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Rewriting the Rules: An Integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships [Paperback]

Meg Barker
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Aug 2012 041551763X 978-0415517638

We live in a time of great uncertainty about relationships. We search for "The One," but find ourselves staying single because nobody measures up. The reality of our relationships is not what we expected, and it becomes hard to balance it with all the other things that we want out of life. At the same time that marriage shows itself to be the one 'recession proof' industry; the rates of separation and break-up soar ever higher.

Rewriting the Rules is a friendly guide through the complicated - and often contradictory - rules of love: the advice that is given about attraction and sex, monogamy and conflict, gender and commitment. It asks questions such as: which to choose from all the rules on offer? Do we stick to the old rules we learnt growing up, or do we try something new and risk being out on our own?

This book considers how the rules are being 'rewritten' in various ways, for example the 'new monogamy', alternative commitment ceremonies, different ways of understanding gender, and new ideas for managing conflict and break-up where economics and child-care make complete separation a problem. In this way Rewriting the Rules gives the power to the reader to find the approach which fits their situation.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (2 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041551763X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415517638
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Meg Barker is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a practicing sex and relationship therapist. Meg writes about relationships, sex and counselling, with books in the pipeline about mindfulness, and about sexuality and gender for practitioners (to be published by Sage). You can view other publications on and a blog to accompany the new relationships book, Rewriting the Rules, on Meg also co-edits the journal Psychology & Sexuality and co-organises the Critical Sexology seminar series. Follow @megbarkerpsych on twitter.

Product Description


"We all struggle with relationships but now the rules have changed. We need a new rule book, and this is it." - Dorothy Rowe, Psychologist and Writer

"Meg Barker reveals, step by step, how unpacking and rewriting the 'rules' can not only free our relationships from the ties that bind us, but also offer a path to deep self-knowledge and acceptance. A beautifully explicated journey to the heart of loving." -Dossie Easton, Marriage & Family Therapist, Co-author, The Ethical Slut

"To tackle the dos and don'ts that flood intimate relationships advice, Meg Barker's sharp, insightful, open-minded and friendly guide is here to help you navigate the mazes of modern love. Meg's pen is like a benevolent friend who's hand you don't want to let go. Hold on to Rewriting the Rules" - Esther Perel, Author of Mating in Captivity

"The publication of the rule-debunking book Rewriting the Rules is justified by its appeal to this massive audience looking for rules that work. Author Meg Baker subtly and seamlessly winds her way through the reader's psyche, deconstructing the search for rules that ward off the loneliness many people feel both inside and outside of relationships. Barker's concepts are well rooted in psychological theory and research, yet her use of popular media to illustrate the sources and the fallacy of relationship rules makes the book user-friendly for the general public. The author invites readers to consider the normalcy of confusion and uncertainty in life and relationships as they try to resolve the tension between how to find a connection with another human being and how to deal with that connection once in a relationship." - Suni Petersen, PsycCRITIQUES (Vol. 58, No. 24)

"Meg Barker clearly has a lot of experience in the field of love, sex and relationships, and this book is full of priceless nuggets of insight into the complexities and uncertainties of intimate relationships in contemporary Western culture. ... It offers information and advice in a jargon-free, friendly style, including many references from popular Western culture which non-therapists and non-psychologists may find accessible. There are questions to ask yourself and also useful diagrams simplifying complex ideas." - Suzanne Keys, Self & Society (Vol. 41 No. 2)

"Barker does have a real talent for challenging disturbing and rigidly held assumptions in our society and exposing their darker side and how this affects relationships. ... Many outside of our profession who are experiencing relationship problems would benefit hugely from reading this insightful book. It is also an essential read for all therapists, not only to develop their understanding of relationship issues and their social implications but also for their own personal development." - Angela Cooper, Therapy Today (April 2013)

About the Author

Meg Barker is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and a therapist specialising in sexual and relationship therapy. Meg has previously published books on sexuality and counselling and is co-editor of the journal Psychology & Sexuality. You can read Meg’s blog to accompany this book at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ground-breaking and life-affirming 17 Feb 2013
This is a phenomenal book, full of stimulation, encouragement and practical advice for those willing to question - and possibly to revise - the rules of relationships that they live by.

