The Fear of Running Into the Ex

Some of the comments that came through today have inspired me to address our fear of running into our BPD-ex’s. Why are we so afraid of running into them again? What is it about them that causes our hearts to race at the mere thought of casually running into them?

Perhaps it’s because we know that that running into our Borderline ex’s would be anything but ‘casual’. With all the drama and craziness we have endured in our interactions with our BPD exs, we have a pretty good idea of what we’d be in for should we just happen upon them out in the wild…

I believe that pain is probably one of the strongest motivators we encounter in our lifetimes. The relationships and subsequent breakups with our Borderline Personality Disordered significant others likely subjected us to an unimaginable amount of pain, a pain unlike any we have endured before. Human beings seek out pleasure and avoid pain whenever possible. Therefore, we avoid our disordered ex girlfriends or boyfriends because they are a source of insurmountable pain and grief to us.

Our ex’s and our relationships with them now represent pain, failure, sadness, discord, and disappointment. Not only does seeing the ex trigger all of these negative emotions in us, but the physical spaces that we connect to our time spent with them, are triggers as well. These negative emotions alone are tough to endure, but they are unbearable when felt concurrently as we remember the good times we spent with them.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. For me, this concept rings very true. For over a year post breakup, driving anywhere near her home or a restaurant we frequented, makes me very uncomfortable. I want to feel the pleasure of those memorable times we enjoyed together in those places, but immediately, the realization of how things ended so terribly interrupts those pleasurable thoughts. All of this happens in mere nanoseconds, leaving me with a bothersome unsettled feeling.

I regularly frequent an area with an active nightlife where there are is a higher probability that I could run into her. These places no longer hold her awful stigma attached to them; repeated exposure will certainly help to overcome most of your fears in these situations. Here’s the good news that I think you should know: The raw, conflicted pain subsides over time, and the fear and avoidance becomes less of a worry. I do scan for her as I enter these places, but not anxiously; it’s more curiosity at this point.

At some point, I will run into her… It’s going to happen one day. I will walk into a pub or restaurant or grocery store, and there she will be. I’m not sure how I will handle that, and admittedly, the last thing I want to show her is a look of surprise or fear. We’ll see what happens when it happens. I only hope I can give her a kind, honest smile, say hello, and keep on walking.

Comments 18

  • I’ve tried to explain it to my family and they don’t seem to understand why it is such a big deal. I totally agree that it is akin to a recovering alcoholic staying away from bars, or a recovering addict staying away from places where people might be using drugs. Aside from NC, it takes every amount of strength I have to not google her or look her up on social networking sites. The only thing I can’t control is running into her in public.

    Aside from the pain of losing her, I think the biggest problem is that they don’t handle the breakup with integrity or respect for you. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but I treated her with kindness, compassion, respect and affection, and loved her to the best of my ability. I’ve often felt like the way she broke things off is more appropriate if you’re leaving Ike Turner or Mel Gibson.

    Not only does the breakup usually come out of the blue and is a shock to the system that you have to come to terms with, but they don’t do anything to help with mutual closure, and the way they go about it is such a disrespectful slap in the face. That lack of compassion is hard to deal with. I literally have no bad memories of her from before the day she broke up with me. I can look back at my relationship with my ex-ex and feel pretty neutral or positive about the experience, even though we broke up and are no longer together. But my ex was once a great source of joy in my life, and her ghost is nothing but pure melancholy.

    • @Daniel

      I wasn’t perfect either. I said bad stuff to my Borderline. Accused her of cheating too. She kept me at arms length the entire time we were in a relationship. It started online. She used to visit my home then go back to her town 20-miles away. I was never allowed into her universe.

      Problems really began when I needed more. She controlled the who relationship. The start. Middle and end. Then, after I refused the friendship crap it went down hill fast! Before I knew it we were estranged…

      Wish we’d never met.

      • Dave,
        I experience the same, the s*x was the best ever, but she controled when and how often, it was only when she wanted. When I have the desire; she found excuses like : too much work, I am tired, I am sweaty, I have to leave early…bla..bla…after a while I got tired of her games and broke with her ( 4 times) I finally broke with her (2 months) and have kept a NC rule. One day she wanted to get married and have kids and days later she was going to bed with somebody else. Good thing I saw the red flags and got out on time. But I made sure I my heart went on safe mode before the breakup. every day I feel less and less and her. what she does with her life is not longer my problem…we work on the same company , saw I get to see her once or twice, she is not teh same girl I met and fall in love, now she smokes, look depressed, and loss a lot of weight, I was her moral and emotional support, she wanted to keep me as her pet/lover/backup but I refused to paly her games and went NC. she broke my heart in 100 pices but I have the blue print to glue me back together…something she does not have !!!

