“I’m in high school, and I went through a really messy, miserable breakup last school year. For the rest of the year, I would get anxious every time I saw my ex and tried to avoid her at all costs. Now I haven’t seen her in two months because of summer and I’ve been doing a lot better, but I’m afraid of how I’ll react when I see her again/if she tries to talk to me or if we end up in a class together. Help?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
Brittany Ashley Says:
We’ve all gone through it. Trying to avoid seeing an ex-girlfriend is like the world’s worst video game that we’re all stuck playing for the rest of our lives. To take extra precautions, we’ll deny ourselves going to that party (5 points!) or cut off seeing certain friends (Bonus level!), just in hopes of avoiding one particular human being who seems to have the cheat codes to our anxiety.
Let’s start by saying this: throughout the summer, there’s no doubt that you’ve made progress. You started to feel like yourself again and finally like she’s not the only radio station playing in your head. Seeing her again doesn’t get to erase any of the work you’ve done. She doesn’t get to have that—that was work that you did! It’s yours! You own the rights to it!
I get that you think seeing her again might throw a wrench in your betterment. The best (but also worst) thing about being a fleshy mortal in this situation is that you simply can’t control the outcome of every awkward interaction or every student’s class schedule. Well, wait. Actually, if you learned how to hack into your school’s database, you could probably engineer the perfect schedule to where you two wouldn’t be likely to cross paths. Obviously you’d have to come up with an algorithm that also prevents hallway run-ins–maybe setting up roadblocks that block the flow of students. But even so—learning hacking as a trade feels like an enormous amount of effort just for this.
So focus on what you can control, like how much time you spend dwelling on the what if’s or how much space you let those negative feelings take up in your mind in places where good stuff could go instead. Remember good stuff? Good stuff is nice.
Once you relinquish the idea of control, the next thing you can do is build up your foundation. By that I mean: think of your self-esteem like a house. How banal, I know! But you don’t have to take an architecture class to understand how spot on my metaphor is. It’s easy to feel better momentarily when you paint the walls a bright new color or hang up a cool new Buffy poster. Who wouldn’t? Aesthetic improvements feel nice but they’re momentary. Why? Because if your foundation is cracked, the way the house looks doesn’t really matter because you have to rebuild that goddamn thing. The good news is that whether or not your house feels like an abandoned roadside shack or an immaculate mansion a la MTV Cribs (too old a reference?), remember that you can always build up your foundation.
So how can you build up this foundation, you ask? Well, emotional health should be tended to at all times, not just when you’re in dire need of it. If you continuously appreciate yourself and the people around you, you’ll build a strong ass foundation that won’t crack easily.
Think about what makes you feel warm and good. Maybe that’s simply being outside. Listen, you don’t have to go base jumping or extreme whitewater rafting, but sometimes it means just taking a book in your backyard or sitting on a swing.
Too much like an indie movie? Fine. Then go do something nice for your friends like writing them a handwritten card or making them a mixtape (Am I out of touch?). Strengthening your friendships and telling people how much you care about them is by far the coolest thing on the planet. Trust me. They won’t forget it.
Walk through the halls confidently with your headphones in while you listen to music. I like to daydream and picture myself as the lead singer, but that’s just me. Maybe you can even jam out to this playlist I crafted for you:
cover art by Isabella Rotman
But most importantly: Give yourself a break. It’s okay to not fully be over the messy feelings that ensued, that just means you’re human. If we could think our way out of heartache, we’d all be robots.
Eventually, you’ll be so distracted simply basking in your own incredible atmosphere, that you’ll forget that you ever cared what you’d think if you ran into her. I know it sounds kind of silly: Distract yourself with yourself. t’s the best advice I can give and has gotten me through many versions and variations of “fear of running into my ex at school.”
Hello! We are starting a new advice series here at Everyone Is Gay called “An Honest Mixtape”! Each month (starting right now!) we will feature a new guest writer who will tackle one of your advice questions with words *and* music!
Huge thanks to writer, comedian, and actor Brittany Ashley for kicking things off for us!
Listen to Brittany’s Mixtape, “Build That Foundation,” right here!
“Is it okay to reach out to an ex out of the blue to apologize for less-than-cool things I did while we were dating? Are you supposed to just let the past be the past and not bring it up or does owning up to your mistakes help the friendship?”
