Meeting your Ex’s new lover is a no-win situation. It may be fun to hear the latest gossip about someone else’s life or to be there for them when they’re struggling with getting over their breakup. But when it’s your Ex asking You to meet his or her new lover, well, that’s an entirely different thing.
Usually, we cringe at the thought of an Ex with a new love. It can literally sting. I myself have experienced literally dropping to the floor and wanting to pass out in the past. It’s not so much the moment I lay eyes on them, it’s the news, the onslaught of images and the preparation leading up to the greeting that’s the worst. So here are some super important reminders to protect your heart and soul when you see your Ex with someone new.
Remember, it’s over. It ended for myriad reasons despite harboring thoughts they might return or at least apologize. (They rarely do) and if they did apologize you’d still have to figure out what’s next ‘cuz, it’s done.
Feeling competitive is natural. You’ll want to dress up and look really hot. At least I do. I make sure I look good around my Ex’s… ‘cuz it’s important to feel good when you’re seeing them but also not too good if you don’t want inappropriate advances. (At least shave or put on some lipstick if that’s all the time you have.)
Check yourself. Be careful. Make sure your clear on why exactly you’re looking good… is it for them or for you? Once I know my Ex has been with another person, I cringe at the thought of being intimate with them again. It’s a visceral thing for me. I don’t share and imagining their bodies with other bodies turns me off. So ask yourself: Why exactly am I looking good here? Who am I impressing or trying to make feel small? This is important and will help keep you in your lane.
Competition goes both ways. They’re also going to be doing their best to make you feel small… they’re dressing up, looking hot. (I once had the new lover try to put her engagement ring in my face… ehem, it was way s-m-a-l-l (er) than he could have given her… just sayin’) So be prepared for them to be playing that same game with you which is why you need to know what you’re up to!
Your Ex is watching. They’re watching how you’re responding. They’re picking up on the cues, the looks; they’re even comparing the two of you. It’s a natural thing. However, you have the upper hand here!
You’re the one who knows their tells.
When my Ex is doing his thing trying to play it cool and be all whatever, I can see right through his body language and know exactly (probably better than he does himself) how he really feels about her.
When you’re no longer sleeping with them, enmeshed with their hormones and pheromones, you’ll be objective and can remain curious. You’ll see everything! How s/he really doesn’t like what the new lover is up to but won’t scold them in front of you. How they’re embarrassed by their behavior. Or what they sound like or how smart they are or aren’t. How uncomfortable they really are being with them. I still laugh at the memory of one Ex literally trying to hide behind a teacher’s desk at a school event. He tried to pull his new lover down with him as if I couldn’t see his 6’ 4” body and hers wedged between the chalkboard and the drawers!
This is the best part of being an Ex! You do not have to play their games anymore. You’re free!
It’s also a great way to gauge if you’ve gotten over the breakup and whether you still love them or not. So set ground rules you can follow!
Timeframe. How long will you be expected to be pleasant or polite? Is this over lunch? A kid exchange (I don’t advise.) Or is s/he being thrown in your face at a basketball game without warning? Do your best to set up the parameters that you can handle. No one can stay on good behavior for hours on end. And, at first, hopefully, you’ll not be required to spend an entire family Thanksgiving together over washing the dishes.
Remember to leave when you feel your energy shifting. It’s no longer impolite to take care of yourself! Too often we expect we can handle seeing them with their new love and forget that we’re supposed to be taking of ourselves first. This is super important. There’s no win in losing it in front of your Ex and their new love. Get out, get away, if you feel your energy dipping.
Bring backup support. I’m a big believer in having a wingman! It’s bad enough they’re going to be at a school event or a kids’ game while you’re standing there alone. I have had more than one friend be my date, show up with me at a kids’ games, and keep me company while I’m in charge. I’ve had other parents block the view and keep me safe around unsafe and difficult moments. There’s no shame in asking for help. Your heart is only so strong.
Why does showing up cool matter?
Because eventually, as you mend and move on, as you date and prepare for a new relationship, you’re going to want to be afforded the same courtesy. You’re going to want them to treat your new lover with respect; to be polite and to show up gracious and warm. I’m not saying it’s going to happen (see above) I’m just saying, that you’ll want it to go this way.
The fantasies. I imagine these false scenes where I get to throw all these truth bombs onto the new lover. I imagine I’ll shame him in front of her and make her walk away from the scoundrel forever and ever. I dream up these scenarios when he sheepishly takes a look at me and walks away from her. (Insert laughter…) Sometimes, I’ve saved her from years of abuse and manipulation and we walk away arm and arm, best friends forever.
But reality isn’t like that. You and I both know these scenes ain’t nevah gonna happen! Most of us have more pride and our hearts are more fragile than we like to admit. You are not going to punch him, threaten him, coerce him or ruin him. I could no more cause a scene at a school event than interrupt my kids’ sports game. I don’t want to be remembered as the crazy ex he had to leave… or whatever other story has been made up about me.
They’re fallen in love. That new lover can’t help but see all the shiny beautiful things you once saw in your Ex. They’re not tainted by the fights, the waiting by the phone, the ghosted moments when you feared they lost interest. These new lovers haven’t yet felt the sting of your Ex’s cheating or the lying and manipulation. They still like watching the porn with them and hearing stories about your kids. They’ve yet to have their hearts broken by your Ex.
So it’s your job to be bigger, wiser and more compassionate.
They do not yet know what you know. They’re naively in love. Lost really in the charms of your Ex that no longer control your mind.
Your reputation. They also have only heard one side of the story. They only know about you through your Ex’s eyes. The story and lies that your Ex needed to tell about you to justify why s/he left. Maybe you left your Ex, maybe you broke up that relationship, either way, your Ex has a one-sided story that the new lover only knows. So be on your best behavior. Show up your best self. Do the right thing for the benefit of your kids if you have them and for your heart either way.
If you’re having trouble with understanding how to get over your breakup, consider joining me in doingDivorce™ School. I’ll teach you tools and skills to help guide you through these awkward and uncomfortable moments. One last story… this week I heard from an Ex who has had a beautiful family for years. I ended our relationship over 25 years ago and just this week, he admitted to finally healing the loss of his first marriage before we met. Imagine that… a breakup that was over 30 years ago is finally being healed. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura's a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.