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A Fool-Proof Guide to Handling “Ex” Run-Ins This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! … Or, the most awkward time of year? The reason I bring up awkwardness is because Winter Break means more than flashy holiday sweaters, twinkling lights, eggnog and celebrations:  it means running into ex-flames, ex-hookups and ex-significant others.

Here’s a scenario:  you’re in the aisle of your local supermarket (buying holiday cookie baking supplies, of course) when you spot him him, your two-year long ex-boyfriend from high school that you haven’t spoken to since senior year graduation. Or, another scenario:  while getting peppermint hot cocoa at Starbucks, that guy begins to approach you … .that guy, your summer flame that burnt out when fall semester began. In either scenario—and many similar surprise run-in situations— uncontrollable (and uncalled-for) side effects occur: palm sweat from nervousness, faster heartbeat from anxiety and a wave of confusion from not knowing how to handle said situations. Do you run? Duck for cover? Reach for your phone and pretend to call your mom? Chew it over with Twix?

Even though over Winter Break these awkward situations could happen at any point in your hometowns; fear not!:  There ARE solutions as to how to turn these awkward situations into normal, non-awkward run-ins. Read on!

  1. For starters, the way I like to live my life is to be as least awkward as possible in social situations. Do this by asking questions right from the start. Your ex-boyfriend comes up to you at a holiday party? Instead of hiding behind the Christmas tree, play it cool and begin asking him questions about college, his plans for the holidays, etc. That way, you’ll avoid any tensions or uneasy topics and will come off maturely instead of acting immaturely and avoiding the situation (a.k.a. taking the low road and hiding behind the nearest tall object you can find J). 
  2. Another way to avoid uneasiness when running into an ex is by being polite to start and then politely dismissing yourself from further conversation. If your ex-flame wants to chat at your mutual friend’s get-together, cordially greet them at first, then let them know you need to go help a friend with something for the party, get something to eat, etc. If you’re out by yourself and want to avoid talking to an ex, follow the same format but tell them that you’re really in a rush or are on your way to go meet up with someone. By doing this, you remove yourself from what could turn into a really awkward conversation. But, by being polite you avoid the possibility of any weirdness or altercations.
  3. If stuck in a situation where you are forced to interact with an ex and aren’t ready to talk with them (i.e. New Year’s Eve party, gift exchange, etc.), be confident and avoid direct eye contact (as difficult as that may be!). By keeping a confident presence while interacting with friends, you can move on maturely with your evening. Also, focusing your attention on other people instead of your ex in this type of social setting makes you seem preoccupied by other people instead of being flat-out rude.
  4. And finally, if you spot your ex and their FAMILY while out and about, don’t run away: partake in a general conversation so you’ll still seem polite. Direct questions to your ex’s parents or siblings, but you can even ask your ex how school/work is going so you can ease any tensions. And going back to Tip #2, say whatever you need to when you feel you’re ready to excuse yourself from the conversation.

The holidays are already stressful enough with gift-wrapping, light-stringing (A NIGHTMARE) and party-planning; don’t let running into your exes become a main stressor! Take these tips to ensure non-awkward, friendly encounters with exes so that everyone (including yourself!) will remain merry and bright this holiday season. Joy to the world!

XO (& Happy Holidays!),

Jen Lassen