What To Do If You See Your Ex In Your Hometown & You're Low-Key Freaking Out

Ah, the holiday season. It's the time for gathering together with your friends and family, eating more than your stomach can handle, and running into your high school ex when your mom sends you into town to pick up sparkling water at the supermarket last minute. So what do you do if you see your ex out and about and it feels like a blast from the past, a punch in the gut, and drowning in a wave of nostalgia all wrapped in one? How do you manage old feelings of guilt or remorse when they rise up in you? What do you say when they ask whether or not you want to be friends?

When you run into an ex in your hometown, you need to do the same thing as when you run into an ex anywhere else: Protect yourself and your tender heart. If you still feel any amount of bruising from your breakup, keep the conversation to a minimum. Monitor how you feel afterward, and try to use your emotions as instructions. What is this teaching you about where you come from and what wounds you still have to heal? How much have you moved on, and what work remains to be done?

If you're preparing for a potential encounter with an ex, here's what you have to do.

1. Be Courteous

Even if you and your ex parted on bad terms, it's powerful AF to pretend like you have risen above slinging petty insults. You can say hello and wish them a happy holiday season. But if you still feel a lot of pain from your breakup, avoid getting in too deep of a conversation. You will be less likely to find a detail to dwell on this way. And if you will feel sad to hear that they are dating someone new, don't ask. Sometimes, when we are talking to our exes, we have the impulse to gouge into old wounds. Avoid that impulse.

2. Remind Yourself Why It Didn't Work Out

Clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish told Elite Daily that after running into your ex, it's important to ask yourself some questions to remind yourself of why the partnership wasn't a healthy one. "What are the 'deal breaker' aspects of his/her character that assure me that we are not a good match?" she said. "What was going on in my life that made me choose this person?'" Even if you only broke up when you graduated from school, think about how staying with that person would have held you back from becoming the person you are today.

3. Don't Dwell

After you have seen your ex, continue to pay attention to where your mind goes. "It's OK to let thoughts of him or her drift by in your mind," said Dr. Wish. "'Drifts' are OK — 'dwells' are not."

Dr. Wish also told Elite Daily that if you end up dwelling on the relationship for a long time, it might indicate that you are beating yourself up emotionally or "focusing on that relationship to prevent yourself from honest self-examination."

Rather than dwelling, try to briefly acknowledge how the encounter made you feel. And then, find something else to focus on besides your ex. Help your mom with the cooking, call your grandma or your best friend, or eat all the holiday dinner until you pass out. There are plenty of distractions that you can participate in to keep your ex off your mind and push them back out of your heart.

Running into your ex during the holidays can be an exercise in resilience, but before you let yourself fall backward, think about how far you've come. Over the upcoming holidays, progress is definitely something to be grateful for.

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