How to Act When You Run Into an Ex

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always run into my former flames at the most inopportune moments. Like, when I’m wearing an “ERIN GO BRAGH” pom-pom-topped scallycap on St. Patrick’s Day, three-sheets-to-the-wind wasted (true story). Since I always seem to freeze up whenever I run into my old boyfriends, hook-ups or whatever…here is a list of what to do when this happens.

1. ACT COOL (DUH): It doesn’t matter how it ended, seeing an ex is always awkward (I’m convinced those people who remain “friends” with exes have a screw loose, or their ex has decided to play for the other team, or they’ve got false hope of reuniting). No matter how many shots of tequila deep you may be when you spot him, try to remember all the reasons why you’re better off without this looooooser. You are smart, beautiful, confident, and above all else, you are COOL.

2. DO THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF TALKING: Please don’t blabber on about your new Park Ave. apartment, your investment banker boyfriend, your fab job where you get bonuses left and right for choosing an amazing nail polish name. Obviously you want this dude to know you’re doing well for yourself (whether you’re faking it or not), but drop a few tidbits without overdoing it.

On the other hand, do not freeze up, fall silent and forget all of the great attributes that you have. Remember tip one and treat your boyfriend as you would some random college acquaintance. Offer up a little information about yourself, ask him about this own life, but remember that this isn’t an opp to act all Barbara Walters and ask him what his work hours are, where he gets lunch or how his cat his doing. Oh, and if you can’t hear him (crowded bar, anyone?), just smile and nod. The key here is politesse, my pretties.

3. SPLIT AFTER A FEW MINUTES: Don’t linger. You’ve probably already stalked his Facebook at some point, so you know he’s dating some random six years his junior (say it with me: downgrade). Let bygones be bygones. You’re not as pathetic as the whole Carrie and Big thing, right? That’s what I thought.

Other issues:

If he is with another girl: Don’t go out of your way to introduce yourself. Let him do it. She might be a one-night stand, she might be his girlfriend, she might be his cousin. If he really wants you to know, he’ll make an effort. I hate fake-friendliness, and if you grab whatever girl is in his vicinity and shake her hand enthusiastically, you run the risk of trying too hard.

If you are with another guy: Be the bigger person and INTRODUCE HIM. Do not say something awkward when you introduce your ex like, THIS IS MY EX (I’ve seen people do this). Introducing your past guy as a friend and possibly explaining later to the man you’re with now is perfectly appropriate. If you’re dating the dude you’re with, say this is my BOYFRIEND, _____ (5,000 points for you). If the fellow you’re currently with is just some dude you’re not realllly seeing, just plainly say this is [YOUR HOOK UP’S NAME HERE]. No need for titles. Let that ex of yours wonder!

If you really hate him (or you see him at a bar and you’re wasted): If you can avoid him, try it. If you can’t steer clear, have a friend at your side when you two chat for moral support (and to make sure your morals are kept in check).

And if you really, really want to avoid him: Hide, duck out to the bathroom, leave the place where he is. Problem solved.

-Cait Rohan

GIRL TALK TIME: Have you ever run into an ex before? What happened? How did you act? What do you think is the best way to behave? What are your tips for dealing with this awkward situation?

30 Comments

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  • Nico:

    I’m a guy and I’m friends with most of my ex-girlfriends. Some become later but when you meet someone you are attracted to the good qualities when you split its because of the bad qualities and in most case you were just no a fit. For me personally although we are friends I don’t hang out every weekend with them but a coffee once or twice every few months is ok. It’s not awkward unless one of you make it awkward. Like when you see them at a place and brush straight pass you without giving a node and treat you like a criminal when the breakup was agreed by both of you because you felt more like friends instead of lovers. A simple “hi” goes along way and maybe a 1-2min how are you is perfectly fine especially if you two share the same friends. I do like that you made some space for that in your article. Making thing awkward makes it awkward for everyone your friends too and it’s easy to avoid by just respecting boundaries and being decent. It didn’t work out that’s all. (The exceptions would be that if he/she mistreated in a bad way emotionally and physically then that person doesn’t deserve you and your friends respect)

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  • carlos:

    I think it all comes down to how it ended.If it was a mutual understanding break up. then yes your freindship can sustain the relationship. However personally if it ended badly. I just kill them with silents. I would not even give them the satisfaction of knowing my thoughts or how I’m doing.All we can do is take from it the lessons.

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  • Roy:

    Bumped into an Ex yesterday at an event – TOTALLY blanked her and managed to set my gaze as though I was looking through her.
    She will be left wondering if I even spotted her because I was artful to not make it look deliberate.
    Problem solved :-)

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  • vero:

    Well my ex broke up with me about a month ago. I will spare all the details…but lets just say we lived together and we were fighting a lot..had an abortion incident, he started acting shady and the sex went down. He finally broke up with me and told me that I made him realize that he is not meant for relationships, that he needs to be single..blah blah.

