Breakups are difficult enough to handle when you are no longer willing or able to see the person with whom you previously shared strong emotions. If your ex continues to be in your life on a daily basis, because you live or work together or for other reasons, your ability to move forward after the breakup can be significantly affected. Even if the breakup was mutual or amicable, emotions are still tied to the other person and can change your dynamics and approach to communication. You may feel compelled to avoid interaction, but this isn’t always possible, particularly if you see each other every day.
Pay attention to your body language when you’re around your ex-boyfriend. You may not be aware of the power behind nonverbal cues, but you are constantly sending them to everyone around you. Nonverbal communication can let your ex-boyfriend know if you are affected by his presence, but you do have a measure of control over how you convey or hide these feelings. Being aware of whether you make solid eye contact, smile when you cross paths with your ex-boyfriend or listen intently when he speaks can imply to him that you are present, but aren’t emotionally invested, explains psychologist Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., in the online publication “Nonverbal Communication.” Avoid adjusting your schedule or your path to the restroom simply because you might see your ex-boyfriend. If it’s too difficult to see him frequently, consider forcing yourself to cross his path occasionally, to get yourself past the discomfort.
Enlist the help of your social supports, which can include friends, family and co-workers. Don’t underestimate the strength you feel when you’re faced with seeing your ex-boyfriend but are in the company of a co-worker who has your back. Strong social support acts like a cushion for your emotions at times when you are facing challenging situations, explains psychologist Sue Towey in the online publication “Social Support.” Social support also helps you feel stronger and improves your self-esteem, making you less emotionally vulnerable to attempts by your ex-boyfriend to get under your skin. Call, email or text your supports, especially at times when you feel emotionally fragile, angry or frustrated. Ideally, you too, are a source of support for those who stand by you when you are at your lowest point.
Use humor to lighten the mood when necessary. Humor is a great way to help you feel less tense while facing your ex. Interjecting humor when interacting with him can improve your emotional strength, increase self-esteem and give him the message that you haven’t collapsed under the stress of the breakup. Avoid mean-spirited humor that includes passive-aggressive comments that are meant to make your feelings known to him. Instead, stick to humor that isn’t controversial and isn’t rooted in your mutual past. Using humor can also help you see the lighter side of things and teaches you to laugh at the stuff that previously affected your mood. If you happen to cross your ex-boyfriend’s path, smile and calmly remark “Did you happen to be the lucky person to identify today’s lunch special?” The response may or may not be what you expect, but your approach both makes a statement and takes a stand.
Work on increasing your social network and activities outside of the areas where you see your ex-boyfriend every day. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” is true, especially when two people who were previously in a relationship can’t completely disconnect from one another. Spending time with other people socially and in activities you enjoy can decrease feelings of isolation and renew your motivation to move forward without him. Avoid giving in to staying home, spending long hours at work or other approaches to avoiding social interaction. Increase opportunities to be more physically active by walking, jogging, swimming or riding a bicycle. You’ll improve your mood and your sleep while also expanding your network of people with whom you can spend time.