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Friendship by the Book: My Other Ex

September 22, 2014 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
My Other Ex

My Other Ex

An interview with the authors of “My Other Ex,” new book about the dark side of female friendships. 

Fellow bloggers Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger have co-edited a new book with first-person accounts that document the range of intense emotions experienced after a breakup between friends. The powerful collection of essays, called My Other Ex will be of interest to many readers of The Friendship Blog. Jessica and Stephanie were gracious to talk to me about the genesis of the book:

What led you to develop this book that focuses on the dark side of friendship?

Jessica: Our first book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship, was primarily one celebrating female friendship and its positive influence on women’s lives. But we heard from our readers that the section of the book that resonated most deeply was the section on this “dark side” of loss, pain, and ambivalence. We wanted to explore that, and we started asking lots of questions, to our readers (in a survey) and to our writer friends.

How did you find and choose the essayists for the book? 

Jessica: We put out a call for submissions for last winter and received dozens and dozens of incredible essays from women around the country. The differences in their backgrounds were remarkable, although so many of their friendship breakups and responses were similar. They represented every age group and social class, and many different educational and career backgrounds. Our first book mainly featured essays from women in their 30s and 40s; in this book, we strived for more diversity.

In compiling and editing the book, what were some of the most surprising things you learned? 

Jessica: We were surprised by how many of the essays were about friendships that ended a long time ago. These are relationships that had a profound effect on these women’s lives. Even though they may have ended decades ago, they were still sources of confusion, contemplation, and, in many cases, gratitude. We were also — despite what we knew about the power of friendship — surprised by the depths of emotion that these women talked about and the true grief they experienced.

What advice can you offer to someone who has been dumped by a friend?

Stephanie: First of all, know that you are not alone. Friend breakups seem to be practically universal; nearly everyone has a story about an upsetting friendship ending. Women often carry around the burden of these losses for years. Many women can recall being dumped by a friend in elementary, middle, or high school, and to this day they still feel a sting when they think of it!

As we read through the essay submissions we received for My Other Ex, we realized how complex and diverse reasons for breakups can be; many times, the end of a relationship has very little to do with the person being “dumped.” I suppose it’s the same tired old cliche, “It’s not you, it’s me,” but in many cases, it’s true. Women end friendships for very personal, individual reasons, and oftentimes, life transitions and role changes play a big part. Try to look at the bigger picture of what may have gone wrong in your relationship– it’s likely that, even though being dumped feels terrible, it wasn’t a direct reflection of you as a person. What was going on in your friend’s life? Was she experiencing a dramatic change in her life, be it a move, a career change, or family transition? Women in particular seem to internalize friendship loss as a reflection of their self-worth and capacity to be loved, but it’s so much more than that. Try to focus on the positive things you bring to the healthy relationships that are still active in your life.

Since you are moms, what advice can you give to other moms who are concerned about their daughters’ abilities to make and keep friends?

Stephanie: As the mother of two girls, one of whom just turned eight, I have already begun to discuss the complex nature of friendship with my oldest child. I think as mothers, we have two concerns for our daughters: 1) What happens when other girls are cruel to them, hurt them, or break up with them? and 2) What if they seem to have a difficult time holding onto friends due to their own choices and actions? My daughter and I have role-played during tricky situations with friends; we practice standing up to unkind friends, asserting good boundaries, and even acknowledging blame and apologizing. These are very useful tools that we can give our daughters. I think it’s also important that we take the time to share with them experiences that we had when we were young. My daughter loves to hear stories about friendship struggles I had when I was her age; it gives us common ground.

As mothers, we can help our daughters identity qualities that are problematic in a friend, and help them pinpoint when a friendship is toxic. On the other hand, we can also provide them with positive tools for advocating for friendships, becoming trustworthy friends, and developing empathy. I think the most important thing we can do for our daughters is to model being good, trustworthy friends ourselves, and to model empathy in general. I also think it’s essential to take the time to talk with them about their friends, to inquire what they’re doing to be good friends, and to give them positive feedback when we see them being kind, trustworthy, and helpful to their peers. Reading books and watching TV shows together is another way to open up a dialogue about what it means to be a good friend, and to identify when the characters are making good vs. bad choices about friendship.


Interesting in checking out the book? My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends is available in paperback or Kindle editions on Amazon.  You can also follow the HerStories Project on its BlogFacebook page, and Twitter.


‘Friendship by the Book’ is an occasional series of posts on this blog about books that offer friendship lessons. To read other posts in the series, use the search function on the right side of the page.

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Category: Books & movies about friendship, OTHER ADVICE

Comments (3)

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  1. Lauren says:

    This looks like an amazing book. I will buy it, and I’m certain that it will be very insightful and comforting.

  2. Islandgirl says:

    I’m blown away at the awesome parenting the authors do with their own daughters. Wow! I would have flourished with that kind of help and feedback. Kudos to them.

  3. Melinda Menard says:

    Irene;
    thank you so much for your help and for reading my post. I really appreciate the recommendation. Melinda

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