    This has been going on for 3 years. On and off, always a new excuse and he’s always breaking up with me and me always looking for him..so we get back together.

    I was actually out with my gfs last Friday and to my surprise I spot my ex with 4 girls standing in line to get into a bar. I kept my cool and kept walking. Some short, thick, ok looking girl was in front of him and he kinda held her waist. I ignored it and went on to the next bar.

    I thought I wouldn’t see him again, BUT, on my way to the car he passes right passed me and that girl is holding on to him, I think they were holding hands, not sure. But she was nothing amazing to look at!! WTF. So I didn’t say anything until 2 days after. I confronted him in text:

    me: It was refreshing to see how quickly you move to ANYTHING. like I said not even a month…Its like you already had this girl. What we had was a lie and you threw everything away.

    Him:I’m glad that it was refreshing to you…I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything but please no more…if you text me don’t let it be for this.

    Him: what we had was not a lie & it isn’t. I didn’t throw it away for anybody, it cant be replaced so stop.

    I mean seriously he doesn’t even seem like he’s panicking or cares that I seen him! WTF do those texts even mean??? :( I hate him.

    Prior to these texts he had the nerve to text me that there isn’t a day that he doesn’t think of me or having kept the baby. But he puts no effort in reaching out to me

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    1. Sabrina:

      It’s the classic ‘have you on a string.’ I have dated the same type of guy for three years, always the same thing. He didn’t have time for a relationship, work demands were SO hard, but he had time to beg me to come over at 11 at night. But when I needed something, well………….”Oh I would but I have to be up by 3.”
      What it boils down to is that he figures that you will always be around waiting for his call. And while you’re sitting there waiting, he’s out playing the field. And his last text that you posted about you and the baby show just how uncaring/full of himself/ selfish he is.
      He used emotional aspects of your relationship to keep you on that string. Keeps your head full of “Well, maybe this time he’ll change, maybe this time will be IT!!!”
      BTW, like you I ran into my ex out with another girl. He was at an outdoor patio at a mexican restaurant with his back to me. I said “Hey so and so” and he turned around with the most “CAUGHT!!!” face EVER!!! Really sweet and upbeat I said “Hey, can’t believe I’m running into you here!! So is this like, a date?” When she, then he answered in the affirmative I let him have it. Right in front of her. Then walked away. He texted me telling me that she was just a friend, then she was his ex and had wanted to talk. Although she was talking about the movie they were on their way to see. Yeah……….lots of talking going on in there I’m sure ;)

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  • Kalli:

    Just ran into my ex…see my post under the downgrade section! lol!

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  • miki:

    I work at the movies and I never thought I would see him again he lived about 30 mins away when we started dating then he left me for another girl with a kid after telling me he didn’t want anything serious I was heart broken and didn’t understand…. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year…. the girl he dated lived a few hours away and they ended up moving in together….. (yep Facebook) next thing I know I’m in concessions and I see him walk up I guess he noticed me before I noticed him…. I was frozen for a second then smiled and treated him like a costumer of course the conversation wasn’t about the movie in between me getting his order it was more how have you been what have you been up too….I could barely look at him… then he asked for my number so we could talk sometime…. I did give him my number and he left after I felt so nervous I couldn’t stop shaking…..in a way I was happy to see him…but then again I was sad too……

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  • Nat:

    Just ran into my ex yesterday, the last day of 2012, and it has been 8 years since I saw him last after dating and living together for 4 years. I pretty much froze, but then again, so did he. Middle of the pasta aisle at the grocery store. No hugs, but a few smiles. I then introduced him to my 4 year old and asked him about his family. He talked about how everyone was doing and asked me about my family. He made a comment about how adorable my daughter is. Gut wrenching because we had an accidental miscarriage when we were together such a long time ago. I told him to take care and walked away. I did turn to look back and he was just standing there but not looking in our direction. Ahhhh…so sad!

