, rebound sex can, potentially, help you to move on from a breakup (if context and circumstances are right).
  • If the context and circumstances aren't right for you, you might regret having rebound sex. For instance, if you were drunk or impaired by drugs, you might have regrets afterward.  This can lower your sense of self confidence.
  • If you regret having rebound sex, you might find yourself missing your ex even more intensely than before (this isn't mentioned in the Psychology Today article, but it has been my clinical experience that when clients have regrets about rebound sex, they often long for their ex, who is known and familiar).
  • If rebound sex involves feelings of revenge against an ex, you might be left with regrets and unresolved feelings.
Clinical Vignettes
The following brief clinical vignettes, which are composites of many different cases with all identifying information changed, are examples of the pros and cons of rebound sex:


After Alice's boyfriend of three months broke up with her, she wanted to start dating again, but she wasn't emotionally available enough to even consider getting into a serious relationship.  So, when she met Bill at a bar about a month after her breakup, she could feel they were both sexually attracted to each other and she explained her situation to him. She was honest about only wanting to have casual sex with him. Bill responded by telling her that he was just out of a long term relationship and he wasn't looking for anything serious.  

Rebound Sex: Alice and Bill

Both of them were sober and in the right state of mind to make responsible sexual decisions. So, they went back to Alice's place and had a passionate night of sex.  By the next morning, Alice felt sexually desirable again in a way she had not felt in a long time. She also felt a boost to her self confidence. Bill told her that he felt great the next morning.  After that, they met a few more times to have casual sex, but they mutually decided not to continue seeing each other because, other than sex, they had very little in common.  They both dated other people and remained friendly whenever they ran into each other. They both felt the rebound sex they had with each other helped them to move on from their breakups.


After John's wife, Beth, left him in their sixth year of marriage, John was in a state of despair.  He had no awareness that Beth was so unhappy that she would end their marriage, so it came as a shock to him. Two weeks after the breakup, John felt inconsolable.  Even before the breakup, he didn't know how to handle uncomfortable emotions, so he didn't feel equipped to handle the sadness and pain that came up for him. 

Rebound Sex: John and Nina

Not knowing what to do with his emotions, he turned to alcohol and got drunk every night for two weeks.  During that time, while he was in a drunken stupor, he called Nina, a woman he dated briefly before he got married and they spent the weekend together having sex. Nina was also Beth's former college roommate.  John wanted revenge against Beth so he secretly hoped that Nina, who had unresolved issues with Beth, would tell Beth about their weekend together as a way to get back at Beth. He wanted Beth to feel as much pain as he did when she left him.  But by the time he sobered up and he realized that Nina had feelings for him and she hoped they would get back together, he knew he had made a mistake because he didn't tell Nina that this was just rebound sex and he had no intention of getting back with her. He felt even worse when Beth called him and told him that Nina told her that she and John had sex. Beth told him she couldn't believe he would act out this way to hurt her. Then, he felt even worse and regretted having rebound sex.

Communicate Openly and Honestly With Rebound Sex Partners
As these two vignettes illustrate, it's important to be open and honest with your partner about what you want when you want rebound sex as illustrated in the vignette about Alice.

You want to make sure you and the other person are in agreement that you both only want casual sex and neither of you is looking for anything more, which was also illustrated in the vignette about Alice.

If you don't communicate honestly, there's the potential for misunderstandings and hurt feelings as illustrated in the vignette about John.

Don't have rebound sex to get revenge on your ex because everyone involved might get hurt, which was also illustrated in the vignette about John.

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times, especially after a breakup, when you might not know what you want.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to explore your feelings and make choices that are right for you.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help with a licensed mental health professional so you can lead a more meaningful life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and sex therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.