It’s something that seems right out of movies and TV: you’re going along your day, living your life, when a familiar face that you weren’t expecting to see shows up in front of you.
It might be a welcome surprise, an unexpected meeting, or even something that the two of you had no idea was set up, but the question is always the same: why is this happening?
An ex showing up unannounced is a Pandora’s box of feelings that’s been opened against your will.
In the surprise of the moment, it’s going to be difficult to think a little rationally.
But if you are wondering about the different possible reasons why your ex would show up unannounced, here are 10 of them for you to consider:
1) It’s Just A Coincidence
Not everything is a secret move on part of people who seem determined to give you fastballs in life to deal with: sometimes, things like your ex showing up is just pure coincidence.
Maybe their job transferred them to your building, they got lost and ended up asking for directions, or they just happened to be in the same place at the same time.
Your encounter might just be one of those random events that happen to everyone at least once, and there’s really no other meaning behind it.
The world can be smaller than you’d think – and the circles that you and your ex move around in can have a larger overlap than you’d imagine.
2) They’re Trying To Get Back Together
While it’s unreasonable to assume this all the time, there are occasions where your ex showing up unannounced can only mean one thing: they want to get back together.
Otherwise, why even bother showing up when any contact can be easily sent with a message or voicemail?
This is a big, grand gesture that’s meant to convey how serious they are – or something that’s deliberately designed to sweep you off your feet into taking them back.
Either way, the reason why they did it is less important than what your reaction would be, and it’s even more important that you not lose your composure in response.
It may not always be easy to take a few moments when such an immediate situation requires your attention, but trust us: a few moments to think about what you’re going to do next will save you a lot of time and trouble.
3) Checking In On How You’re Doing
Amicable breakups – or at least the breakups where you stay friends and not hate each other on sight – is a strange gray area that some people can seemingly make work.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without its share of surprises, like exes showing up unannounced.
If your ex is legitimately concerned for your well-being, they’ll sometimes show up without warning.
This isn’t always accidental, since it’s so easy to say that you’re doing fine with a message even though you’re not.
While it might seem like there’s a bigger agenda at play here, sometimes exes just want to make sure you’re doing okay.
4) They Just Miss You
Being in a relationship (especially for a long time) leaves its mark on people.
Things that meant so little suddenly meant so much; the company you took for granted is now gone; there’s just a big hole in your life where someone else used to be.
For some people, it’s not so much as plugging this hole that’s important – rather, it’s just the feeling that they’re after.
Exes that miss you a lot can show up unannounced, but it’s important to differentiate this from exes who want to get back together with you.
Relationships are not always the easiest thing to forget, and sometimes it’s nice to remember. It could be that they just want to hang out and enjoy your company.
It’s really up to you as to how to respond to this, because acting on this impulse can lead to other things happening, like the aforementioned attempt to get back together.
But if you’re both mature enough to understand that sometimes people just like to enjoy each other’s company platonically, it can be quite a good time.
5) Trying If A Friendship Is Possible
The end of relationships doesn’t always equate to losing someone from your life permanently.
Some couples can actually adjust quite well to being friends even after a breakup, they just need a little time and space to themselves before making it work.
An unexpected visit from the ex can sometimes be just this: an attempt to see if you can make it as friends.
However, the risk with doing this is that it’s not always clear when is the best time to attempt becoming friends again.
Sometimes you aren’t ready, or the circumstances aren’t right. It’s certainly a risk that they’re taking, but something that you don’t have to engage with if you don’t feel like doing so.
6) Seeing Who “Won” The Breakup
Some types of breakups are less concerned about what direction each person is going from that point onwards and more about how well they’re going to go about it.
For exes obsessed with the idea of “doing better”, an unexpected visit is a sure sign that they’re checking to see who “won” your breakup.
Winning a breakup isn’t always a clear metric: it could be anything from not crying all the time to going out with a super-famous and objectively better-looking partner.
Either way, this visit is less of goodwill and more of flaunting any potential “success” your ex thinks they have, and making sure that you’re there to see it.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that you’ve beaten them at their own game and are doing better in the breakup than they ever imagined – in which case, flaunt back for all its worth, you’ve earned it.
7) Forgot Some Things At Your Place
Relationships can be surprisingly mundane at times; even more so after they’ve ended.
For couples who’ve cohabited and lived together, a shared space can be a difficult thing to unpack.
Even if at its core, it’s simply an area that both of you shared.
This can lead to some situations where an ex shows up unannounced simply because they forgot something at your place: and while it can be argued that things don’t matter that much in a breakup, taking back things they own can be a necessity for their own mental well-being.
Most of the time, what they’ll be taking back holds a lot of value for them, even without your relationship – and that’s something you should respect.
8) A Family Member/Friend Set It Up
Relationships are about two people, but they’re rarely done in a vacuum.
When you get into a relationship with someone, more often than not you also establish relationships with their friends and family – some of which may have their own opinion about the two of you breaking up.
Some of the ones with stronger opinions may actually go as far as to set up a meeting between you and your ex without telling you.
This doesn’t mean that your ex knows (there are times when they’re not in the plans because they don’t agree as well), and by the time both of you put the pieces together, it may already be too late.
This is a tricky situation that should be handled with a firm hand, but only if you and your ex agree on the same course of action.
While it may be done from a place of concern, other people ultimately have no right to decide what you both do with your dating lives – only the two of you can be the best judge of that.
9) They’re Playing Games
It’s nice to be wanted.
It gives you the feeling that you matter, that you’re worth investing significant time and energy in, and is a great boost in self-esteem.
For people after breakups, being wanted can be a welcome ego boost that can otherwise help them through a point in their life where they may feel the lowest.
Unfortunately, some exes often go the route of looking for this ego boost from their former partners: and are only too willing to play games where they deliberately keep themselves on their ex’s radar.
In this case, paying attention to them is exactly what they want. For your own peace of mind, just don’t bother engaging at all.
10) It’s An Area That The Both Of You Share
You can try to distance yourself from your ex all that you want, but there are times when that’s just not practically possible.
This is especially true for relationships that began in the workplace since practicalities usually have to take precedence before heartbreaks.
In these situations, there will be situations where you and your ex will be in the same place together – and there’s really nothing you can do about it.
You can anticipate all you want and avoid as much as you can, but as long as both of you have a reason to show up to that place regularly, you will run into each other eventually.
If it’s any consolation, they’ll likely be just as surprised as you are.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
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