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Book Review: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex* by Heather Belle, MFC and Michelle Fiordaliso, MSW

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Are former lovers, live-ins, louses, and spouses cluttering your life like an overstuffed sock drawer — to the point that you can not find the sock mate you need? Do you struggle with a post-breakup relationship and "handle" it by having sex, doing favors, providing emotional support, and continuing a stream of electronic contact? And do you perceive that the PC or healthy goal of a breakup is to maintain a friendly relationship with all ex-whatevers? Or maybe your list of breakups is short, but the aftermath has risen to bite you in the butt? If "yes" is the answer to any of these questions, then you gotta read the book.

In Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex*, authors Heather Belle and Michelle Fiordaliso present tons of reasons to rethink your values and choices about relationships that fall into the "ex" this and that category. They contend that all relationship breakups have the potential to reap a negative backlash of "ex" consequences. Even one-night stands and brief sexual flings with a coworker add an important dimension of reality to resolve after a breakup — you got naked together.

The authors take the position that the PC goal of remaining friends with the wrong exes can leave you stuck in your history and sabotage future relationships. The authors propose that the question of being friends or maintaining contact with exes should be evaluated on an individual basis. In this book, they systematically take you through the process of assessing who can remain on your friends list and who's really gotta go.

The authors stop short of tackling the special complications presented by divorces beyond the silver mark; but they present a broadly defined view of relationship breakups that produce an "ex-something" — ranging from divorces to casual one-night stands, with kids and not. Belle and Fiordaliso's approach to handling your "ex" somebody and elaborating on how your new partner's exes have an impact brings understanding to today's complex relationship maze.

This book is an easy read, well marked with captions and subtitles to allow you to skip around and find what you need. Chapter 9, "Toxic Ex Triangles" and Chapter 10, "Crazy No More," are my fave sections.

Maintaining an unhealthy relationship with your ex can create a destructive triangle as you enter a new relationship. For example, the authors refer to "textual intercourse" with your ex as a form of emotional cheating on your new partner. The comparisons, what ifs, advice seeking, and emotional disclosures with an ex about your new relationship are a form of betrayal. Acting on impulse with your exes can morph into addictive and compulsive behaviors — followed by sinking regret. Chapter 10 offers a useful 12 steps to stop using exes in an addictive way.

As a therapist and life coach, I frequently hear clients express their belief that the past belongs in the past. Not so. The past always comes forward. It is only a question of your awareness of its impact and how you handle it. This is excruciatingly true with your past history of exes. The authors refer to your exes as "intimate witnesse(s) to your history." How they come forward into your present life is an important task to manage.

Here are a few key passages to give you a glimpse of what the book has to offer:

Given the overwhelming numbers, no matter what the duration of the relationship, the odds are that someone in your past, or in your partner's past, may be affecting you. Until you take a good, hard look, who knows whether the "Ex effect" is positive or negative? (p. 7)

The downside of technology is that all these points of contact can keep toxic patterns going… Your workday can be invaded by a hostile e-mail from an ex-husband. While on a great date, you can get a text from an Ex that leaves you confused and, more importantly, throws you off your game. (p. 8)

Everyone can relate to being broken hearted, but being a "divorcee" unfortunately calls your character into question. That's why you believe that if you can present your divorce as amicable, you might erase some of the shame. (p. 15)

Underneath the surface of almost every Ex relationship is a power struggle whose dynamic is dictated by how the relationship ended. Someone still wants something. (p. 24)

You can waste hours of your precious time trolling the web for information about all your Exes, searching online dating sites for his profile, or looking for any new additions to his Facebook friends. What better way to distract yourself from almost anything? (p. 64)

These days having sex with exes is as common as blogging…Why waste my time on fifteen torturous coffee dates, conjured up from various dating sites, in the hopes of getting some, when I can just get a Jiffy Lube from Old Faithful? So what if Old Faithful was never actually faithful? (p. 191)

The authors cut through the justifications for sex with exes and answer this question with a realistic look at how such a practice can keep you stuck.

By taking the good and the bad from your exes and using that information to formulate a clear vision of what you desire, you can take powerful actions in the now. (p. 257)

This book is a call to action complete with multiple tools — dos and don'ts, checklists, probing questions, and thought-provoking opinions on the subject of the ex-characters in your life. From learning the "10 Signs You're Not Just Friends" (Chapter 3) and that "How It Ended Matters" (Chapter 4) to "How Never to Let an Ex Get under Your Skin" ( Chapter 19), this title provides information and valuable direction to heal and deal with the exes in your life — whether your list is long or short.

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About Dr. Coach Love

  • anonymous

    When this title grabbed my attention at the bookstore last night I actually (naively obviously) thought it was asexual – and not just another “male-bashing,” “woe are we” feminist diatribe about how to get over, past, or around “public enemy #1″.

    Thank you for setting me straight, “Dr. Love.” I’m sure if it hasn’t already, this book is most certainly destined for “Male Basher #1’s” Top 10 Read List!

  • http://www.DrCoachLove.com DrCoachLove

    Hi there, Anony!
    I always appreciate an honest and thoughtful comment. Thanks for yours and taking time to share it. Have a good one.
    Regards,
    DCL