-Question submitted by Anonymous
The short answer here is: yes, you can and should absolutely reach out to apologize to any person who you feel you may have hurt in the past. The short answer isn’t always the answer, though, so LET’S DIG IN A LITTLE BIT MORE, ANON. **shovel emoji**
The longer answer gets a bit more complicated, and it has everything to do with the dynamic of your past relationship and your current relationship. Even if you and your ex aren’t speaking to each other right now, you still have a relationship with this person, and taking care of that relationship does notalways mean following the short-answer rules.
If you and your ex broke up a few weeks or even a few months ago, and you know that they were incredibly heart-broken and also very hurt by some less-than-cool things that you did, there is a (good) chance that they may just be beginning to heal those wounds. They may just be beginning to move on and take the first few incredibly important steps toward their without-you future! That is so important and so it should always be treated with the utmost care and compassion.
That doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) ever get back in touch to bring up those old things, but it might mean that NOW isn’t the best time. Think about what you want to say, and why you want to say it. Will you be able to say the things you need to say and then still allow your ex to move forward, even if they aren’t able to forgive you right now? Are you wanting to apologize because you know that this apology will help out your ex, or does it have more to do with you wanting to heal your own heart? Do you think that there is any chance that this apology might confuse your ex, and make them think that you are trying to rekindle anything?
Take those questions and thoughts and turn them over and over again in your hands. Think about your ex, think about what you’ve both been through, try to tune into what they might be doing on their own right now to help heal their heart, and see if that helps you inform your decision.
If you do decide, after all of that thinking, that an apology might really, truly help, then my advice is to write your apology in a letter or any email. Don’t ask questions (don’t ask for anything as a matter of fact) and be incredibly clear about your intentions. Your intentions are to apologize. Your intentions are to only help and not to confuse anything. Tell them they don’t have to respond. Be clear, be compassionate, and ensure that every word in that note is written with your ex’s wellbeing in mind. A letter gives your ex the space that they may need right now, it doesn’t put pressure on an immediate response, and it keeps physical space (which is often very important to moving past a breakup) between the two of you.
The most important thing to becoming friends with someone who you’ve dated is caring for the relationship through all of its many stages, and closely listening to what it (and your ex) needs. <3
“My gf and I have been together for a little over 6 years but lately nothing seems to click like before. It’s obvious that we both still love each other and want it to work but it feels like we have to work super hard on things that used to just flow naturally. I really don’t want to lose her (we’re each others 1st everything) but I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard if it was meant to work. How to know when its over?”
Question Submitted by Anonymous
I think you’re right. You’re recognizing a lot of key parts of this (both how deep your love is and how complicated it has become).
Relationships grow and change, absolutely, but you also have to keep in mind that people grow and change, and those two things (the relationship and the people) don’t always grow and change together in a way that fits.
I don’t know you’re relationship, but I’m one of those people who believes a good relationship hinges on complete honesty, openness, and communication. If you’re hiding something, not sharing the reality of all of your feelings, unable to understand your partner’s point of view, holding on to tiny issues because you don’t want to make a fuss, etc. If you’re doing any of that, you are getting in the way of having a good relationship. If you ARE doing all of the honesty and communication, and it’s not working, that means the relationship doesn’t work.
Think about the best possible version of your relationship. What does that include? Know that right now, it is completely possible to have a perfect relationship with someone. You can be with someone that you admire, who also admires you, you can be with someone who values sex the same way you do, you can be with someone who fights with you and comes out on the other side with more understanding than ever before, you can be with someone that truly challenges you and helps you to grow, you can be with someone who makes you feel so fucking special every single day. Is that the relationship you are in right now? If not, can the two of you talk about it, be honest with one another, and get to that place? Maybe you’ve just hit a bump in the road and you can figure it out.
If there is no way that you see yourself unbelievably happy with this person in the future, that’s okay. Relationships come into our lives for so many reasons, you will learn and grow regardless of how long it lasts. Maybe this one started out with a bang and now it has to end because you’re in two different worlds. Maybe you started out looking for the same things, but you’ve both changed and grown so much that those ‘same things’ are now vastly different. Please believe me when I say there is a way to have a relationship that will make you feel amazing all the time, and when you don’t feel amazing, you’re in the middle of a fight that will take you one step further into amazing.
I want everyone in the world to stop settling. Stop settling for a relationship that used to be good. Either work together to make it good again, or move on. If you’re both sitting there like, “man i miss the love of my life, how do i get it back,” put in the effort and get it back. If you’re both sitting there being like “man, this isn’t even fun anymore and I am doing most things out of obligation” you’re both wasting each other’s time and you know it. Let that person go, it’s only fair to them. You can find a way to be in her life and not have to feel like you’re both settling and unhappy. If you’re contemplating it being over, it’s probably over.