  • Thank you FreeToBe for your kind and compassionate response to my fears. It made great sense, the conflicting emotions you describe and the unbearable negative feelings are close to home, many thanks and I wish you well, Mike

  • I am not sure why I’ve been going through some real hurt over the past few days. Since it is now months since we broke up I would have expected to be feeling better rather than worse. However, it has occurred to me that ‘we remember and they forget’, I have read that Bpd women are different, have had to live with their problems since childhood and forget easily, so they say. But my relationship was regularly painful, she broke up often, let me down on dates, turned her phone off when she was away to mention but a few of the problems in our relationship. So, why then do I remember? If it was memories of these sad moments I would understand but I am missing her lots. Maybe some types of mental illness is like a contagion and now I have what she brought to our relationship! While that sounds seriously flawed my ex came to me in a state after a relationship break up, she was just like I am now in some, but not all respects.
    And, yes, I cannot drive past where she works or go near where she lives without real fear.
    There is so much about Bpd that I suppose it must be a real condition, or are we having to cope with rejection and abandonment that women have suffered down the ages?
    I wish you all well from a land where princes marry commoners, any room in USA for a republican?

  • Hey Mike,
    I think that they infect all of us. You need to work on yourself to heal.

  • My ex ran into me at a Liquor Mart. Fortunately, I was with friends. It was my friend’s birthday and we decided to grab some drinks to celebrate. She literally ran over and gave everyone hugs (including me). Pretended like everything was great. She stood right beside me and started a conversation with me exclusively. I stayed pretty indifferent and casual. My friends got awkward and left me alone with her. She just has no concept of social etiquette. She looked so high on life. It just seemed so fake. The conversation stemmed around her asking questions, mostly relating to things I’d posted on Facebook. Ie: complaints about being sick, plans to visit friends in another city. (I never unfriended her since I was in limbo and not sure what the best course of action was). She also invited me to play on her soccer team. I just didn’t quite know how to react.

    She kept most of my friends on fb, too. It was actually a friend pointing out a status that showed up shortly after our meeting. Basically, saying it was “painful” and “missed you guys”. Didn’t make a lot of sense, but I knew it was towards me/us. I also noticed she hadn’t taken any of our “couple-ey photos” off of her profile or anything. She’s currently listed as single, but she’s in a rebound relationship with a guy who just dumped his gf for her (which came up in that conversation, surprise, surprise.) She obviously didn’t say anything about being “in” a relationship. But, I already knew about it.

    I’m trying to get myself to a point where I can accept she’s still very close in my life. She works not 5 minutes from my house and she’s also going to a local gym, too. We even use the same highway frequently. It will definitely make moving on a task.

  • These stories sound so familiar. I haven’t run into my exbpd yet, but I know I will one day. Our story is similar to the others. The seduction phase was super intense, passionate, and so very romantic. Coming out of a deader than dead marriage, her seduction was like a drug…I couldn’t say no. This was followed by her focusing all of the relationship energy on her. When I wasn’t 100% focused on her, the trouble would start. The hating started when my life took a turn downward (career issues, terminally ill parent, and protracted divorce from ex wife). I was shaken by all of this happening at the same time and withdrew to cope with it. My GF was offended because she wanted a good time, to have a boyfriend, and to have all the attention focused on her. When I couldn’t do it, the hating intensified. Just 4 weeks after my father died, she dumped me cold. I was devastated. Then the push pull dynamic started. She immediately started dating another guy, but he dumped her 3 weeks later and back to me she came. We were together for 3 weeks, then she dumped me and went back to him. Then she dumped him 4 weeks later and, like a fool, I took her back. Such is the power of the bpd waif. Exactly 3 weeks later, she dumped me again and ran back to him (after saying she needed “time alone”). That was 2 months ago. After all this, she STILL tried to keep contact with me. I had had enough and cut off all contact, which only pissed her off greatly. I haven’t seen or talked to her since. But I did just learn last weekend that the guy she kept dumping me for finally dumped her permanently and went back to his fiance. I hear by exbpd is devastated and missing me big time. Well, too bad. She treated me like a piece of dirt, worse than that, and doesn’t deserve me or my love. While I have NO intention of letting her back into my life, I do fear seeing her again. I wonder what I will do? Will I have the courage to walk away? Will I not speak to her and keep going? This woman had an intense stranglehold on me that I don’t understand, even to this day. No other woman has had this power over me. I know I can’t ever go back, and I know she is mentally ill, but I can’t stop thinking about her. I too am conflicted because I remember the extraordinary good times with her, but intermingled with the bad, the hating, and the pain. It is so confusing. Now that she is single again, I have little doubt she will conveniently find herself in the same bar or restaurant I’m in one day, and that I’ll see her. I just hope I have the courage to take the high road and pretend she doesn’t exist. I guess time will tell.

    Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.

  • Its been ten months since my sixth breakup in six years with ex-bpd, starting form the first break up I did not know about BPD. As I look back each break up took me deeper into the black hole , the implosion into myself grew darker with each episode, however I would enter the acceptant (DABDA) stage for a small portion only to be pulled back by her pleading words and tears of sorrow. Three months after the sixth break up I goggled “why is it so hard to break up”? Wow, BPD, geeze what an under ground epidemic for “us”, the hurting never eased up, however it did give me new “words” to the language of pain I was experiencing. I am normally a strong man mentally however interring the arena with this well prepared gladiator knocked me to my knees to God. I am God’s child, so I started fighting back from my knees at first through prayer, knowledge, and outside help. It wasn’t till I fronded this site that I was able to stand up and square off with the enforcer of pain, turning into Spartacus. — ten months later I had kind of a date at a local Eagles, my ex came in with a date, but I kept my back to her and focus on the dark hair beauty I was with. Went home later and fell a sleep with no problem. I have abstain form drinking from the “beginning”; two weeks later I got home from a hard work week, I’ve been taking jobs out of town (road construction) sleeping in my car to save money and it has helped, the distance and solitude with God and myself. After my shower I had two mixed drinks, that put me in a uncontrolled pursuit to contact her for closure, thank goodness I didn’t catch up with her and was only able to stop myself through prayer. I want to point out that I HAVE NOT been reaching out per say (NC), only a couple times. She called the police on me so I went down to talk to them; I explain the situation , the BPD ex and my very understanding the situation I could be in if she filed papers. He appeared to be, man to man, on my side, for he told me “I got a good read” on her. I told him it was not the first time she has used this method to end a relationship, in fact during one of our break ups she met a man eighteen her senior only to end it this way too. I share this because all of “you” understand; its strange but a kind of liberation has set in.

  • Hi, hard for me right now, I work with her everyday and see her at least a couple of times a day. Tried to get a transfer, not working, she seems to enjoy my misery but I try to remain calm and up going. However I will win this cause it’s all about me now and not her. I cannot and will not give into her games, every time I think I will fall I think about me, how of a good man I am, my 5 year old son, and what I deserve in life, to be happy without the manipulation.

    Cheers guys and thanks for the posts, sure helps me 😉

    • Patric, I also broke up with by ex-bpd after 7 months of crazy love with up/downs, push/pull relationship, I was not aware of her illness, I found out after the break up. Me too, we work for the same company but lucky I was transfer to another floor but I get to see once or twice a week. If was painful in the beginning, but after 2 moths I feel not pain when I see her, I keep my NC rule all the time. she tried to smile and look into my eyes but I ignored her. hang on, the pain will go away…finally life is smiling at me again…

  • I disagree with your idealization that there were ‘good times’, they were ALL illusions. The good times were merely fleeting moments when the madness stopped, I never look back with fondness for the ‘good times’, the price we pay for these times were horrific. This is where people trip up time and time again, the belief that the good times were good and that they actually loved us, that is the hook that reeled us in over and over.

