My Ex-Boyfriend's Back
March 31, 2006 12:17 PM   Subscribe

What to do now that the ex is back in town?

I lived with my ex-boyfriend for more than three years, until he ended it and went on tour. Two days after it ended, while he was still sleeping in my bed, he hooked up with a woman five years younger than me (she's 20, he's 26) who shares my name, and went out of his way to flaunt their relationship. Gross.

I met a wonderful man a month after the breakup, and though I'm taking it slowly, he's a very nice presence in my life. I've bought a home, had a lot of career success, lost ten pounds ... in short, I'm recovering nicely from a very tough heartbreak. It helped to know that the ex would be out of town, and we haven't spoken in four months.

...Though now I've had word that his tour ended early, and he's emailing mutual friends from a cafe near my home. He's living in the same small corner of the city as me; odds are I'll be seeing him everywhere soon, and possibly with that pre-pubescent slag.

I'm not sure what it will feel like to see him, and I'd like some advice on what to expect. Will it ever get easier to see him? What will he be thinking when he sees me? How to deal with the anxiety of knowing I'll run into him? It's like knowing I'll be hit soon with a baseball bat.
posted by hamster to Human Relations (32 answers total)
I run into people like that all the time. I find the best thing to do in such situations is to be incredibly polite, somewhat formal and pretend as nothing happened. Do not seek friendship or anything outside the social setting you happen to bump into him. Don't try to out do him or make mention of the fact you've lost 10 pounds and are now banging your own 20 year old stud. Seriously, pretend that they're that guy from high school you see but you don't really want to talk to but you have to because you guys do know each other. You make small talk, make a few inside jokes and then go on with your life.

Of course the first time you run into him will probably send you into full "Oh shit" mode, but once you realize (and here's hoping he has the same level of decendy) that he's probably as afraid of you as you are of him it'll be less and less awkward each time.
posted by geoff. at 12:27 PM on March 31, 2006

sounds like you havent fully broken up 'in your heart'. maybe thats what you should work on, rather than trying to avoid him etc. if you take care of that, then running into him 'wont matter'.
easier said than done, but that seems like the 'real' solution.
posted by jak68 at 12:28 PM on March 31, 2006

More info. How long since the break-up? Total.
posted by tkchrist at 12:29 PM on March 31, 2006

The best revenge is living well, isn't it? If he's trying to hook up with mutual friends, they know that you're living well, I hope, and that he ended it and couldn't even do that in an honourable way.

If they don't know that, maybe they should. As for what it's going to be like to see him, well, there's only one sure way to answer that question, but it sounds like you have your thoughts about him pretty well-fixed in any case. You're better off without him, so act like you are if you see him.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:31 PM on March 31, 2006

Yes, it will get easier to see him. It's only been four months, not that long in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I conjecture that since you have been so busy in the last four months (bought a home, had a lot of career success, lost ten pounds), you have not taken the time to sufficiently grieve your loss and you are now just getting around to doing the heavy lifting of grief.

Since I don't read minds, I will not address the issue of what he will be thinking. God knows. Don't go there.

You got a big blow to your confidence by being dumped by an asshole. It's ok to cry and be agitated about it, and it's ok to not get over it in four months. I suggest a bit more wallowing. That hippie crap allow yourself to feeeeel your feeeeelings so that you can get past them actually has some merit.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2006

From my experience, the anxiety felt from the anticipation of the event may be greater than the anxiety felt during the event.
posted by sexymofo at 12:47 PM on March 31, 2006

I'm worried about answering you with out knowing more because of things like:

...and possibly with that pre-pubescent slag

Why you so mad at her? She didn't do anything. He did.
It's ok to be pissed about being dumped. I understand and sympathize. The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. Hate and anger take investment and time. You need to be utterly indifferent.

BUT it sounds like, prepare for this because it's going to sting: maybe you let him treat you like shit and now you want more.

