As if shopping, family gatherings, and trying to cook your grandma's classic recipe wasn't stressful enough, there's another kind of holiday stress that can pop out of nowhere to throw you a curveball — running into your ex. Exes tend to make a worrying number of appearances around the holidays. Sometimes it's just a product of circumstance, because many of us go back to our family;s home for the holidays and run into our exes who we grew up with and are doing the same thing. Sometimes, however, it might be that your ex deliberately seeks you out.
"The end of the year makes many people feel introspective," Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "It's not unusual for exes to reach out since they've been reminiscing and feeling nostalgic. This is especially true when there's more possibility of connecting as people return home for the holidays." Hanging around the one coffee shop in town or going to your favorite store hoping for a "chance" encounter definitely isn't out of the question.
Running into your ex around the holidays can be tricky. On the one hand, the holiday spirit of being open and warm might leave you wanting to reconnect, even in a friendly way. On the other hand, holiday stress is already so monumental that the idea of one more thing messing with your head may just seem like too much to bear. But, no matter how you're feeling, there's one thing that's so important to keep in mind, and it all comes down to how you feel about this person and how they feel about you.
If You're Not Over Them, Keep Your Distance
If it's a fresh breakup or you're still not over this person, it's probably best to keep the interaction as brief as possible — and avoid meeting up with them afterward. “Staying too close with them and spending too much time with them does not allow you to move on from them, or to meet new people,” psychologist and love expert Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle.
Even if they want to meet up for a "friendly" drink or invite you to a holiday party, there's a good chance that it could do you more harm than good. Pay attention to your gut. If it feels like a bad idea, it probably is.
If They're Not Over You, Show Compassion
On the flip side, there's a chance that they may not be over you If this is the case, try to have some compassion. Remember that the holidays can be a really tough time for some. "People can tend to feel a bit sad and lonely over the holidays and are thinking of people who they used to feel connected to," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "They have more down time and may be thinking about their past relationships. There is also a lot of pressure (especially with social media) to have fantastic, perfect holidays and relationships. Those of us who are single or not feeling so fantastic might start thinking about time when they did feel better in their relationships and might be motivated to reach out to old flames."
If you feel like they want something more than you can give, the most humane thing might be to smile and politely decline but, as licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish tells Bustle, try to do it with care and kindness. It may feel mean or unfair, especially at this time of year, but sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do.
Of course, maybe this is an ex that's so ancient that neither of you care anymore, in which case it can be fun to run into each other and have a quick catchup, even a coffee. But if there are feelings involved or if hurt still exists on either side, it's probably best to give each other some breathing room — the holidays are already stressful enough.