  • My BDP ex has recently made contact, I have not responded and never will. The fear and anxiety is palpable. These people really do leave us with deep scars on our psyche. It’s not so much what she said it’s the energy behind it – the potential for chaos and drama all over again. My guess is the anxiety I am experiencing serves as a dire warning NEVER to make contact with her. She is hoovering, and the slightest interaction could set off a whole chain of events and I’m afraid the only conclusion would be to call the authorities. They have the emotional intelligence of a three year old, that is recognised by some of the greatests minds in the field of mental health. There are no boundaries for a borderline, everything is in black and white, there are no shades of grey, they feel absolutely no empathy for their victims and the fact that years can pass by means nothing to a borderline, they are constantly searching for narcissistic supply, it IS frightening believe me I have been there and worn the t-shirt. My advice to anyone who has walked away, if your BDP ex makes contact you MUST stay completely and utterly silent. Sure they will use every trick in the book to reel you in. It’s common for a borderline to engineer smear campaigns, they will idealise you and demonise you at the flick of a switch. If their intended target remains silent they will move on eventually and get their supply elsewhere. Bottom line: NEVER establish contact with them and if necessary call the Police, nobody deserves to be harrassed.

    • Wonderful page. I am many yrs out. I never think wbout my ex and am not at all confused or reminiscent of “fond” memories. I remeber the phase. It’s part of recovery coming out of crazy. Were we with a normie, it would be reasonable to have known we had shared real love and caring. But with a bpd, simply not the trip we took. He lives 45 min away so seems like i wouldnt run into him but he took up one of my long term hobbies and has sometimes used the community as a fishing pond since. It triggers the power/control games. So for 6 yrs i quit. Got a life somewhere else. Recently, convinced he was gone, i started back. Guess what, my fb block of his profile didnt work. He changed user names, which means he knows i’m back in the scene…..and guess what? He is showing back up again. (i even invented a fake profile and he friend requester her!)
      I try to tell myself it’s not an issues, but my instincts (7 yrs later) are on auto pilot. Learned instincts which were always spot on. They always warned me right before crazy struck and 7 yrs later, i’ve learned to honor them. There’s the fear. But it’s not fear of sad memories or pain. It’s fear of having to ever deal with someone so convoluted , msnipulatiive, confusing, scarry, and unpredictable. Like coming out of a cult….lthe way they disorient severely overloads my nervous system.

    • Wow. John Voxx. Spot on. Thanks for the advice. Im moving on nicely. Its been just over a year and she “split me black”. Ive had absolutely no contact with her or from her thank goodness. It was actually her that cut contact. So all in all she did me a HUGE favour. Im just very worried that she will contact me 1 day or il bump into her.

  • i share this fear,

    the problem i have is, we have the same workplace, i can ignore her as much as i can, but sometimes i can just hear her voice, see her walking, etc…I’ive gotten far into forgetting her (been over for 8 months) but her recent contact with me made me fall back into my pit again.
    i am a bodybuilder, so you can suspect, at a given point in life so was she, cause she mirrors my behaviour, today she was, after a 6 month abcense, again in my gym. and she looked so great. she again has facebook, after deleting it with her previous partner, and her picture is the one on her sportsbike, me myself, i drive an R1…she didnt drive her bike for 6 months or so
    today she was in the gym training her muscles…
    i am drunk out of my skull right now, trying to calm down…
    it was a couple of weeks ago, after the 3rd or so NO CONTACT rule i had stated with her, that she sent me a mail on the job, asking to have lunch together.
    i told her about a possible new girlfriend who was into competitive fitness, she freaked out, she’d break her skull if she ever had to meet her…she started boyfriend #2 after me at the same time, this was last month, she now has facebook again to connect to people as soon as possbile, cause #2 didnt work out, she needs to get of the streets asap, cause being alone is death.
    its weird to hear her say that s*x with me was the best ever, and that she misses that (yes we did freaky s**t) but its like she’s trying to find the substitute for me, cause she doenst want me back.
    indeed, thats the mistake i made, because of the contact we had last weeks, i wanted her back, she had me in her grip again and all of a sudden i begged her to take me back, no matter how bad she mistreated me…
    because she is a female, this tactic (fortunatly) didnt work, she only wants me when i’m not interested.
    but right now its like i have to come off this drug again, i got hooked once again, and right now i need a new recovery, and a hard one, cause it seems like ill bee seeing her a lot more again.
    this is really, really hard.

  • I have been where you guys are at it is going on 2 years and i doubt she ever trie to come back

  • at least lets hope not, I am doing fine now,, fishing working out saving for the futire, really not with anyone. I find it hard to trust anyone again

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