Ex Encounters-Coping With Graduation, Weddings, Recital Season

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Oh my, it’s graduation, wedding, and recital season around the corner. This means ex encounters (of the third kind) of many kinds. Perhaps you’re on good terms with your ex, or maybe many years have passed so you have this down…if so skip down to the comments and tell us how you do it. On the other hand,  if you’re not,  you’ll need to be ready for this possible barrage of social ex encounters. 

I’ve come up with five quick tips to prepare for and handle these common social encounters. Of course they’re based on my own hits and misses. For example, I recall my son’s junior graduation. That’s a ceremony where the teens are graduating from junior high school to senior high school. My daughter had gone through hers two years prior. I didn’t have to worry then because my ex was out of town. I didn’t have to give it a second thought.

Back to my son’s graduation though, at this point in the divorce, things were getting rather complicated and that’s putting it nicely. I was dreading walking over to the school, sitting alone among all the gossipy parents. I basically wanted to disappear or remain anonymous. It wasn’t a good time for me emotionally. I had to be there for my son though, there was no question about that.

Before going I closed my eyes and said to no one in particular, please don’t have them sit beside, in front, or behind me…that’s all I ask.

As it turned out, I didn’t even see them in the over-crowded gymnasium. It was after, outside the school where everyone was ‘mingling’ (what horror). I stood off to the side again wanting to disappear when I spotted my ex and his girlfriend chatting away to whomever. I quickly looked away but not before making brief eye contact with her. Awkward. We both looked away as if the eye contact could sting like a bee.

“No worries, I’m just over here wishing I had my invisibility cloak.” I wanted to say. “The feeling’s mutual, I’m sure…”

I was holding a cup of too sweet punch and waiting for my 14 year old son to walk over to acknowledge my presence. Make it quick, boy…

So, yes there are bound to be awkward moments at the ex encounters. But you can do some simple things to mitigate these situations. After all, you want to feel good at these functions not stand in dread (as I did). These are events that you should be proud to attend. Here’s how you can feel confident rather than wishing for your invisibility cloak at the next ex encounter.

5 tips to cope with ex encounters

1. Ask a friend or family member to go with you-this can be the confidence boost you need. Knowing someone ‘has your back’ can go a long way in easing your anxiety. Of course, you can re-pay your friend with a lunch or dinner after or else attend something with her when she needs a little support.

2. Look your best-get your hair done, pick out your favorite or buy a new dress to wear. Looking and feeling beautiful can lift the spirits and add to your confidence and positive attitude.

3. Know the seating arrangements ahead of time-are there booked seats or is it open seating? Knowing ahead of time that you’ll be on opposite sides of the room or at least not right beside one another will reduce nerves. If you know you’ll be sharing a table, then you can at least be prepared for some light conversation and not be caught off guard when you arrive.

4. Talk to your kids before the event-your kids should know that you’re proud of them and that you’re delighted to attend their celebration.  Find out from them details such as will there be a social after the ceremony? What are their plans for celebrating? Will they be going out with their friends, their other parent(s) or will you be doing something with them. Being clear on the follow up of the ceremony itself can avoid confusion and prepare you to understand your role. In short, understanding your kids expectation of you ahead of time will help you to better prepare.

5. Prepare some basic questions-if you get stuck with a one on one encounter with your ex or his new wife, have some innocuous questions at the ready to avoid a heated conversation. For example comment on the weather, the punch, the ceremony…keep it in the moment. Focus on the child or children you are celebrating and keep it positive. Now’s not the time to ask where the child support check is or about the custody schedule. Even better, have your friend engage your ex in a light conversation while you nod and smile.

Graduations, recitals or weddings don’t have to be dreaded encounters. Simply prepare for and feel your best so you can focus on the celebration at hand. It takes a little preparation.  A clear understanding of your child’s expectations, the support of a good friend and even a new dress can take you through ex encounter season with grace.

What would you add to this tip list? Have you experienced or are you anticipating ex encounters?

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28 Replies to “Ex Encounters-Coping With Graduation, Weddings, Recital Season”

  1. This can’t be a very easy road to navigate, being bound to your ex because of shared guardianship and I’d have a very difficult time of it, too. But no one should take away our sunshine, and I think these are all wonderful ways to feel good about yourself in the face of life’s most awkward moments. I’m all for splurging on a new hair, new dress, new whatever to feel your best. But confidence always suits us like nothing else will 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and hope these awkward run-ins are minimal this wedding season! XOXO
    Charlotte recently posted…The ones who broke my heartMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Charlotte and I suppose the tips could apply to other awkward social events we must attend. Looking our best certainly adds to our confidence. I have few to no ex encounters anymore but that’s not to say there will be some in the future—what with more graduations or things that come up in life. 😀 It’s just ‘life’…thanks for popping back to share your thoughts, Charlotte! xo

      1. This happened to me once a few months ago when my bf and I bumped into my ex at a trade show (he had a booth). I had a feeling he might be there, but I was hoping I was just being paranoid and I was essentially hyperventilating in the corner. I feel like I didn’t handle that very well 🙂 LOL

        ALWAYS love to come by here and am glad you aren’t going to be dealing with this too often. It can certainly spoil an afternoon… but it shouldn’t 🙂 XOXO
        Charlotte recently posted…The ones who broke my heartMy Profile

        1. oooh, you never know until you’re face to face how you’ll feel. No, it really shouldn’t…sigh. 🙂 xoxo

