Why running into your ex isn’t always a bad thing

Sure, dating can be fun. It can also be stressful, confusing, heartbreaking, weird, and…boring. But we still do it, and we want to know how you do it, too. In our series “Adventures in Dating,” one writer documents their love life for three months, and we get a peek into every part of their experience—the fun and the frustrating. Starting us off is N.Y.C.-based sex writer Shelby Sells, who will be telling us all about her summer. (Catch up with Shelby’s summer journey in her first pieces for the series here, here, and here.)

DATING TEA! I’m not sure what’s happening in the universe, but it seems that the world has opened up to gift me hotties left and right. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’d like to think it’s a result of the advancements I’ve made in my self-love journey: letting go of past traumas, becoming emotionally available again, etc. But I am utterly grateful. Three new scenarios have popped up over the last few weeks, each one allowing me an opportunity to use the tools I’ve learned in therapy for healthy relationships and apply them in real time.

First, let’s talk about the out-of-town bad boy who DM’d me at the end of my last story. Readers, you should know that I have an affinity for bad boys—they are just so hot and unattainable! Unfortunately,  in my experience, they are not practical partners for loving, trusting, respectful relationships. Bad boys are ideal for fun flings, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They still serve their place in hook-up culture (usually to inadvertently teach you a lesson about yourself and your boundaries, if you’re trying to get that deep).

And it went down in the DMs. This bad boy, my long-time crush who lives across the country, and I were innocently discussing the intersectionalities of modern and retro interior design when he mentioned that he would be in New York for work. The prospect of hanging out was brought up; numbers were exchanged. I was very much excited to fulfill this fantasy of mine.

A couple days later, he replied to one of my stories. We were casually poking fun at a washed-up celebrity when it happened, but the conversation took an extremely sexual turn. I’m talking 0-100 real quick. Now I have to admit that I may have fostered this switch (I have the capacity to be a bit of a flirt), but WOW I was not expecting the X-rated depths it dove to.

“As it turns out, I am sexually unavailable for anyone who is not a romantic prospect.”

I was partially affirmed in this interaction because I was wanted by someone I desired, but there was another part of me (a larger part) that felt let down. I have experienced enough of these hypersexual relationships to know the outcome. In my last article, I touched on the beauty of long-term, solely sexual relationships. Emotionally, I am not in the headspace to take on another one. As it turns out, I am sexually unavailable for anyone who is not a romantic prospect.

I have PTRS (Post-Traumatic Relationship Syndrome) from previous abusive relationships. When things move too quickly with a new partner, my anxiety is triggered, so I tried my best to keep things at an even pace with my bad boy. But the next thing I knew, he was in N.Y.C. ready to meet up. I was excited and nervous because he had been talking a big game about his sexual prowess (telling me to call him “Daddy,” etc.) As an experienced submissive, it’s extremely important to me that each person stay true to their designated roles. That is, if “Daddy” is not dominating in our real-life play, and only online, then the practice goes out the window for me. It’s what some might call a huge boner-kill.

Unfortunately, that’s what happened when I met up with my bad boy. We went to dinner, and he was much more reserved than I had anticipated per our conversation—not to say there’s anything wrong with feeling someone out during a first hang. I honestly found it a bit endearing that he was so nervous around me, but I thought I was going to be punished. Instead, I was served chocolate cake. Nothing wrong with that, but these are two very different scenarios.

We still had an amazing time getting to know each other, but when we went to a party the next night, I could feel the disconnect between us. While I am happy to keep this person as a friend, what transpired between us left me feeling that he was full of hot air. I am a very literal person and usually have very little patience for actions that don’t line up with words—especially this early on in dating. I left him to mingle with his friends and hit the streets to go do karaoke with my girlfriends.

Less than five minutes later, I saw my ex walking up the street, coming right towards me. WHY, UNIVERSE, WHY. I swear, sometimes my life is like a bad rom-com. I pretended not to see him (I’m terrible with confrontation), but he stopped me and we spoke briefly. His energy was kind and he showered me in affirmations. I invited him to karaoke and we ended up having a wonderful evening that ended with a nightcap on my roof. We parted on good terms, and considering that we never really discussed our breakup, it left me with a sense of closure.

“Less than five minutes later, I saw my ex walking up the street, coming right towards me…I swear, sometimes my life is like a bad rom-com.

As it turns out, my ex had accidentally pocketed my juul (shaking my head), and we made arrangements for him to drop it off the following week. He ended up inviting me to a hot yoga class (he knows me too well), and I joined him for an intense, spiritual sweat. Afterwards we went to dinner and walked around the city. I had sensed more communication and closure was coming. I embraced the situation and chose to be present with an open mind and honest heart.

Sitting in Tompkins Square Park, we vulnerably shared our truths about our past with each other. It was incredibly healing and refreshing to be able to speak freely with a romantic partner, and be heard by them. Often it feels like people are just waiting for their turn to talk. When I’d share my feelings with partners in the past, I was usually met with hostility. It was groundbreaking to have this space where I held agency over my thoughts and feelings for once.

It surprised me when he suggested that we get back together. In the spirit of transparency, I admitted to him that I had a crush on someone else and had the intention of seeing that through. He wasn’t bothered by this sentiment. In fact, it seemed like he was thriving on my blatant honesty. I wasn’t quite sure what to say other than I’d like to have a genuine friendship with him. He invited me to yoga before he heads to Europe for a work trip.


Back to that crush I had told my ex about…I wasn’t talking about the bad boy from earlier. There is a very handsome man that I keep seeing around my neighborhood and at various events. We usually make eye contact, but that is the extent of our interactions. Who is this mysterious hottie?! I’ve wondered. A couple weeks ago, I described him to a friend and she immediately pulled up his Instagram, “This guy?” she asked—and it was him. I was floored that she knew who he was solely based on my vague description. Once his Instagram was in front of me, I couldn’t help but lurk. Turns out he’s quite popular, recognized in his field, and seems like a great guy. My crush was solidified, but now, how will I get him to notice me?

Feeling fearless after such a great discussion with my ex, I slid into my crush’s DMs to start a conversation about one of his posts. He was very responsive, and I was excited to be on his radar. A few days later, I went to a community event and, once again, he was there. We hung out for a little bit and shared some laughs. The energy between us was so warm and natural—I hope he felt it, too. Recently, I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk in the neighborhood park with me (I can count the number of times I’ve asked someone out on one hand). I was so nervous, but we ended up making plans to hang out when he’s back in the city. If you’re reading this, please send good energy for our date!

Until then, I will be using masturbation manifestation to turn my crush into something more.

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