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5 Ways to Handle Seeing Your Ex Post-Breakup


Whether you’re freshly out of a relationship or still putting the pieces together months afterward, running into your ex in public can bring on a slew of emotions. The nostalgia may begin to kick in, or the hurt you may feel may make you want to kick them. There’s no way to predict how you may feel in the moment, but here are five different ways to handle seeing your ex in public post-breakup.

1.  Don’t say anything if you don’t want to

You aren’t obligated to speak if you do not feel comfortable. Not speaking does not make you rude or mean that you are running away from your problems. If you just can’t find the appropriate words to say in your head, don’t say anything.

Vanessa Reyes, a sophomore at Georgia Southern University, thinks not speaking can avoid making an already awkward situation even worse.

“I ran into my ex in the grocery store, and because we made direct eye contact, I smiled and waved,” she said. “Because of the nature of our breakup, I don’t believe I owed him any words, but I wanted him to know I was okay with his existence.”

You know the saying “some things are better left unsaid,” and in this case, that rule could very well apply.

2. Break the ice

This may be easier said than done, especially if the relationship ended very painfully. However, speaking up first can show that you are in control of the situation and are doing well (even if it’s a façade).

If you approach your ex with a hello and they seem eager to engage in conversation, speak but keep the conversation simple. Questions regarding school, work or family are welcome, but don’t pry for information below surface level.

Aurora*, a junior at Kennesaw State University, says being the bigger person might leave you with a feeling of relief.

“Even if you’re still grieving, I think it’s important that they see that you are handling the situation as maturely as possible,” she says. “I bumped into my ex a few times and honestly, my goal was for him to realize he messed up and can’t go back.”

The situation is inevitably awkward already, so if you feel so inclined, face the awkwardness head on.

3. Avoid lingering

Lingering leads to awkwardness. If the conversation has died down, don’t try to save it. Remember that you and your ex broke up for a reason, so there still may be a lot of confusion and animosity between you two that is impossible to address in a few minute time span.

A random run-in is also not the time to find closure. Elizabeth*, a freshman at the University of Alabama, knows how seeing your ex can cause your head to play tricks on you.

“I think the longer you stay around, the quicker feelings of regret or longing will arise again,” she says. “Despite all the progress you’ve made moving on, it may feel like you’re back at square one.”

So if you two come to a drawn-out, awkward part in the conversation where nobody knows what to say, wrap up the conversation. Tell them that it was good to see them, but you’ve got to run.

4. Be confident

Channel your inner Beyoncé and exude confidence. Think about your words carefully as to not fumble over them. Stand tall and with poise — even if they catch you bummin’ it wearing your favorite pajamas.

“Even if you’re crumbling on the inside, you don’t want them to think they had so much control over your life,” says Ashley*, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University.

Remember to keep a smile on your face during the conversation. Even if you feel your stomach doing backflips, you can always release your emotions (or lunch) in the privacy of your own space.

5. The hardest one: rekindle the friendship

You may find yourself thinking about the encounter hours after you walk away. If you think you’re at a place where you can comfortably be friends without feelings being involved, you may want to consider meeting under different circumstances. This should only be the case if you can confidently say your wounds are healed.

“I’m definitely not encouraging anyone to actively start hitting up their ex,” says Christina*, a junior at University of Tampa. “But if you know that friendship is something both of you could benefit from, I don’t see why you shouldn’t try to arrange a sit-down.”

To really know if this is the best course of action for you, it’s important that you are aware of your ex’s reactions during your run-in. Was your ex receptive to you? Did they actively engage in conversation with you? Did their body language indicative openness to you or were they closed off and uncomfortable?

If you are positive that the conversation went well on both ends, try reaching out and arranging a meeting in a public place like Starbucks.

Rebecca*, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University, made amends with her ex after seeing him and arranging a meet up over lunch.

“We had been broken up for about five months, so that gave me plenty of time to heal,” she says. “We have a lot of mutual friends, so I wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any tension in a group setting. We aren’t the best of friends now, but we can joke around without feeling awkward now.”

This won’t be the easiest or right thing to do for many cases, so only go this route if you both desire friendship and nothing else.

Breakups are never pleasant, but know that the breakup does not have to have control over your life and behavior if you don’t allow it to. Let your ex see the best version of you possible, carry on with your day, and keep moving forward with life as you had been doing prior to seeing them

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