What To Do If You Bump Into Your Ex Unexpectedly

You didn’t expect to see your ex again, but here he is, in the flesh, right in front of you. What do you do?

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
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It’s been a little while since things ended with your ex. Maybe it was a mutual breakup, where you both realized you just weren’t right for each other and ended things on neutral terms. Or maybe you didn’t see the relationship lasting for years to come and called it quits. Or maybe he felt too overwhelmed with work to have a girlfriend and decided to break things off.

Whatever problems, reasons, and circumstances led to the breakup, after things were over between you two, you started to worry you might randomly run into him. What if he ends up in line behind you at a coffee shop, or you bump into him on a night out with your girls, or he turns up at a mutual friend’s get-together? Even thinking about running into him makes your heart beat a million times a minute and your palms sweat like crazy.

While running into your ex can certainly bump the awkwardness up a few notches, may bring up a twinge of pain or sadness, and might even stir up some leftover feelings, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here’s what to do if you happen to spot your ex unexpectedly.

During the Actual Encounter

Don’t Try To Run and Hide

Say you turn the corner at the grocery store and spot your ex in the frozen aisle. Your instinct might be to run and hide (and maybe even to abandon your shopping cart and wait it out in the bathroom). While it’s tempting to spend the next 20 minutes anxiously looking over your shoulder and ducking into aisles you don’t even need to be in, it’s not worth the awkwardness that it creates. Chances are, he’ll notice you running around like a scared squirrel. So instead, go about your business casually.

If He Notices You, Smile and Greet Him

If you’re the first person to notice the other, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to approach him. But if he notices you and doesn’t immediately pretend he didn’t see you, offer him a little wave. If he seems receptive, approach him with a smile and say something along the lines of, “Hey, didn’t expect to see you here!” Do your best to act normally and not like your anxiety is going through the roof.

Be Kind, But Don’t Let Things Drag On

If he seems open to a conversation, be gracious. Ask him what he’s been up to, how his mom is, or if he’s been liking his new job (only things you would’ve known without Instagram-stalking him, of course). Don’t drag the conversation out too much, though. Feel it out and be ready to offer a “Well, it was nice seeing you. Glad to know things are going well,” when the conversation encounters a long pause. This creates a natural ending to the conversation without seeming hostile or awkward.

After the Encounter

Remember Why You Broke Up in the First Place

If you haven’t totally gotten over him (and sometimes, even if you think you have), it’s normal for the sight of your ex in the flesh to stir up old feelings. You might start to remember all the things you loved about him, all the good times you had together. You might even wonder if you should reach out and invite him to grab some coffee to “catch up.”

While it’s not uncommon for exes to get back together, before you decide to move in any direction, it’s important to remind yourself of the reasons things ended in the first place. Then, ask yourself if you have reason to believe any of these things have improved or changed. If they haven’t, then it’s best not to reach out.

Think About How Your Life Has Improved Since Your Relationship

The next step in not allowing your random run-in with your ex to send you down a spiral of “Should I have ended things with him? Should I try to get him back?” is to focus on what you like about the life you’ve been living since the breakup. Have you met new friends, found a new hobby, or started going to counseling? Have you started learning how to cook, planned a trip to Paris, or reconnected with an old childhood friend? Have you made strides in your career? Remind yourself of the things you love about your life now.

Don’t Start Checking His Socials

After you run into your ex, he’ll naturally be on the brain. You’ll have plenty of questions, and you’ll desperately want answers. Has his life changed much? Is he seeing a new girl? What has he been posting about? Did he delete the old pictures of you?

Resist the temptation to check his social media. While you might promise yourself you’re checking just this once, your curiosity will likely get the better of you and you’ll find that you’re nursing a habit of checking his Instagram every week.

Closing Thoughts

Running into your ex when you least expect will do a number on your emotions. But it doesn’t have to absolutely undo you. Keep things cordial in the moment, but remember why things ended in the first place on the car ride home.

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