For many, the possibility of running into an ex on campus is very real. During my last year of undergrad, I remember running into my ex all the time!
I was a college student during the rise of the hookup, and although my ex was never was my ‘boyfriend’ per se, we did share one invigorating summer together while we lived only a few rooms from each other in our dorm complex.
It's been 5 years since I graduated and, in hindsight, there are definitely things I would change if I could turn back time. Since I don’t have the power to change time, I want to offer some advice in hopes that you’ll make fewer mistakes than I did.
1. Create space for yourself if you need it
If the breakup is fresh and you are still in a very vulnerable place, I recommend exploring different routes when moving around campus. If you know your ex hangs out at a specific coffee shop, try another one. It’s fairly easy to consciously create space so that there is less of a chance of running into your ex.
2. If you run into them, don't feel pressure to do a "stop and chat"
Avoiding your ex, however, is not always possible. Know that seeing them may catch you very off-guard, and know that they are likely going to feel just as surprised and awkward as you. Whenever I saw my ex in the dining hall or in passing on campus, we always exchanged an awkward smile and continued on our way. These interactions were brief because I was always so nervous! You don't need to exchange words.
Today, if I run into an ex, things are easier. Engaging in conversation with them is amusing and there are no hard feelings on either side. No need to be nervous. You’re bound to have many more relationships. Each one will be meaningful in its own way and will serve a purpose. So if you can strike a brief and cordial conversation with your ex, then great. If not (totally understandable), a smile and continuing on your way is fine.
3. Sit in the front row
If you have a class together, go ahead and take a seat in the front row. Sitting in the front row allows for less distraction. If your ex is in your peripheral view, it’s easier for thoughts of them to cloud your mind and take your attention away from what’s important: everything but your ex!
4. Don’t create drama
Try not to make the breakup and your ex all you talk about. In school, word can spread easily and can also be misinterpreted or misconstrued and it will only keep you stuck. So do your best to focus on other more positive things. The more you handle the situation with grace, the less it will become a big deal and the sooner you’ll be able to move on.
5. Think carefully about "hanging out"
If your ex asks to hang out, make sure you know what their intentions are and be transparent with yours. I remember my ex invited me to see his new apartment a year after we'd broken up, and I naively and eagerly accepted because I missed him. When I got there, he made it clear to me that he expected to hook up. My feelings were hurt and it only reminded me of why we parted ways in the first place.
6. Be careful about combining alcohol + exes
If you see an ex at a party and/or bar, it's helpful to be self-aware and know beforehand how alcohol affects you. The combination of nighttime and alcohol can make people and things seem like better ideas than they are - this is especially true when it comes to exes.
If you’re still harboring feelings for an ex, vacating the party and moving on to the next one may be the best action to take. I've definitely been guilty of drunk texting and even calling an ex (yikes!) after running into him at a party. A lack of self control is not a good look.
And even if your ex does respond favorably to your texts, what are you going to get out of it? A hookup fueled by nostalgia? Rain check.
7. Out with the old. Embrace the new!
Even though the idea of seeing your ex around can be scary, actually seeing them isn't so bad, and may even help you mend. The start of a new school year or semester represents new opportunity, fun, growth and the chance to make new memories. So commit to these things and enjoy the thought of a new page and new start. There will be plenty of events, classes, friends, clubs, organizations, and goals for you to embrace rather than just seeing school as a place where your ex will be. You got this!