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Hello.  My name is Janice Bowles and I want to welcome you to my blog.  In this little corner of my world, I will be blogging about all facets of relationships, including what I consider to be a very different take on infidelity.

So what makes me an expert?  Well, I’m a therapist for one thing with many years of experience helping couples sort through their relationship quagmires.  For another, I have been in lots of different kinds of relationships:  casual dating (lots of it),  unmarried and living together, exclusive marriage, open marriage, no strings attached sexual relationships,  and now a committed relationship with my ex-spouse who had an affair when that definitely wasn’t a part of our agreement.  I have dumped people and been dumped; hurt people and been hurt.  I’ve run the gamut, and as I blog along, I will talk to you about all of it, hopefully giving you information that will stimulate your thought and help you to have something fresher, deeper, and more satisfying with your partner.  I really want your input as well.  Tell me about how you relate to the things I write, as well as about your own experiences in the relationship wars.  Let’s use this blog to learn from each other.

I will tell you this: the journey my husband and I took together was some kind of an adventure, one that I never would have initiated, but now that it’s over, I’m so glad it happened.  It helped us take a giant leap forward to the wonderful, loving, respectful partnership that we now enjoy.  I plan to write more books on this fascinating, maddening subject and am open to including some of your experiences and ideas as well.

Here is my first tip: don’t try to fit yourself into a relationship structure that doesn’t suit you and your partner just because it’s what society, or mom, or your best friend says you should do.  Explore, find what works best for you, and then give it your all.  You will never hear me say that one kind of relationship is better than another because I don’t believe that.  But I will say that having the courage to do it “your way” will definitely give you the most bang for your relationship buck. 

So have I piqued your interest?  I hope so.  And I want you to know that my very sincere hope in doing this blog is that my experience, both professional and personal, and the wisdom I’ve gained along the way will help you to have a deeper, better, more fun-filled relationship with your honey.  And I know your input about your own experiences and how you feel about what I write will certainly help me.  Thanks for logging onto my blog.  I’m eager to take this interesting journey with you.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-Life Journey on all Amazon websites worldwide (in both print and Kindle editions) or at Barnes and Noble. It’s a powerful story about my journey to the other side of my husband’s affair. If you want an overview of the book, which gives you lots of tips and insights about relationships, log onto my website, www.infidelityandaffairs.com.

Breakups are tough, no doubt about it. Afterwards, many of us feel so distraught and lost, that we quickly go on a desperate search to find someone new. Even if the old relationship wasn’t that great, at least we weren’t alone; someone was “there” to occupy our time and energy.

But quickly jumping from one relationship to another can be hazardous. You might find that you’ve jumped right out of the frying pan into the fire. Recent divorce statistics bear this out. In the U.S., 50% of 1st marriages end in divorce, 67% of 2nd marriages and a whopping 74% of 3rd marriages go kaput. Wow! Those are pretty grim numbers that scream out for caution.

There are many reasons why 2nd and 3rd marriages don’t work, but one big reason is that people jump into them too quickly. They don’t give themselves time to explore and learn from their previous relationship. They think it was the other one who caused all the trouble and now if they just find the “right” person, things will be different.

Sound familiar? Of course it does; most of us, including me, have been there, done that. Trouble is, it’s never all one person’s doing. It takes two to tango, and if you don’t learn how you contributed to “what was” and deal with your issues, then you bring those same issues into your new relationship, and here we go again. So you might as well get it NOW with THIS ending, so you can move up the ladder of consciousness with someone new.

Here are some questions to get you started in your exploration after a breakup:

1) Did I make a life outside of my relationship? Or was I glued to my partner growing more bored and more boring every day?
2) Was I active in dealing with things I knew were “off” between us? Or did I sweep it all under the carpet and hope that it would get better on its own?
3) Did I expect my partner to fulfill all my needs? Or did I realize that no one person can do that, and if I asked them to, my relationship would surely buckle from the strain.
4) Did I ask for what I wanted, say how I felt, have boundaries so that I set a high standard for how I wanted to be treated? Or did I defer too much and end up angry and resentful because I wasn’t getting what I needed?
5) Did I give too much and expect too little? Did I take too much and give too little?

