It’s every newly single person’s nightmare: You’ve just gotten past the “Netflix and cry while in sweatpants” stage and you run into your ex unexpectedly.
It’s going to be awkward; there’s no way around that, unfortunately. But to help you feel more at ease should this happen, we asked relationship experts to weigh in with some advice.
Below, what you need to know to remain cool as a cucumber in the moment.
1. Avoid going in for a big bear hug.
“Try to avoid physical contact. A kiss on the cheek can be too intimate and so is a hug,” said Jill Knapp, a relationship expert and author of What Happens To Men When They Move To Manhattan? “That said, you’re obviously not going to shake their hand like it’s a job interview. Try a polite smile and a nod instead. Acknowledge their presence without the possibility of a bro hug or an awkward pat on the back.”
2. It’s OK to admit that running into each other is next-level awkward.
“Lighten up the moment by saying something that acknowledges the awkwardness of the situation,” said Neely Steinberg, a dating coach and the author of Skin In the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love. “Go ahead and say, ‘Well, this is awkward’ or make a joke. Taking this approach might take the edge off you so you can engage in a lighthearted — but brief! — conversation.”
2. If you know you’re going to bump into your ex (for example, if you’re both invited to a mutual friend’s wedding), prepare beforehand.
“Get control of your nerves! To prevent that heart-racing, sweaty palms feeling from happening, visualize ahead of time what a successful run-in with your ex would look like,” marriage therapist Kristina Fecik said. “Be detailed, from picturing your posture, to considering how you want your voice to sound. Then write it down and test it out on a trusted friend.”
3. Don’t brag about how great your life is now.
“Frank Sinatra said, ‘The best revenge is massive success,’ but he forgot to mention one tiny fact — only insecure people need revenge in the first place,” said Michelle Fiordaliso, co-author ofEverything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex. “Being humble about how you’re doing makes a bigger statement than bragging.”
4. And definitely don’t overdo it or lie when your ex asks what you’ve been up to post-split.
“Though you may be tempted to talk about how utterly fabulous your life is now, whatever you do, don’t lie about it,” said Bella Acton, a relationship expert and the founder of Never Liked It Anyway. “You’ll look flustered, nervous and out of sorts. Don’t forget that your ex knows you so well that he or she will probably be able to tell that something’s amiss.”
6. Avoid drama by staying in the present.
“Don’t bring up the past,” said Kimberly Seltzer, a dating coach and the owner of Elite Image Makeovers. “Don’t engage in emotionally charged conversations or find a way to subtly insinuate blame for things that happened while you were together. Instead, stay focused on the positive things that are happening in your life now and do so in a calm manner.”
7. Maintain boundaries.
“Membership to your ex’s life has its privileges and you’re not in the club anymore — don’t dig too deeply for details,” suggested Heather Belle, co-author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex.
8. And lastly, end the conversation before things get too weird.
“Most exes can be kind to one another for a set period of time. Once you’ve gotten the niceties out of the way and had a chance to catch up, you need to get out while the getting’s good,” said Damona Hoffman, a dating expert and author of Spin Your Web: How to Brand Yourself for Successful Online Dating. “If you start to feel any weirdness creep into the conversation or find yourself scrambling for topics, that’s the perfect time to say, ‘Well, it was great to see you,’ and make a clean exit.”