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7 Ways to Cope With Seeing Your Ex-Romantic Partner

Taking the high road is the best route to avoid big bumps when seeing your ex.

Key points

  • Having to see an ex-partner can exacerbate the pain of breaking up with them.
  • Shoring up personal boundaries will leave one feeling less vulnerable to letting emotions get in the way.
  • Focusing on coping in healthy ways allows time to heal the pain from a breakup.

Megan's rant almost knocked me over. She said, "Dr. Jeff, it is not enough that Josh played me for a year but now after he dumped me, I still have to see his face most days at the pool at our apartment complex! How am I supposed to cope with that?"

Breakups can be difficult, and when you have to see your ex-partner around, it can add another layer of complexity to the situation. A study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology found that a relationship breakup may feel so painful because it activates the part of the brain associated with motivation, reward, and addiction cravings. It's important to approach this challenge with maturity and respect for both yourself and the other person.

Why It May Be Hard to Avoid Seeing Your Ex

Emotional attachment: Even if you want to avoid seeing your partner, it can be challenging if you still have strong emotional attachments to them. This may make it difficult to resist the urge to reach out or see them. Jim, age 31, confided to me about the allure of seeing Lisa after their breakup. He said, "Dr. Jeff, she texted late at night and asked me what I was up to. She then showed up in a hot outfit but the next morning I regretted being with her."

Work: If you work together or in the same industry, it may be difficult to avoid seeing your partner. This is especially true if you work in a small office or have similar work schedules. Dan and Bill came to see me after their breakup for support on how to peacefully coexist in the same small architecture firm where they worked together.

Living arrangements: If you live with your partner, it may be difficult to avoid seeing them daily. This is especially true if you share a bedroom or living space.

Social circle: If you have mutual friends or are part of the same social circle, it may be challenging to avoid running into your partner at events or gatherings. Doug and Linda found themselves struggling when seeing one another at the same CrossFit gym events and related social gatherings.

Shared responsibilities: If you have children together or share other responsibilities, such as finances or household chores, it may be difficult to avoid seeing your partner. Elaine consulted me about how to manage her emotions when her ex-husband, James, would make subtle, snide comments to her during exchanges between their two small children.

Legal obligations: If you are going through a divorce or separation, there may be legal obligations, such as court appearances or child custody arrangements, that require you to see your partner.

Whatever the logistical circumstances are that leave you crossing paths with your ex, there are ways that you can avoid letting your emotions take over and get the best of you when you see them. Check out the tips below that can help bring your peace of mind when seeing your ex-partner.

7 Tips to Keep Your Cool Around Your Ex

Give yourself time to grieve: It's normal to feel sad, angry, or confused after a breakup. Give yourself time to process your emotions and grieve the loss of the relationship.

Set boundaries: Decide what boundaries you need to set with your ex-partner to make it easier for you to move on. This could include avoiding certain places or activities, limiting contact, or avoiding social media.

Be civil: When you do see your ex-partner, be polite and civil. You don't have to be best friends but try to be respectful and avoid any unnecessary drama.

Try to get some added distance: No, it is not that you "should have to" move to another apartment or get another job. Yet, if you do have the luxury of choice to be able to relocate parts of your life away from your ex (especially if they hold negative energy toward you) then your temporary loss may turn out to be a net gain.

Know your value: Valuing who you are and what you have to offer to others is not being arrogant. Rather, caring about yourself, especially in times of stress, is crucial to moving yourself on to better places or partners who are a better fit for you.

Focus on growing yourself: Use this time to focus on yourself and your well-being. Pursue a new interest, try a new form of fitness, or explore new places.

Lean on your support system: Reach out to friends and family for support during this time. They can offer a listening ear, words of encouragement, and a distraction from the breakup.

Final Thoughts

Healing from a breakup can be a difficult and emotional process, but it's important to take the time and space to allow yourself to process your feelings and move forward healthily. Creating a sense of inner strength by having solid emotional and logistical boundaries with your ex-partner will help you be able to move on and feel better.


Bernstein, J. (2003) Why Can't You Read My Mind? Perseus Books, New York, NY.

Fisher, H, Brown, L, Aron, A. Strong, G, Mashek. D. (2010). Reward, Addiction and Emotion Regulation Systems Associated with Rejection in Love. Journal of Neurophysiology.

Gozan, M., & Menaldi, A. (2020). Mending a broken heart: A single case study on cognitive behavioural therapy for depression after romantic relationship break-up. The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, 13, E55. doi:10.1017/S1754470X20000537

Gwendolyn Seidman, Brooke Schlott,( 2022). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry and reactions to romantic breakup,
Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 186, Part B, 111342, ISSN 0191-8869,

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