Rewriting the Rules – Book Review

By Meg Barker.

Trying to embark on as mammoth a task as writing an Integrative Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships as the by-line goes, is incredibly ambitious but a good attempt was made, albeit in under 200 pages.

How was this possible? With tiny print, so tiny that you may want to give up the attempt long before you reap its benefits. My only advice, push through and it starts looking legible after 50 or so pages. It is quite a pity, but it is what it is.

Once you delve into the soul, you find a well-structured guide to connecting with oneself in the face of the confining and retarding unwritten rules to which we are exposed from all around us. All through the book, you hear the voice of an experienced and patient psychotherapist saying “it doesn’t have to be this way”, which is constructive and reaffirming. She opens our minds to breaking out of the restraints of said rules, not simply by giving alternative rules, as the title might suggest, but by embracing uncertainty as a principle force in matters of love, sex and relationships.

The unrelenting order of each chapter got a bit tedious: what are the rules, why question the rules, alternative rules and beyond the rules. Whereas this may be a good structure for a presentation, I found that it forced the author to state the obvious too many times.

Some chapters worked particularly well; the chapter on sex, the one on commitment and the conflict chapter were excellent, perhaps because she negotiates these tricky areas very skillfully and with a good deal of openness to their wide range of possibilities. In other chapters, such as gender and love, the result is simplification of very complex issues which do not go beyond the superficial.

In her attempt to write a book that speaks to both both professionals and laypeople, Barker introduces a rich amount of academic and professional voices from Simone de Beauvoir to the Buddhist monk Achaan Chah, and she mixes it with pop cultural sources. While the diversity of teachings is exciting, the seemingly endless renditions of Bridget Jones’s Diary, the making of Susan Boyle and so many more examples from primetime TV and celebrity culture soon became redundant.

I doubt that it is possible to satisfy all the audiences she tries to speak to in one book. I suspect that were she to split this publication into two separate guides, she would hit the marks. With the book as is, different readers probably need to skip and hop along, each pulling out what speaks to them, seeking out what for them are the pearls and what is the seaweed.


  •  A guide for relationships
  •  Written by a psychologist
  •  10 chapters all similarly structured
  •  Excellent references to professional sources
  •  Filled with pop culture examples
  •  Includes simple diagrams
  •  Printed in very small font
  •  194 pages


Routledge, 2013


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