hether it be during the middle of a busy day on a coffee break, running errands, or hanging out with some friends on a night out, we often run into people we're not in the mood to talk to. That’s just the way life is. However, when you run into someone you may have had a history or rough past with, these types of situations are way more awkward. Especially when you find yourself running into an ex! 

First things first, remember these things when you run into an ex:

  • Keep the interaction short and sweet
  • Call a friend/family member as a distraction if you’re uncomfortable
  • Don’t feel obligated to keep conversation
  • Be dignified 
  • Stay true to yourself 

If you need some pointers on small talk conversation with others, check out our blog discussing how to make small talk with anyone

feeling guilty
Guilt can be an emotion when coming across an ex. Image courtesy of healthshots

I was in the wrong and feel guilty

It’s understandable, maybe you were the root of the relationship’s downfall and feel ashamed/guilty when you come across your ex in public. 

If you feel up to it, running into your ex could be the perfect opportunity to apologize for wrongdoings. When you come across an ex partner after a breakup, this could induce some guilt. Maybe you feel badly about how you treated your ex in certain situations but never got the chance to apologize. You may have already done the self reflection into your own mistakes in the relationship, but felt it was too late or didn’t know how to apologize properly. 

Be careful of the setting where you happen to come across your ex if you consider speaking with them and apologizing regarding the past relationship. Your ex partner may be out with their family or friends or could be in a time crunch, so approaching them with a heavy conversation in public out of nowhere could be tricky. A good alternative would be to text them or call them at a later date when you have had the time to collect your thoughts. Healthy communication involves listening, communicating, and understanding. When dealing with conflict and issues in interpersonal relationships, both parties should both feel respected. 

Check out our guide on dealing with offending someone and how to deal with situations where you were in the wrong here

I’m scared of what others may think 

Maybe you had already dealt with running into an ex when you were around your friends, or you may be worried that you might run into your ex around friends who will witness it or you’re anxious about explaining the encounter to others. Either way, we all face awkward situations more often than you would think. While the situation may be awkward initially, there’s no point in worrying about anyone else other than yourself. Be confident in yourself and handle the situation in whatever you feel is best, regardless of what those around you may think. It is YOU who was a part of that relationship after all! 

I miss them… but I don’t want to

It happens all too often. Most of the time, breakups are very difficult and can take an emotional toll on the parties affected. You may have been super close with your partner and felt like you did everything together. Losing that person suddenly can be very difficult, even if it was ultimately better for the relationship overall. It’s completely normal to miss somebody, especially a romantic ex partner even if they did something wrong. With time and patience, you will come to find that you miss the person less and less.

What makes a fresh breakup even worse? Running into your ex right after! If you happen to come across your ex in public soon after a breakup, keep to yourself and continue doing what you’re doing. After a relationship has ended, it’s typically better for both partners to take that time away from each other. Reconnecting too soon has the ability to make things awkward and create confusion for both (individuals or parties) involved. 

I have an abusive ex I’m afraid of running into 

In some instances, people find themselves in abusive relationships (what is linked allows individuals to read more about what an abusive relationship is.) where a partner may be physically or emotionally abusive. If the relationship is abusive then why don't people just leave? A partner may be physically abusive and could become very violent, or they might be emotionally abusive and tear the other partner down through name calling, manipulation, and gaslighting.  Even though someone may find themselves in an abusive relationship, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are simply able to immediately get out of it. If you have experienced an abusive relationship yourself, you may fear what the person will try to do if you exit the relationship.You may also fear loneliness or low self worth if you are single again.

If you come across an abusive partner in public, this can trigger an onset of very difficult emotions. Call a loved one, stay away from that partner as best as you can, and leave the location you’re in if you’re able to. If you’re worried about your safety, call local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline

phone numbers for national domestic violence hotline
 National Domestic Violence Hotline phone numbers. Photo courtesy of cbp.gov 

Aftermath of running into an ex

After you have run into your ex, you may not know how to properly handle your emotions. You suddenly may become very stressed, and encounter feelings you had thought were long forgotten. It may also be hard to think straight over the next few days after the encounter, but ultimately you need to put yourself first and focus on caring for yourself.

Distract yourself

Running into an ex creates a host of uncomfortable feelings, so it’s important to find some activities to take your mind off things.

  • Go shopping with a friend
  • Go for a walk/run and listen to music
  • Bake your favorite dessert 
  • Engage in meditation and encouraging affirmations
  • Watch a movie/ your favorite tv show 
a shopping mall
Take your mind off things and go shopping with a friend!

You can also indulge in other more creative self care activities:

  • Take a bath
  • Do a face mask
  • Write a poem
  • Color in a coloring book 

Establish Boundaries

You have the power to control your own mind and thoughts and figure out what’s best for you. You should make it clear to yourself what you still may need and what you do not need from your ex. It’s vital to set these internal and external boundaries

Depending on the situation, sometimes no communication is better than engaging in any conversation. You may feel that there are still some things that need to be said to your ex so you open up that boundary within yourself. Or, you protect this boundary and focus on yourself because you are simply better off without any contact from your ex. 

Feel Your Emotions 

Although you should partake in activities to try and keep your mind at ease, you should allow yourself to go through all the emotions and be sad when you’re sad and be happy when you’re happy. Be honest with yourself and how you’re feeling. 

As we become adults, our emotions are often much more nuanced. Typically, many of us are not encouraged to get in tune with our raw emotions and we should instead constantly put on a happy and positive face to the rest of the world. However, it’s important to remain truthful and honest to ourselves as best as we can. If we happen to run into an ex while we are out in public, we don’t always have to put on a smiley and happy face. Don’t feel intimidated enough to sacrifice your true feelings for the sake of another one’s comfortability! 

Well... What can I take away?

Overall, remember that running into people we’re not always fond of is a normal part of life and only has to last as a quick interaction if needed. It can be more awkward running into someone you had a  history with and more of a close connection with such as an ex, but remember a few things mentioned throughout this guide. 

Keep any conversation short and sweet. There is no need for any oversharing of updated personal information, and if there is something you still want to communicate to that person over the phone or via text.

It’s okay to feel an overload of emotion after running into an ex. You may feel happy that you got to see them and that they’re doing okay, but you might also feel sad because you miss the times shared together. You may even feel guilty after seeing them or have a bit more of a negative reaction due to past trauma or abuse. Know that you will move on and everything will work itself out in time. 

May 23, 2022