Sex + Dating

Running Into Exes in Public Spaces: A Guide


Running into your ex in public is about as comfortable as a colonoscopy. But that doesn’t mean you have to make an ass (!) of yourself if you do. Even if you’re not “over it” yet, you can save face in the event of a surprise sighting.

Here’s what to do, if and when you run into you-know-who, depending on the scenario.

Morning coffee run

I don’t like to answer questions before I’ve had my first cup coffee, let alone make small talk with someone I used to sleep with. If you were ballsy enough to date in your zip code, you have some concessions to make. First, no local watering hole is safe. And second, your lazy weekend coffee run you always loved so much has ceased to be a casual affair. Time to up your attire from sweatpants and bedhead to something that says, “I have my shit together -- even on Sundays.” Just because you know you didn’t #wakeuplikethis, doesn’t mean your ex has to.

BUT: even if you’re not dressed to kill, don’t avoid a conversation. For all they know, you’ve got someone waiting in bed for you back at home. Keep it short, get your coffee, and get the f*ck out of there. Also, look into moving.

Your ex has company

The only thing worse than running into an ex looking less than your best, is running into your ex on the arm of your replacement. That’s a threesome no one wants to be a part of. If you don’t feel like you can calmly confront them, make a quick and unnoticeable exit. Otherwise, assert dominance in the situation by introducing yourself (politely) to their new friend, and let your ex explain how you two know each other. Do NOT ask questions or linger. Even if the only things keeping you up at night are Netflix and a nasty UTI, be aloof and act like you’ve got somewhere to be.

You're in a restaurant

Running into your ex while you’re dining out is a surefire way to spoil your appetite. If he and his date haven't spotted you, there’s no need to force an interaction. Love the one (or ones) you’re with and try to enjoy the evening without drawing too much attention to yourself. Even if you’re on a date with someone unconscionably attractive, don't flaunt it. Once there's eye contact, however, some sort of acknowledgement is necessary. A simple nod or wave may suffice, depending on the circumstances.

But let’s say you’re alone, drowning your sorrows in a plate of carbs and bottomless glasses of wine, only to discover your ex is also at said bar, having a grand old time. Don’t run! Instead, pretend that you left your credit card there last night, and ask the bartender to check. Et voila! You don’t look like a coward, and for all your ex knows, you had such a great time the night before, you left without paying.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Trapped on public transit

Oh, the joys of public transit. As if strangers encroaching upon your personal space wasn't punishment enough, cities like New York make it fathomable for you to run into your ex on the train, bus, or -- god forbid -- in an Über pool. And if you see something, or rather someone, it’s OK to say something. But knowing each other biblically doesn’t necessitate sitting next to one another the whole ride. After you acknowledge each other, feel free to pop in your headphones, or draft a pretend email. If the proximity is just too much for you to bear, nothing is preventing you from getting out at the next stop. As my aunt once told me, “Men are like buses: there’s always another one coming along.”

Wedding crashers

If you and your ex share mutual friends, prepare to end up on the same guest list. And when good friends get married, no-showing is cowardly and rude. Weddings can be excellent opportunities for the newly single to meet eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. So don’t let a run-in with your ex spoil the fun. Just remember: nothing mixes worse with an open bar than some ex-related drama, so drink responsibly. Be cordial and keep the passive-agressive flirting in check. The goal should be to have a good time, not to make your ex jealous.

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Julia Reiss is a writer and stand-up comedian who prefers to date outside her borough as a preventative measure. Follow her on Twitter: @thereisspiece