Hump Day: Run-ins with exes prove tolerable

Maggie Rosenbohm

Editor’s note: In this recurring series, sex & dating columnist Maggie Rosenbohm gives advice on various dating and sex-related problems college students face. Have a question you want her to answer? Send an email to [email protected], and it might appear in next week’s Hump Day advice column.

Question: I recently just had a bad breakup with my girlfriend, and I’m dreading the possibility of seeing her around because I’m afraid I won’t know what to do. If I run into her, how should I prepare myself?

All goods things must come to an end, and some ends are harder than others — especially breakups. Unfortunately, we live in a world where ex-lovers don’t simply go away after you end it. Whether it’s in class, at the gym or maybe even at home, run-ins with exes are inconveniently common and can ruin a good day. If you’re lucky, your breakup was civil and handled with the utmost grace. However, the reality is there were probably a lot of tears along with hurt feelings and unfinished business, making co-existing with an ex extremely hard. But we have to accept the fact that some things — and people — are just unavoidable. 

When the inevitable ex run-in happens, it can be detrimental to the process of regaining normalcy, but only if you let it. These encounters don’t have to be as dramatic as they might’ve been in your nightmares. If the idea of seeing your ex makes you want to lock yourself away and never leave the house, there are ways to use the run-in to your advantage and make it a little easier on your broken heart.

Remain calm

  • This may seem like an obvious statement, but when seeing anyone you weren’t expecting, it’s hard not to react. When you and your ex see each other at the neighborhood coffee shop on a Saturday morning, fight or flight senses will kick in. If they recently hurt you, you may be inclined to lash out and cause a scene. But letting all of your emotions out for everyone to see is not only bad for the situation, but also your reputation. Whether you give them a wave and smile or head to the nearest door, it’s important to keep your cool — at least until you’re in a private space.  

Keep it short

  • If you get to start a conversation with them, and they ask you how you are, let them know. Just don’t overdo it. Even if there’s a lot left over from the relationship, a casual run-in is not the time or place to hash it out. Say hello, casually chat about something new, and move on. You’ve both probably already decided whether or not you should try things again, so if you agree being apart is best, keep the conversation as short as possible.

Take the high road

  • While it may be tempting to show up your ex by publicly flirting with someone else or bragging about your newest job, remind yourself that breakups are hard on both parties and your ex is probably feeling the same way as you. Maintain the respect for the relationship you once shared and consider the situation as an opportunity to be mature. You’ll feel better about the encounter, and ultimately, better about yourself for handling it well.