The Definitive Rules of Rebound Sex

Sep 4, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Couple getting intimate
Image: Tory Rust. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

Breakups are never fun. Even when it’s for the best, it can be a big life shift to lose a partner. Despite the old adage, is the best way of getting over someone actually getting under someone else? 

“We’re programmed to seek connection, so even if we’re not practically prepared for another relationship, we’re emotionally coded to desire intimacy and closeness,” sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly tells SheKnows. “This is why rebound relationships and rebound sex are common.”

Here are the ground rules for having rebound sex when a relationship ends. 

Recognize it’s a temporary Band-Aid fix

Rebound sex may distract you for a night or make you feel sexually desirable, but any situation where you tie your self-worth to another person’s approval is a waste of time. While this tactic may work for some people, screwing someone else often screws you.

Think before trying a FWB scenario

If you're thinking about starting a friends-with-benefits arrangement with a friend, you may want to think again.

“It sounds so easy to have sex with someone you already know: You can bypass the whole ‘meeting strangers’ thing,” Dr. Tina B. Tessina (aka "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love,  tells SheKnows. “However, if you’re thinking about having sex with a friend, be very careful, because it is not easy to preserve a friendship once you have sex. You may think you can control your feelings, but it's not so simple.”

Be upfront

Don't hide what you're doing. Let your prospective sex partner know exactly what's up.

“If you’re just coming out of a relationship and want sex, then be honest with the other person about it,” author and dating and relationship expert Jonathan Bennett tells SheKnows. “You don’t have to say, ‘I just want sex,’ since that’s not exactly romantic or charming. But make it clear from the start that you’re not looking for anything serious.”

But it may help you cope with pain & boost confidence

In some cases, rebound sex may be a much-needed boost of confidence. If you see it for what it is, it could potentially help kick-start the healing process. 

Don’t judge yourself

Even though it seems counterintuitive, don't be hard on yourself.

“Many people feel guilty about pursuing sex without a relationship. However, as long as you’re upfront with the other person, there’s nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex — and — *gasp!* — enjoying it!” Bennett says. 

Safer sex rules still apply

Just because you're not looking for a relationship, it doesn't mean you shouldn't avail yourself of protection during your sexual encounter.

“You cannot know for sure what the sexual practices and history of a new partner are; no matter how honest they may seem to be or how much you trust them,” Tessina explains. “People are notoriously uncomfortable disclosing their sexual history, especially if they’re concerned that it will damage their relationship with you. Add to this the fact that there are many STIs a person may not realize they have, such as certain forms of herpes simplex II virus.” 

The consequences of STIs or an unwanted pregnancy can last a lifetime.

Don’t wait too long

Many women wait a long time to engage in sex again after a breakup, divorce or death of a loved one. During that time of sexual inactivity, a woman's vagina changes, and the first time she does have sex after a dry spell, it can be painful according to Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a practicing gynecologist in Westchester County, New York. 

“When the vaginal area is inactive, it becomes dry and less elastic because there is less blood flow to the tissue, which causes it to become more delicate,” Dweck tells SheKnows. “Lack of use of the vagina, just like other parts of the body, can cause pain once you to start to use it again. If you don't use, you'll lose it.” 

Don’t let your breakup break you

Grieving the loss of a relationship is a process much like mourning a death. You may feel wrecked, but know there will be better days ahead. If you do have rebound sex to fill your physical or emotional needs, it’s fine. There’s really no right or wrong way to deal with a breakup (self-harming or suicidal behavior aside, in which case, please seek help).

“I don’t think that we realize that we’re rebounding,” says O’Reilly. “We’re simply seeking to fulfill the shared human desire for connection. Though some people may seek a new relationship or casual sex in order to boost self-esteem or assuage anxieties about being alone, many are simply looking for genuine love, companionship and pleasure.” 

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