This kind of thoughtful reflection will raise your awareness so that you don’t keep repeating the same old patterns that caused so much disappointment and hurt. You will be more equipped to choose a better partner next time; one who will match your new level of being. What better incentive than that for doing the work?

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

You’re going through a break-up.  You were treated very badly. Now you’re angry; you’re hurt; you hate them; you want revenge. Chances are, you’ve been through a bad breakup (haven’t we all?) and had these exact feelings. The last thing you want to admit is that this slime of a person, this scoundrel, this louse is the same person you once loved. Yep, one in the same.

When you’ve been hurt, and hurt badly, it’s natural to feel bitter and angry. It’s understandable to want revenge.  Practically no one would blame you for it.  So what’s wrong with it?  Here’s what’s wrong: holding onto hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

A common misconception is that hating someone hurts them. Oh, it might for a while, but pretty soon, they go on with their life and forget all about you. So who’s hurt now?  YOU!  Why? Because you’re consumed with venom. Every time you think of this person, you feel the same horrible feelings all over again. Did you know that your body actually has the same physiological response from your thoughts that it did when the actual event occurred?  It’s true.  And that’s not good news.

Oprah recalled a personal situation: she said that someone hurt her so badly that she vowed to get back at them by hating them forever. Every time she thought of them, she felt the same raw rage that she did when it happened. Some time later, she saw this person at an event sipping wine, laughing and looking happy as a clam.  And there she was filled with hatred; miserable inside. She got it.  Holding onto her anger wasn’t hurting them, it was hurting her!

Holding onto venom can make you sick–physically, emotionally, spiritually. You’re stuck in mud, which robs you of your joy and prevents you from moving forward in your life.   You’re glued to that negativity until you decide to let it go.  How do you do that?  You forgive.

Easy to say, not so easy to do.  You need to understand that forgiveness is a process.  It will take time and effort to make it happen. Use the consequences of not forgiving as a motivator. Do you really want to make yourself sick? Are you really this vindictive, hateful person you’ve become? Do you really want to give your ex the power to make you into someone you don’t want to be? My guess is you would say “no” to all of these things.

So, do yourself a favor and find a way to forgive. Make it a goal; affirm it even if you don’t feel it; explore and take responsibility for your part in creating the relationship.  Doing that makes it awfully hard to simply point the finger.  By the way, your ex need not be involved at all. Forgiveness is about YOU doing your internal work.  I think you’ll find it’s well worth your effort.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

So you’ve found “the one.” Good for you.  Now, what kind of commitment do you want with this person? It would behoove you to give this some thought because when it comes to relationships, one size doesn’t fit all. We’re all unique with different histories, experiences, wounds and vulnerabilities so it’s ludicrous to think that we will all fit into the same structure. So, instead of just accepting the standard paradigm of what a relationship “should” be, then trying to pound yourself into it, you would be wise to explore options with your partner.

Wouldn’t it be great to choose what works best rather than just accept what society, your parents or friends want? Imagine this: you’re in love; you want a commitment with this person. After deep reflection and exploration, you and the one you love come to an agreement about how you want your relationship to work, keeping in mind that there’s no right way. Just your way.

When deciding upon an agreement, you are honest and true to yourselves; no one is coerced. You set up parameters for how you will be together, then fully commit and give it your all. If over time, you’ve grown and changed (hopefully) and your initial agreement no longer works, you revisit it, and revise it to suit the people you have become rather than the people you once were. An agreement means you have customized your relationship to suit who you uniquely are. In doing that, you give yourself a much better chance for happiness.

Open your mind, take it off the tunnel vision of marriage for a moment.  Because if you’re thinking that those marriage vows are going to keep you happily together, you’re wrong!  The divorce rate and rampant cheating proves that point.  Customizing your relationship, on the other hand, has a much better chance of success.

