6 Ways You Can Make Living Near Your Ex A Lot Less Stressful
You may have done a great job splitting up all your stuff or maybe you feel pretty good about the custody setup you both agreed to, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy having your ex living right around the corner—especially if your lease isn’t up for another year. Not to worry—stepping outside of your apartment won’t always spike your anxiety. If you follow these six tips we promise your next bump-in won’t be as awkward as the last one.
1. If it’s not too late, work to keep things amicable.
It’s worth the effort to leave a relationship on a positive note, says Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert. “This takes a willing and often forgiving attitude from both parties but it’s worth it—especially when you live in proximity to each other—the destructive energy between the two of you can be toxic.”
2. Let go of what once was.
The best way to share a neighborhood with your ex is to work on yourself first. Your goal: To find closure. And surprisingly, that’s something you can find within yourself. “This doesn’t have to involve your ex at all,” says GinaMarie Guarino, a licensed mental health counselor. “Finding peace and acceptance of the reality of the situation, and with yourself, is the first step toward learning how to live in the same neighborhood as your ex.” Once you accept the reality, you can create a strategy. Start with figuring out how much exposure you can realistically tolerate with your ex—though you probably feel like running into them is the worst thing in the world, it probably will only induce a sob session at most. Once you establish your boundaries, develop a plan of action for when you do run into your ex outside of your home. Maybe you’ll allow yourself to leave immediately and go home for a night of self care. Maybe you’ll say, “hello,” and then leave, or maybe you’ll even feel prepared to go about your business. Either way, feeling prepared will help lessen the shock of the encounter (if it ever happens).
3. Consider adopting the “limited no contact” rule.
This means you won’t reach out to your ex for any reason (unless you must communicate about custody matters) and if you see him or her, you will say hello but you won’t linger, suggests Jennifer Seiter, who co-owns the website, Ex-Boyfriend Recovery, with her husband. “For example, if you run into your ex at a gas station, keep the conversation to five minutes,” she says.
4. Use your proximity as a lesson in personal growth.
If you’re routinely donning sunglasses and hoping to avoid your ex every time you leave your apartment, it may be time to rethink your situation. “Neighborhood run-ins can actually provide opportunities to see if old wounds can be healed,” says Mark Borg Jr., PhD, a community psychologist and co-author of the forthcoming book “Relationship Sanity: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships.” “They offer the chance to decide if you can commit to some level of decency and hospitality with a person who has hurt and disappointed you.” Figuring out how to move forward with your ’round-the-corner ex can also help you with future relationships. “If you can accept the challenge of acting civilly with this person with whom you were so recently hurt, perhaps you can take this lesson into your next relationship and commit to a level of openness to working through issues, conflicts, and problems that you were unable to achieve in this one,” Borg says.
5. Visualize things going well.
Instead of worrying what you’ll say when you encounter your ex, why not imagine that the meet-up might not be as terrible as you think. “If you go to the same gym, frequent the same after-work hangout, or share parenting responsibilities you’ll need to be prepared to see your ex—often,” says Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., a clinical counselor. “If that’s the case, try to proactively visualize the encounter going well. Even if you don’t particularly have fond feelings towards your ex, consider how you might be able to maintain civility and be cordial in your interactions.”
6: Take the high road.
Ultimately, if you can, try to be the bigger person. “Take the high road and say hello,” suggests Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act and Be Happy. “This was a person you shared a piece of your life with so be respectful. Be graceful but keep it short and sweet.”
Unfortunately, some break-ups can be more complicated than others. If you think running into an ex would bring you physical harm, please call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.com, where there is a chat-line available 24/7.