For some of us, running into an ex can be absolutely horrifying. For me, it's pretty much the emotional equivalent of having a heart attack while trying not to vomit. TMI? Maybe, but we’ve all been there. Accidental run-ins with an ex are overwhelming, and it may be tempting to revert to some old, petty patterns. I get it, you want to brag a little and show off. And although there is no foolproof guide on how to make him regret losing you or how to make her wish you never split up, there are some definite dos and don’ts for these situations.
The best piece of advice? “Be confident with humility,” Meredith Prescott, LCSW and couples therapist, tells Elite Daily. “Sometimes people compensate by saying they’re doing so well and go on and on about how great their life is without this person … This ends up backfiring usually and shows the person you still care.”
Confidence, humility, got it. But how do you actually put that into practice IRL? If there is one benefit to my many years of awkward ex encounters, it’s that I actually know how to survive this situation — and how to come out on top.
1. Fill Your Ex In On What You’ve Been Up To Since The Breakup.
Pretty much any conversation with an ex is going to include the question, “So, what have you been up to?” Now, this isn’t the time for you to monologue about how ~great~ the single life is. (That comes across as a little much.) If you’ve been on any vacations recently, switched jobs, or picked up any new hobbies, that’s all fair game. Think of a neutral comment that shows your ex you’re doing just fine without them — and that it’s not even worth the energy to prove it to them.
Imagine this: You run into your ex immediately after coming home from a trip. A comment like, “I just got back from the most amazing vacation ever with my new fling. It was super romantic, and I’ve never had more fun,” feels like you’re overselling it (mostly because you are). On the opposite end of the spectrum, saying something like, “I have such bad jet lag from this trip I took. I had it all planned out, but everything went wrong. The airport even lost my luggage!” isn’t a good idea either. It suggests you’re seeking emotional comfort from your ex, which you definitely do not want or need.
So what can you say? “Keep it short and sweet,” Prescott suggests. “You don’t owe it to anyone to fully engage and carry out a conversation.” Try something quick and to-the-point: “Oh, I just got back from a trip to _____. It was great.” It’s a simple, neutral response that leaves your ex with more questions than answers. Plus, it reminds them that they no longer have full access to your life. Save your nitty-gritty vacation stories for a date with someone new, not a run-in with an ex.
2. Subtly Hint At How You’re Owning It At School Or Work.
School or work is another topic that you’ll probably touch on, depending on how long you talk. It’s a good, safe topic for most exes. (And it’s much better than any questions about your current love life.) The best thing to do is to keep things simple and truthful. “It’s good” can be your go-to answer for almost any school- or career-related question.
Again, neutrality is key. When speaking to your ex, avoid gushing about your internship or complaining about your professor. "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," Michelle Fiordaliso, co-author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex*, told Huffington Post. "Being humble about how you’re doing makes a bigger statement than bragging." Even if your ex asks for more details, keep it vague. They dated you, so they already know you’re ambitious and brilliant, you don’t need to remind them. Less is more here, I promise.
3. Use This Little Psychological Trick.
At one point in the past, I was really unhappy about how things ended with an ex and did some research on what to say in order to make him want me back. I found a ton of advice, but I think my favorite suggestion was casually mentioning pieces of your relationship history. Reminiscing about your relationship tends to bring up generally positive memories, and these rose-colored glasses can make your ex regret leaving you (at least, temporarily).
A casual mention of any place you used to go regularly as a couple might do the trick. Try, “I actually got coffee at _____ this morning. It’s still the best.” It’s simple, but will most likely have them remembering all the times you hung out there together.
If you feel tempted to pull out old couples photos on your phone or to start referencing inside jokes, you’ve gone too far down memory lane. Retreat!
4. Avoid Mentioning Your New Relationship.
Let’s be real, the ideal time to run into your ex is when you’re on a date with someone new. It’s the trope in almost every rom-com for a reason. Unfortunately, that moment is a lot harder to come by IRL. Without that organic set-up, you’re better off staying quiet about any new flame. “Don’t feel the need to mention if you are in a new relationship to show that you have moved on and are over them,” Prescott adds. “Humility and happiness speak for themselves.”
You really don’t need to do the legwork to make your ex jealous. They will hear about your new fling through the grapevine soon enough, and you’ll look even better for not rubbing their faces in it.
5. Stay Honest.
"Though you may be tempted to talk about how utterly fabulous your life is now, whatever you do, don't lie about it," Bella Acton, a relationship expert and the founder of Never Liked It Anyway, explained to Huffington Post. "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."
As a reminder, it’s easier to stay honest (and resist the temptation to exaggerate) when you keep the conversation short and sweet.
6. Show Your Ex You’re At Peace.
Fake it ‘til you make it is a saying for a reason. Seeing your ex might throw you off balance, but they do not have to know that. Keeping the conversation casual, brief, and tear-free is essential. “Focus on two main qualities: sincerity and strength,” Chelsea Leigh Trescott, breakup coach and host of the Thank You Heartbreak podcast, previously told Elite Daily. “How can you rise about the drama that took the two of you down, and communicate with this person as if you don’t recall their shortcomings or their highlight reel? By investing your energy in the present moment and in hovering above the situation, it will come across like you have forgotten the power that your ex had over you, and this will be a powerful takeaway for your ex.”
Of course, the best way to show your ex that you’re doing better is to... actually be doing better. But sometimes you aren’t there yet, and that’s OK, too. Getting to that level of closure can take time. That being said, when it comes to run-ins with your ex, your ultimate goal should be feeling so unbothered that you don’t even care if they regret losing you. In the meantime, however, it can be fun to make it just a little harder for them to get over you, and feigning a casual, disinterested attitude is one of the most effective methods.
These strategies are just a few ways to remind your ex just how good they had it when you two were together. But try not to focus too much on how your ex feels, especially not at the expense of your own emotions. Instead, Prescott explains that, after running into an ex, a person should “focus on their own self-improvement and what they have learned from their relationship about themselves.” She adds, “Ideally, the person should be focusing on how they’ve grown, moved forward, and hopefully have become a better version of themselves rather than spending energy focusing on what their ex is up to.”
At the end of the day, putting too much energy into your ex not getting closure will make it impossible for you to get closure. And finally moving on is even more satisfying than the instant gratification of making your ex wish you never broke up.
Meredith Prescott, LCSW
Michelle Fiordaliso, co-author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex
Bella Acton, a relationship expert and the founder of Never Liked It Anyway
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