Handling the run-in with the ex is not always an ideal scenario, but it happens (especially in a city like NYC). For example, one Sunday years ago I was going on an afternoon stroll with my friend. We did some brunching, some shopping and some people watching. All in all it was starting off to be a great day. But then, when we were down around Union Square, my friend grabs my hand and says under her breath, “Crap! (Insert her ex’s name here) is right over there.” Let me preface the rest of this by saying my friend and her ex had anything but a good breakup. It was messy and horrible and to this day, they still aren’t on the best of terms.

At this point, he had likely already seen us, so we couldn’t run the other way. So I told her to say, “Hi,” and she did just that.

She handled it just fine, appearing calm, cool and collected.  He, on the other hand, not only looked like he just woke up, but appeared awkward, aggravated and annoyed because he just ran into his ex while looking the way he did.

It’s A Small World After All

New York City, along with many other cities out there, can feel a lot smaller than it actually is. I can’t tell you how many weekends in a row I would bump into someone I knew from a “past” life at a bar. While sometimes it’s nice seeing them, there have been plenty of times that I would have rather not bumped into a particular person. You can’t help but think, “Out of all the bars on the lovely island of Manhattan, you just HAD to be at the one I decided to go to with all my friends tonight. Ugh!”

Playing It Cool

So how should you handle it when you run into an ex at an inopportune moment? These tips will help you look calm and cool when you might feel the opposite on the inside:

  • Look presentable when you’re in public. I know your mom may tell you this all the time and sometimes you ignore it, but really, try not to leave your apartment looking in a way you’d hate for anyone to see you. I’m not saying you should be dressed up in your ball gown or suit and tie every time you step foot out of your house, but try to look a little bit put together at the least. You never know who you’ll see while you’re out and about.
  • Do not run the other way once you notice this person. They’ve probably already seen you, and it will look quite silly if you do such a thing.
  • Always appear calm and at ease when you see this person. Even if you are freaking out and having a panic attack deep down, you cannot appear that way. Wear sunglasses if out during the day, so you can cover the shock, anger or sadness in your eyes, but please, no stunna shades at night. You are not Jay Z!
  • Don’t be rude or obnoxious because that’s immature and pointless. Simply say, “Hello,” and ask how they’re doing. Answer politely if they ask you a question, and say, “Okay, I really need to get going – bye.” (Don’t say it was great to see them unless it actually was great to see them.)
  • Do not squeeze your friend’s arm the second you say goodbye and start screaming or freaking out. Wait until you’re at least two blocks away from this person and then do all the freaking out you need.

Use these tips to expertly manage an unexpected meeting with your ex (despite how flustered it makes you feel). Oh, and more tip: after the big run-in, run out to the bar and get yourself a big cocktail.

You may also be interested in Got Ghosted? What To Do When An Old Flame Suddenly Reappears


Adapted from the book ‘Oops!’ An Insider’s Guide to Dating, Sex, and Relationships in Your 20s

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