  2. Lisa,

    Such excellent advice, thank you!!!!! <3 I've had to navigate this many times and while it at times seems easier than others…well, something can come up to make it oh so awkward again. LIke the time the girls were with their dad for the week end, and said event happened that saturday; I greeted the Exie with a friendly "Hi, ” and smile, only to be completely ignored. As in, we made contact while I greeted him, he looked down, didn’t say a word. le sigh. I quickly focused on my daughter, giving her hugs taking pictures with her and her friends, and when I said goodbye, and he again didn’t respond, i just gave my daughter a friendly goodbye and off i went. to run errands and later get a pedicure because i missed my girls and pampering myself a little bit soothed the soul. <3
    Jane Thrive recently posted…Working Mom and the NitpickerMy Profile

    1. Omg, Jane I can relate to this. Do you find it depends on who is at the event as to whether he’ll acknowledge you? I used to get scowls…no kidding. I think your ex can’t be civil because that would contradict the stories he tells people about you.You’re civil and say hello and you get nothing back. Oh, well, his loss plus he looks bad in front of the girls when he doesn’t answer you…sigh. It will end one day where these events are rare and get easier.

    1. Hahahaaaa. Alcohol would help. Often these functions don’t have that option… 😛 Why not take a shot of Tequila before setting out?

  3. A few years ago, my mom had to encounter my dad and his new wife at my brother’s wedding. They stayed as far from each other as they could. It was awkward. What made me mad, though, was something that happened during the Groom and Mother dance. My dad was part of the bridal party, and the bridal party stood at the front of the stage, watching the dances. My dad watched the other dances, but when my mom danced with my brother, he turned his away. During the entire dance. And it obvious. It was also caught in all of the pictures taken during the Groom and Mother dance, too.

    Last year, when my brother’s son was Christened, it was a tad bit better. My mom actually went up to my dad to show she was trying to be nice and started a simple, 15 second conversation. It wasn’t much, but it was a big deal. I was proud of her. And I couldn’t help but laugh inside at how uncomfortable my dad looked. At the time, his new wife wasn’t around…usually, he hides behind her. lol
    Chrys Fey recently posted…#IWriteBecause + Books for Writers: Bird by BirdMy Profile

    1. Ohhh, Chrys. That makes me so sad for your mom. Of course, it says everything about the kind of man your father is. To look away from his son at such a special moment…is just plain sad. I hope it didn’t bother your brother or mom too much.

      It’s the small effort to make a little small talk that can mean so much especially to adult children. Your mom was very courageous and put herself out there to be a decent person. Again, this says everything about the kind of woman she is. Thanks for sharing, Chrys <3
      lisa recently posted…Ex Encounters-Coping With Graduation, Weddings, Recital SeasonMy Profile

  4. An article we can all relate to when we don’t want to see someone, but yet have to. It sounded like an awkward moment there seeing your ex and his new partner, and maybe for both of them as well. Agree preparing for light conversation can help ease the tension – and at the very least you come across as polite or decent for the host – and as adults I think many of us want to be seen and be civilised. As uncomfortable as it may be, it usually isn’t as long as you think. Before you know it, it is time to go 🙂
    Mabel Kwong recently posted…7 Unforgettable Ways To Celebrate Your BirthdayMy Profile

    1. Hi Mabel, there were many awkward moments 😛 that was a memorable one though. Being civilized under pressure or adverse conditions is the very act of ‘grace’—not always easy. You’re right, it will come to an end and of course, we can always make a hasty exit if need be. Thanks, Mabel!

  5. OH Lisa, what timely and much needed advice for so many people who have to endure this awkward and sometimes painful reunion…

    Tis the season for SURE. I remember all too well, being the kid in these awful stressful scenes with my divorced parents and ‘her’ with my dad while my mom could barely show up and face them.

    I love your suggestions. I’ll be sharing this on my page for sure.

    Thank you for this! What an important mission you hold here, my friend. There are so many people (both exes!) who need your insight, wisdom, and experienced advice.
    Christine Carter recently posted…Christian Books For When Motherhood Gets Messy and Hope In The WaitingMy Profile

    1. Oh, I didn’t realize your are a ‘child’ of divorce, Chris. I always appreciate an adult child of divorce perspective. I realize everyone’s experience is different, but you have the wisdom to advise divorced parents to ‘do better’. Thank you for sharing this piece. I hope it helps those who are facing this very situation now.

  6. Tis the season – graduations, weddings….YIKES….I’m going to toss in funerals because we just went to one not too long ago and it was the most awkward encounter I’ve ever witnessed. And yes, the kids were adults and the parents were seniors and it was just WHOA.
    The encounter carried on in a dramatic explosion on Facebook for all to see.
    Kimberly recently posted…Skipping StonesMy Profile

    1. Oh, yes funerals…there is no one season for those, huh? That’s unfortunate that the scene was so obvious to onlookers. That’s where civil interaction is always best. No matter what the issues are between divorcing parties, these events are not the time or place. Sigh. Well, all we can do is try our best. Facebook! Another bad place to vent but seems like so many want to use it as a grievance platform. Thanks for weighing in, Kim 🙂

  7. I can’t imagine how awkward it must be to run into an ex with his girlfriend, but you have given some great tips here. I would DEFINITELY ask a friend to go with me—and you can bet I’ll have my hair, makeup, and nails done for the event!!

    1. It shouldn’t be but it inevitably is. Yes, having a friend with could make all the difference. Good idea to get all done up nice and feel good!!

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