That’s not to say that marriage never works. Of course it does…for some. And if it works for you, then by all means, go for it. Here’s the deal, anything the two of you agree upon is fine, including marriage. I’m simply advocating choice rather than marriage being the automatic default. We need flexibility in our relationships; rigidity breeds discontent. Breaking free of the old way takes an open mind and courage. There are many brave pioneers who have stepped out of the mold and are happily living in unconventional couplings. The marriage vow “until death do us part” just doesn’t work for everyone. Witness the high divorce rate in first (50%), second (67%) and third (73%) marriages. Not to mention rampant infidelity.

Why not take some time, explore options and come to an agreement about the terms of your relationship? If you can’t come to an agreement before you commit, that tells you a lot about the future of your relationship. In the long run, the prognosis is probably not very good. Oh, you might stay together out of pure obligation, but being happy? That could be another story altogether.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

What is good sex?  It’s really not very complicated.  Simply stated, good sex is when you both agree that it’s good.  In other words, you don’t have to perform certain positions from the book you just read, or do it  for some prescribed number of times   You just have to agree that whatever you do, however many times you do it, feels good and right to both of you.  That’s good sex.

It’s common for couples to focus on the orgasm as being the barometer of good sex.  But that negates many acts of love that could give them pleasure.  There is a difference between making love and having sex.  Here’s how I see the difference:

MAKING LOVE can happen even when you aren’t in bed.  Having a romantic dinner, flirting, laughing, having a heart-to-heart talk,  playing music and dancing together are forms of making love.  In bed, here’s what making love is:

  • Being aware.  Letting yourself feel and enjoy everything moment to moment.
  • Being physically tender–caressing, kissing, cuddling.
  • Saying what you want and expressing how good it feels (words or sounds) when you get it.
  • Asking what your partner wants and giving it to him/her, taking pleasure from the giving.
  • Combines being “turned on” with the feeling of love for your partner.
  • It may or may not culminate in intercourse and orgasm.

 

HAVING SEX is releasing sexual energy, but not being particularly intimate with your partner.  Here are some of its features:

  • Sometimes relies on outside stimulation to get turned on such as fantasies, sex toys, magazines, porn movies, etc.
  • The focus is on orgasm.
  • Talking, playing, laughing, touching, kissing, are often ignored or done mechanically so as to hurry up and get to the goal, ie, the orgasm.
  • Can leave you feeling empty or lonely inside.

Let me be clear, I think there is a place for both in a relationship.  Making love, however, is the act that enhances the relationship the most because it brings more closeness and intimacy.  If a relationship consists entirely of having sex, there is probably an intimacy problem.  Having sex exclusively can lead to feelings of emptiness, loneliness and dissatisfaction.

In my next post, I’ll talk about things for couples to do if one or both is dissatisfied because there is too much focus on orgasm.  Stay tuned…

Okay, you’ve been married for a while, then ooops, you discover that you’re really not cut out for marriage.  You love your spouse, but you feel that your marriage is getting in the way of your love.  You find the vows to be stifling, restricting, and rigid to the point that you can hardly feel love anymore.  When you try to talk about it with him/her, they are so threatened that the conversation goes nowhere.  You don’t want your relationship to end; you just want a different way of being together.

There are many people who find themselves in this predicament.

When it comes to relationships, one size doesn’t fit all.  We’re all unique with different histories, experiences, wounds and vulnerabilities so it’s ludicrous to think that we will all fit into the same structure.  So instead of just accepting the standard paradigm of what a relationship “should” be, then working to fit ourselves into it, we need to explore with our partners to find out how we want to be together.

Wouldn’t it be great to choose what works best for us rather than just accept what society, parents or friends want?  Imagine this: you’re in love, you want a commitment with this person.  After deep reflection and exploration, you and your sweetheart come to an agreement about how you want your relationship to work, keeping in mind that there’s no “right way.”  Just “your way.”

