If you think breaking up with someone is awkward, try running into an ex unexpectedly. It's a situation most people experience at least once in their lives. In a perfect world, it would happen when you’re feeling, looking, and living your best life. But seemingly more often than not, these dreaded reunions happen when you’re least expecting it — and least prepared. Even when it doesn't go well initially, coming face-to-face with the person who broke your heart (or vice versa) can sometimes offer you the closure that you needed. At the very least, it's a chance to reflect on the relationship and learn what you don't want in the future. Plus, chances are your unplanned reunion could have gone even worse. (If you don't believe that, then read on.)
Listen, sometimes you just have to find those silver linings where you can. And if there’s one thing you can take solace in when you do have an uncomfortable run-in with an ex, at least you can be assured you're not alone. Elite Daily asked women to share their stories of when they ran into former flames for the first time after a breakup and, honestly, their experiences are so relatable.
"I ran into my ex the day after we broke up. He approached me and started crying, saying that our breakup was for the best. I was like, 'What the hell is wrong with you?' I was so embarrassed. He started crying and acting as if I was begging him to get back together, when I was just mortified that this guy started acting crazy with a bunch of people watching. His first line when he approached me was, 'You need to understand that this is for the best.' I was like, OMG, someone get this man out of here."
— Gaby, 26
"I had broken up with a guy and waited a couple of months to go out again. I was asked out on a date and decided to go. I get to the restaurant and was greeted by my date. We sit down, start chatting, and behold: In comes my ex with a girl. I later found out that was also his first date after our breakup. The waiter sat them two tables away from ours, so we both had to witness each other being on our first date with new people. It lasted a couple of hours and it was awkward. I even had to time my restroom breaks so I wouldn't bump into them."
— Trinella, 32
College Campus Collision.
SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images "My high school was a boarding school. Sophomore year, I was on-again, off-again with this senior guy who was super popular and, of course, treated me like crap. Huge tool. Over the summer, we kept in contact a little but knew nothing would happen because he was going to college. But for a month in the summer, I was back at the school working at a camp and he was around. We started hooking up again and I agreed to lose my virginity to him the last night I was in town. I thought it would be romantic. Then, radio silence. I hear nothing from him for months, until I get a new boyfriend. He starts messaging me, being really creepy whenever I was in New York City. (He went to Columbia and because my high school was so near, I would spend some long weekends there.) Eventually, I was so frustrated, I told my new boyfriend about it and he called my ex and they had a screaming fight. No contact again for months. Cut to spring, I went on a tour of Columbia with my parents. I kept telling myself, 'It is a humongous city, and there’s no way I’ll run into him.' I’m on the tour and I just have this really weird feeling on my right side. I turn and look, and there he was, walking right into my tour group wearing the sweatshirt he made me give back the night we had sex! We both stopped dead in our tracks and just gave each other a super awkward wave. My tour group was already walking ahead so I ran to catch up with them, and that was it."
— Hollis, 25
Bumping Into An Ex At A Bar Crawl.
"Within hours of landing in Miami for the holidays, my friends and I went to an ugly Christmas sweater bar crawl. My sources (aka, my friends) had seen my ex at previous bar crawls, so I knew there was a possibility I'd run into him, but I still wasn't prepared. I had my back to the door and suddenly my friends started spazzing out instead of warning me my ex was walking his happy ass toward me. When he tapped on my shoulder and gave me a hug as if we were best friends, I froze and blacked out. I'm not sure what I said, if it was even cohesive, but for the rest of the night I couldn't shake that I saw him. He/us occupied my mind the rest of the night."
— Christy, 24
Vera Arsic / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images “In college I ran into an ex at the school's cafeteria. Coincidentally, the day before, I found definitive proof that he had, in fact, cheated on me. At the cafeteria, he got in line next me and acted normal and I started to feel myself boil over in anger, but I knew this was not the place to react. I calmly told him if he would come outside with me for a minute to talk. When we got outside, without saying a word, I slapped him across the face and said, ‘Don't you ever talk to me again!’ Two guys across the street saw and yelled ‘daayuuuum!’ I walked away to work and never looked back (or turned around). He never said a word either. Oh and it was 10 a.m.”
— Christina, 34
“He wasn’t an ex as much as a man who I went on an unspeakably awful date with (he told me the local farmers market was ‘unsanitary’, talked for 20 minutes about shoes he spent 10 grand on in New York, worked in AI, complained because the coffee shop we went to served bad coffee, and then tried to kiss me on the cheek when we parted ways…only to realize that we were neighbors). I ran into him on my first date with my now-fiancé as I was taking him home to my place. I looked the ex in the eye and leaned in for a sloppy make out with my new man. I assume he moved after that because I never saw him again.”
— Elizabeth, 25
“Before seeing him at my spin studio, I always regarded him as ‘the guy who broke my heart.’ I had an actual ex with whom I had a committed relationship with, but it was never anything like the connection I had with this guy. When our friendship ended after hooking up, I felt for so long that I didn't get the closure I needed after five years of pure feelings. I was on my way out after a rather intense spin class, and I was feeling good. I had a funny feeling in my gut pre-class that I would see him, which was weird considering it had been two years, but working out made me forget about it all. Then it happened. I had to do a double take. When I finally registered that it was him, I realized he was staring straight ahead, completely ignoring me. I knew he saw me, too. My first instinct was to feel violated—this is my spin studio, not his. Why is he here? This is my safe place. The more I thought about it, the more happy I was that it had happened. This is someone who made me feel completely heartbroken. This was someone who left me with more questions than answers. This is someone I loved and trusted, and he took that all away from me. And this was someone who couldn't even look me in the eye at a f***ing spin studio. We didn't say a word to each out, but it was all the closure I ever needed.”
