You can’t always avoid your ex. Whether you have kids together, call the same area home or simply haven’t cut Facebook ties, there are a gazillion ways for your lives to intersect. And when they do, you may be tempted to rehash your relationship or show him how wonderful post-breakup life is. But if you don’t want your past romance to continue stressing you out, avoid saying these 10 things.
1. “I regret our entire relationship.”
First of all, you don’t. You might regret how things ended, but to say you’d take it all back isn’t as much of an insult to your ex as it is to you. “A statement like this criticizes yourself for the choices you made,” says Richard A. Warshak, PhD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and author of Divorce Poison. “If he’s so worthless, what does that say about you? In most cases, the person has redeeming features; you’re just not seeing that because you’re dealing with the loss of the relationship.”
2. “You’re always late dropping off the kids.”
Adding “always” or “never” to any statement makes it not about the moment, but about your entire relationship—and now you’re talking about the past when you could be focusing on the present. “Instead of saying, ‘Why do you always bring the kids home late?’ try, ‘You brought the kids home late. How come?’” suggests Judy Rabinor, PhD, a psychologist and author ofBefriending Your Ex After Divorce. Also, watch your tone. The simplest statement can turn into an accusation if you say it with attitude—and why create that tension?
3. “My sister never liked you.”
Neither did your best friend, your mom or the hostess at your former go-to date-night restaurant, right? “You’re basically saying, ‘I want to prove I haven’t lost anything,’” says Dr. Warshak. “It’s as though you’ve put together an army of people who share your devaluation of your ex for truth in numbers.” Besides, why would it matter now that your sister wasn’t his biggest fan? Dr. Warshak adds that this comment can be especially regrettable if you two get back together—which does happen (see #10!). Spare yourself decades of awkward Thanksgivings and keep this to yourself.
4. “Mhmm. Yeah. Fine.”
Passive-aggressive much? “This happens over text a lot,” says Kavita Jhaveri-Patel, a love coach based in New York City. “The guy will message, ‘I’m taking the kids to X place,’ and if it doesn’t work with the woman’s schedule, she doesn’t say so; she just gets mad.” Another scenario: Your ex asked if you wanted to remain friends, you said yes and now you resent when he reaches out and you respond with short messages. What you’ve said doesn’t match your actions, points out Jhaveri-Patel. If you’re not ready to be friends, calmly let him know with, “I appreciate your intentions, but I need some separation from you. I’ll reach out when I’m ready. Until then, we can’t text.”
5. “My new boyfriend is more thoughtful than you. And funnier. And better in bed.”
Comparing your new guy to your ex hurts your new relationship: You’re using your current love as a pawn to make your ex jealous. Plus, if your ex is over your split and seeing someone new (but has the class not to shove it in your face), you end up looking silly. And there’s no reason for that when you have a thoughtful, funny, sexual dynamo at home! “A comment like this comes out of a place of tremendous hurt and need for reassurance that ‘my life is better now,’’” says Dr. Warshak. “You’ll regret having said it.”
6. “I know it’s midnight, but want to come over?”
If you and your ex have zero expectations, the occasional hook-up might be fine: A University of Arizona study found that the one-fifth of separated couples who still have sex have better relationships than non-canoodling former couples. For most people, though, sleeping with the ex can spell disaster. “This may encourage the ex’s hopeful feelings for reconciliation,” says Dr. Warshak. Or if you’re looking to get back together, chances are, “he’ll come over, you’ll feel good and then he’ll leave and you’ll crash,” says Jhaveri-Patel. “If there’s even a bit of, ‘Maybe this will get him back in my life,’ don’t do it.”
7. “I saw what you posted about me on Facebook.”
A whopping 88% of people use Facebook to “check in” on exes, according to a University of Western Ontario study. But “don’t assume that whatever he posted was about you,” says Jhaveri-Patel. “Unless your name’s in it, try not to make something general a dig at your relationship. You’ll get upset and make a comment you’ll wish you could take back.” Translation: That photo of him on a beach with the caption “Free at last” doesn’t mean “No longer held down by my ex.” He’s more likely referring to time off work. If every post feels like a jab, de-friend him.
8. “I never really knew you.”
Seeing your ex with a woman who looks completely different (think: you’re a slender redhead, your ex is dating a curvy blonde) can trigger a reaction of, “What I thought he liked was wrong.” “This creates doubt in everything you do,” says Jhaveri-Patel. “Doubt in love, doubt in whom you’re going to choose in the future.” You might be hurt that your ex is with someone unlike you from the outside, but you have no idea about their connection. If he’s moved on, he’d probably shrug off a comment like this anyway, leaving you even more frustrated.
9. “Sure, tell me what’s still hurting you about our breakup. I can talk all night.”
Cutting off his sobbing sessions might seem harsh, but being his shoulder to cry on isn’t healthy for either of you. “You give the person false hope that you’ll get back together,” says Dr. Rabinor. “You need to say, ‘I don’t think it’s good for you to be talking to me about this. I’m sorry you’re hurt, but this isn’t going to help you.” Suggest that he see a therapist or talk to a friend he trusts. If you start feeling guilty, remember that you’re not doing him any favors by rehashing your relationship over and over.
10. “My job is great. Did you notice my new Gucci shoes? I got them while vacationing in Italy.”
You bump into each other on the street. Now what? Don’t go overboard about how amazing your life is—especially if you don’t believe it. “You want to come from a grounded, centered place.” When Jhaveri-Patel ran into her then-ex (and now husband!), she felt satisfied with her life and told him so. “It’s fine to do that because you won’t feel bad afterward,” she says. “But if you’re still struggling, you’re going to feel icky if you overcompensate to prove you’re okay.” Remember the designer handbag analogy: A knock-off will never make you feel as fabulous as you want it to because you’llalways know it’s a fake.