When deciding upon the agreement, you are honest and true to yourself; no one is coerced.  You set up parameters, then commit and give it your all.  If over time, you’ve grown and changed (hopefully) and your initial agreement no longer works,  you revisit it, and revise it to suit the people you have become rather than the people you once were.  An agreement means you have customized your relationship to suit who you uniquely are.  That way, there is a much better chance for happiness.

Open your mind, take it off the tunnel vision of marriage for a moment.  Honestly, don’t you think that having a relationship agreement, is better than trying to fit everyone into the same paradigm?  Thinking that the commitment of marriage is going to keep you happily together is a fallacy.  The divorce rate and rampant cheating proves that point.  Customizing your relationship, on the other hand, has a much better chance of success.

I’m not against marriage.  I know it works for some.  And if it works for you, then by all means, go for it.  Here’s the deal, anything the two of you agree upon is fine, including marriage.  What I’m advocating is choice rather than marriage being the automatic default.  We need flexibility in our relationships; rigidity breeds discontent.

Breaking free of the old way takes an open mind and courage.  There are many brave pioneers who have stepped out of the mold and are happily living in unconventional couplings.  You don’t hear much about them because they’re afraid of being judged.  I think that’s sad.  The vow, “until death do us part” just doesn’t work for everyone.  Witness the high divorce rate in first (50%), second (67%) and third (73%) marriages.  Not to mention rampant infidelity.

Why not take some time, explore options with your sweetheart and come to an agreement about the terms of your relationship.  If you can’t come to an agreement before you commit, that tells you a lot about the future of your relationship.  In the long run, the prognosis is probably not very good.  Oh, you might stay together out of pure obligation, but being happy?  That could be another story altogether.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

Therapy and/or counseling can be immensely valuable.  Self- awareness, after all, is the key to living a satisfying life with good relationships…romantic and otherwise.  Some of us have found the right therapist, have done our work, and are now living life applying the tools and principles we learned in our sessions.  This is what good therapy is about–teaching us to tune into ourselves and gain a level of awareness that serves us well.

When have you gotten all that you need from therapy?  Sometimes it’s not so easy to determine.  After all this business of growing is a life-time endeavor.  But do you need a therapist to hold your hand for the rest of your life?   Absolutely not.   Here is one example that signals it’s time to move on:

You’re a garden variety neurotic (aren’t we all?) who has been in weekly therapy  for 20 years (I actually met someone like that and he didn’t  plan on quitting!)  Whoa.  That’s way too long.  Surely by now, you have learned sufficient tools to get you out there to live you life.  If that hasn’t happened in 20 years, it’s not going to happen.  You need to stop being so dependent on your therapist, and gain confidence in yourself by making your own choices.

Will they always be good choices?  No.  You will make mistakes.  We all do.  But you know enough, if you would only trust it, to look inside and learn from your mistakes.  Growing doesn’t mean you’re perfect.  Growing simply means taking responsibility for yourself, examining your experiences (both good and bad), learning and moving forward with new wisdom.

So how much time is enough?  That’s a very individual thing.  You find out for yourself, by looking at your life, seeing if you are making progress, checking in regularly with your therapist to evaluate where you stand.  If you think you are ready to quit, and your therapist doesn’t, listen, but don’t automatically take their word for it.  Check in with your gut.  Does what they say feel right?  Or is some little voice inside telling you you need to be on your own to practice what you’ve learned. Sometimes a therapist needs you more than you need them.  Especially if their livelihood depends on it.  In that case, it’s up to you to cut the cord.

If, after quitting, you come up against something that throws you, by all means, see your therapist  for one or a few sessions to work very specifically on your challenge.  You can always go back to talk through a difficult situation without doing a weekly thing.  Trust yourself.  Ultimately, you know better than anyone what you need.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships, and the therapy process. You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

 

Wondering whether or not to commit?  Here are some points to consider before you do.  Answering these questions will help you make a better decision:

1)   Is he/she willing to deal with problems?   When everything is going great guns, it’s easy to be in love and think that you are compatible.  But what happens when challenges arise?  Is your prospective partner willing to directly deal with the challenge?  Or do they refuse to talk about it in order to come to an understanding, even if it’s agree to disagree?  Can he/she listen to your point of view with the intent to understand?  Or is it simply their way or the highway?  Is he/she flexible enough to compromise when you don’t see eye to eye?  Are they willing to admit when they’re wrong?

