Top Five Ways to Avoid Dealing With Your Ex

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We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!

The story generally begins with two loverdoodles who were probably great friends, teammates, roommates, or co-workers. You think that it’ll be so beautiful and sweet when you and said roomie-lover-friend-teammate-co-worker are not only dating but able to see each other all the time; after all it’s that kind of thinking that conceptually brought about the lesbian “urge to merge”. Perhaps the relationship is beautiful and your lives become so entwined that you two finish each other’s sentences. And then you break up and it’s a shit show. So now what? How do you un-merge from this person who was your life? How do you deal when you keep seeing their face and you have a mini-heart attack every time? Here are five ways to avoid your ex when escaping them seems impossible.

1. Keep it classy in the classroom

You and your ex were totally into the same things, right? You read bell hooks novels together cuddled in bed, or talked queer theory during long walks through the park. You maybe even took the same classes. Shit. You don’t want to compromise your studies just because your ex is in the room and they no longer wear the bracelet you made for them and that they swore they’d never take off until they died but they totally took it off. If you have to be in a class with your ex, sit somewhere in relation to your ex where you will not be able to see them — not even peripherally. Sometimes that means sitting all the way in the front of the room, underneath your professor’s lecture spittle but you’ll focus more in class and it’ll be harder to notice every little thing your ex does that reminds you of how much you know or no longer know them.

Sit far away from your ex so you won't be tempted to do this Via tumblr

Sit far away from your ex so you won’t be tempted to do this

2. Get ready for chance encounters

Who likes to be caught off-guard like a deer in headlights just because your ex is within a five mile radius of you. It’s really inconvenient when you see your ex and the word-vomit gushes out of your mouth and suddenly you’re asking your ex strangely intimate questions like, “Do you still floss before you brush your teeth?” Instead, prepare a standard set of neutral questions or conversation starters. “What classes are you taking this semester (other than the three we have together)?” “Did you see the Phoenix Mercury game last night? Brittney Griner is so cool.” Maybe ask about mutual friends — not their grandmother — to show that you’re interested in their life but not completely invested.

3. Keep your friends close

A really good friend shared with me one of her best tricks to share a social space with your ex. Say you want to go to a poetry slam but your ex is definitely going to attend. You could just skip, but at that point you’re just stifling your own desires to avoid feeling awkward or uncomfortable. If you need to stay home, that is always an option; but, if you want to go out, do so with company. Always have a posse. Bring at least two people if you’re going to a social event where your ex will probably show up. If you bring at least two people, as opposed to just one, you have back-up support if one friend gets distracted, needs to leave, or is friends with your ex. Lez be real, you and your ex probably shared friends too.

Your entrances and exits should look as gay and glorious as this via tumblr

Your entrances and exits should look as gay and glorious as this

4. Run

breakfast club run away

If you don’t have a posse, you can do what my ex did the last time we had to socialize together: run away. Many people have a fight or flight instinct, and sometimes you just need to fly up out of a situation, even if that means running from room to room at a party you and your ex are both attending. Putting space between you and that other person might make the both of you feel more comfortable and avoid any conflicts or drama if the two of you cannot be civil. Sure, that tactic screams “My fucking ex is in the next room and I don’t want to deal with it” but hey! You do you, boo.

5. Explore


Get a life! Seriously though, get a life that does not revolve around your ex anymore. Find new places to be and new people to meet. If you and your ex used to hang out at Starbucks all the time to “study,” try finding a new café. Perhaps you’ll discover that the hole in the wall place down the street actually serves better chai. If you and your ex are tight with the theatre kids, maybe you get to know the athletes. This technique was one of the hardest for me to embrace because it meant getting out of my comfort zone. However, finding new places, people, and social situations can free you from the loneliness you might feel when your ex is no longer the person you can turn to to make things better. You are more than your former relationship(s), and there is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone. Discovering new interests, creating new habits, and enjoying new activities can be an enriching process.

Do you have other techniques or tricks to avoid your ex or exes? Let me know in the comments!

Header Image by Rory Midhani

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Helen McDonald is a 20-something Black lesbian feminist living off of pizza, social justice and a lil snark. By day, she's a community educator, teaching young people about healthy relationships. She also discusses the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality on her personal blog and is a contributing writer at

Helen has written 40 articles for us.


  1. My mantra is “She’s dead to me” And acting like she doesn’t exist. Pull out all the plumage and strutting when in public.

