A photo of two exes at a dinner tableBBC

What to do if you run into your ex after lockdown

BBC Three’s Eating with My Ex is returning for its third series on 11 April and we’ve come up with some advice with the help of a relationship and dating expert.

Hannah Price
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Despite the lockdown and tight restrictions that have been in place since Christmas, Layla*, 25, managed to bump into not one but two exes - on the same day. "One was the guy I had my fairly mortifying first kiss with when I was 16, who I encountered in Asda."

While she was walking home she was faced with her ex-boyfriend, who she was on bad terms with, running towards her.

"Naturally he was running downhill and in sports gear and looked great, while I’d put on way too many layers and was a bit of a sweaty mess trudging uphill.

"I feel like when you bump into an ex you get that feeling of recognition before it clicks who they are, and then you’ve usually left it too long to be able to pretend you didn’t see them."

During the first lockdown Google searches related to "breakups" more than doubled and couples not living together faced challenges to make it work. And for those who’ve been single, dating from a distance of closer than 2m has been against the rules for more than a year now.

As lockdown eases, with pub gardens reopening and restaurants serving people outside, things look more promising for those looking for love. But, for those whose relationships have broken down during the pandemic, the prospect of having to see an ex has now become much more likely.

So we’ve spoken to relationship and dating columnist Annie Lord for your post-lockdown guide to dealing with your ex.

Photo of Annie Lord leaning against a treeAnnie Lord

It’s not just you…everyone is awkward right now

When you’re in a pandemic:

"I think it will probably take a little while to feel comfortable while the awkwardness of not seeing people wears away.

"The thing to focus on is that they’ll be feeling just the same and probably act weird as well.

"How many times do you wake up from a night out, like 'everyone thought this about me'? When no one was probably thinking about you the next day.

"Just remember your ex was probably thinking about how weird they were when they were talking to you."

Stop romanticising their life

"One thing I always try to remember is when you see an ex, or hear something about what they're doing, and you always think that they're having like the world's best time and you always imagine that sepia-toned world where they are like laughing and skipping along.

"Remember that you’re romanticising what they’re doing and that’s probably not the reality."

If you end up at the same event:

"Try focusing on you having your own good time because I feel like when you’re having fun, them having fun doesn’t take anything away from you having fun - it doesn’t matter. The two aren’t connected anymore - you can just focus on yourself.

"Sometimes you do that thing where you’re fake laughing and playing with your hair loads and it actually just ruins your time.

"They’ll probably look really hot to you because you’ve just decided that they look really hot when they probably look the same as they did before."

Say how you feel (if it’ll help)

"I remember when I had a break up, everyone kept being like 'be the bigger person', 'leave it' or like 'don’t text him don’t text him' - that’s the main advice you get to 'just leave it' and that silence is the more mature thing.

"But sometimes I just think it can make it harder to let go of something if you’ve not said how you feel about it, and you can hold on to a lot of anger.

"I think sometimes it is good to say something. You don’t have to go in all guns blazing, shouting - but don’t be afraid if you’re upset about something that happened, to talk about it because it might make it easier to then move on.

"Maybe don’t send messages because I feel like people get into those long texting holes, don’t they, where they are both sending really long replies. Maybe speak about it over the phone. Or I always like sending letters, which is a bit Victorian, but I think it’s quite good to get all your feelings out.

"But only say something if it’s really bugging you - you don’t want to give yourself anxiety about how you spoke to them because they’re probably not worth it and then you just have all this pointless stress about it."

In the same social circle?

"Another one that I’m so bad for: try to stop talking about them – it’s fine to talk about them to some friends but when I had a breakup in a friend group I ended up complaining about that person to our mutual friends.

"Also then in the breakup you look like the annoying one that’s longing it out.

"So you just look like the bitter one that can’t stop talking about it. Talk to people that don’t care about that person because they don’t know them."

If you end up doing something you regret

"If you end up sleeping with them, for whatever reason, or doing something dumb like having a huge go at them in public - any of that stuff, don’t beat yourself up.

"Everyone does it, everyone sleeps with an ex after they break up with them, so if it happens, it happens."