2)   Do they accept differences?  It’s great and necessary to share many things, but being with your clone makes for a boring relationship.  Having differences is a healthy thing.  It keeps things interesting.  Someone who professes to like everything you do is probably lying to you, or to him/herself, and will be filled with resentment if they don’t feel comfortable enough to truly be who they are.

3)  Does he/she have a life outside of your relationship?  If either of you makes the relationship all there is, it’s not going to work. No one person can totally fulfill another.  We all need friends, activities, etc., that stimulate us, and if he/she gives that up, or has never cultivated it, there will inevitably be problems.

4)   What is their past relationship history?  Not that you need to know every gory detail about their past, but you do need to know if this person has grown from the inevitable mistakes, or keeps repeating past destructive patterns.  You want someone who is willing to look at him/herself and grow with you.  Neither of you is perfect and perfection is not what you look for in a partner.  Instead seek out someone who is willing to grow with you.  Self-awareness is a huge part of having a successful relationship.

5)   Intimacy requires vulnerability.  Is he/she willing to show up and be seen?   Or is it like pulling teeth to find out what’s inside–how they’re thinking or feeling, what makes them tick.  Vulnerability is extremely important to a satisfying relationship.

6)   Last, but hardly least, is having a sense of humor.   Are they able to laugh at them-self?  Or do they take life and them-self so seriously that there’s no fun to be had.  Laughing, playing, having fun with each other makes the difference between a dull, boring relationship and one that sparkles.  How much laughter and fun is in your relationship?

Blindly committing before you really know a person is a sure-fire path to heartache.   Why not take the time to really get to know someone before you take the plunge?  The rewards will make you glad that you did.

For related information see: Is it time to move on?

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can buy it worldwide on Kindle from all Amazon websites.

 

I once had a client who came to me after three “serious” relationships had ended in disaster.  She came armed with a long list of complaints about her former partners.  How they cheated on her, disrespected her, ignored her, etc. etc.  I asked her a question that completely stumped her–“How did you contribute to all that happened in these relationships?”  “What?  Me?  No, it was them!”  Wasn’t I listening to the horrible things they did that proved her point?

After each break-up, this person immediately jumped into another relationship.  No reflection.  No thinking about what happened.  No clue as to her part in creating what was.  She was the victim; they were the perpetrators.  End of story.  Unfortunately, she is not alone in this kind of thinking.  Many of us are so desperate after a break-up that we think the only solution is to find someone else pronto. Someone who, on the surface, is different from the one we just left.   But instead of someone different, after a short while, we discover that this new relationship is eerily similar to the old one.  Different name, different face, but essentially the same person we just got rid of.

Hopping from one relationship to another without taking the time to explore will inevitably lead to more heartache.  Without reflection about what happened and our part in creating what was, we are still flying blind.  We’ve learned nothing from our previous experience because we haven’t put in the time and energy to gain insights, to learn and grow so that next time we can choose better.  If  we’re the same, we’re going to choose the same.  It can’t be any other way.

Relationships give us the best opportunity to learn about ourselves.  They point up our growing edges–the places within that need our attention.  We need to find out why we do what we do.  What’s underneath the surface of our behaviors.  Why do we continually choose people who treat us badly, for example.  Or don’t listen to us. Or love us and leave us.  With insight into our self, we are much better equipped to find a better partner.  One who matches our new more conscious level of being.

The best single advice I can give after a break-up is this: TAKE SOME TIME TO REFLECT.  Don’t just blindly jump into another relationship because you are lonely.  Live without a partner for a while.  Notice yourself.  Ask questions (Big Breakup Mistake #3) Do your previous relationships have patterns?  What are they?  Do these patterns bring you satisfaction or hurt?

