No matter who is doing the breaking up, break ups are hard (like really hard). And the tough parts don’t end after the official break up conversation happens. It lingers, it follows us around. It is near impossible to break up with someone and not have them cross your mind again (downfall to memories is they don’t leave your brain when the person physically leaves your life).
It could be as simple as seeing or hearing things that remind you of your ex-partner for just a brief moment. Running into your ex doesn’t just have to be in thoughts and memories, it could also be in the form of physically having to cross paths with them. Maybe you have mutual friends, go to the same school, or live in the same city, therefore having a higher potential of running into them face to face after the break up.
Hard skill to learn, but a must do after a break up is to learn the appropriate coping skills (that work for you) to not allow those reminders of your ex to derail your entire day.
Uh. Did I just hear you all say, “yeah, no thank you, I’m going to avoid my ex like the plague”?
I get it. I’m right there with you, no one wants to run into their ex (especially unplanned) but remember that we cannot control the actions of others, and we definitely cannot alter our entire life schedule so drastically just to avoid confrontation with one person.
What we can do though is plan (if you know me at all, you know that planning is my best friend).
Below we will uncover 6 steps you can take to handle the uncomfortable situation of running into your ex with as much grace as possible and keeping yourself safe in the process.
1. Consider the circumstances and react accordingly.
Take into consideration how your relationship ended. Was it on neutral terms? Was there unhealthy dynamics between the two of you? Emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse? Take some time to think back to this time and react accordingly to the situation at hand.
Let’s say you are walking into TacoTaco for lunch and from the sidewalk looking through the window you see your ex standing in line. You could 1) walk in and get your lunch and if you happen to make eye contact with them smile or have some small talk 2) wait outside for a few minutes till your ex is out of line and then go in 3) not get your lunch there today, and go somewhere else.
Those that ended on more neutral grounds, options #1 or #2 would be a good fit for you.
For those that ended on not so hot terms or there was safety concerns within the relationship, option #3 might be a good one for you (sorry no tacos today but sometimes you have to remember that in order to keep yourself safe you may need to avoid contact with this person altogether).
2. Accept that this may happen again.
Dependent on the size of your city, or if your run with the same crowd, you may run into your ex again. Prepare yourself for this, and put the work in to get yourself to a space where you can be comfortable with this possibility and not have to completely alter where you go and who you hang out with in order to avoid seeing your ex. If you still have feelings for your ex and find yourself getting emotional even thinking about them, this is a sign that 1) normal and 2) you are needing to spend a little bit more time grieving the loss of the relationship and doing some self-care and exploration either alone, or with a trained professional.
3. Know that you’re not obligated to catch up.
Remember that you are broken up. You do not have an obligation to catch up and act “normal” if you run into your ex. If you run into your ex and aren’t in the emotional space to talk or just don’t want to, then let them know that you are super busy right now and have a lot going on.
Do- “Nice to see you, wish we could catch up, but I actually have a lot on my plate today to get done. Let’s talk later.
Don’t- “I’m really busy right now and don’t have a lot of time and honestly don’t want to waste time talking to you (eye roll)”.
4. Stick to your guns.
If you run into each other, or don’t, if you talk to each other or avoid each other. Either way, your ex will be in your head at some point and time. Don’t let yourself waiver on what you know is right for you just because during a run in with your ex he/she said, “you look good”. After a comment like that, emotions will be brought up (no matter how much you try to push them down) but take some deep breaths and try your hardest to bring yourself back to a space where you can refocus your attention back on yourself and your goals.
5. Don’t put on a show.
Be true to yourself and your feelings. Though it can be tempting to act as if and want to throw it in your exes face that you don’t need them, and that you’re better off without them. Sometimes that’s not the case, and it is normal to go through a grieving process after the loss of a relationship. Give yourself the space needed to wrap your head, heart and body around this transition.
6. Stick to your normal routine.
Do what you normally do. If you usually go to the gym in the morning, keeping going in the morning, if you usually go to trivia on Wednesdays, keep going on Wednesdays. During this tough transition, sometimes people find comfort in their routine. No need to completely shift your schedule out of fear of running into your ex.
Written by: Shannon Gonter, LPCC, NCC
I specialize in working with men and young adults. I am passionate about my career and want to work with you to create positive change. I also strive to create a counseling environment where men and young adults can relate, feel heard, and find new solutions to their negative patterns. Some issues that I most commonly work with are stress, relationship issues, difficulty saying “no” to others, difficulties recognizing emotions and emotionally connecting to others, anger, and intimacy issues, among others.
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