11
May
10

ex etiquette

Reader S.J. asks:

I’m getting a divorce and I really don’t ever want to see my ex again. However, I live in a small enough town, and we have similar enough interests, that I will assuredly run into him at some point. What should I do when I see him?

Dear S.J.:

I tried to make this into a flow chart, but it didn’t work out. There are just too many factors that go into it.  I’m going to give you a couple scenarios. It’ll be like choose your own adventure.

NB: Some of these are really bad ideas. Bonus points for whoever can identify the really bad ideas.

1. Are you alone? Yes –> Do you feel sexy? –> Yes –> Is your ex alone? –> Yes –> Do you really hate your ex? –> Yes –> Does your ex owe you money? –> Yes –> Are you in a private setting, like a party? –> No –> Punch your ex in the face and walk away

2. Are you alone? Yes –> Do you feel sexy? –> Yes –> Is your ex alone? –> No –> Do you really hate your ex? –> Yes –> Start up a conversation with the words, “So how’s that infection treating you?”

3. Are you alone? No –> Are you with a date? –> Yes –> Is the date sexy? –> Waaaay sexy –> Is your ex alone? –> Yes  –> Make a point of introducing your ex to your new fling

4. Are you alone? No –> Are you on a date? –> No –> Do your friends hate your ex as much as you do? –> Yes –> Are you in a private setting like a party? –> Yes –> Get your friends to ask your ex to leave.

5. Are you alone? Yes –> Are you feeling confident and sexy? –> No –> Is your ex alone? –> No –> Just leave. You’ll feel better.

6. Are you alone? Yes –> Are you feeling confident and sexy? Yes –> Is your ex alone? –> No –> Do you really hate your ex? –> No –> Have five or more years passed since the break up? –> Yes –> Is your ex looking sexy? –> No –> Go say hi and see how the ex is doing. It won’t kill you.

7. Are you alone? Yes –> Are you feeling confident and sexy? –> Yes –> Is your ex alone? –> Yes –> Do you really hate your ex? –> No –> Have five or more years passed? –> Yes –> Is your ex looking sexy? –> Yes –>Make up and make out. Do it.

The basic idea I’m trying to convey here is that it’s a touchy moment, seeing your ex. Your surroundings can also completely influence your reaction. You’re going to have a rush of feelings — most of them terrible. For the record, I think that, as a rational being, you should be able to tame those terrible feelings and react in a proper manner. So in reality, options 1 – 4 are not options I would promote.  The whole “punching them in the face” thing or embarrassing them may sound like fun, but you’ll feel really bad afterward. And seriously, who the hell is going to get their friends to ask someone to leave a party? Suck it up. The break up is between you two, not everyone else in the world. Be the bigger man/woman. Either ignore them or leave. Those are basically your options.

Should your ex leave? Maybe. But the fact is, you can’t control your ex’s behavior. If your ex isn’t going to leave, and you really can’t stand being in the same room, it’s up to you to change the situation.

As an aside, for those of us that are the uncomfortable ex, it can be very gracious of you to leave, even if you don’t have those same feelings of hatred towards your ex that he or she has towards you. As a general rule of thumb, I try to take the other person’s feelings into account. If I think my presence is ruining their night, I’ll leave and find something better to do. Of course, I’m crazy.

Scenarios 6 and 7 are recommended for a later time. That time will come, trust me. After a lot of time has passed, you may find that you don’t hate that ex so much (or maybe you’ve got a new one to hate more!). If you can’t get your ex to move to Hawaii, just remind yourself that water under the bridge will heal all wounds. Throw in a few other mixed metaphors. That sounds soothing to me.

My last idea in this department is to have a healthy fantasy life. I don’t just mean a healthy sexual fantasy life. I mean all those things you want to do to your ex, like embarrass him in public or beat him up (scenarios 1-4), can take place in your mind. My shrink once recommended that I have an ex-bashing night with my friends. Get together and talk about how crappy the ex is, and then get over it. Water under the bridge, again. And maybe you’ll feel better the first time you see the ex in public.

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1 Response to “ex etiquette”


  1. 1 kalyarn
    May 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I did a global search for the word “fire” and was shocked to see no application of nature’s cure-all to this situation.


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