Why? You let a dude dump you and still sleep in the same bed? he cheats and (if I understand what you wrote correctly) you still talked to him afterwards? Have you no self respect? No. Nobody does when they do this. Even me.

Yeah. I'm being harsh. I feel I CAN because I have been on both sides of this. I have been the idiot who let somebody trash me and then I have been the asshole who trashed somebody who let them.. trash.. er I got lost on that. But you get the point. The secret is making this guy dead to you. Ignore his existence. Ignoring your ex is the natural vaccine to getting over them.

You need to get your self respect back. So. Do NOT see this person. Avoid them like the plague. If you see them don't talk to them, don't scowl, or mope or confront, just walk away. Avoid the same hang-outs... unless doing that totally cramps your style. Even so. Don't worry about what this dick-head thinks.
posted by tkchrist at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2006

When something similar happened to me I worked hard on forgiveness. It doesn't mean you approve of how he acted, it just means you are going to release it from your life. Easier said than done, I know - and you have to feel all the anger, hurt and pain first - but after a while you get so that you just feel a vague sense of pity toward the other person.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2006

Be confident. He ended the relationship and was an ass for how things ended. Look at what you've got good going on and consider him irrelevant to the rest of your life. What does it matter if he's still with the other woman? That's his choice. It's now your turn to focus on your choices and your life. He does not have a say anymore. You should not allow him to be more than a passing encounter at the cafe.
posted by onhazier at 12:52 PM on March 31, 2006

Will it ever get easier to see him?


It will get easier.


Focus on what's going on in your world, and he will fade into the background. If he tries to re-open contact, don't do it. It will just be re-opening the wound and extending your suffering.
posted by raedyn at 12:54 PM on March 31, 2006

can relate. if you haven't already, might be worth telling your current relationship, why you're on edge.

expect to physically feel a little off (or at least I know my digestion goes under stress). I usually treat myself sort of like I do when I'm almost coming down with something. hot tea. ginger ale.

it'll get better.
posted by ejaned8 at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2006

Pure, unsubstantiated speculation which I know in my heart to be true: you'll worry about it anxiously and endlessly, until you finally do inevitably run into him. Then you'll instantly start wondering how you ever let that loser get so far under your skin, and you'll find it hard to remember why you were so worried about it, or about him.

It sounds to me like you're doing just great. Congratulations! Don't go out of your way to avoid him or seek him out -- you're already on to other (and better) things; he doesn't deserve to be taking up that much space in your brain.
posted by ook at 1:32 PM on March 31, 2006

...that pre-pubescent slag

Don't be too hard on her, she's only doing what you did (dating him). Cutting her down is cutting yourself down.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:35 PM on March 31, 2006

Holy cannoli Batman! Why worry about the ex's new girl? What's a 20 year old got that you don't? Seriously, at 26 you still have the face and bod of a 20 year old, paid bills, and better conversation! What does she have, acrylic shoes and nails? Yikes! Clearly this guy has neither talent nor taste when it comes to women.

And screw this guy! Comes a time very very soon when a rock-star-wanna-be is greatly less impressive than a man who can set his own alarm clock (get up for a real job with a future) and knows how to order in a restaurant that doesn't serve hamburgers or chinese take out. So he's a musician? Claims to be a deep-feeling guy does he? Got soulful eyes? Yeah well so does Gavin Rossdale and his lyrics and band still suuuuuuuuucks. I mean come on, can you get more pretentious and meaningless than those lyrics? Sure he 'made it,' but that just means less room for more losers of his ilk.

Darling, at my last bad break-up, my DREAM was to lose those ten pounds, but realized that I (and now you) lost 170-220 pounds of useless flesh! The guy clearly had issues and you're the big winner here. If I was in your place, I'd be donning smart little outfits, taking long leisurely walks with your new boy and forgetting all about this loser-ville! Better yet, go have a day in bed and aspire for the best sex of your life ... you win!
posted by eatdonuts at 1:45 PM on March 31, 2006

What will he be thinking when he sees me? He's going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. In the first instants, he's going to be wary, waiting to see what you'll do.

