Most of us have some trepidation at the thought of accidentally bumping into the Ex before we’re ready. Maybe your kids are graduating or having a birthday, or perhaps your former partner shows up at the wedding of a mutual friend with his or her new love. The holidays can be particularly tricky especially if you need to “play nice” for the kids. If you’re not ready for these encounters they can blindside you. Depending on where you are in your recovery process it may even affect you physically with shortness of breath, a feeling of panic, an impulse to run. Your head probably says that is stupid and reminds you not to worry, but your body has different ideas and kicks into fight or flight mode.

If you know you’re going to be seeing your Ex before you’re ready here are a few ideas:

  1. Invite a friend to go with you. People are generally better behaved when there is a third party present, and you will feel supported having someone who cares about you by your side. Your friend can provide humor and distraction and help you feel loved despite what is happening around you. When you can maintain your humor and calm even in these situations you know you’re coming into your own and free from your former partner’s influence.
  2. Utilize the “support sandwich.” Be in touch a friend, your coach or therapist before the event so they can help you find your most powerful self and calm center, and to set intentions for how you want to show up. Remember that it doesn’t matter one whit how your former partner is at this event. This is about you. After the event call or go see your support person again to vent and debrief. Did you stick to your intentions? Did you look your former partner in the eye? Why or why not? What did your body feel like? Did you get triggered? How did you handle it? What would you do differently if you had a do-over? And be sure to celebrate all the great things you did including showing up in the first place!
  3. As much as possible, protect yourself until you are strong enough to face these difficult situations. I believe we have what I call an emotional immune system. If it’s still fairly weak from all it has gone through you don’t need to further challenge it by putting it in difficult situations. Someone with a weak immune system doesn’t hang out in the sickest ward in a hospital. Take appropriate steps to protect yourself as you continue to heal. Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose. As your emotional range grows, you will feel stronger in these surprise situations.
  4. Be a star. Get a good night’s sleep, eat a great meal, put on your very best dress clothes and show up as a star. Let the event be a coming out party for the classy new you. Strut your stuff and don’t look back. It’s all about you.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. There is no need to beat yourself up for being anxious, afraid, or even still angry. Just feel your emotions for what they are. Beating yourself up for feeling what you feel means you are flogging yourself in addition to dealing with an already difficult situation. The flogging part you are doing to yourself and you can stop that at any time.

Who can you call on for support or to go with you when you will see your Ex? If you can’t think anyone I’m glad to help. I may not be able to go with you to your brother’s wedding but I can certainly be part of your support sandwich. Feel free to call.