How to Deal with Unexpectedly Seeing Your Ex in Class


Candice Lim

Whether you attend a Big 10 school or a liberal arts college, you are bound to run into people you’d prefer not to. A dreaded scenario for those returning to campus is seeing your ex in class. There’s no right way to go about this. Seeing your ex on campus or around town is inevitable, but we have some advice from college students who’ve dealt with their exes in public.

If the relationship ended cordially, it’s best to stay civil. When you realize your ex is in class, don’t panic. Rather than make it awkward and play the “did they see me?” game, if your ex makes eye contact with you, smile. If you feel good at the moment, you are more than welcome to walk over, say hi, and move on.

My friend, who had a few classes with her ex, advised to walk in and keep it chill. You don’t have to sit next to each other and even if you feel awkward about making any contact, it will pass. For her, she minded her own business and kept any conversations with her ex casual. From her experience, it’s only weird if you make it weird.

If the relationship ended badly, you do not have to acknowledge your ex at all. Walking into class on that first day and seeing your ex in the front row might be triggering or alarming at first, but take a breath. Before spiraling, take a seat somewhere you feel comfortable and acknowledge the situation: your ex is going to be in your class, probably for the semester, and you will not let this get in the way of your learning. Anchor yourself in the situation and focus on your education by taking out your laptop, notebook, or other materials needed for the class.

It’s important to not let exes or people you dislike get in the way of your education. You have every right to be in the classroom and while your ex might be distracting, it may be helpful to make a friend in that class. That way, you’ll have a companion to talk to and distract you from your ex. And if making friends is a little hard for you, that’s fine! We recommend not staring at your ex and, instead, try focusing on anything but them. And if getting through that first class was hard, a reward system might be helpful in making sure you attend class. For example, make it a self care routine to grab a coffee after class to reward yourself for getting through lecture.

College is a time of high stress and social anxiety, many of us have been in your shoes before. Don’t be afraid to talk about this with a friend or classmate who might have stories and advice of their own to share. Know that you are not alone.

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