How to deal with the anxiety of knowing I'll run into him? Be ready. Rehearse, even. But you don't have to rehearse much... just your opening. You know this guy. You know what he'll do if you: ignore him coldly; insult him or address him sarcastically; act like you're genuinely glad to see him and try to have a real conversation; talk pleasantly and politely and say, "we should have a drink sometime" (not really meaning it); etc. Run through all your options, and choose one that you think will make things easier for you. You know, if you say something that puts him on the defensive or shows him up, he might get smug or nasty.

You're still feeling somewhat raw, so say the thing that will lead him to act as you would like him to, within the circumstances. The best you can hope for from the guy is courtesy with no show of ill will. I think if you can manage it, he'll be able to as well. But you have to be ready.
posted by wryly at 1:54 PM on March 31, 2006

Hm. Anyone who treated you so badly ought to hang HIS head when you meet on the street. It takes really strong self-esteem to really FEEL that to your bones, but it's the truth. You have nothing to be ashamed of, you didn't do anything wrong, your life is going well. Keep all of that in mind and bumping into this shmuck will be a lot less traumatic than the anticipation of bumping into him must be. You might even take the initiative and ask him out to coffee now that he's back. Get it out of the way and show yourself and him how little it matters to you now. Water under the bridge.

Although... it's not clear how much time has passed since the horrible breakup. If you're not over it yet, then you're not. Don't be ashamed of that, either. You can be civil in public but still make it clear that you're not interested in him, in friendship, etc. I always say that being mad is better than being sad or ashamed.
posted by scarabic at 2:34 PM on March 31, 2006

Best thing I ever said to an ex:

Ex: You look great.
Me: Thanks.

I know it's little, but it felt like a huge victory not say, 'You too!' and not to be mean at the same time.
posted by starbaby at 3:17 PM on March 31, 2006

You'll run into him and it will be tremendously uncomfortable the first time. You'll see him from afar and hope to hell he doesn't see you. And you'll also be sort of secretly hoping he does, too. And you won't know if it's because you want him to want you, or you want him to know how much he's hurt you, or you want him to see you've lost 10 pounds and are doing great without him.

It will be all of those things, and it will suck.

Over time, however, you will run into him again. Maybe you'll be with this new beau of yours and it will feel a little more comfortable because now the ex has to see that you've moved on.

You'll run into him yet again later on, and it will be easier than the first two times.

Eventually, seeing him around will not be much of a big deal aside from a slight feeling of any one of the following: annoyance, disgust, contempt, or indifference. Eventually, it becomes indifference, and you really just won't care anymore.

Time is the only thing that will fix this, and running into him will get easier and easier as time goes on.

You've got karma and other things greatly on your side - a new man, 10 lbs of weight gone, and career success - so you don't need to hang your head in shame when this guy is around.
posted by twiggy at 3:38 PM on March 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you've moved on pretty well. I'd say that it'll be a non-issue. Unless you're the hysterical type, in which case there's no hope for you.
posted by cellphone at 3:46 PM on March 31, 2006

If you were with him for 3 years and he hooked up with someone new in 2 days, I'd say he probably had that chickie lined up in the wings when he instigated the break-up. He's a worm. You are better than that and your circumstances now prove that. It seems something about him wants to be in your face if he's chosen to email at a place close to you and is communicating with mutual friends. Look at him like he's a science experiment or a bug, a dull disinterest in a vaguely polite way, a little chit-chat a glance at the watch and a "gotta run".
posted by 45moore45 at 4:07 PM on March 31, 2006

During my last significant break up I came to the conclusion that the person who I fell in love with could not possibly be the person who broke my heart, because the guy I really loved wouldn't have behaved like that. Once I came to the conclusion that this was not the person I was in love with, but a stranger in his body, he no longer had power to hurt me.
posted by zia at 4:08 PM on March 31, 2006 [2 favorites]

That was interesting, zia, but a little cryptic. Care to elaborate on how that works? Was the person you fell in love with an illusion? Or was the person who broke up with you possessed or changed somehow?
posted by scarabic at 9:11 PM on March 31, 2006

Wow, some of these responses scare me. Maybe he got on with a younger woman because they had.. y'know, chemisty... and you two didn't. *shrug* It happens. Life goes on.

