I was at a shopping mall with my wife. After picking some items, we moved to the checkout queue to pay for them.
There, on the queue, a lady directly ahead of us turned around. Our eyes locked. I froze. It was my ex.
Immediately, her expression changed. It became less than friendly.
In the very awkward moment, I was somehow able to mumble a “hello”. I anticipated a similar response from her. I was disappointed.
Instead, she took a brief condescending look at me, and then at my wife. After which, she turned around and moved forward on the queue to replace the person in front of her.
Unfortunately, my wife witnessed the whole episode.
After a brief moment of uncomfortable silence, the question I wished would not be asked surfaced; “Who is she?” my wife asked.
It was quite a disconcerting experience.
Recalling the event, I realize that few things can cause the kind of uneasiness as an unexpected meeting with a former romantic partner. In such a meeting, cringe-inspiring dramas are likely to occur.
Indeed, meetings by exes are characterized by automatically reacting scornfully, disdainfully or with non-verbal negative vibes, which in turn create negative and/or defensive actions.
By the way, such irrational displays are not the preserve of women. There are also men who are drama kings!
For instance, there is this story of a guy I know. He once bumped into an ex-girlfriend unexpectedly at an event. She was in the company of her new boyfriend.
It was one of those unavoidable encounters where she just had to do an introduction. Of course, the ex-boyfriend was introduced as “a friend”.
In the most melodramatic manner, the ex grabbed the hand of the new boyfriend in a vigorous handshake. He then expressed gratitude to him for continuing where he stopped. He went further to say that he hoped the new boyfriend would be able to keep up with her “demands” in bed.
The lady in question just stood there, speechless, as she watched the immature display.
So what exactly makes people give an unfriendly aptitude when they encounter their former lovers?
Well, mostly, it is because of the hurt from the breakup.
It is could also be a reaction to what they might consider a betrayal of trust. Or it could be because of the situation surrounding the breakup.
Some actually do it as a way to get attention from their ex. There are also those who do it as a way to get back at an ex for a heartbreak. In addition, some display these strange aptitude because the breakup was not on their terms, etc.
Whatever way we want to view it, any act of resentment that is put up against an ex-lover is only natural. This is because people are not designed to have a deeply rooted emotional attachment with someone and then break apart. This creates a feeling of betrayal.
Well, according to science it is normal to feel that way. In a 2010 study in the Journal of Neurophysiology, when participants were shown pictures of their exes, it was discovered that there was activity in the part of the brain that registered physical pain.
What the study revealed is that when you see someone that you used to love, and who rejected you, it can cause you physical hurt. This is why getting to see an ex, can be a tough experience.
Don’t get me wrong, there are cases where the split is amicable (though many actually pretend that it is). However, parting ways, without some form of hard feelings, is almost a rarity.
Personally, I believe some people can successfully transition from being in a long-term relationship to just being exes without the dramas.
Nevertheless, the truth is, if someone still feels the hurt, or feels bitter from a separation, or still harbour romantic feelings for the other person, being “friendly” to the other party afterwards is most unlikely. At least not initially. Because these things take time to heal.
So, what happens when you run into an ex unexpectedly, and hiding is not an option?
Well, one thing you can do is to make yourself look cool, calm and collected— even if you are freaking out underneath it all. Remember: You are not alone in feeling this way. Your ex is probably nervous as heck to see you, too. Then, greet him or her politely; ask more general questions, but keep it brief.
You will walk away with your dignity intact.