As I stared at her Tinder profile, tapping through the pictures one by one, reading her bio out loud, and constantly reminding myself that I ended things, my thumb quivered in indecision. She looked incredible. Her selfie game was fantastic — always has been. When we were together, I’d make fun of her selfie “techniques,” like tilting her head in awkward ways and contorting her body to allow the light to hit just right. Now I admired her boldness, her beauty, and was filled with regret. I jammed the home button, paced around my apartment, and deleted Tinder only to redownload it later that night. Once again, she was gone.
It only takes a quick glance for everything to come flooding back: the feel of their hair between your fingers, that part of your body they always touched in public, or the little hum they made while in a deep sleep. Whether you choose to never say a partner’s name again or haven’t washed your sheets since you split, stumbling onto an ex’s dating profile can be triggering but also perhaps healing. Below, we’ve outlined exactly what you should do when you come across an ex on Tinder. These steps are designed to hold your hand through this process and say “you’re not alone, you’re just not with them.”
1. Deeply notice their primary picture. Are they wearing something you gave them? If so, skip forward to step five. If not, move on to step two.
2. Tap through their pictures and determine if you’ve been cropped out. If so, skip forward to step five. If not, move on to step three.
3. Read their bio. If anything or anyone you introduced them to is referenced, skip forward to step five. If not, move on to step four.
4. Dive deep. Go ahead. Listen to the song they listed as their anthem, see how many photos they’ve posted on Instagram since your breakup (if you don’t already know the exact number), judge them on the incredibly old photos they’ve selected for their profile, see if you recognize all the friends in their photos, determine whether they are accurately representing themselves, and analyze their intentions. Once you find yourself about to Like or Nope out of boredom, anxiety, or anger, move on to step five.
5. Press the home button and place your phone face down. Leave the phone in a safe place and walk away. Let your jaw hang loose and breathe. Take a walk. If not a walk, a sit. If not a sit, a sip of water. If not a sip, watch an episode of your favorite show that you’ve already seen so as to avoid any unnecessary emotional surprises. If your breathing is still uncontrollable, your palms are sweating, or something just doesn’t feel quite right, skip forward to to step eight. If you find yourself calm, grounded, and possibly curious, move on to step six. If you are feeling somewhere in between or can’t quite figure out what’s going on, repeat this step until you can name your experience with confidence.
6. Pick up your phone and look at your own profile. Flip through through your photos, read your bio, listen to your anthem, stalk your own Instagram, and then repeat step five before moving on to step seven.
7. Before you pick up your phone again, scan your body. Start with your toes. Wiggle them. Move up your ankles, calves, and knees. Give them all a good wiggle, and don’t forget to breathe. Shake your hips a little. Release your stomach and let breath fill your body. Lengthen your spine and stand, if you aren’t already. Roll through your shoulders and stretch your neck. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Pick up your phone, open Tinder, and look at your ex’s first photo. Now the second. Scroll through the rest. Now, find a mirror and look in it. If you see a worried, anxious, upset, and traumatized version of yourself, move on to step eight. If you see an independent, stable, curious, confident person staring at you with an open heart and mind, skip forward to step nine.
8. Nope them. Skip forward to step 10.
9. Like them. Move on to step 10.
10. Repeat step five. Whether you Noped your ex and are filled with regret, Liked them and matched, or are now haunted by the thought that perhaps your ex did the opposite, keep your head (and fingers) in the game. If you don’t have time to do this, then go to your profile, put on your anthem, and dance your sexiest dance celebrating your often stressful, frequently sublime single life.