MENTAL HEALTH MONDAYS: Read This Before You Run Into Your Ex - The DV Walking Wounded:

Life is full of potentially awkward moments, and running into your Ex is one of them. Maybe you’ll see them with their new partner while you’re still pining for them. Maybe you’ll find that they’re still hoping for a second chance while you’ve moved on.

Even if the breakup was mutual, it can still be challenging to find a new way to interact with someone you used to be close to. You have to examine the type of breakup that you had and consider if it’s worth re-pursuing.

Meanwhile, trying to avoid the situation could wind up making you more anxious. Instead, use these suggestions to stay calm and walk away feeling good about yourself.

Preparing for an Encounter with Your Ex:

  • Accept your feelings: Embracing your emotions is the first step in dealing with them. Give yourself time to acknowledge and absorb what you’re going through.
  • Assess your life: Are there some aspects of your life you’ve been neglecting? The end of a relationship can be an opportunity to rechannel your energy into your career, education, or hobbies.
  • Focus on healing: The most effective way to recover from a breakup is to retool your own life. Explore new interests and set goals that will motivate you to keep striving.
  • Practice forgiveness: An important part of healing is forgiving yourself and your Ex. Take responsibility for your actions and use what you’ve learned to make your next relationship healthier. If you’re holding any resentment for your Ex, talk it over with a supportive friend or write it out in a journal. Then, switch your attention to your own future.
  • Take care of yourself: Bumping into your Ex will be easier if you’re in top condition. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep. You may even want to treat yourself to a makeover.
  • Rehearse your reaction: Once you’re feeling more secure, choose how you want to handle any contacts with your Ex. Imagine what would give you closure and what you’d want to say to them. It can be a helpful exercise regardless of whether real events turn out like you thought.

Handling an Encounter with Your Ex:

  • Keep it simple: You can be cordial without engaging in a deep conversation. Unless you both want to reconnect, exchanging friendly greetings may be all that’s required.
  • Exude confidence: Stand up tall and smile. It will help you to think clearly and look poised even if you feel shaky.
  • Think positive: Remember the things you liked about your Ex. An accidental meeting in a grocery store could be a chance to reinforce your happy memories. On the other hand, if it makes you uncomfortable, you’ll be able to see the issues that you still need to address.
  • Stay in touch: If you find yourself wanting to reconnect, take it slowly. Following up with an occasional phone call or email will help you to decide if there’s any potential to start dating again.
  • Respect your boundaries: It’s your decision how much time and information you want to share with your ex. You may want to hang out together, and let them know about your finances and your love life. You may just want to wish them well and say goodbye.
  • Call a friend: If you need some encouragement and support, let your friends know. Speaking with a professional counselor could also promote the healing process.

Bumping into your ex can stir up a lot of emotions, but you can also use the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. You may be able to make peace with your past and gain more perspective about yourself and your relationships.

Of course, these are tips for mutual and/or non-violent break-ups. If you were a victim of abuse, this can look drastically different:

  • Keep Calm and Breathe: First things first, take a deep breath. You’ve survived worse, and this is just a blip on your radar. Remind yourself that you’re stronger now, and you don’t owe them anything.
  • Stay Grounded: It’s easy for old feelings to resurface when you see them, but don’t let it throw you off balance. Remind yourself why you ended things in the first place and focus on your own well-being. Even getting on the phone with someone you trust can help, or at least pretending to. Do what you need to in order to not freak out.
  • The 3-Second Rule: Okay, so you’ve spotted them. Acknowledge it for a brief moment, but don’t dwell on it. Keep moving forward, and don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you rattled.
  • Enlist Backup: If you’re with friends or family, lean on them for support. Having a buffer can make the encounter less intimidating and more manageable. Plus, they can help steer the conversation away if things get awkward. If you are with your child(ren), don’t panic, just leave as calmly as you can. Also, don’t call attention to the fact that you saw your Ex, or the child may call out to them or may make them upset.
  • Avoid Confrontation: This is not the time or place to hash out old wounds. Keep your interactions polite but minimal. You don’t owe them an explanation or closure – you’ve already moved on. If there is a protective order in place, try to quietly slip out without being seen and go get into your vehicle. You can wait and enter the store after you’ve seen that they’ve left OR leave immediately – do what feels safe to you.
  • Exit Stage Left: Once the encounter is over, gracefully make your exit. Whether that means changing your route or focusing your attention elsewhere, do what you need to do to put some distance between you and them.
  • Self-Care Mode: After the encounter, prioritize some self-care. Whether it’s treating yourself to your favorite comfort food or indulging in some Netflix therapy, do whatever helps you decompress and shake off any lingering awkwardness.
  • Avoid Fall-Out: If you Ex tries to contact you after the encounter, resist the urge to answer the phone (if they contact you) and/or avoid contacting them directly. This sighting may have stirred up old feelings or emotions that you were moving past. Resisting the urge is a sign that you’re healing. Recognize and congratulate yourself — but keep moving forward. Abuse can make a trauma bond that we have to make a conscious effort to break.

    Remember, you’re in control of your own narrative now. Seeing your Ex may stir up some old emotions, but it doesn’t define you. You’ve grown, you’ve healed, and you’re thriving – and nothing can take that away from you.

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