Counselling, Psychology, Social Psychology

New edition of relationship self-help book out

Our Meg-John Barker has published the second edition of their book Rewriting the Rules this year. Here’s what they had to say about it for Psychology Today...

There’s a lot of information out there about relationships, and much of it implies that when things aren’t working, you are the problem. Maybe it’s time to revise the ways we all think about relationships.

Why do we need new rules for love relationships?

We don’t necessarily need new rules, but we do need to think carefully about the rules we’ve received and whether they work for us. There’s a strong idea out there that there is one “right’” or “normal” way of doing relationships that everyone should aim for by following certain relationship rules. Actually there is no “one size fits all” way of doing relationships, and it’s important for all of us to find the way that works best for us. The current rules of relationships can lead to a lot of pain and suffering—for example, if somebody so fixed on finding ‘”The One” perfect partner that they don’t invest in all the other important relationships in their life, or if the pressure on long-term love makes someone stay in a relationship that’s damaging for them, or if attempts to find love mean somebody ends up being bruised and battered by breakup after breakup.

Do we need any rules for them?

Not necessarily. One point I make is that any set of rules can become rigid and constraining if we hold it too tightly. This is true for conventional monogamous coupledom, but it’s also true for any kind of alternative relationship style. The approach of embracing uncertainty, which I explore in the book, is about moving away from the desire for a clear set of rules that will hold forever and instead embracing flexibility and being present to relationships as they are in the here and now. That doesn’t mean that we won’t communicate and negotiate about how we want to do our relationships, but it does mean a move away from rules that are set in stone.

Why a self-help guide that claims to be anti-self-help?

What I mean by “anti-self-help” is that a lot of self-help books locate our problems and difficulties in life in ourselves, as individuals. They suggest there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing, and they sell the book on the basis that the “expert” can give you tricks or hacks to solve all your problems. My view is that many of our struggles—particularly around relationships—are more due to the rotten cultural messages that we receive than to any kind of individual ‘flaw’ we might have. So Rewriting the Rules is a self-help book in that it gives you lots of ideas about how to navigate the wider cultural ideas about relationships, but it’s anti-self-help in that it doesn’t see you as the problem that needs fixing. In fact it sees that whole idea as part of the reason we struggle so much. Read more…

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