— Alex, 23
Vladimir Vladimirov/E+/Getty Images “The first time was at a football game. His team was playing mine and I knew he'd probably be there but I figured the chances were low since the stadium was filled with thousands of people. But of course, I ran into him, and of course, I was drunk, and of course, the only thing I could sloppily muster was an angry, ‘You should have texted me!’ Which I felt encompassed my feelings that 1) he should have texted me because he basically ghosted, and 2) he should have told me he was coming. The second time, he was with his new girlfriend (!!!) standing outside of a burger joint I was visiting with my dad and my brother. Neither of them knew what he looked like but as I approached the door and realized he was there, I whispered to my brother to ‘Keep walking! Don't stop at the door! Tell dad!’ He did not tell dad. So my brother and I kept walking but my dad stood right in front of the door (and unknowingly right in front of my ex) and yelled, 'Where are you going? Isn't this the place?' My ex and his girlfriend finally moved away and I walked back, joined my dad, and cried over my burger. A great experience!”
— Veronica, 25
“I ran into the same ex twice, both times while I was with my new boyfriend. The first time, I literally bumped into him outside the subway, and I was mortified because my hair was greasy and I looked terrible. But shockingly, I don't think my ex noticed. (He's almost a foot taller than I am and it was really crowded.) Then, about a month later, I saw him again at a big party. I avoided him most of the night, but he finally approached me and my boyfriend. Introducing my new boyfriend to my ex felt amazing. But it felt less amazing when my ex made a few comments that showed he cared less about our relationship than I did. Dating him was a pretty big deal to me and it apparently wasn't important at all to him. I abruptly excused myself from the conversation, my ex picked up on the fact that I was annoyed (something he rarely could do when we were together! LOL), and spent the rest of the night texting me apologies."
— Hannah, 26
“I had a horrible breakup with my last boyfriend (I broke up with him), and he suspected I was cheating. (I plead the fifth.) Maybe a year later, I went to a movie with my current boyfriend, and I saw my ex in the packed movie theater. I was sitting in the row in front of him, snuggled up with my boyfriend and then got up to go to the bathroom before the movie started. As I get up and turn around, I see him right behind us with who I assume was his new girlfriend. I was so shocked, all I could say was, ‘OMG, hi!’ All excited, even though I was shook and hated him so I had no reason to be nice? Anyway, then we had to sit in front of him the entire movie. We couldn’t even move because the seats were assigned and there wasn’t a single free seat left. Now, I’m so traumatized from seeing him and dating him that I literally get scared and anxious any time I see someone from afar that somewhat resembles him and I run the other way.”
— Mary, 26
“After a bit of an awkward breakup, thanks to overlapping friend groups, my ex and I never spoke. Being completely opposite majors (me in the art school, him in engineering), I was confident that our paths wouldn't cross again before graduation. By no means was it a healthy relationship, so I was completely fine never seeing him again. Little did I know, he changed his major which would ultimately land us in the same economics class upon my return from study abroad. Still jet-lagged at the start of the new semester from three months abroad, I was sitting in my night class, dreading the four hour business lecture. However, that became the least of my problems when I looked up and saw my ex walk in. We awkwardly locked eyes, and I started to panic. All the awful memories and anxiety were coming back, and I knew I needed to get out of that class. Could I leave without it being too obvious? Should I stick it out for the next 10 weeks? Drop the class? I sat through the long lecture and during the half-way break we were given, I whipped out my laptop to drop the lecture. I stuck it out the rest of the night, to not draw too much attention to myself, but didn't return the next week. One of the best decisions of my college career was in dropping that class.”
— Lexi, 21
franckreporter/E+/Getty Images “In college, I had a long-term, toxic, on-and-off boyfriend. During a time when we were off, I went on a date with this other guy and it was awful. We met at some bar he picked and it was too loud, I couldn’t hear him, he couldn’t hear me, he was all fidgety. And then, from across the smelly bar, I see my sh*tty ex. Obviously, I couldn’t let him know I was on a terrible date, so I put my high school drama class skills to use and totally changed my body language from, ‘This sucks and I hate you,’ to, ‘OMG, you’re so funny and amazing and I’m so into this.’ Naturally, my ex started trying to flirt with random girls the whole night, but he wasn’t too successful because he was also burning through the back of my skull as I twirled my hair and hips and drank. Toward the end of the night, he decides to try and fight my date. So my date and my ex started fighting outside and that was when I decided it was too much for me and I walked away. Neither one of them took that well, and an hour later I had 15+ calls and messages. I decided I also didn’t want to deal with that so I put my phone in a drawer for 24 hours and went to a spa with my best friend. When I eventually circled back to my house, guess who was there? My ex. Thankfully, my best friend told him to leave and called the cops. He swore he’d never talk to me again, but we all know men always come back. Three days later we got back together.”
— Cami, 26
Bumping into someone you once dated can certainly be awkward, but it happens to be the best of us. Hold your head up and keep it moving, because your ex is the past and you’re walking into your future.