It's one of the best books I've ever read. On a par with Fromm's the Art of Loving, or Tolle's the Power of Now. Breath-taking and inspirational. Buy it, you won't regret it, even if it changes your life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Meg Barker's book is a comprehensive guide that makes you think and realise how we limit our thinking when it comes to relationships. It's not a rule book that tries to make you fit into someone else's template, but a compassionate exploration of who you really are and how you would be happiest relating to others. There is no judgement, just total acceptance of how varied we all are and what makes each individual happy. Since I've read it, I have been recommending it to both clients and fellow psychotherapists. This is a must read.
Ronete Cohen, psychologist/psychotherapist
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate enlightenment for relationships 21 Aug 2012
By Self-help junkie TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author exhudes compassion for the predicament that we all find ourselves in as human beings, seeking fulfilment and yet often seeing it slip through our fingers. She helpfully clarifies the often unspoken but powerful rules that dominate our expectations of self and others (I particularly like her exploration of these rules in the areas of sexual performance, sexual attraction and gender) and exposes how these can be really unhelpful - imposing unrealistic expectations that are imporssible to live up to, and which therefore lead to frustration and unhappiness.
The style is very accessible, and unlike other self-help books, it's not preachy. It is clearly written by someone with wide experience of working with people with relational difficulties. She combines philosophial and academic research with a very readable style. I think everyone could gain reassurance and help from this book and I'd recommend it to anyone who is struggling with self-esteem or with building a 'successful' relationship (however you'd define that!).
One thing to be aware of is that the author doesn't attempt to give us new rules. Rather, by exposing the rules that operate in our culture regarding relationships, she encourages us to consider whether they are really what we want, and if not, gives us gentle suggestions for creating more workable, compassionate 'guidelines' to live by. However, the invitation to step outside some of the culturally accepted norms is not always easy: it requires courage to do/be something different! I suspect that temeramentally, some will find this easier to do than others. But I really believe that everyone will benefit from reappraising values which may have become unhelpfully rigid and outdated and at least considering other options for 'how can I live my life in a more fulfilling way'.
Really helpful book! One to re-read and pass on to others...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rewriting the Rules 30 Nov 2012
Already familiar with the Rewriting the Rules website I eagerly awaited the launch of this book. Even though I've read every page I wouldn't say that I've finished reading. This is definitely a text that I'll return to time and again to dip in and out of according to which aspect of relationships I'm thinking about or grappling with at a particular time.

Admittedly, alarm bells rang when I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with pretty much everything Meg was saying. This was ironic since Meg clearly states that she is not the expert on my relationships, but that in fact I am - there are, after all, no universal rules so how could she tell a whole bunch of individual readers what to do in one book? I wondered if my deference was an automatic consequence of Meg being the author and me the reader. Are we just too used to imbuing authors with esteem and respect?

But then I realised that actually there had been ideas that did not appeal to me personally. However, since the overarching framework was anti-universalising I did not have to worry too much over relationship practices that I do/would endorse but others may dislike, and vice-versa. This was the beauty of Rewriting the Rules for me. I came away from it feeling `normal' not in spite of but because I was unique and therefore different in lots of ways (yet experiencing anxiety similarly) to everybody else.

If I could just live and let live (my words resulting from my interpretation), then how other people adopt rules could neither interfere with the rules for my relationships nor cause me to fear/judge other people's practices.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to basics 16 Oct 2012
This book is revolutionary in its thinking but compassionate in its delivery. Meg Barker quietly suggests we consider another way of thinking about our relationships to avoid falling into life's "crab buckets".
As someone who when younger was quite ready to espouse some of the accepted relationship rules without question (the requirement to live happily ever after) it has gone a long way towards making me question whether that is really the only way to proceed.
Throughout the book she slowly and deliberately takes each aspect of relating and through asking questions and making simple suggestions supports our personal journey by opening up possible alternative view points and laying out possible next steps. There is no insistence that she is right in what she says, not even that there is a right. The reader is left with the feeling they are being treated like a grown up who is perfectly capable of coming to their own sensible conclusions.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in gaining a deeper and more considered understanding of how to `do' relationships, especially younger people who deserve an opportunity to find their own pathway through what is often very confusing and distressing terrain
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read if you're looking for lasting love in the modern world
Meg Barker puts forward an intelligent and convincing argument for reconsidering how we might approach love and relationships. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ms A Law
5.0 out of 5 stars The first rule is, there are no rules
As Terry Pratchett's great sage Granny Weatherwax put it

'Sin young man, is when you treat people as things including yourself, that's what sin is. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Louisa Leontiades
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovative, positive and sensible
Buy it, Read it and change your outlook! Probably the most empowering book of the decade, this is my 2nd copy as someone nicked my paper copy
Published 9 months ago by Mr D Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars wow, better than expected
if anyone like me doesn't realy understand why all your friends who have been married for years seem unhappy and that long term relationships worry you then this is the book for... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Thomas A Browne
5.0 out of 5 stars A book full of insight and compassion.
In her book "Re-writing the Rules" Meg Barker provides a refreshing, highly thoughtful and compassionate work that she describes as an "anti-self-help book". Read more
Published 16 months ago by S. Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars can we be more ourselves?
Has there ever been a time when it was harder to believe in a relationship that will grow with you and last the long haul? Read more
Published 19 months ago by angelaneustatter
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