Jab ‘they’ met: What to do when you run into your ex?

28 February,2024 09:30 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Aakanksha Ahire

Once a B-town-favourite couple, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Shahid Kapoor recently crossed paths at an event opening doors to unlimited speculations. We knocked on the doors of relationship gurus who shared lessons we must take from the two actors on how to deal with an unexpected encounter

Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock

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B-town love stories and break-ups have always intrigued Bollywood fans. Recently, videos of Bebo walking past her ex-boyfriend Shahid Kapoor went viral. The paparazzi videos show Kareen Kapoor on the red carpet of the Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards (DPIFF) 2024, greeting director Raj who was posing with Shahid Kapoor.

While Shahid smiled graciously, Kareena simply walked. Whether or not this was intentional, one won't know for sure. However, it stirred up conversations, funny and critical. Mid-day.com decided to dive deeper into the subject and spoke to relationship gurus asking them what one must do if they run into their ex.

"For many, running into an ex, even if they ended things on good terms, can still be awkward because it brings back memories and emotions. Such situations are difficult because they can stir up feelings of nostalgia, regret, or even uncertainty about how to act," says Hitesh Chakraworty, relationship expert and coach, spiritual healer, author of ‘Decoding the Mystery Behind 3, 6 and 9' and founder of ISSAR.

Ruchi Ruuh (@therapywithruchi), relationship expert and therapist says, "Facing an ex-partner is even more difficult especially if you have not been in touch with them after the break up." According to her, running into an ex will always be a bit awkward. It might also lead to people thinking, ‘How does my ex feel about me now?', ‘Am I still vulnerable?', ‘Will my feelings for my ex resurface?', or ‘Was this break-up a mistake.'

Ignoring ex can be a sign of residual feelings
"That can be one possibility, but it might not always be the case," says Ruuh. For some, ignoring their ex can be a way to respect their boundaries. Some might also feel uncomfortable or awkward and thus ignore them. Ruuh adds, "Many times, people get sad looking at their ex or feel jealous seeing how much they have progressed and choose to not acknowledge them." Further, she says, "If one parted ways on a negative note, they probably don't want to agitate or irritate them or trigger emotions again."

Sometimes, an encounter with an ex at a social event can open doors to speculation by people who know you. "This creates a lot of pressure on the exes to behave in a certain way. Sometimes you don't want to give too much information to people. Some do interact in private settings. However, in a more social setting, some wish to keep it low."

Ruuh says, "There's no sure shot way again to say if it's right or wrong to ignore your partner because each person has a very different way of dealing with the breakup even long after it's done. All of this also depends on how you broke up, and how the relationship was after that." "However," Chakraworty states, ‘if you find yourself constantly being unable to interact with them without feeling emotional or if thoughts of them linger long after the encounter, it might be a sign that you still have unresolved feelings. This depends from person to person."

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Reflecting on your emotions
Ruuh stresses the importance of understanding your emotions and processing your feelings. "It is important to process the separation. This will help in reminding you why you ended things with your ex. It will make you realise how far you have come and how much you have healed. This sort of emotional clarity can help you prepare for times when you run into your ex."

Further, she states that it is important to look at an ex-partner as just another person instead of looking at him as someone you broke up with. "Treat them with grace even if you ended things with them on an unpleasant note. You must know that they are human too, and even if you are hurting, disrespecting them is no way to treat them."

"If at all you happen to have an unexpected encounter with them in public or social spaces, stay focused in the present moment and don't allow yourself to bring incidents from the past. Take a deep breath and remind yourself you can deal with this maturely. There is no harm in being cordial."

Chakraworty adds, "It's okay to acknowledge an ex-partner when you run into them, but whether you choose to engage further depends on your comfort level and the circumstances. If you feel it's best to keep your distance to avoid any potential discomfort or drama, that's perfectly acceptable. Remember to prioritise your well-being in such situations, and don't feel pressured to engage beyond what feels comfortable for you."

Preparing yourself in advance
According to Chakraworty, preparing yourself in advance can help ease the tension of unexpected encounters. He says, "You can mentally rehearse how you'll respond, remind yourself to stay calm and focus on enjoying the event regardless of who you might bump into. Having a support system, like a friend you can confide in or a distraction plan, can also be beneficial. However, the best way is to ignore or give a smile the way you smile at an unknown person at parties or conferences and then move to your known circle." If you anticipate your ex's presence at an event, it is always a good idea to take your friend who knows your history, and with whom you feel safe and comfortable.

Ruuh suggests doing the following if you happen to see your ex in public or at a social event where avoiding them seems difficult

1. Stay calm, excuse yourself from people, drink a glass of water and cheer yourself up.

2. Try talking to someone about things that you like to distract yourself.

3. Take your time to collect your thoughts before engaging in a conversation or small talk with your ex.

4. Remind yourself why you are there for the event.

5. Be polite, say ‘hi', make small talk and don't dwell much on the past. Avoid making faces or worse, accusatory comments making this awkward for everyone present around you.

6. If you get uncomfortable, think of ways to exit the event gracefully.

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Common mistakes to avoid after running into your ex

Both Ruuh and Chakraworty list down common mistakes to avoid:

1. Don't overreact or be impulsive.

2. Avoid discussing your past at all costs at a social event.

3. Don't assume what they might be feeling or thinking about you.

4. Try not to ignore them completely. Don't be rude. Simply acknowledge their presence by smiling or even nodding and waving.

5. Don't jump into a stalking spree during or post the encounter.

6. Don't compare your current life with your ex's current life.

7. Don't dwell on the encounter and let it affect your mood.

8. Don't over analyse their behaviour or try to read into it.

9. Don't ignore your own feelings or pretend everything is fine when it's not. Rather, opt for healthy ways to deal with it.

Navigating connection with your ex post-breakup
"Irrespective of the nature of the breakup, it is important not to keep any kind of connection with your ex," states Chakraworty. "Your connection of any kind be it through social media or friend circle, can also hurt the emotion of your current partner and it might create insecurity in your current relationship."

Ruuh suggests setting clear boundaries. "If one wishes to maintain a cordial relationship with their ex, they must avoid unhealthy actions like stalking their ex on social media. Many people do this and get triggered when they see their ex having fun, travelling or even spending time with their current partner." She adds, "Be sure to not dwell on the past or discuss it with your ex. After the breakup, it is important to respect your ex, their emotions and the choices they make in life. Similarly, it is also important to prioritise your well-being and respect your emotions"

Further, she states, "If your ex is trying to communicate with you or wanting to keep a connection and if that is making you feel uncomfortable, communicate this with them clearly and ask them to respect your boundaries."

She says, "Focus on moving forward rather than going backwards. If, in any way, a cordial connection with your ex is hampering your growth as a person or coming in the way of your present relationship, you might as well limit your contact with them or choose to block them out for your own well-being."

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