How to Handle Awkward Ex Run-Ins

Whether it's an ex-bf or an ex-bff, you're inevitably going to cross paths again. Here's how to handle it with minimal strife.

Photo by Anna Parini

You bump into an ex (friend or beau) at the store. How should you react?
Be friendly but brief. Say, “How are you?” then go about your business. When you reflect over the encounter later, resist the urge to romanticize it. “People ask themselves, ‘Did I make a mistake? Do I still care?’ ” says relationship expert Jane Greer. “It’s a feelings flashback and not applicable to your life now.” Recognize that you’ve grown and that your life is changing.

Is it OK to ask a mutual buddy questions about a former BFF?
Yes, but know that the chat will probably be reported back,” says psychiatry professor Irene S. Levine. Send the right message that you hope she’s well. “Don’t fire questions like a prosecutor or you may alienate the mutual friend,” says Levine.

Your ex is chummy with your friends, and it’s driving you crazy. Is it unreasonable to ask them to sever ties?
It is. Instead, express your discomfort about seeing them interact. “You can’t tell people what to do, but you can tell them what you’re going to do—that you’ll end the conversation if they bring him up, or that you’d like to know if he’s invited to a party so you won’t be there,” says Greer.

How can you attend the same get-togethers as your ex-friend without making everyone uncomfortable?
It will be awkward, but you can minimize weirdness by acting cordial and not rehashing the details of the conflict to others. “Make an effort to focus on other friends at the party,” says Levine.