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Dear Wendy: “I’m Terrified Of Running Into My Ex”

I was in a relationship with this guy for three years, which was one of the most unstable, intense relationships I have ever been in. After many attempts I was finally was able to pull myself off of him and break away. After a year of crying, especially when I found out he was dating another girl, and then building myself up again, I am as happy as can be. However, I am still terrified of running into him! I’ve avoided bars, friends, or anything that has to do with him. There have been a couple of times where I had just run into his friends and although I acted pretty cool, I almost vomited when it was over. One time, I was at a concert and I noticed all his friends come in, I tried being strong but as soon as I saw the girl he was dating I collapsed to the ground and then ran out the other door. It’s been over a year now since I’ve seen him and I am still terrified to. I am over the relationship we once had and I feel I’ve learned from it but how long is it going to take to shake this off and will I ever stop being so scared?? I want to stop being afraid to go to places because he may be there and if it turns out he is there I want to be cool and collected about it. Help. — Scared To See Him

For most of us, the thought of running into an ex isn’t the most pleasant of feelings. There have been a handful of times I’ve felt certain some random dude on the street or in the subway was an ex of mine and I immediately felt anxious until I realized it was only someone who looked like him. What you’re describing, though, goes beyond normal anxiety and sounds almost like some sort of post-traumatic issue. If fear of seeing your ex is so acute that you’re actually modifying your behavior and avoiding certain people, places and events because of it, you probably would benefit greatly from some counseling. A professional can give you relaxation exercises and offer tools to help you fight anxiety. He or she can also help unpack the root of your (frankly, irrational) fear and deal with any negative feelings you have still lingering after your breakup.

I am tired of my friends who have children always expecting me to open up my schedule for them, like my friend Jay in particular. Jay has a 3-year-old son. He likes to do stuff with me but he doesn’t know “how his weekends are going to shape up,” so he asks me to keep Saturday open to hang out, though at the last minute, he’ll usually say he can’t hang out after all. I don’t normally mind except when I pass up other opportunities.

Things came to a head recently when my favorite band came to town. I initially couldn’t go because of work and the show sold out. When my schedule changed, I knew it was too late to go and agreed to hang out with Jay that Saturday. My other friend won some good tickets and invited me to go and I decided to cancel Jay on Wednesday. Jay then proceeded to give me grief since it was one of the few Saturdays he could positively do something since his wife was out of town with their son. I couldn’t get him a ticket (I tried really hard) either. After this, he got upset since I know his time is limited, but I yelled at him because I feel that just because I am single and childless it does not mean that my time isn’t important too! I told him I’d appreciate it if he would make plans with me in advance (at least a week) so that I would know they were definite and he would check with his wife so she would know. I don’t know how else to convey my feelings since I feel like they fall on deaf ears. Can you think of anything? Am I being to harsh on my friends? Should I accept that they can’t make definite plans? Am I overreacting about being chided for wanting to go to my concert? — Childfree Not Carefree

One way to convey your feelings so they don’t fall on deaf ears might be to share them when you’re not wound up and irritated like you did after the concert incident. Honestly, you’re not in the wrong for expecting your friends with kids to respect your time as they would expect you to respect theirs, but where you went wrong was yelling at Jay instead of speaking to him calmly about your feelings. It sounds to me like you never really spoke up for yourself, let your frustrations build up over time, and then lashed out at him when he “chided” you for canceling on him. Now that you’ve had some time to cool down, you need to reach out to Jay and tell him sincerely that you respect that his availability has changed since becoming a parent and that you appreciate the effort he puts into staying connected and involved in your life, but that your time is valuable, too, and you need him to respect that. He needs a reminder that parents of young children aren’t the only people whose lives sometimes get in the way of meeting social commitments. Calm, collected communication goes a long way and even if your message isn’t wholly embraced, you’ll at least feel better that you got it off your chest and next time you won’t be so quick to blow up at him.

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