Anon asks: Hi Isaac, I’m planning a trip to see my friends in another city but I will have to spend an evening with an ex who I’m not quite ready to see (and he’s under the impression that I’m hung up on him). Should I cancel the trip entirely and avoid the situation or just power on through — after all it’s just small talk.
Hey, gidday mate. I had a remarkably similar situation when I was 21 years old — my sister and I went to see our friends in Toronto, and that group of friends included my ex-girlfriend. I was the instigator of the breakup, but I was very keen to see her, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a have-my-cake-and-eat-it motivation involved.
She’d been pretty clear that she wasn’t interested in hanging out, but I powered forward with the belief that if I wanted to do something, then everybody else wanted to do it too.
I was in Toronto for 10 days, and I saw her twice: Once at dinner with the whole group of friends — she sat as far away from me as humanly possible and avoided any attempt I made to talk to her; and one other time where I managed to corner her for a 30 second conversation in a hallway.
I left Toronto frustrated and angry, because she’d taken the control straight out of my hands. I might have broken up with her, but she walked away with all the power by refusing to engage on my terms.
The moral of the story is: If eating dinner with your ex is inevitable, take control of the situation. Make small talk if necessary, but don’t engage if you don’t want to. Don’t show him you’re upset or behave in any way that might suggest that you feel small or sad. Walk in with your head held high because you’re a boss dog and this dude can’t touch you. And this isn’t about playing games, it’s about reclaiming your pride.
Never forget that you control you. Other people can only affect us if we allow them the privilege.
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