So you’ve started going out with this wonderful new guy. He’s handsome, he’s sweet, he’s totally Prince Charming (or as much of one as you can expect from a college guy). There’s just one teensy, weensy problem. His ex is all over campus and she’s made it clear that she wants him back. One of the first things you’re inclined to do is to size her up. You might start comparing yourself to her, but that’s the last thing you should do. He’s with you now, right? That means that things didn’t work out with her. If his ex is still hung up on him, she’s probably doing the same thing you are (“What does he see in her? What does she have that I don’t?”) So the first thing you should do is stop comparing yourself to her.
If you find that you’re constantly running into one of his exes, keeping your cool when she’s obviously still into him can be a big challenge. Well, ladies, don’t worry; we’ve got the scoop on what to do in the most common situations.
She’s in one of your classes
When you’re in the same class as one of your boyfriend’s exes, you might end up being assigned to work with her on a class project. “When I dated this one guy awhile back, I always had to work on projects with his ex,” says Alexia*, a collegiette from Case Western University. “It was awkward, but she was really nice. I actually felt guilty for dating him!”
While you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty for being the one who’s with him now, feeling awkward is completely normal. Jodi R. R. Smith, the president and owner of Mannersmith and author of The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners, advises maintaining your professionalism and focusing on the project or class assignment. “Take the bull by the horn,” Smith says. Your goal is to get an education, not to appease your boyfriend’s ex.
She suggests acknowledging the awkwardness by saying something like, “I think we have two choices: either go to the professor and ask for different partners or we put our differences aside and work like crazy on this project to earn a good grade. What do you think we should do?” This lets the ex know that you’re not going to be pushed around, and the next move is up to her.
She shows up at the same party
So you and your new guy got invited to the biggest bash of the year on campus. Everyone is there, and we mean everyone... including his ex-girlfriend. Parties tend to be the perfect setting for high-strung drama, but you don’t need to give in to the impulse to hold your man a little bit tighter just because she’s around. How you handle yourself around his ex will show him that you’re either confident or clingy, and you want to come across as confident (even if you’re seething inside). If your boyfriend is like most guys, he hates running into his ex as much as you do.
Sean McFarland, one of HC's former Real Live College Guys, thinks that your best move is to back away. “If my ex confronts her, [my new girlfriend] shouldn’t do anything really,” he says. “It would be a huge turnoff for me if she decided to lower herself to my ex’s level and respond. The best thing, in my opinion, would be to walk away.” Why? According to Sean, if you’re with him, you’ve already won. It’s pointless to fight over it.
She’s in the same clubs as you
If she shares the same interests as you do and belongs to the same on-campus clubs, you’re going to see her whenever you attend a meeting or participate in a rally. “It’s not surprising that you have similar interests as the ex; after all, you clearly both have similar tastes in men,” says Smith. Unless she’s the crazy ex-girlfriend, you can handle this situation the same way you would deal with seeing your own ex all of the time: by staying calm and collected. Does this mean he’s dating you because you’re a carbon-copy of his ex?
Nope. Just like you’re drawn to certain types of guys, your new boyfriend is drawn to certain types of girls. So what if you and his ex-girlfriend have something in common? Your fellow club members can provide the right amount of space between you and his ex to keep the conversations civil. “When attending a club meeting, do be sure to be polite and say Hello, and then go sit with your friends,” Smith advises. You might not even have to talk to the ex.
But if you have to talk to her, discuss the things you two have in common, such as shared music tastes or shared social passions. The great thing about this situation is that you have a shared purpose, which gives you something to fall safely onto when you encounter her on a regular basis. Are her friends giving you the evil eye? Don’t pay attention to it. “Ignore any prolonged looks from her posse,” Smith suggests. “You have the guy, so there’s no need to rub it in her face.” So keep your cool and avoid getting into an all-out fight with her or her friends.
She’s in your dorm
This one might be one of the trickiest situations because you will see her all of the time. She’s also likely to know when your new boyfriend (aka her ex) are hooking up down the hall. According to Sean, the best thing you can do is get things out in the open. “If they can be mature enough to talk it out or agree to not let it come between them, that would probably be best,” he says. Find a neutral person, such as the resident assistant, to referee and work out a treaty to keep the peace as much as possible.
Of course, that’s not always going to work. If his ex-girlfriend is absolutely determined to make your life miserable, avoid flaunting the relationship in front of her. Instead of bringing him back to your dorm for lust sessions, go to his place. This respects her hurt feelings over seeing you two together, avoids drama and keeps her out of your new relationship.
She’s your interviewer for an on-campus job
Christy*, a student at Drake University, experienced this firsthand. “I applied to be a recruitment counselor for a sorority rush next fall, and I was really excited to interview for the position,” she says. It became really awkward when she realized that her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend would be the one to interview her! “Luckily, it was a group interview, so it could have been worse,” Christy explains. She didn’t get the job and still wonders if it had something to do with her status as the “new girlfriend.”
If you suspect that you didn’t get the job because she let her personal feelings get in the way, ask her. The key is to approach her in a non-threatening way and ask for feedback on your interview. Don’t accuse her of not choosing you for personal reasons. Maybe you didn’t get the job for other reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that you’re dating her ex. Of course, if she did reject you for the job based on her personal feelings, you might not be able to do anything about it. She would have to confess it, and really, do you want to work with her that much? Find an equivalent job on campus or appeal the decision to someone in a higher position. You might be able to get hired by approaching the actual supervisor and setting up an interview with them.
She’s stalking your Facebook
When you share the same social media circle, she’s going to be able to keep up-to-date on your relationship, especially if your Facebook or Google Plus posts are public or viewable by mutual friends. According to Sean, Facebook-fighting is a huge turn-off for guys. “My new lady should almost take it in stride. I’d probably think that [the Facebook stalking] was petty and stupid as well.” Are you constantly posting pictures of you and him together? Or do you feel the need the need to constantly update everyone on how your new relationship is going?
Even if you only do these things occasionally, his ex-girlfriend is seething over every post. “Clearly, you need to update your privacy settings,” Smith says. “Next, go on a Facebook diet. Stop posting status updates and ask your friends to not tag you in pictures.” The problem with social media sites is the overflow of information. If you don’t want her snooping on your relationship, lock up your accounts to friends-only or set posts about your relationship to friends-only, even if you keep the rest of your profile public. This restricts what information she can find out about you or your relationship.
“If she can’t find the information she’s looking for, she will get bored and move onto trolling Match.com instead of your Facebook page,” says Smith. So keep your private life private, and your new relationship won’t be intruded online by a persistent ex-girlfriend.
When you’re in a new relationship, you should be focusing on your new guy and not on his ex-girlfriend. “In all of these situations, remember to take the high road,” Smith advises. “Enjoy hanging with your new beau, If the ex is behaving badly, that reflects poorly on her, not on you.” Don’t allow an ex-girlfriend to come between the two of you if your relationship is working well.
*Names have been changed