  2. I love and appreciate all of these tips. Lez be real… those mutual friends can be the best or the worst.

  3. I had the ex of a friend do #4 at a party to my gf and me. I had heard so much about this girl and never met her, but once she saw my gf (her former roommate) she literally hid in someone’s bedroom until we left the party cause she didn’t want to see my gf.

    I like to think I have a fight instinct, but 9/10 I run the hell away. Or hide. Or both.
    A couple of weeks my very first girlfriend came into the restaurant I work at—we hadn’t seen each other in two-ish years, she lives three hours away, she detests me—and as soon as she saw me, she put her sunglasses on and didn’t take them off the entire hour she was in the place. Just sat there with her sunglasses on indoors.
    So that’s an option.

  5. Sometimes I’m really glad my ex and I live in different countries. This is one of those times.

  6. My ex and I go to the same tiny university. (thank god we don’t study the same thing) but often encounter each other in corridors, canteen and so on. When we just broke up I would often find her with a group of classmates socialising and I would end up running away (literally) thank god it has gotten a lot better and we’re on daily speaking terms again. It’s very nice and no I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

  7. I just started dating someone new, who moved in with my ex about two months ago. Now my ex and her new girlfriend and me and my new girlfriend (the ex’s roommate) are having brunch on Saturday. All my straight friends are making L Word jokes.

    Bottom line? Sometimes you just can’t avoid your ex.

    • Someone else has my life?!?! Dear lord I thought I was unique but it turns out that this is just a supremely lesbian thing to do lol

  8. I’m a runner, 100%. I know it’s really not the best strategy, but I have hella anxiety and things were bad enough with the last girlfriend that I just really can’t stand to be anywhere near her anymore. Her moving entirely across the country was a really fantastic thing for me!

  9. I love that this article uses they/them pronouns to refer to the ex.

    I usually grin and bear it, but sometimes it’s just really annoying even if I’m smiling and friendly. Depends on the ex though.

    • You know i totally hadn’t noticed the pronoun usage. But now you’ve pointed it out, I love it.

  10. Oddly enough, I just got dumped but she won’t stop texting me and being super polite about it. I feel like I need space but at the same time of course I still want to talk to her. Ugh.

    • This happened to me which was like nice that she was being sweet, but also lame cause it meant I felt guilty about wanting/needing space. A good friend pointed out to me that she did the dumping so she had the power, now being nice is another way for her to have the power. So if you say to her “hey, I need a little space and time” you are taking that power back. I basically just said that and then only replied to texts when I felt truly that I wanted to. It’s been a few months now and I find I’m actually glad when I get a message from her, and I still get to decide if I want to engage or not. Obviously everyone’s situation is different but what my friend pointed out about power dynamics really helped me realize it was my right to choose to have control/agency in my interactions with my ex!

      • I’m kind of in this situation from the other side. In that I did the dumping, but I’m super aware that it gave me the power. So we tlaked about being friends, and then agreed that she should contact me whenever she wants, but I kind of feel like I shouldn’t contact her because i wanted to let her have space and make the decisions if we should chat. But now it’s been about 4 weeks of only the occasional message and I don’t want her to think I’ve abandoned her/don’t care anymore. I dunno. Not a perfect situation.

  11. I think personally the best strategy date someone 30 minutes away. I live about 40 minutes away from my ex bestie, who we kind of were in an emotional relationship, and I have yet to run into her. So, no awkwardness, or running away. Though, I have gotten an odd text or two, but I think that’s normal.

  12. “Your entrances and exits should look as gay and glorious as this” is my new favorite thing now.

  13. I’ve always (with one notably toxic and horrible exception) managed to remain friends with my exes. But I know that isn’t everyone’s favourite idea.

    • And as for avoiding the toxic and horrible exception, that involved changing my phone number, being prepared to get a restraining order, and blocking him on Facebook when he tried to contact me again over a decade later. *shudders*

      • All my exes are toxic (bar one) and thankfully hundreds of miles away so avoidance is easy, I’ve blocked online and changed numbers. I hear you!

