Breaking up sucks – especially when you get an unexpected reminder of the trauma. There’s nothing like running into a former flame to rip open wounds you thought were healed.
But an unanticipated rendezvous with your ex doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, it doesn’t have to be anything more than a casual conversation with an old acquaintance.
The difference is in how you approach the situation, and how prepared you are for the buried emotions that might come rushing to the surface.If you’re worried about the potential of running into your ex, here are some ways to prepare.
Facing an awkward situation is always scary, whether it’s a presentation at work or a run-in with your former partner. If you’re anxious about the idea of seeing your ex again, try practicing what you’d say if you ran into them. Ask a friend to role-play as your ex and run through a few possible scenarios.
Practicing beforehand can help you see the truth – there’s nothing to worry about. The real thing will feel different, but facing your fear and acknowledging it will make you less anxious. Think of the situation like a job interview.
Doing a run-through won’t take away all the nervousness, but it will make you feel more prepared.
Keep it real.
Running into a recent ex is especially difficult if they were the one to end things. You want to pretend that you’re doing great, that your life hasn’t been affected at all by them leaving. You don’t want to admit how much you think about them.
But acting fake and pretending everything is good won’t convince your ex, unless you’re a fantastic liar. In fact, making it seem like you’re on top of the world will only make you look more desperate and pathetic. If you have to insist on how well you’re doing, they’re probably not going to buy it.
Instead, try keeping it real. Don’t pretend to be aloof or uncaring. Be polite, respectful, and a little friendly. You’re not going to escape any difficult feelings the interaction brings up, so you might as well leave with your dignity intact.
Take the high road.
If the relationship ended badly, you might be tempted to say something biting and sarcastic upon seeing your ex again. How often have you fantasized about the shade you’d throw in that situation? Have you memorized the comebacks you’d throw out if they tried to apologize?
But being petty won’t make you feel better, even if it does make your ex feel worse. Even if you get a brief high from speaking your mind, being spiteful will only leave you feeling worse once the adrenaline has faded.
As hard as it might seem, taking the high road is better for both of you. There’s a famous saying that goes, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for for the other person to die.” Of course it’s easy to stay mad at an ex, especially if they cheated on you, but taking the low road won’t make you happier.
Keep it brief.
Unless you’re on great terms with your ex, you don’t have to discuss everything that’s gone on since you two broke up. Keep the conversation light and simple, make a joke or two and then find a reason to leave.
If you have an extended conversation, it could make them think you’re still interested. That can lead to even more awkwardness, with them preemptively rejecting you or trying to win you back. A five-minute chat leaves no room for interpretation.
If you feel like you’re still too emotional and won’t be able to hold it together, it’s ok to ignore them. You might feel a little awkward just turning and walking away, but it’s better than bursting into tears as soon as they say, “Hi.”
You don’t owe anyone your attention. After a tough breakup, all you need to worry about is taking care of you.
Don’t obsess over it.
If you’re in college or live near your ex, the possibility of running into them is very likely. When I was dumped in college, I still had to see my ex every day. I dreaded walking into the journalism building and seeing his face.
Over time, I realized that my dread wasn’t making me feel more prepared. It was just extending the pain. Plus, spending all my of my free time obsessing about the next time I’d see him was pretty annoying for my friends. They made that very, very clear.
Yes, you might run into someone who hurt you – but you don’t have to let them continue to make you feel bad. Focus on your work, your hobbies, and whatever else you have going for you. Eventually, the thought of running into your ex won’t even cross your mind.
Have you ran into an ex and not handled it well? If you rocked it like a pro, what tips can you give. Tell us all about it in the #Adulting Facebook community.