There’s something about the holidays that makes everyone come out of the woodwork. It’s like everywhere you go, you run into someone you know. Head to the grocery store and you’ll run into your childhood best friend’s mom in the baking aisle. Go holiday shopping and there’s your old dog walker in the Lululemon checkout line. Grab a drink at the bar on the corner with your sister, and alas, your ex is playing darts with their friends. During the holidays, we expect all of these encounters, but for some reason, we are almost never prepared for that last one.
To prepare for quite possibly the most uncomfortable and awkward encounter of the holiday season (unless your family disagrees about politics at the dinner table), we are breaking down six things you should keep in mind when you run into an ex.
1. Remember the reason why you broke up
Seeing your ex can stir up a whole slew of emotions (good ones and bad ones), so it’s easy to get distracted by what you’re feeling when you see them. But you need to remember one thing: the reason you aren’t together anymore. Whether you broke it off, they did, or it was a mutual decision to go separate ways, remembering the reason for your breakup—even though it might be unpleasant given the circumstances—will help you from getting caught up in old frustrations or situations that don’t hold any weight anymore.
2. Be gentle with yourself if you’re not over it
Whether you still love them, you’re still mad at them, or you land somewhere in-between and aren’t totally over the breakup yet, it is OK. Moving on from someone you put your heart into isn’t easy and it takes time, and seeing them doesn’t make it any easier. If your heart drops into your stomach when you see them and you find yourself in a panic, take a deep breath and give yourself some grace. No matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, it is totally natural to feel uneasy and emotional.
3. Remind yourself of good things that have happened since your breakup
Breakups suck. Trust us, we get it. But there is always good that comes from it. Instead of spiraling into the memories you had with them, think about everything that has happened since you have broken up. Maybe once you finally stopped crying on your couch with your bestie, you actually picked up a new hobby that you love or you dedicated more time to your career and landed a killer promotion. Here’s how we see it: You can wallow in your memories or you can celebrate your life the way it is now.
4. You don’t need to impress them
OK, I know that we have a whole story with outfit ideas for when you might run into your ex, but the point isn’t to wear something that would give them googley eyes—it’s to feel good and confident if you do happen to run into them. And of course, this goes beyond just what you’re wearing. Although it’s natural to want them to think that you’re doing well and looking great, the reality is that it really doesn’t matter what they think of you anymore. So don’t go out of your way to come off as the coolest, most badass girl in your hometown—the people that matter in your life now already know that you are. And your ex’s opinion? Who cares.
5. Interactions are best left short and sweet (or not at all)
Spoiler alert: You don’t actually have to talk to them if you don’t want to when you see them. However, we don’t recommend acting like you didn’t see them when everyone (including them) knows you did. Sending a smile and waving their way is a sufficient and polite way of acknowledging them and not making it weird. If you do want to talk to them or they initiate a conversation, keep it short and sweet. Anything beyond that can bring up old feelings, frustrations, or disagreements, and that’s a surefire way to put a damper on your holiday.
6. What’s going on in their life is none of your business
Harsh, I know. But this goes both ways. Since you are not involved in each other’s day-to-day lives anymore, you don’t owe each other any information. This includes: if they are dating, how their family is, what they are doing while they are in town, if they still work at the same place, how their dog is—you get it. These details about their life (or your life) that you would typically know about each other when you were dating are not either of your businesses anymore. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about personal things if you feel comfortable doing that, but just know that you don’t have to.