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I Saw My Ex Post-Breakup and Survived

Over my winter break, I saw my ex. I knew I was going to see him since we are in the same program that had a conference of sorts in early January, and we would both be there.  My ex had ghosted me three months before, so I hadn’t spoken to him since. I had been thinking about this moment constantly for those three months. I think most people wonder after breaking up with someone, “What am I going to do when/if I see them again?” Here are my five tips. 


1. Be the first to say hello 

When I saw my ex, he was completely avoidant of me. I think a lot of people have this desire to hide from their ex, but that is probably the worst thing you can do. Hiding or avoiding your ex sends the message that you aren’t over what happened and makes the whole situation much more awkward than it needs to be (and other people, if you are in a group setting, will notice the tension pretty quickly). Your ex is no one to be afraid of. Saying hello first shows that you can be mature about the situation––whether they want to be or not. Also, if you say hello first, then you don’t have to worry about if they are going to approach you. For me, the breakup with my ex made me feel completely powerless and disrespected; being able to say hello first made me feel like I was taking back my agency. At the bare minimum, saying hello is just the courteous thing to do. 


2. Smile 

I was heartbroken after my breakup. I mean heartbroken. I literally couldn’t stop crying for two weeks, and it took about a month for me to leave my room for anything besides class and to eat meals. Being okay after a breakup, which can be a pretty traumatic event, is something to celebrate, and seeing your ex again shouldn’t take that away. Smiling not only puts everyone in the situation at ease and relieves tension, but it also sends the message to your ex (and yourself) that your happiness is not dependent on them.

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3. Don’t Overshare 

It can be tempting in a conversation with your ex to tell them all the great things that have happened to make them regret leaving you or to tell them all the bad things that have happened to make them feel guilty (people play it either way). The thing is that either one can come across as attention-seeking and manipulative. My ex took the latter approach and it made me feel very awkward, and like he was trying to make me feel bad for him so it would be harder for me to hold the way he ended things against him. Your life is your life, and not everyone, even someone who used to be a big part of your life, deserves to have access to it. You deserve to share your life with people who genuinely celebrate your success and care about supporting you in your hard moments. If your ex asks prying questions, you reserve the right to answer vaguely or simply say, “I don’t need to talk about that with you.” 


4. Don’t Bring Up Old Problems 

There was a lot left hanging with my breakup, since, technically, I never actually got broken up with. The last words my ex said to me were, “I love you, see you soon.” (The next day he ghosted me––crazy, I know.) It was tempting to ask, “What the f*ck happened?!” when I saw him again, but something I learned during my healing after my breakup is that no person can give you closure.  If your ex treated you badly or handled the breakup in a less-than-mature way, nothing they say will actually make a difference. If you really feel the need to have that conversation with them, you can ask to see them at a later time. 


5. Enjoy yourself 

Don’t let your ex’s presence define your experience or dominate your time. Your interaction with them shouldn’t overshadow the party, conference, social event, or even the coffee run you are at. No matter how over your ex you are, surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself is important. You don’t need to engage with your ex for long, and you also don’t have to wish them well if you aren’t at that place yet. A simple, “Well, I am going to go say hello to some other people,” or, “I have to get going,” if you are alone, is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. And if you need to take a moment to yourself after your interaction, that is okay too. Seeing your ex no matter the circumstance can be hard, but it is important to remind yourself that your past has no hold on your present. 

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