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  • monica:

    i ran into my ex when i went to sams club with my father. he worked there as one of the sample people. i froze when i saw all i did was smile and i walked away. im such a moron huh

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  • Dumpee:

    I ran into my ex bf and his best friend a month after he dumped me. We were together for a year and our relationship was serious (in my point of view), but one day after an argument, he broke up with me because, according to him, we were not “compatible”. Then 3 days later, we talked and make a closure, and I wanted him to stay as a friend in my life (I was so afraid of loosing him forever). Then we never be friends since then.
    Today, I unexpectedly ran into him at a social swing dance thing, and I went there for the first time since our breakup (we used to dance together) because I promised to my other friend that I would show up for the dance, also my ex had not been attending there since.
    When I encountered him, I briefly had eye contact and said hi. but then pretend I was talking to other people. and he looked so cool with me being around, and he even tap me saying ” Hey, good to see ya”..
    I don’t know how he could be so cool….
    I guess I was the only one suffer from our broken relationship.
    He probably never into the relationship as I did…probably he lied to me that he loved me…
    I am so confused and my heart is still pounding…
    I had to ran away from the dance thing….I just did..
    I said bye to his best friend but not to him…(cuz he was not facing toward me, he was looking at his friend)
    I feel like I am a looser…I was dumped..and now looser…horrible…
    I want to cry

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  • nayia:

    im debating going to the pub where he drinks because ive been there before but im worried i’ll walk in and he’ll be with another woman or he’ll walk out and make me look bad. what do you suggest? avoid? re ex girlfriend staying friends – NO! my ex is STILL best friends with his ex, talks to her for over an hour on the phone every month, cares about her more than he did me AND even stayed the night at hers whilst we were together!!!

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  • carey:

    lol. i literally ran iNTO my ex at a restaurant 1 month to the day that he dumped me. He was there with his female best friend and I was there with my male friend. I went to have a smoke. he had bolted, leaving his phone on the table when he realized I was there. Still makes me wonder what would make the dumper act like a dumpee

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  • michy:

    that’s great advice.im going 2 my ex holiday party & he is not happy about.see he is with a girl he’s working with & I caught him on a date with her the day he broke up with me.long story short they both lied,she told me she was a lesbian virgin ha! & he claimed she was just a friend. now he knows that I know what’s going on he’s nervous I’ll flip out when I see them.but the exact opposite. I lost 40ilb look fab & in going 2 act like they don’t exist in my world.we were living 2gether 4 2/12 yrs

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    1. Luna:

      Wow, what an asshole.!..My boyfriend told me that was his cousin, and she said the same thing.!..I caught em when they were video chatting and i do believe he slept with her, but today I’m going to meet him up he wants to “talk things out”..But I am fersure going to act like I dont wnat him back and just listen to what he has to say. Plus I also lost weight and look fab too ;D <3

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  • canali:

    AutHor is spot on with nonsense of “being friends” with exs. Best saying I heard sums it all up:
    ”Friends can become lovers but the opposite is seldom true “

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  • Alyssa:

    I try as hard as possible to remain friends with my ex’s for this reason of the possibility of running in to them after the break up… So I think it’s funny that the author puts this down.

    I don’t mean like best friends… But I like to keep them on good terms so I won’t feel too uncomfortable running into them. Yes, I may feel a little weak in the knees, but I know I can say hello and ask what’s new, then be on my way…

    I’m an advocate of being friends with your ex’s.

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  • avatar
    TMS2560:

    Always be polite…. Or smile and pretend u don’t see them before u slip out.

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  • vickyjib:

    Good advice!

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  • Michele:

    omg. I wish I read this before my last encounter with my last fling. It ended on bad terms and when I ran into him at a cafe. I didn’t say anything to him and kept staring at the corner of my eyes. He noticed me to and when he left he said bye to my friends but not me. It was awkward and I couldn’t help but to feel like being a bitch to him the whole time but I just kept my mouth shut and ignored him.

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  • nadia cherubin:

    I definitely agree with #1 about keeping it cool cause in a situation with running into an ex should be the time when you should really keep it cool and act civilized and act like he’s never hurt you cause the key to this is to kill him with kindness.

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    1. Nico:

      I totally agree, why invite negativity into a situation. Make it a positive experience and it will make the encounter a good memory :) Thank you for this comment.

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  • jmcampy18:

    i agree with #3, just make sure you split away before he does

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  • avatar
    ssaetta3:

    The boy I am going to speak of was not a long term relationship but it felt longer since we hung out frequently and went through some emotional trauma together. For the purpose of this story I will call him an ex even though we did not use those titles. I had just spent the evening with a hot man, hotter than the ex, and we left my house together. We stopped at local coffee/bagel store and there he was standing in line next to this friend. I walk past him saying a pleasant hello and place my order. I order an ice coffee and fling (man I spent the night with) is waiting for food. They are making my ice coffee and ask me if I want sugar, ex is at the counter paying and I see him shake his head no while I answer. Then he leaves smiling and saying goodbye. the icing on the cake is the next day when I hear (sister’s boyfriend is friends with ex) That he was asking if the man I was with was my boyfriend and when he found he was not his reply was something like, Now that we are both on the same page we can hang out again. I love Chris for this next part. He precedes to tell him that I am hanging out with lots of different guys(not really true) and I would not hang out with him again since he broke my trust (saw him with another girl/being sneaky). He still ask about me to this day.

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