Unexpected encounters with ghosts of relationships past



by Laura Formisano

It’s probably happened to everybody at least once.

You’re at the gym or sitting at a stoplight, or perhaps even partaking in some post-finals celebration, when the crowd parts.  A spotlight beams down, and there he or she is — your ex. You were not expecting to see him, but here he is, in the flesh, making your life miserable.

Christmas is around the corner, so I will dub this situation, encountering “ghosts of relationships past.”

The reemergence of a past relationship in the moment you least expect it can really rattle your cage, or just kind of irk you. It can dampen your workout or ruin your night, putting a sour taste in your mouth.

I  have had several “run ins” here and there, and they’ve ranged from slightly awkward to severely catastrophic. With winter break and old friends and foes alike rolling into town for the holidays, run ins and unexpected visits are bound to happen.

Whether it’s a Christmas-themed throw down back in the ‘burbs at the parents’ house or a holiday get together at your place, a slightly awkward meeting under the mistletoe (and after a little too much eggnog) may inspire some holiday cheer and some severe regret in the morning.

How do we avoid these ghosts of past relationships and put them to rest?

The question of how to get over past relationships and what the adequate amount of time allotted to grieving is a tricky one, since there isn’t a rule book for these type of things.

I was frustrated recently because something from the past had been bothering me more than usual, and not only was I upset by the recent resurgence of my pesky feelings, but I was also annoyed by the sheer fact it was still bothering me. My “ghost,” so to speak, had reared its ugly head and was sticking around.

So what can you do to avoid these ghosts? Throw yourself into last minute holiday shopping and the intricate wrappings of presents, or avoid social situations altogether?

I do not want to run into someone from my past when I’m just trying to get my cardio on at the gym and am drenched in sweat. (I’m sure the sight of me like that would make anyone reconsider their prudent decision to blow me off). But you can’t live like a hermit for the entirety of break; friends are in town and new presents are to be shown off. Yet then again, you don’t want to be haunted by the ghosts, either. So, what to do?

I’m still figuring out the answers to these questions. I sometimes think when people say you can’t outrun your past, they obviously haven’t tried to run fast enough. Maybe we  should change our mindset on the “ghost” issue and not think of these people and relationships as haunting us,  but rather as reminding us: reminding us of what went wrong and how we can do better.

If you decrease the level of stress placed on the issues, then perhaps the issues themselves decrease. Maybe the answers to all the things we wonder about our “ghosts” will never present themselves, or at least won’t present themselves in a way we typically expect. Sometimes, acceptance, rather than understanding, is the way to go.