Maybe it ended when you decided on colleges on opposite sides of the country; maybe it ended because someone cheated; maybe it ended in a blow up fight at prom; maybe it was on-again-off-again until you actually got to college, and then decided to remain off; maybe it dragged out in the form of a tearful goodbye in the airport as you headed off to school; maybe it never even lasted beyond sophomore year. But even so, memories of high school exes – many of whom, perhaps, were some collegiettes’ very first significant others – don’t just slip away as easily as we may like them to. And of course, they get even harder to forget come May, when being home for the summer means being in very close range to your ex. At one point or another, an interaction of some nature will take place – and because of the high likelihood that this situation will become horrendously awkward, Her Campus is here to offer some advice on how to ease the tension.
Whatever you do, don’t hook up with him.
Sure, it’s an obvious one. But it’s not always one we can completely stop thinking about. “Oh, he looks really good. And his sense of humor is just as I remembered it. He’s really cute.” If such is your train of thought at the first sight of your high school love, take hold of those hormones – and emotions? – and resist falling back into your pattern of attraction. It will only confuse you and mess with both of your heads. Hooking up brings back the physical part of your past relationship, but leaves the emotional parts pretty ambiguous. Without giving yourselves the chance to get on the same emotional level, you’ll create room for hurt and confusion. Jenni, a recent graduate of Bucknell University recalls, “When I came home, we would see each other and sometimes hook up. In hindsight, I wish that I hadn't spent any time with him at all after we broke up.”
…Right. So, you probably shouldn’t see him at all.
…Unless you can manage to ease the tension to the point where there is none. Perhaps you guys are fine together in a group setting and can have a decent conversation. If you’ve kept in touch fairly well, things might not be weird at all come summertime. Certainly, remaining friends with your high school ex isn’t impossible – but it requires clear intentions from both of you. Make it known what you want out of a relationship with him, whether it’s just friends or a little more than that. Whatever it is, be sure that it’s mutual and that you’re on the same page.
But if things are a little bit more one-sided or uncertain, it might be best to resist talking to him beyond a friendly hello. For Jenni, “seeing him (and hooking up with him) over breaks always made it hard to remember why we had broken up, and as a result I wasn't able to fully move on for a long time. My advice for girls who are trying to get over their exes is to NOT see them when they are at home over break - I know it's easier said than done because everything at home reminds you of him, but in the long run you'll be grateful that you were able to get over him and move on.” At parties, stay close to your girlfriends and guys-who-are-friends to avoid one-on-ones with him. If he reaches out via text or phone call to suggest that you start things up again, explain that you’re not interested in getting involved again.
To do this, remind yourself why it didn’t work the first time.
Remember how prom became a disaster because you spent the entire night fighting? Remember how much it hurt when he said he wanted to break up so he could have his “freedom” in college? Right. There were (good) reasons your relationship ended the first time – not to mention that you’ve grown a lot since then. Love expert and Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine Dr. Irene Levine, Ph. D, advises, “If you start having feelings for him again, remind yourself why you broke up with him, and the advantages of leaving yourself open to a new start at college. You also don’t want to hurt this person you once cared for by acting ambivalently.” The ending of that relationship propelled you and transformed you into the collegiette that you are. Accept that ending, and move past the “what if” sentiment.
And if all else fails, cut ties completely.
If you don’t like the way things are going when you see him for the first few times, it’s understandable to avoid him completely. That means not answering texts, making sure he won’t be at any gatherings you’re attending… and maybe even un-friending him on Facebook (GASP!) if you find yourself dwelling on him too often. Kelsey, a recent grad of Boston University, says, “My ex-boyfriend is on the top of my ‘worst people in the world’ list. So you can imagine my surprise when he texted me last summer trying to be my friend. Although I did consider it for a few days, just because we had known each other for so long, I eventually told him that I don't want to be his friend or hear from him again. Though I hate burning bridges with people, I simply wasn't happy when he was contacting me post-breakup.” Now that you’ve established your own post-high school life, there’s no real need to keep your ex involved in it. If anything, it’ll become awkward when conversation gets too personal – the last thing you want is to talk to your high school ex about this new guy you’ve been hooking up with.
Levine certainly sees eye-to-eye with these collegiettes. To avert tension while interacting with your ex over the summer, she suggests “feigning being busy, which very well might be the case if your ex wants to get together. If you see him in groups, act cordially, but don’t give him the mistaken impression that you want to rekindle the romance. You might want to let your BFF know so that you can cozy up to her if he approaches.”
Whether you run into him unexpectedly or are forced to avert a “let’s hang out” text, it’s important to be clear about your intentions and honest about your feelings. Forget the re-hash and make sure your high school memories remain just that – everything from your ex, to the fight you had at the prom and to the dress you wore to it... put it all in the past and prepare yourself for a summer of new beginnings.