Treat it like that. Be cordial, and move on with your life. Don't sit around and worry about it. As long as neither of them are plotting to murder you, it'll be fine.

Try and relax. :-) I've been in the same situation before, and just taking a deep breath and saying "Fuck it!" does wonders.
posted by drstein at 11:40 PM on March 31, 2006

Smile nicely, move on. Listen to geoff.
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:51 AM on April 1, 2006

I've been in the same situation before

People keep saying this, and then talking as if they've forgotten what it was like. "Just move on": right! sure! If that's the way you felt at the time, you weren't actually in this situation. If you were, you'd know that that's completely useless advice. You have to get through the pain and the initial awkwardness/terror of the first re-encounters before you can "move on" (which will happen pretty much automatically with the passage of time unless you're the obsessive type, which the poster clearly isn't). There's no call for crap like "maybe you let him treat you like shit and now you want more."

To the poster: lots of good advice here; I'll single out starbaby's because it's concise and demonstrates exactly the right attitude: be polite, be brief, and don't give an inch. When you walk away, you want him thinking "damn, I may have made a mistake."
posted by languagehat at 8:37 AM on April 1, 2006

Humans are funny. I bet the animals are laughing at us....
posted by Dreamghost at 8:38 AM on April 1, 2006

Yeah it will get easier. Should you forgive him (unless he sincerely wants your forgiveness)? No.

Should you feel obligated to be nice to that person? No.

My advice is to continue to live well, and avoid situations where you will be forced to interact with him. Hopefully your mutual friends respect that you feel like he shitted on you and won't be forcing you two into awkward situations. Also, never get forced into playing the roll of the bad guy.
posted by mhuckaba at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2006

As follow up, I ran into him last evening as I was meeting some friends at a bar in our neighborhood. He was standing with the friends I was meeting. He said, "How are you?" and I said, "I'm fine. You won't be staying, will you?"

He said no, walked back to his table, and spent the evening peeking over at me. His new girlfriend was there; she looked over quite a bit. I marched to the bar across from them, asked my friend the bartender for a large Jim Beam on the rocks, and was promptly hit on by the attractive guy next to me. I'd bought new jeans and a cute shirt that day, and was feeling confident after a romantic dinner with the new beau.

It was still hard to see him, but more awkward than anything else. Thanks for the great advice--I think it will be easier from now on.
posted by hamster at 12:49 PM on April 2, 2006

I'm glad to hear you got through the first meeting. That's probably the worse it'll ever feel. Doesn't it feel great to know you're getting over him, and building yourself an even more fabulous life on you own terms? Go hamster!
posted by raedyn at 2:35 PM on April 2, 2006

*loud cheering erupts from ook's corner*
posted by ook at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2006

"If that's the way you felt at the time, you weren't actually in this situation. If you were, you'd know that that's completely useless advice."

Actually, I was in the same situation. And no, it's not completely useless advice at all, especially not since the OP replied and said that she did pretty much what I suggested. She was cordial and went on with her evening and things were fine.
posted by drstein at 10:00 PM on April 2, 2006

hamster: That's fantastic! It couldn't possibly have gone better, and you should now be pretty much immunized against further encounters. I imagine he'll toss and turn occasionally, wondering if he made a big mistake.

drstein: My apologies. You're absolutely right, your advice was fine; I lazily copied your line because it was nearest the comment box, but I was aiming at other respondents who basically said "Just move on." Sorry if you felt attacked.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 PM on April 2, 2006

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