What To Do When Bumping Into Your Ex-Spouse


If you are still in the midst of divorce, it helps to set the groundwork for incidental encounters with your soon-to-be ex further down the road.

The relationship charity Restored Lives suggests wishing them well, since the objective is to close that chapter in your lives so that you can move forward. You can then part ways on a good note.

While some people go to great lengths to never see their former spouse again, such as by moving across the country, others are glad to keep in touch and consider them as a friend.

But what should you do if you are somewhere in the middle of this continuum?

Be cool and casual

When running into an ex, have a pleasant expression and ask a few general questions as you would for an acquaintance.

It is okay to keep moving slowly while talking in order to make the conversation brief. If on friendlier terms, feel free to suggest a quick cup of coffee.

Avoid unwanted contact

If it looks like she is about to kiss you or touch you in any way that makes you uncomfortable, copy Oprah Winfrey. She is not a hugger and has mentioned a way to get around this awkward moment.

Quickly extend your arm and grab their hand to shake it with one or both of your hands. Your ex may not be sure how to greet you, and this gesture can be helpful for her too.

The quick getaway

If your ex has not spotted you in a crowd, retreat slowly to avoid drawing attention. Do not stare, but rather stay focused on your getaway without her knowing you are nearby.

If you see your ex strolling down an aisle at the grocery store or a shop, turn around and get to the cashier for a speedy departure.

Avoiding her favorite cafes, coffee shops, gyms, etc., reduces the chance of an unwanted encounter — during my divorce, restaurants we frequented as a couple were dropped.

An upside is that splitting up gives you the opportunity to discover new dining spots and replace old memories with better ones.

Draw a line

Former spouses may attend the same event, particularly if it is for their child. In this situation, say hello and then go to opposite ends of the room as boxers do in the ring. Your child now has the benefit of both parents being present.

This strategy is also useful when your ex has remarried and their new spouse is accompanying them.

Above all do not make a scene, especially at a daughter or son’s wedding. You are more apt to make a fool of yourself when alcohol is thrown into the mix, and too many drinks can have you regretting words and actions to your ex the next day (or your offspring will).

Speak no evil

A way to make it smoother to run into your ex when you both are in the same profession is to keep your mouth shut.

If you spout some negative remarks about your former wife, they tend to get back to the subject and be potentially damaging to their professional reputation.

Being threatened with a lawsuit for slander definitely makes seeing them at the next conference challenging.

‘Tis the season

Holiday parties are another place where former partners collide when a mutual friend has invited you both to a gathering.

If it is a large gala, you may be spared having to interact with each other. For smaller ones, be a gracious guest and talk to the people around you. You can also make a graceful exit if things become awkward.

One of my long-time friends who barely knew my spouse invited me to her annual Christmas party post-divorce. I inquired if my ex was on her guest list and she said yes, so I politely declined.

However, if your divorce is way behind you, it may be fun to catch up with each other.

Put on a show

It can be painful running into your ex, especially if you are still in love with her and she initiated the divorce.

Present yourself in a good light, and if you have not moved on, pretend that you did. The last thing you want is pity, so act like your life is full and interesting.

Closure is possible

Some exes who had traumatic divorces discover they can still be friends down the road.

For example, one older couple divorced when the wife discovered the existence of her husband’s mistress. They only waved at each other when attending family events.

Eventually they wound up as platonic housemates in Florida, much to the delight of their grown sons.

In another instance, a painter and his wife divorced. He could not find anyone else who managed his gallery like his ex, so he hired her a few years later for this position and retains a great business union. They have their separate lives but work well together.

Like all areas of divorce, preparation is key. Many men find it beneficial to rehearse what they will say ahead of time in the eventuality of running into their former wives.

Not only does this help avoid causing a scene, but you can also reduce awkward encounters by thinking ahead and planning for future interactions with your soon-to-be ex.

Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP). Her most recent book is “The Global Guide to Divorce,” and she has more than 200 published articles. She is also a frequent guest on radio programs in the US and UK.

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