  14. I have one ex. We ended on good terms but its still sad.She lives half a block away from my job,her mother works in my school (I see her almost everyday)and I met her through many mutual friends. Let’s just say that I put my hide and seek skills to good use. You ain’t seen a bob-and-weave until you’ve seen me dodging my ex

  15. You could do what I did and move ~2200 miles away. A bit extreme, but I haven’t seen him since! Though that wasn’t quite the reason I was moving, I should add. :p

  16. Sometimes (most times) autostraddle just flipping KNOWS. I literally ran into my *very* recent ex THREE TIMES today at work. (Insert panicked wince) Two of which were immediately following my having given private swim lessons and forgetting any kind of soap – only conditioner (smooth chlorine, woo!) – while walking the kid to her mom’s classroom. The adorable new yoga clothes my ex was wearing didn’t help. Nor did my awkward “hey! You have so much new neon now!” Before running away. Lesson learned about relationships with co-workers. Bring on the branching outside my comfort zone!! With TWO friends accompanying me of course (thanks for that advice) :)

  17. As a baby(toddler?) dyke of 21, I have just had my second breakup. But now when I see my first ex around, it’s totally cool and we get on like old chums. This is clearly the answer to all problems; date someone else and break up with them.

    Wait, this could also lead to a relentless chain of exes around every corner at the party. Never mind.

  18. The one Ex I don’t run from (mostly the psycho ones are 100s of miles away thank god), but avoid if she doesn’t make eye contact, always sees me when I look rough as arses, wearing painting gear or laundry day clothes or something I put on half asleep in the dark with my hair looking shocking etc etc you get the picture. Ugh. Yeah well done getting rid of this loser. (still bitter after 9 years, I know I know)

    Also has anyone else dated someone with the same name as them so for the first few weeks hearing your own name hurts…?

    • My well-I-still-don’t-know-if-we-were-ever-actually-dating-but-I-was-(am)-in-love-with-her-so-let’s-call-her-my-ex dumped me for someone with my exact same name, if that makes you feel any better.

  19. My primary tactic so far has been to move to a different state/country. Works like a charm.

  20. my plan was to move far far away and stop texting back but only after saying too many of those really embarrassing post-breakup things that somehow sound like alanis lyrics [it’s NOT FA-AAIRR to re-MIND MAAAYYYY of the MESS! YOU! LEFT! when you WENT AWAYYYY]. and possibly the gayest breakup necessity of all time – don’t creep their tumblr. just don’t do it.

    • here to surrender my passport. as a proud canadian i can’t believe i misquoted alanis. isn’t it ironic?

  21. My ex and I just moved into the same office. It’s a problem.

    Though, let’s be real, it’s also awesome.

    (Could be worse, though: the reason that we moved offices is that our bosses, who had been married for forever, just split up. As did just everyone else in our department who had been dating somebody at work. Seriously, there was something in the water.)

  22. Running is totally an option, but if you’re able to have a conversation about what each of want and need out of a breakup, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this would be a good idea. If you have a conversation like that going into a relationship, it makes sense to have one coming out of it, right?

      Unfortunately my very recent (and sudden and inexplicable) ex disagreed with me. As in “Why do you keep pushing me? Can’t you just accept that I’m breaking up with you and be friends with me?!”. She still hasn’t told me why she broke up with me, much less what she means by “friends” or what she wants and needs from me now. Sigh.

      (Yes, I am confused and frustrated and ranting about it on the internet. Because I’m well-adjusted like that.)

  23. I agree with #5. Everytime I’ve gone through a breakup I realized I’ve developed an entire life around this person and when they’re gone I don’t have much left (my fault). So with my most recent breakup, I decided to do the unthinkable in the lesbian community. Be single for a while! It’s been amazing. I’ve dexcised to be single. I’ve discovered old and new friends, I work out 6 days a week, I’m in counseling, I’m volunteering. And best of all I feel like I’m finally meeting people who may be a good influence on me as opposed to the normal toxic relationships I’m drawn too…

    So on my soapbox I say – try being single for a while. The loneliness will subside, and you will find a new found appreciation for yourself. Finding the right person happens when you become the right person.


  24. See, I don’t have these problems.

    I always some how manage to make it feel OK and work out what we both need during the breaking up part. I can’t explain it, it’s instinct. I guess I can love them but let them go? The only ex-gf I couldn’t do that with kept asking me to have sex with her at least a couple of times a year.. but seemed to be very lacking in self-awareness about it. After five years of that, I told her I can’t be friends with her.

    I generally just get told “yes but you’re you.” about this.
    Then again, I don’t have post-hookup awkwardness and find open relationships easy. I guess i’m just strange :)

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