If you need help, get it.  Insight into yourself gives you power.  Without self awareness, you have no power to change the hurtful cycle you have created.  Yes, I said YOU have created.  Not what was done to you.  With awareness, you are not a victim!

It’s easy to blame and play the victim.  Then quickly move on.  Harder to take the time to learn about yourself–to admit your part in creating what happened.  Yes, it’s not easy.  But it’s exactly what it takes to finally have the loving, supportive relationship you crave and most certainly deserve.  I know you’ll find it’s well worth your effort.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships.  You can buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (Kindle).

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully, you’re having a good day…a loving day.  Some of us are. But a lot of us aren’t!  Why?  Because there is so much hype around this day from people who want to sell  us something– chocolates, flowers, expensive dinners– that if we don’t get any of this, it’s easy to fall into depression.

My husband sent out a message today to everyone on his email list.  It was a quote from Byron Katie that says, “Your true nature is love.  There’s nothing you can do about it.”  It’s such a great quote I wanted to pass it onto you.  And how about my sweet husband?  Sending out that message of love made him feel so great!  And it touched me deeper than any “stuff” every could!

That’s the spirit of this day…to follow our true nature in whatever way suits us. So if you’ve fallen into depression because you’ve bought into the marketing hype, then “snap out of it!”  Instead of waiting for love to come to you, send out some love yourself.  I guarantee it will make you feel good.  AND here’s a bonus:  you will be planting future seeds for more love to come your way.  Worth a try?

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about how to live a happier life.  You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, www.infidelityandaffairs.com and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.

Is something about your partner driving you crazy?  Have you tried to make them change by complaining, nudging, cajoling, pouting?  And still…no change?  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “physician heal thyself.”  Well, the same principle applies in relationships.  In order to change your partner, you have to start with you.  Why is this true?  Because you are the only one you have control over, and when you change, oftentimes your partner will follow suit.

Here’s an example:  Joe is an introvert.  He doesn’t like to socialize.  He would rather he and Sally just do things together without other people around.  Truth be known, Joe feels very uncomfortable and fearful in social situations.  Small talk is just not his thing.  But what he does like is the great outdoors…fishing , nature hikes, swimming in the ocean.  He would love for Sally to join him in one of these activities, but she always says no.

Sally, on the other hand, is a very sociable person.  She loves dinner parties, hanging out with friends, doing activities with other people.  Fishing, hiking, swimming?  No way.  She’s not the athletic type.  Yoga in a nice comfortable studio is about as far as she goes.  Sally would love for Joe to join her when there’s a party.  But he steadfastly refuses.  Sally and Joe are locked into a pattern of fear and stubbornness and neither is willing to budge.   Although they love each other and have other interests in common, this impasse is putting a big strain on their relationship.

So what’s the solution?

One of them needs to change.  It could be either one, but let’s say it’s Joe.  What if, in the interest of harmony in the relationship and wanting more closeness with Sally, he gives in and goes to a party when Sally asks?  Although awkward, he does his best to be as pleasant and into the evening as possible.  If Joe were to do this, Sally would be surprised for sure, and most likely very appreciative of Joe’s effort.  This in turn could encourage her to go for a swim the next time Joe asks.  Then there is a domino effect: you did this for me, I’ll do that for you.

It may surprise you to learn that this works a lot of the time.  One person stretches beyond where they usually go, and the other is so grateful that they are willing to stretch as well.  Result?  They live a bigger life both individually and together.  Win win.

Changing yourself in order to change your partner is a simple solution to a common problem.  Simple, yes.  Easy, no since fear is involved and both partners have to go beyond their fear.  But if there is goodwill in the relationship, the desire to please the other becomes the impetus for change.

Is this a problem in your relationship?  If so, I hope you will be the one to initiate the change.  Both you and your partner will be happier as a result. Guaranteed!

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, for more great tips and insights about relationships. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, www.infidelityandaffairs.com and buy it worldwide from all Amazon websites (both print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.

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