My Ex was everywhere.
I saw her face in the crowd, on advertisement posters…even on the TV. But it was never her.
My mind was just playing tricks on me – I was being haunted by my imagination and fear.
The very thought that I might have to face her again, that I might accidentally bump into her, terrified and paralyzed me whenever I left the house.
What would I do when it happened? What would I say to her? What would SHE say?
In the end, everything went completely different than I had imagined.
How To Prepare Yourself For An Accidental Bump-In
One of the golden rules of 60 days of No-Contact, is to avoid places where you could bump into your Ex. Places they used to go to, mutual social circles, etc.
The reason for this is not to jeopardize the progress you've made so far.
But you cannot isolate yourself forever … and you shouldn't.
You must understand that you have no control over your Ex or the circumstances of an accidental meeting. You can minimize the risk, but that's about all you can do.
What you CAN do, is prepare yourself for potential run-ins, so you don't have to restrict yourself to staying home.
I want you to try a simple technique that doesn't take much time but will help you deal with the fear.
Find a quiet place, sit down, relax and close your eyes. Now imagine a situation, (like you would see it on a movie screen behind your eyes), where you run into your Ex – let's say at a coffee shop.
How would that scene go off in the most positive way for you?
In other words, what would be your best performance that you could live with?
A good example would certainly be the following:
You run into them; you are a little surprised, you firmly look them into the eye and smile. You say “Hi,” and your gaze lingers a moment. You are calm and your smile confident, the situation is under your control.
Then you turn your head and go, giving them no chance for a conversation.
That way, you appear confident and polite without undermining the No-Contact Rule, (you'll still have to start from day 1, even if it wasn't your fault).
This is, in my experience, by far the best way to act on accidental bump-ins with your Ex. (I'll tell you in a minute how to NOT do it, how I did it back then).
You find YOUR perfect way of handling this, and you play it over and over again in your he until you know it by heart.
You do this for a few days, for about 10 minutes, and each time the fear of bumping into them gets a hold of you, (or before you go to “dangerous” places).
This will give you confidence and some peace of mind.
How I Bumped Into My Ex – What NOT To Do
Approximately six months after the break-up, (about two months of No-Contact), I was walking through the town carrying some groceries when suddenly she appeared right in front of me. Just like that. She lived in another town, and the chances of running into her were very slim.
But nonetheless … there she was right in front of me, no chance of turning around, no chance to bail.
She hadn't seen me yet, and since there was no possibility that she wouldn't, I walked right towards her.
She looked surprised when she saw me, almost shocked. Then she smiled her smile that always made me helpless before and said “hi.”
Ages passed where we only looked at each other; my smile was broken, helpless.
Then I watched myself suddenly doing something idiotic, and I hated myself for it a long time after that. But I was helpless.
I went towards her and hugged her. And if that weren't enough, I whispered into her ear, “I missed you so much.”
It was an outcry for help, an extended arm to be pulled out from a world of pain.
She said nothing.
Everything after that was just a blur, and I don't remember much. Eventually, we said “bye, ” and we walked away from each other. I never turned around.
Today still, I have difficulties describing what happened inside of me. It was an emotional turmoil, my stomach knotted.
Somehow I got home and just fell into the bed.
Then something happened that pretty much saved me.
The ONE Thing That Saved Me After Bumping Into My Ex
There I was lying on my bed, thinking about jumping from a bridge, if I only had the strength to get up and go to that bridge, when suddenly the doorbell rang. And it rang persistently, for minutes, (felt like hours).
I somehow got up – I just wanted this ringing to stop – and opened the door.
In front of me stood my younger brother with a big smile on his face.
He started babbling like a waterfall about this “thing” we had to go to immediately, life and death depended on it, he demanded that I come with him right now.
He pulled me out of the door right into his car.
Before I even knew what happened, I found myself in a bowling center.
I am not a big fan of bowling, and he knew that, so I really couldn't understand what was happening.
Little by little, all our friends came by, and after that we spent HOURS bowling, competing, talking, laughing and drinking.
And you know what happened? I didn't think ONCE about my Ex or the unpleasant encounter.
I just didn't have the time for it.
And the next day it all felt like a far away dream.
What had happened?
The Worst Thing You Could Do After
I was forced to NOT think of the event. I was forced to NOT obsess over what happened… what I had said, what she said – or didn't say – what it all meant… in hundreds of different variations.
I was saved from overthinking.And compulsive overthinking is the demon that destroys your recovery.
I was saved from destroying all the progress I had made in my healing until then by coercive distraction.
And that was all it took.
What To Do Should You Run Into Your Ex?
Should it happen to you, should your ever accidentally bump into your Ex, I recommend that you try your best to “play your role” according to the mind-movie you've created in your head before.
Do your BEST to be confident and strong.
Here are a few guidelines:
1. Do NOT engage in a conversation
A conversation is the last thing you want. It would mess with you and open up a wound. Maybe you would fall into old relationship patterns, maybe even have a fight.
Don't risk it.
2. Take CONTROL of the situation
YOU are in control. YOU dictate what is happening. You DON'T react, you lead.
3. If a meeting is inevitable, don't run away
Bailing out, and letting them see it, will only make you look bad, not necessarily in their eyes, but worse – in your own. You HAVE to be able to respect yourself after this.
Walk up to them, say hi, smile, and walk away.
4. Resist the urge to tell them how you feel
They know that you are going through hell, and they WILL ask you anyways. Tell them you are doing good, anything else will just lead into something you will regret later.
Trust me, there is no positive outcome for you by telling them how you suffer, how you still love and miss them, etc.Remember, self-respect is what you have to preserve.
So resist the urge.
5. Immediately after, you want to look for distraction
The goal is to avoid the harmful, compulsive overthinking. The best thing you can do is some competitive sport involving friends, family, etc. (I've heard many other variations, but this one proved to be most beneficial).
Those of you who must have “reduced” contact with your Ex during the 60 days, (kids together, working partners, etc. ), must deal with them on almost daily basis.
All others can prepare themselves by re-playing the best possible outcome in your head, and by following the guideline, I've posted once the dreaded scenario plays out.
There are two ways this can harm your recovery – If you allow 1. negative conversations with them and 2. overthinking what happened over and over again.
If you manage to avoid these two things, then this event could actually bring you forward.
I was glad and lucky that it turned out positively for me after I ran into her. I later found out that my brother saw me with my Ex that day and immediately developed a “rescue plan” that ultimately saved me.
What I wish for you is that this potential “scary event” loses its power over you a little, and that – should it ever come to this – you will be able to hold on to your self-respect.
And… that there's someone out there, who does for you what my brother did for me back then.
Because sometimes we just need a kick in the right direction.